When I was not quite nineteen, I loaded up my 1993 GMC Jimmy with Dixie Chicks CDs, straight leg faded jeans, Bonne Belle lipsmackers, and Sarah Clowerpower Hailey, and drove across the country to work for “St. Mary The Resort at Glacier,” at the east entrance of Glacier National Park, in St. Mary, Montana.

Clowerpower’s parents and my mom grew up together in Georgia, and as life has it, Clowerpower and I did not grow up together, but did both decide to matriculate at the University of Georgia in the fall of 1998.   Our parents insisted that we room together in the dorms, despite the fact that we had only met once before, when we were toddlers.  Clowerpower and I spoke to one another on the phone about this prospect, and agreed to the idea, though we later confessed to one another that we had each held deep doubts about our compatibility.  I thought she would be a spoiled brat, a doctor’s daughter who knew nothing about football, cows, or horses.  She thought I would be an absolute redneck who knew too much about cows and horses.  As it turned out, she didn’t know a whole lot about football, though she picked it up quickly, and I did know entirely too much about cows and horses.  I taught her how to mix the perfect pre-game mimosa, and she taught me not to go out on Friday nights in Athens, Georgia, in my Wranglers.  By December, we were more sisters than roommates, and she remains one of my very closest friends, the kind you choose as your family.

At any rate, we arrived in St. Mary, Montana, in early May of 2000.  She went to work in the gift shop, hocking tacky bronze casts of anatomically incorrect grizzly bears to unsuspecting tourons, and I went to work in the coffee shop, rising early to dispense cappuccinos, lattes, and “advice” to unsuspecting tourons.  Among my favorite questions about Glacier National Park that summer were:

When do the deer turn into elk?

When do they turn the waterfalls off?

Where do they put the animals at night?

Where do I buy a ticket to the Going-to-the-Sun ride?

Summer 2000 St. Mary’s Crew

Perks of my job included all the caffeine I could consume (not necessarily a bad thing, considering the late hours we kept that summer, as we reveled in throwing bonfire parties down on the St. Mary river, meeting all the other twenty-somethings working in and around Glacier); all the fudge I could consume (definitely a bad thing); and being off work around 1pm each day (best schedule ever!).  Glacier summer days hold their daylight until 1opm and beyond, and so I had huge afternoons with which to hike and climb and play.  A repeat summer employee introduced me to the delights of Lost Lake in late June.

Lost Lake is located just off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, though it is mercifully unmarked, and as I understand, has served as a summer playground for generations of park employees.  It is small and fed by springs, and is one of the few lakes in Glacier to warm up just enough to allow for swimming in parts of July and August.    By mid-July, I had purchased an air mattress to float on, and was frequently found after work lolling on Lost Lake, reading, writing in my journal, sunbathing, and drinking cold beer with my new found Glacier friends.  Some of these friends are still mine, ten summers later.

I’ve returned to Glacier every summer since 2000, some years to work, some to play, and now I live here, so my afternoons at Lost Lake are many.  I believe it was in the summer of 2006 that I took my parents to Lost Lake, hoping the water would be warm enough to take a dip in, to relieve the heat of the day.  As I was preparing to dive in, a pretty young park ranger appeared in the woods.  I recognized her as Katie, the local beekeeper’s daughter, with whom I had once worked at Thronson’s General Store (“if we ain’t got it, you don’t need it”) in Babb.  Katie told me that I could not get in, that a rare snail had been discovered making Lost Lake its preferred home, and that swimming had been outlawed.  I was speechless and quite sad that my sunny afternoon had just dried out.  But of course I was not going to argue with the lady ranger.

And it’s a darn good thing I didn’t, because that pretty ranger is now my sister-in-law.  I married her handsome youngest brother last year.

I got to thinking about the strange cards life deals us when I walked to Lost Lake earlier this month.  I posted pictures of our hike there and back, but I didn’t post the pictures I took of our picnic at the lake.  I wanted to take a few weeks to pull them up nightly on my computer, staring at the little beach I spent so many afternoons on, remembering all the different folks I shared sack lunches and PBRs with, before I posted them.  Now that I’ve sifted through my memories, it’s time to share, because I know I am not the only person out there on the internets who fell in love for an afternoon, busted her knee open, and tried to stand up on Lost Log with ten other summer folk at Lost Lake.

That snail that has ruined my summer fun is a capshell limper.  According to this posting, Lost Lake is thought to be the only location in the United States where it is relatively abundant.

That’s all quite lovely, but I feel certain that the capshell limper has the shakes from the dearth of PBR not being spilled into Lost Lake every summer.  Cheers to you if you’ve contributed to its addiction!

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