X Marks the Spot - Glacier Nat'l Park

Lake McDonald - Glacier National Park, MT

Everyone owes it to themselves to have at least one extremely memorable place they can go to in their mind at any time that brings them back to something very special. Something so powerful that virtually every sight, sound and smell, every thought and emotion from that place, can instantly be brought back to be felt again.  For some it may be from childhood like cooking in their grandmother's kitchen, or working on their first car with their father in the garage. For others it may be as simple as a back yard fire with friends, or an early morning walk on a beach. No matter what it is or where it came from, for hopefully at least a few moments, something clicked, the stars aligned and you have a snapshot in time where nothing else mattered but how good those few moments were and how much they meant to you.

For me it was just a quick couple hours spent along the shore of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in Montana by myself eating lukewarm BBQ. The BBQ is really not so much the memory as the lake itself even though it was pretty tasty...

Glacier National Park, MT 

Glacier National Park was a bucket list item of mine that I was checking off after quitting my job of almost 8 years and deciding to spend the summer of 2015 road tripping solo cross-country. (Plenty more of that story to be told another time..) So leading up to those couple hours on the shore I had spent the day hiking in the park and had worked up a pretty good appetite in the process, but before finding dinner I was also very curious about visiting a distillery I had spotted on my way into West Glacier just before the park. So naturally I drove out and down the road to Glacier Distilling Co. in Coram, MT to sample their wares, which were and are very tasty.

After a sampler flight of some of their different whiskies, maybe one or two more full pours and a bottle to bring back home and chat with the folks at the distillery, it was time to finally get some food and work on calling it a night. As chance would have it I had passed a BBQ trailer off of the road on my way to the distillery so that easily became the decided place to stop on the way back into the park. Though I was lucky to catch the trailer right before it was closing down there was sadly not much left to make a regular meal. Kind enough to load me up with a bit of just about everything he had left, the owner of the trailer made sure I wouldn't spend the evening hungry and I went on my way back into the park. 

It was getting into the later evening and the sun was just above the mountain line and continuing to sink. Most of the crowds I had seen earlier in the day throughout park were gone, assumingly all back to their camp sites to have dinner, same as me. If you've ever driven though any of the larger national parks in the states then you'll certainly understand my pleasant surprise to the lack of traffic... So without the crowds and cars I was able to take my time with my drive past Lake McDonald, which begins right after the west entrance, and soak up every little bit of awesome beauty that the lake and the park has. There were some fairly severe forest fires at the time, enough to close a portion of the eastern side of the park down, but even with the haze and smoke shading the views I anticipated the landscape still held a very magical look and breathtaking scene. Then a thought dawned on me, so hard to the level that I felt incredibly stupid with myself for not having it sooner... Why was I driving further back to a campsite buried in the trees, closer to the crowds that were finally gone just to sit on a picnic table to eat my BBQ there when I had this gorgeous lake and pocket of the park all to myself? So I stopped my car at the next pull off I came to and walked down to the water.

Lake McDonald - Glacier National Park, MT

It was me, just me. As far as I could see, and as far as I cared at that time, the lake was mine and no one else's. It took a good few minutes of just staring out over the water before I parked myself on a rock, opened up my styrofoam container and started to fork down a tasty mess of meats and sauce. I couldn't believe I had come so close to simply passing this little slice of paradise and tranquility by. Water so clear and calm you'd swear you were staring at a pure sheet of crystal. Rocks of every single color bursting up from beneath it looking as though they were raked meticulously in place like a Japanese sand garden. So as I filled myself up and scraped the container down to nothing an overwhelming feeling of peace completely swept over me. It was a kind of peace that I knew I hadn't felt in a very long time. Here I was in a beautiful corner of the world, checking off part of my bucket list and being able to enjoy it completely, and dare I say potentially perfectly, with nothing to distract me from it, reaching me right down to the core. All I could do was continue to take it all in, smile, and be grateful. So I stayed there on the shore doing exactly that until the sun sank into the west end of the lake.

Some could call it a spiritual experience. Others could say that those couple glasses of whiskey at the distillery gave me a good enough healthy glow to make me feel great about anything and everything for the rest of the night. Regardless of what you may call it, or how it happened, that kind of feeling should be grabbed immediately and held on to for dear life. It's exactly those kinds of moments and feelings that we'll look back to when we want to smile or take a mental break away. Even only a few days later and well after I was home after a month and a half of being on the road I was still going back in my head to that spot on the lake. The view, the water, the rocks, the colors. I knew I had experienced something very special and it would be sticking with me for the rest of my life. 

Most of us, being the social media creatures to one level or another that we are, are fairly well aware of pointed ads that seem to find us based on our likes and posts while we're on the web. Normally I'm pretty good at ignoring just about all of them, but recently one did catch my eye and I couldn't help myself from checking it out. A company called Wanderer Bracelets will print the coordinates to anywhere in the world that means something to you. Not needing much thought, I decided pretty quick to pull the trigger for mine. You can use their website to locate your numbers or find and use your own. After a few street views from Google Maps I was able to find my exact spot from where I spent my evening and where the pictures above were taken. By no means am I getting anything for mentioning them but having portions of the sales go to artisans in Bali who help supply and carve the bone used to make the bracelets I call it a pretty good win win. 

The much bigger point here is that everyone deserves and should absolutely have a place that means something very special to them and that they can immediately go to, think about and smile. And sometimes you never know what the little voice in the back of your mind may be able to tell you, especially if it's telling you to turn around, or stop and just take a few minutes and enjoy. 

My spot happened by absolute chance at 48.5590* N 113.9391* W. What and where is yours?

Happy Trails

Jay ColeComment