Updated: Mar 11, 2020
The year was 2018. The setting was the deep wilderness of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. I was in a dense forest in a giant hanging valley somewhere above Apikuni Falls. The sun was at its highest in the Big Sky, and the heat raining down on me was staining my cap with a band of sweat. I blinked at the mountains above me and the valleys below. It was becoming increasingly clear: I had no idea where I was.
Glacier was the second National Park that I had the privilege to call home. I had spent the formative years in my life on the North Shore of Massachusetts and my playground extended north up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Hiking had been a passion of mine, but the west was different. I had the opportunity to take a job at the Grand Canyon. I packed as much as I could fit in my suitcase, left everything else behind and headed west.
Cultivating a career in Hotel Management led me to explore the National Parks of the west. From the Grand Canyon, I was offered a position in Glacier National Park for the following summer. I had never been to Montana or seen the Rockies. I had no idea what to expect, but in the same fashion I saw a new adventure ahead of me and reached for it with both hands. I was going to accept everything that came my way. I was getting comfortable being nomadic, and wanted to see where this journey would take me if I was willing to follow through.
Glacier was kind to me and I felt immediately welcomed by the staggering beauty of the mountains and forests surrounding me. I was working in the Many Glacier Valley, waking up each morning to the sun rising over Swiftcurrent Lake on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. I took to the mountains every chance I could, learning the basics of climbing from new friends I had met at work. This time, I had decided to go it alone.
"This is Cooper's solo chronicles", I said, ridiculously, to my cell phone screen, "and I think I might be lost".
Although it was an all day ordeal, I eventually found my way down from the hanging valley I had scrambled into. For some reason, it provided me comfort talking to my invisible audience and chronicling every step of my descent, as if convincing myself I was going in the right direction. When I returned, sweaty and covered in dirt, to the employee dining room at the lodge, I showed my friends my "Cooper Chronicles". Perhaps it was the lack of cable TV, but it became a sort of means of entertainment. I was frequently asked by my fellow "Parkies" if there were any more Chronicles, and I continued to document my adventures in the same way. As I got more and more into adventure photography, I applied the same name to my Instagram page, and later to my photography business.
The rest of the story is still unraveling.