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Glacier Geotourism Map: Boon, or Bane?


    Back in 1895, George Bird Grinnell looked at the jagged mountainscape that surrounds today's Glacier National Park and dubbed the region the "Crown of the Continent."
    That tag remains strong today, and if you've ever been to the area you know why. The rugged spine of the Rocky Mountains that runs through here is a crucible of wilderness, harboring wolves, grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats, elk and more. The steep, sky-scraping peaks cradle many of the Lower 48's remaining glaciers. Alpine lakes dot the region, and thick forests invite exploration.
    So significant is the region and its natural resources that the National Geographic Society has decided it deserves a "geotourism" map, one that points out highlights of the region's culture, natural resources, and heritage.
    Some wonder if this is necessary, or even a good idea. After all, there already are plenty of maps of the area, some darn good ones at that. I love the USGS map of Glacier I picked up during a trip there two years ago.
    How will the society's new map, which is scheduled to arrive in about a year, impact the region? Will it spur a rush of tourists? If so, will they overrun the area?
    Most likely not, as you can't easily get to Glacier. Just the same, wouldn't be nice if there were some places left in the country that weren't explicitly revealed, some places that still required a healthy dose of personal exploration?


I do at times whine about the three foot wide, eight foot high, five percent grade, over signed trails in our National Parks (I swear I once came across a sign, a large arrow with the word "View" in a so called "designated wilderness" area of a National Park.) There are many places I know of in the wildness where the adventure begins with the drive to the trailhead. A few of these roads give access to lesser visited areas of our National Parks. In planning a backpack adventure I love pouring over any maps and data I can find on the history, culture, natural resources etc. of the area I am visiting. If this new NG map gets one person off their ass and a couple of days or more out into our Glacier National Park to gaze wonderingly, loosing track of time, space and self for even a moment, I will be happy.

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