Yesterday, I got the text from Zach's mom. Sperry Chalet lodge, after standing strong for more than 100 years up in the backcountry of Glacier National Park, has burned down. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach and I jumped online to try and find out what had happened. It turns out firefighters have been fighting a lightning-sparked fire near the chalet and Lake McDonald for the past two weeks, and it finally succumbed to the flames yesterday. So sad.
Exactly two years ago today, we had the great fortune of hiking up to this magical place and spending two nights. Built in 1912 by the Great Northern Railway and opened the following year to guests, Sperry Chalet has provided a base for hikers heading up to see the amazing Sperry Glacier for 100+ years. A National Historic Landmark, the chalet was built from simple rock, rubble, and timber in an homage to the alpine architectural style that the Railway was using for all of its buildings in the area: Montana would be the Switzerland of North America.
On our previous trip to Glacier, we stayed with Zach's parents at the more rustic of the Great Northern Railway chalets - Granite Park. At Granite Park, they provide communal facilities in which you can pack in your meals and prepare them yourself, as well as participate in fun ranger-led talks every night. All aspects of the trek are more family-friendly, including the hike in via the Highline Trail which is about 8 miles and less than 1000' of elevation gain.
Sperry Chalet, on the other hand, feels luxurious by comparison - or at least as luxurious as anything can feel when bear-proof pit toilets are in the equation. While rustic, the accommodations are full service - beds and linens provided in the main lodge, along with full catering and hearty mountain fare prepared by the friendly staff in the separate kitchen building. Hot breakfasts, lunches packed for you to take on your hike, freshly-baked homemade cookies and pies, delicious multi-course dinners - the works. It's backcountry hiking at its ultimate best, even if you have to think really long and hard about that 2am emergency hike to the bathroom.
Each night we were there, we drank hot chocolate and apple cider, played games until late and listened to stories from other guests about how they've been coming to Sperry for 20+ years with their families. The chalet is so well-loved.
The best part of Sperry - beyond the delicious meals and friendly staff - was its location. The hike in is about 3500' up over 7 miles, and we shared the trail with the pack horses that bring supplies up to the chalet. Another 4 miles and 2000' above is Sperry Glacier, and one of the most stunning day hikes I've ever experienced, including a run of granite stairs dynamited out of the side of the mountain. We made the trip at the end of the season, which provided awe-inspiring vistas and dramatic fog. I'm so grateful to have experienced this amazing place and so thankful for all those who tried to save it.
Here's to the Sperry Chalet rebuild so future generations can see the few glaciers left in the park, and experience the humbling beauty of places such as these.
All photos shot with either my Nikon D750 or my iPhone.