But it's not just my uneasiness slowing me down. The unique beauty of the landscape stops me in my tracks at every bend in the trail and demands my complete attention. Shimmering, milky blue lakes are surrounded by magnificent, jagged mountains - the handiwork of glacial sculpting. The afternoon sun, hidden behind a towering cliff, highlights a torrent of water just where it plunges over the cliff's rim. The terrain is a paradox: immense in scope and the power to enthrall, intimate in character; it exhilarates and calms at the same time.
On the second day, we climb to the Granite Park Chalet, where a deer naps in the doorway, oblivious to the humans stepping over him. Marmots scurry around from place to place and they, too, tolerate our presence. As I peer through a telescope to watch a family of grizzlies playing in the valley far below us, I'm suddenly aware of a strong sense of well-being bubbling to the surface. The bears belong here. I belong here, too.
The trails in Glacier Park offer sweeping vistas from soaring vantage points; they also wind through forested valleys and alpine meadows, and along lakeshores. A walk of just a few miles leads to blissful solitude where perception is magnified: Silence is intense. Color is brilliant - in turquoise lakes, in wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, and in the emerald moss, red argillite, and white snow of the mountainsides. Sound is pure - water flows in murmurs and in roars that reach into the soul. It's here beside the waterfall or the beaver dam, with chipmunks at my feet and butterflies circling around me, that I feel more like a welcome guest and less like a spectator.
The vacation ends, but its effect does not. Although I began my visit to Glacier as an observer, the experience of such a special place soaks into its visitors and becomes part of them. Now that I am home again, when something vital in me needs to be replenished - joy, energy, or wonder - I remind myself that the magic of Glacier Park is still out there. It's also in me, and I like to remember that.
Contact Virginia McNamara at Virginia.McNamara@comverse.com.