Everything has just closed for the season at Apgar Village. The windows are boarded up, summer signs have been swapped for ones with off-season instructions, and only one building has a light in the window–it’s above a gift shop. I find myself wondering who is up there. If I come back in the summer, I will probably see that person behind the counter, asking me how they can help me. But now the welcome talk is nonexistent. That person is cozying up with a good book and a cup of tea, while I wander through this seasonal ghost town.
Its a little disconcerting to be the only one here. However, I shift and jostle my mind purposefully into a groove, and soon I am comfortable with it. Even happy. No one but me is here on this cool day, seeing this place as I am seeing it.
As I drive around the corner to the boat ramp. I see grey clouds hanging in layers above the long expanse of Lake McDonald. Then suddenly I notice, at the end of the lake, the mountains. How did I not see them the first second I was here? I think it was because I didn’t expect them. I thought I would have to go much further into the park to see such a spectacular sight. And the shore has a personality of its own, with multicolored rocks on the beach and in the shallow, crystal-clear water.
I stand there like an idiot for a minute, then I realize where I am. Connection with the scene is a physical feeling. It starts small and quiet, then spreads through me slowly from my belly to my chest, then up along my arms and down along my legs. I really am here. I made it to Glacier. A light breeze touches my skin and lifts the ends of my hair.
I was here last year on my way to Canada, but barely stuck my nose into the park before I felt I had to high-tail it north to beat winter. There is a satisfaction in me that comes from having made a plan to travel here this year and then making it happen. I was delayed a month to work on a project with my son, and for the two weeks it’s taken to get here I’ve been sad I would miss the season. Now that I’m here, though, I realize what a bit of serendipity it is that I’ve come today, when I have it all to myself.
I feel very fortunate. Without others in sight, it feels as though this lake is here all for me. I ignore marks of latent visitors, such as the manmade dock, the concrete ramp and closed up shops, stores and lodges. Being here is more than the things I see. It’s what I feel. My spirit opens up and flies across the water to the snowy peaks.
What did the first people feel when they saw this lake? I compare it to the right-angled town I grew up in. The contrast makes this flowing, random, organic-ness of the mountains and lake feel strikingly beautiful to me. Were the first people jaded to this beauty? Did the mountains seem to them as workaday as square buildings seem to me? There’s no way to know. All I know is I’m happy to be here and feel this peace in my belly.