This High, Wild Country: A Celebration of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park nestles along the spine of our continent and the U.S.-Canadian border, a Paleolithic landscape now being undermined by global warming. Historian-naturalist Paul Schullery first experienced Waterton-Glacier forty years ago as a young man traveling solo through a landscape overflowing with surprises. Since then he has returned to this magical landscape again and again with his wife and fellow long-time National Park Service employee, artist Marsha Karle, to share the wonders of this unique and threatened landscape. In This High, Wild Country this talented pair take readers on a series of tours crisscrossing the park to reveal wonders that visitors too often view from a distance. Schullery's stories and analysis introduce us to the special character of this landscape and our responsibility to it. Karle’s watercolors capture the intricate and subtle details that lend themselves to the area’s stunning beauty, revealing at every turn why we care so much about the future of this high, wild country.
"a lovingly crafted homage to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park . . . . The accompanying artwork (66 color illustrations, 27 drawings, and a handy map), stunning watercolors worthy of gallery space, nicely balances Schullery's words . . . .Who knew learning could be so fun, so personal, and so handsome?"—Big Sky Journal
Excerpt from This High, Wild Country: A Celebration of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, from Chapter Five, "Glacier Ghosts:
As much as I used to like to think of myself as a wilderness kind of guy, I must confess that I'm a typically socialized, commerce-adapted product of my heavily populated world. The older I get, the more I love to wander through the great old park hotels, and I never miss a chance to cruise the visitor centers and museums. Marsha's influence as an expert shopper has even turned me into a passable consumer at the gift shops.
I'm not really here to deny my technological addictions; I am always happily distracted when one of those lovely red buses goes by, and I've never been on a boat of any kind anywhere that I admired more than the venerable "International" that has several times taken me to Goat Haunt at the south end of Waterton Lake. These experiences are all wonderful comforts, as is my ongoing quest for the perfect store-bought huckleberry milkshake.
But when I’m out in some isolated place in the parks with a spotting scope or a fly rod or a backpack, I still flinch a little when I hear voices approaching. It has often occurred to me that my aversion to society in these parks is nearly bizarre, considering that as a writer I not only need all those people as an audience, but I am celebrating (and therefore promoting) the very places I enjoy most when I have them to myself.
I certainly didn’t have the parking lot at Logan Pass to myself on a darkly overcast late-fall day, with lowering clouds driven hard by a snow-cold west wind. As late in the season as it was, there were still dozens of cars in the parking lot, with people hurrying to and from the shelter of the Visitor Center. A van-load of young hikers pulled into the parking spot next to mine and a tall, leggy young woman hopped out and immediately responded to the dramatic chill by deciding to add a layer. As her companions rooted busily through their stuff for cameras and jackets, she quickly removed her boots and jeans, danced unaffectedly and pinkly around in the icy wind while she extracted a pair of tights from a pack and put them on, and then restored her jeans and boots.
As more people got in and out of their cars, I focused on the distance, scanning the fabulous peakscape of this most famous of Glacier Park passes. To the west, I picked a fast-flying eastbound eagle out of the confusion of grayish sky and snow-patched peaks. The bird’s velocity was unbelievable. Outrunning the wind, it crossed over the divide above us and seemed to fast-forward to the east, shrinking smaller and smaller until I lost it in the cross-hatched snow patterns of Heavy Runner Mountain.
It was a moment just between me and the eagle, yet shared with a few others who happened to look up right then, yet entirely missed by many others who didn’t happen to be looking up right then (or who were still watching to see what the girl might do next). Those of us who saw the eagle's flight exchanged a few smiles but we didn’t say a word to each other, and what could we possibly say to the ones who missed it?
It was not a moment for a camera or quantifying field notes. It was not something that would advance science or yield to analysis. It was not a shared thrill that required social celebration or the rhetorical applause of happy conversation.
It was instead the connection we are, after all, out there seeking, when the door opens for an instant on some greater truth—the kind of wisdom that eludes us if we try convert into words a thing whose only real value is as untranslated experience.
Come to this high, wild country with your heart open for that, and everything else it has to offer will be yours as well.