Greetings from Glacier National Park

 In 2006 I had just finished 6 months of chemo for Stage 3B cancer.  It had been a long winter in Minnesota, and during my chemo treatments, I'd been inside for most of the winter, watching movies, reading, writing a little, and doing a lot of self reflection.  When spring came I knew I needed to get back outdoors in nature. I needed to get MOVING. 

My husband and I decided to head west to Glacier – a park we’d wanted to visit for years. I was THRILLED!
Our first hike was through the Trail of the Cedars and on up to Avalanche Lake. We’d been hikers all our lives, but I now was dealing with the lingering side effects of chemo: neuropathy in my feet and legs that caused burning feelings, and sensations running up and down my calves that were similar to when you hit your crazy bone. Along with the neuropathy was the extreme fatigue that came with an experimental drug I was still on for another 6 months. I really wanted to do this hike, but didn’t know if I could.
When we arrived at Trail of the Cedars, we took the path that is “less travelled.” It was hushed and silent within the forest of huge ancient trees, and truly felt like a sanctuary. I felt enfolded and comforted by my surroundings. The old cedars seemed to say, “Be patient with yourself. Take it slow and easy. ”
The climb along Avalanche Creek that winds through the Trail of the Cedars and then on up to the alpine lake at the creek’s source was pretty difficult for me. I wasn’t used to the altitude and over the long winter had lost any aerobic capacity I once had. I was breathing HARD, and my legs and feet were in pain. But I kept going a little at a time. People nonchalantly passed me practically skipping up the trail in flip flops! But i decided to take the advice I’d “heard” in the cedar grove… just keep going take it slow and easy.
When I got to the top, the view of the alpine lake (shown in the picture with this story) unfolded before us and totally WOWED me. I couldn’t speak. Such amazing beauty and majesty! I thought to myself that I had surely just arrived at Shangri-La. We hiked around the lake and stayed for several hours. Again, the feeling I had was that I’d happened upon a sacred place. I felt blessed. The beauty and power were so overwhelming, and I felt myself to be an integral part of it… And I knew I was going to be OK. I felt healed. I didn’t know if I was cured of my cancer, but my spirit –my heart and mind– were healed. I was no longer afraid of my future. (And here I am ten years later, still in remission.😊 )
I will always be extremely grateful for that week in Glacier. Both my husband and I think it’s our favorite national park… the peace and solitude and awesome beauty transformed me – gave me back my life and gave me hope. That was ten years ago. I’m still cancer free and hiking whenever I can!

Sincerely,
Mary

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park preserves more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows and lakes with habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal life, including one of the largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states. Its spectacular glaciated landscape is a hikers' paradise, offering 700 miles of maintained trails that lead deep into one of the largest intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states.

State(s): Montana

Established: 1910

“Some are located in the most beautiful areas of the U.S. Areas that should be available for everyone to enjoy...not just the wealthy. Other parks preserve the stories of our history as a nation... Visiting one of these sites is an amazing education and gives one such a greater appreciation of our democracy and our slow but steady transformation as a nation. The parks really are America's Best idea. ”

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