Feature

Getting the flavor of...Glaciers in twilight

A century and a half ago, Glacier National Park was home to about 150 glaciers. Now there are just 25.

Glaciers in twilightTo visit Montana’s Glacier National Park today is to partake of “last-chance tourism,” said Stephen P. Nash in The New York Times. Just a century and a half ago, the park’s million-plus acres of craggy peaks were home to some 150 majestic glaciers. Now there are just 25, and some experts believe that all of those will melt away by 2020. An Alpine glacier is a singular sight. The 68-acre Sexton Glacier, one of the easiest for hikers to reach, is “a massive, ragged smear of snow-laden ice” perched just below the mountains’ “sawtooth skyline.” I reach another after pleasant rides on both a roll-top tour bus and a modest passenger boat, which traverses an icy lake to deliver me to my chosen trailhead. This second glacier glows brilliantly in the sun despite its summer covering of windblown grit. “It seems immense, too big to disappear, and nearly crowds everything else from consciousness.” And to think: It might last only nine more years.

The wilds of NewfoundlandCanada’s Gros Morne National Park is an “astonishingly beautiful” wilderness with an unusual geological history, says Mary Loudon in the London Times. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it stretches across 450,000 acres of mountains, fjords, and forests in Newfoundland. Its most striking feature is the Tablelands, a range of flat-topped, desolate orange formations that look incongruous among the surrounding forests. They belong to the earth’s mantle, but were pushed up above its crust by tectonic forces half a billion years ago. Gros Morne itself “is not a mountain to be undertaken lightly,” but the view from its 2,297-foot summit is breathtaking. A day after that climb, a guide and I go kayaking in the ocean, “with porpoises for company and bald eagles eyeing us from above.” When I return home, I’ll surely forget that my worries are small. Here, I am “cut down to size” by the mountains and sea, “refreshed by rocks and water.”

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