SOUNDS OF GLACIER NATIONAL PARK: A sensory experiment
We’ve been to 43 National Parks after visiting Glacier. At every one we take dozens, maybe hundreds, of pictures. It’s basically automatic. We try to capture what we see because the views are so amazing. Then we try to find words to describe the things we saw because they are so worth sharing.
All the Martian subscribers to our blog may justifiably assume that earthlings are one giant eyeball because we always focus on the sights. But there are 5 other senses: touch, taste, smell, seeing dead people and hearing.
The one other sensory experience we have the ability to share online is sound. Sounds are interesting because they are very consistent and easy to categorize. You know what water sounds like. You can pick out a drip, a rush, a gurgle, no matter whether it comes from your kitchen sink or Rick Astley‘s infinite pool. Each similar sound can come from a completely different source and can be so subtly different.
We have heard some beautiful sounds throughout the parks. Things we had never heard before. There’s the jangle of our steps on a glacial moraine in Great Basin, the wooden clack of the canal loch gates at Cuyahoga Valley, the swoosh of a pelican’s wings at Everglades, the roiling of a mud pot at Lassen Volcanic, the whooping of ptarmigans at North Cascades, the crash of falling branches at Great Smoky Mountains… I could go on.
During our trip we haven’t given much intentional thought to the sounds we hear. They seem to be mere byproducts of the amazing sights. The sounds are rarely captured or remembered. Sometimes we can catch them on our videos, which is one reason I so enjoy making and sharing their more complete sense of the parks. But most slip into the air never to be heard from again. Even more are drowned out by our own talking our movements and are never heard from in the first place.
I think we have underrated how the sounds of the parks complete our experience. They add onto the sights. Many times they even allow us to predict the sights we will see up in the branches, beyond the bushes or over the hill. But unless we are first quiet and are then listening, these sounds are lost. Perhaps it is this ephemeral that makes them such a special gift.
At Glacier, there were many sounds we heard, but couldn’t capture. Woodpeckers hammered away at the trees. Mallards splashed their wings on the lakes as they took off. Wolves howled to each other at night – one seemingly right beside our campground (this first really freaked out Elizabeth). Bighorn sheep clacked their hooves on the road as they licked the salt from our car’s bumper. We tried to pay close attention to the Sounds of Glacier.
I put together a short montage of sounds we heard during our visit and did manage to capture. The video will only show one picture, but it has subtitles for each different sound. I’d suggest closing your eyes first, though, and imagining the source of the sound. See how many you can guess before replaying and reading the subtitles.
The Sounds of Glacier were so simple, yet so beautiful. I can listen to each one and instantly be transported back to what we were doing at that time. But that memory is also tied very strongly to what we saw. So I guess Glacier helped us remember there are many different ways we can experience the parks and the best is when we remember to use all our senses.