Terrible news about Sperry Chalet, Glacier NP

We are so sad to learn that the beautiful and historic Sperry Chalet burned in a forest fire a few days ago. We were lucky enough to spend three nights there over my birthday in late July 2014. Coincidentally 2014 was the 100th anniversary of the chalet. The chalet was one of six chalets originally built by the Great Northern Railway to bring tourists to the backcountry and the new Glacier National Park, which was created in 1910. The railway would bring tourists close to Lake MacDonald where they would boat up the lake, then take horses or hike the 6.7 miles and 3300′ up to the chalet. The chalet sits in a stunning glacial cirque about 4 miles from the Sperry Glacier, one of the few glaciers remaining today in the park. (For a full history of the chalet read Welcome to Sperry Chalet by Beth Dunagan, the source of all the historical info in this post!)

We went with my Mom and Dad and had a great time hiking and exploring. There were mountain goats all over – they even warned you to not leave sweaty clothes unattended on the railing because the goats crave salt and will eat your gear. Sara heard clomping one night on the deck and looked out the window to see a goat looking back in the window at her. The chalet facility includes a dining hall, which served excellent food, especially if you are used to actual backpacker fare! An excursion to Sperry Glacier is a must if you’ve already gone all that way, but it is still a good 8-mile round-trip trek. The final push to the top includes a narrow staircase carved into the cliffs! The scenery is spectacular beyond words. Glacier NP is really unique in the lower 48 for towering mountains exquisitely carved by millennia of glacial ice. With Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone it should be at the top of everyone’s National Park bucket list.

Sara and I were in the middle of training for a marathon so we used the trip for some trail running. The final day we graciously accepted my parents’ offer to carry out a bit of our gear back down to the car so we could run out the long way. 16 miles, light packs, 2 mountain passes, and thousands of feet descending, and a two-hour bus ride back through the park was quite an adventure. We were loaded up on bear bells and sung our way out to make sure we didn’t startle something that would eat us!

Momma goat and kid to greet us on our arrival.

The view west from the chalet.

Evening light looking over Lake MacDonald.

Sunset with glowing granite and approaching rain at Sperry Chalet.

Crescent moon over Lake MacDonald.
Goats were everywhere and were surprisingly not shy.

Goat on the way to Sperry Glacier.
Original visitors navigated the last cliffs to the glacier by climbing an iron ladder, but the park eventually carved this staircase into the sheer cliff by had-drilling.

Mom and Dad coming up through the final staircase blasted into the rock to reach Sperry Glacier.
Playing on/in the glacier.

On the final day we were ready to run out over the pass to Lake Ellen Wilson, over Gunsight Pass to Gunsight Lake, and then down the long trail along Saint Mary River to the Going to the Sun Road.

Ready to run!
Sara running down the pass toward Lake Ellen Wilson.

Michael running down a section of Gunsight Pass to Gunsight Lake.

Happy to be done!

Happy to be done and soak our feet in a painfully freezing creek.

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