New Glacier Park reader book gathers stories of the storied land

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Whether your passion is animals, adventure, or history, there’s something for everyone in a new anthology of writings about Glacier National Park. “The Glacier Park Reader,” edited by David Stanley, will soon be available for purchase at the Glacier National Park Conservancy and all associated bookstores.

Stanley, 75, said recently that the book’s writings date back to 19th century explorers and even earlier with writings from Native Americans of the region.

“It’s just a tremendous variety of different kinds of writing,” he noted.

One of Stanley’s favorite stories is the essay by the late, great Park ranger Jerry DeSanto about notorious ranger-turned-poacher Joe Cosley. Stanley also included illustrated letters written by artist Charlie Russell at his cabin on Lake McDonald.

The editor also shared the story of Mary Roberts Rinehart, who is credited with inventing the American mystery novel for her work in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. Her 1915 visit to the Park had her undertaking a three-week pack trip – caravan-style – and she returned in 1916 with her family for an unprecedented float of the North Fork in wooden boats.

“I was absolutely amazed as I did the research about how many famous writers had visited and worked in the Park,” Stanley said. “Glacier has a magnetism that’s pretty remarkable.”

Stanley himself hails from Virginia but has lived in Utah for years. He referred to himself as a “lapsed English professor,” having taught at Westminster College in Utah after achieving his English doctorate from the University of Texas. He explained that his own familiarity with Glacier came from six summers of working on trail crew during the 1960s. But his first experience visiting Glacier was during a family road trip in a Chevy station wagon when he was 15.

“I was just blown away by the Park,” he said.

While his family hiked to Grinnell Glacier, he set off on Swiftcurrent Pass to go fishing, with no success. When a sudden thunderstorm struck, Stanley took cover under a rock overhang and watched the rain pour with a view of Grinnell Point – while his family was getting drenched on the glacier.

“They looked like drowned rats, which you can imagine brought me great satisfaction,” Stanley chuckled.

His work on “The Glacier Park Reader” ties together many others’ experiences of the Park, which he described as an “interactive arena” that draws together many different groups of people from all walks of life.

“I think it’s a great introduction to the Park for people who think it’s just a wilderness kind of place, when in fact it has a human history that goes back thousands of years,” he noted.

Stanley will be traveling to the West Glacier area Sept. 11 and conducting two reading and signing sessions to celebrate the book’s publication. The first reading will be Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Montana House in Apgar Village; the second will be Sept. 15 at The Bookshelf in Kalispell at 4 p.m. For reservations at the Montana House reading, call 888-5393 or email 1960mthouse@qwestoffice.net.

“The Glacier Park Reader” is co-published by the University of Utah Press and Glacier National Park Conservancy, and is part of a University of Utah Press series called “National Park Readers.” Stanley’s book follows “The Rocky Mountain National Park Reader” and “A Zion Canyon Reader.”

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