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The day began as it had for the past few, getting up with the rising sun. I wandered down the short dirt trail to visit the river. We met every morning.

She was a very gracious hostess. She patiently waited while I completed a round of mediation, reading, and yoga. Finally, I felt ready to receive her knowledge and bask in her beauty.

I delighted in these quiet visits while peering into her glacial depths. Our morning visits left me feeling invigorated, which was much needed. I wasn’t at the Glacier Institute as a visitor, I was there as a student. The mass knowledge I was about to consume was tiring and daunting but well worth it. I was on the path to becoming a Montana Master Naturalist at Glacier National Park!

Trails & Trials

Was becoming a Master Naturalist challenging? Of course, it wasn’t all beautiful rivers and delightful scenery. At least, not all the time.

Knowledge was stuffed into our heads from 8 am to, occasionally, 9 pm. That is a long day of learning even for this nature-loving girl! However, this was a time when I choose a more challenging path because I hoped for a better human on the other side.

I may even be fortunate enough to make friends, develop goals, or have my perspectives changed. There are times when life forces me to change but there are times when I need to push myself into change. I like to choose my trials with an extra heaping of nature and a side of trails.

Dirt Roads

The most scenic paths in Glacier National Park are off small dirt roads made for boots. I can’t find solitude while residing in my car, instead I have to earn it with steps. And sweat. Lots of sweat.

I sweat. A lot. I hike five feet from my vehicle and I am already sweating, my trail motto is, “sweat happens”. Sweatiness aside, once I have achieved my glorious destination, it feels much more magnificent. It could be the endorphins or exhaustion but either way it feels amazing. The Master Naturalist course at the Glacier Institute also encompassed this theme.

It took a lot of mental and physical effort but the result was well worth it.

Subtly Sublime

Similar to the various parts of a landscape, various levels of knowledge are acquired before becoming a Master Naturalist.

A naturalist by definition is an “expert or student in natural history”. What an lame definition! A definition shouldn’t include the word that is being defined.

“A curious person who delights in discovering the life that inhabits a landscape and willingness to sharing that knowledge with others” is a better reflection of a naturalist. It is still difficult to define the complexity of life with the tiny flittering butterflies to the centurion behemoth of a Western Larch.

When I first saw the Montana Master Naturalist course, I was daunted by the depth of knowledge needed. I can barely figure out how to use my new smartphone in a week let alone the diverse field of a naturalist!

That’s when I tightened my boots and got ready to brace for a knowledge deluge, similar to what’s experienced at the wrong end of a firehose. I may know something about this (as I side-eye Navy boot camp and UW-SP Treehaven).

The Path of Knowledge

The goal of naturalist training is simple: preparing a human for the public’s inquiry of nature. If I was to give a tour, what could I tell the public about this landscape through the lens of a naturalist?

For example, Why do these plants prefer this open, recently burned landscape? What wildlife encounters are expected? What is that brown pile that looks suspiciously like eschewed cocoa puffs? This immersive training was a unique opportunity to enjoy the splendors of Glacier National Park but also find how to become a user-friendly field guide for the public. Gesturing and reenactments included free of charge!

Montana Master Naturalist

The best gift of this experience was the confidence. Memorizing every word and encounter is impossible.

However, the universal ideas were valuable. With the backdrop as the most scenic landscape in an America, it is a playground for adventure. Perfect for my inner naturalist wanting to upgrade to the Montana Master Naturalist certification. Just another nature loving human hoping to add an another accomplishment to my life list.

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