Columnist Stephen McClanahan is retired from P&G and now active in environmental advocacy, search/rescue and emergency medical/disaster response.

Glacier National Park sits in northern Montana; it runs contiguous with Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada to create a large, magnificent wilderness. If you ever have the opportunity to really experience the area, don’t pass it by. Glacier was set aside as a national park in 1910 by Cincinnati-borne President William Howard Taft. The park is named for the numerous glaciers that are there (or at least used to be but more on that in a bit).   

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a week backpacking in Glacier with some friends. During the time of our adventure, the country was celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It so happened that during the week we choose, we were about 20 miles from their location exactly 200 years earlier. That was kind of cool.

Our hike took us across the southern portion of the Park, away from the popular tourist areas. We followed trails through the Nyack creek and Two Medicine Pass areas. We went through some remarkably remote wilderness that, as the rangers were keen to remind us, is home to the grizzly bear. Now, before you can get a backpack permit, you must watch a short film that reminds you that,

Relative to the bear, you are lunch.

relative to the bear, you are lunch. And to avoid such a fate, you are advised to hike a monster-sized canister of bear spray that you can fire once the grizzly is within 30 feet of eating you. Being that this is kind of a last resort tactic, you are also advised to hike with bear bells dangling from your pack. The tingling of the bell is to alert the predator, thereby avoiding a surprise lunch date. Sounds easy enough; the bear spray secures nicely to your pack and is largely out of the way but after a few days of tingling of the bells, you just about lose your mind and being eaten by a bear no longer seems the worse fate you are facing.  

After a few days of tingling of the bells, you just about lose your mind and being eaten by a bear no longer seems the worse fate you are facing. 

Strange things can happen in the deep wood. One late afternoon when the sun had sat, and night was falling, a solo hiker wandered into our camp. Mind you, we were probably 30 miles from the nearest point of civilization in a less frequented section of a large national park, deep in remote wilderness. The young man was wet, hungry and lost but in surprisingly high spirits; after feeding him and consulting our maps, we discovered he missed a turn several miles back. Astonishingly, we learned the lad was from basically the same home town in Kentucky as my wife; it is a small world. By sunrise the next morning, he was gone, leaving only a note of thanks for food and companionship.

Conversation that alternated between discussions on theology and scatology.

A member of our team happened to be a pastor. One afternoon, we were thoughtfully engaged in conversation that alternated between discussions on theology and scatology (if you don’t know that one, it’s the study of animal pooh – kind of important to know if grizzlies or other unfriendly creatures are about since you’ve canned the bells). 

Some may find it irreverent to think of holding together these two conversation topics; I think they are all part of the same fabric – creation and Creator. Did you know there are amazingly interesting processes (intricate, complex and interdependent) by which nature takes that pooh and recycles it back into the web of life?  Without the creatures that perform these miracles, life would not be possible; you and I wouldn’t exist. So, in a profound way, theology and thoughts of pooh do belong together. 

We are so deeply connected to the earth and, when in remote places, it’s natural to reflect on such things. I find nature to be a great teacher if I’m willing to become the student. I, like many others, find nature to fully reflect the Creator.

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