May 6, 2013 by Deborah W. Trotter
You return to a lake you’ve hiked to before, and you’re sure there’s something different about it. Very different. But you don’t hike with your photo album containing your pictures from ten years earlier, so you’re not sure. Memories are not always reliable.
One thing I know for sure from both of our visits, however. Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana, is gorgeous, a stunning, milky green jewel surrounded by evergreens, its setting a glacial cirque edged by a towering rock wall, vertically ribboned by falling snowmelt.
The woodsy two and a half miles to the lake felt the same both times we hiked it (except the second time we tiptoed quickly around a large mound of fresh bear scat in the middle of the trail not far from the lake – yikes!). The trailhead is just beyond the north end of Lake McDonald, and the trail starts off on a wooden boardwalk through a dark, cool cedar forest. Because the forest is healthy and old, you don’t see much else on the way up for the first couple of miles. Eventually you start to hear the thundering sound of lots of rapidly moving water, and the trail opens up along the cascades of Avalanche Creek, plunging down from the direction of the lake. This part of the hike provides a whitewater festival, delighting both the eyes and ears.
Before too much longer, the forest thins a bit, and there sits Avalanche Lake.
You can see that there was far less water in 2007 than in 1997, both in the lake and in the volume of snowmelt feeding it from above. So . . . was it the same lake both times?
Now, I’m not trying to spark a philosophical/existential discussion really (although I wouldn’t mind that at all). I only want to make the point I have made before: the special places that are our National Parks are not static. They present variety in many aspects from year to year and visit to visit, and that is part of their magic. So I encourage you to find a Park you love, and get to know it. Go back as often as you can. Each visit will gift you anew, whether in the form of water, wildflowers, wildlife, weather . . . or something else.
It’s never the same Park twice!