I must confess, now with some guilt, that I was excited when I heard about the Sprague Fire.  Anyone who has hiked the trail from Crystal Ford up to Sperry, the Snyder Ridge trail, or especially been anywhere off trail in that neighborhood will understand how profoundly old that forest is.  Or rather, was.  Fire causes renewal and by any just sense that forest was due its turn.

The chalet complex itself is at the upper edge of the forest, close to where subalpine turns to alpine, at around 6500′.  As the map below shows the builders, JJ Hill’s Great Northern Rail Company, had a good eye for aesthetics and the spectacular, at the rightful expense of practicality.  Water isn’t especially easy to come by on a rock slab at that altitude, avalanches are an issue (as seen by the placement of the snow patch), but under all but the worst conditions fire would not have been an issue.  As you can see, there just aren’t that many trees up there.

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Back in the day Glacier had nine chalets in total.  Sperry and Granite Park persist (only the main visitor bunkhouse, the largest and southernmost building at Sperry, has thus far burnt), Gunsight was fast given up due to repeated issues with avalanches, fires, and marauding bears, and the rest became front country or close to it, fell out of favor, and were either destroyed or converted (the present Two Med store).  The demise of the Sun Point Chalet, bulldozed into St. Mary Lake, seems today a particular deed of ignomy, especially given Sun Points recent use as the worlds most scenic gravel pit.


All evidence suggests that everything possible was done to keep the building from burning.  Fire is an inevitability in the wilderness, a healthy and appropriate one.  I hope, and imagine, that it will be rebuilt in much the same form.  It’s a unique place, the sort parks ought to have more of, and I think the NPS finally recognizes as much.