Glacier National Park is tucked up in the North Western portion of Montana and shares its northern border with Canada and its sister Peace Park, Waterton. I have been fortunate enough to live about three hours from Glacier for a large portion of my adult life and consider it my “backyard”. The late, great Robin Williams was to have said this about Glacier, “If it isn’t God’s backyard, he certainly lives nearby!” I guess at least I have some decent neighbors.
Glacier is also very near and dear to me because my family and I have had almost yearly vacations to the park for close to two decades. There are many fond memories within the wildflower-covered valleys, along the shores of turquoise lakes and waterfalls, high up on razor-thin ridges and passes, and on the craggy peaks of this undisputed Crown of the Continent.
When my wife and I decided to start a family, we told one another, that having children would NOT change our bustling and plentiful outdoor lifestyle and pursuits. Apparently, our children did not get the memo. Try as we might, our lifestyle did change, not so much as in what we did, but as far as the intensity and the amount of time in what we could do certainly did. You see, taking young children out into the wilderness can be utterly exhausting!
Anyone who has camped and hiked with little ones can relate to this “working vacation.” When we first started our annual trips, the girls were five and three, so the hiking was not super ambitious, as trekking with a wiggling munchkin on your back is rather uncomfortable and the endurance of a five-year-old tends to wane rather rapidly.
“How much farther?!?” “Are we almost there yet?!?” I’m tired!”
These phrases are repeated like a scratched record album during the early years of our trips. (Am I dating myself here?)
But as the girls grew older, the hikes started to become bolder. Despite some serious “frowny brows,” we co-horsed our children into doing longer and more challenging hikes. With pockets full of Jolly Ranchers and Gummy Bears as bribes and friends they brought along to join in on these adventures, we were able to knock out double-digit mile hikes before they even reached the age of ten.
With those longer hikes, it opened up the possibilities of experiencing and accessing some of the most dramatic and breathtaking scenery in the lower 48 and lucky for us, they were hooked.
The girls always looked forward to the Glacier trips and were genuinely disappointed when trips had to be canceled because of fires or thick smoke. They never seemed to get bored or lose interest, even if they repeated some of the hikes and destinations, and soon they had their favorites that needed to be revisited multiple times.
Our girls are older and have moved away, but they still reminisce about our vacations to Glacier and how their experiences there are some of their fondest childhood memories. When I hear them now, as adults, say “I can’t wait to get back there!” and “I need to get out there to re-charge!” it is such beautiful and sweet music to my ears.
“If it isn’t God’s backyard, he certainly lives nearby!”
Now, as I get ready to lead BCJ groups into Glacier, I am filled with some of that excitement that I had with my family. I’ll be taking the BCJ tribe, a family of sorts, to capture some of the unparalleled beauty of the park in our imagery, to laugh together, and create some lasting memories that undoubtedly will keep us coming back for more.
Doug received his first camera, a Kodak Brownie, at the age of six. That’s the day he fell in love with the fact that one could essentially freeze a moment in time with a click of a button. That Brownie met its demise only a few days later, as Doug was running up the backstairs to his house in rural Pennsylvania and he tripped, smashing the camera into a multitude of pieces. Despite being totally devastated, the youngster did not let this incident shatter his zeal for photography! Doug still has the same passion and excitement for capturing moments in time, those special in between times, in his over 20 years as a professional photographer. Doug’s photography is focused on documenting the natural world, people interacting with the natural world, and the magic these moments display. It is with optimism, that his images will inspire the viewer to take action.
Doug’s guiding experience is extensive, with close to 23 years leading trips around the American West, Canada, and down through Belize with youth with varied learning styles and diagnosed learning disabilities. Doug is a firm believer that the Natural World is the greatest educator if we take the time to listen and observe.
To view some of Doug’s work and to see what he’s been up to, follow along on Instagram @dmelphotogrande.