You may have heard that the iconic Sperry Chalet was gutted by a wildfire in August 2017. All of the interior woodwork and the roof and the windows were totally consumed by fire. The only thing remaining were the rock masonry walls. The Sperry Chalet is in Glacier National Park, and it offered a unique opportunity to enjoy the backcountry. It had a kitchen and dining room, and private bedrooms. The lodge was at the end of a 6.7-mile hike that is “strenuous and nearly all uphill,” according to the Park Service. The lodge had been built by the Great Northern Railway and opened in 1914, as a way to attract rail passengers to the newly created Glacier National Park, which was established by Congress in 1910.
When Sperry Chalet burned, I learned that the structure holds a special place in the hearts of many people. Generations of families had visited the place. And, indeed, I have a little story about Sperry Chalet.
I hiked partway to the chalet last summer, before the fires, and had the opportunity to hike along with a national park backcountry ranger who was hiking out from a multi-day assignment at the chalet. He told me his challenge of the week had been to “haze” a grizzly bear away from the building. The bear’s crime was nosing around the kitchen door. “Hazing a bear” involves using a variety of methods to encourage a bear to move away, such as yelling, banging pots, and shooting off firecrackers. How would you like to put on your resume, Ability to haze a grizzly away from the kitchen before he eats the bacon or the guests?
The latest news about Sperry Chalet is that the Glacier National Park Conservancy has raised $90,000 from private donors to stabilize the walls so they don’t fall down during the upcoming winter. Glacier National Park has announced it intends to reconstruct the chalet, and Secretary of Interior Zinke has vowed to support that effort.
The chalet walls are stable for the winter, but more donations will be needed for repairs in 2018 and beyond to ensure Sperry Chalet rises from the ashes. For the latest news and ways to help, visit the Glacier National Park Conservancy.