Location Settings: Morning Eagle Falls
A fair number of visitors to Many Glacier Hotel on the eastern side of Glacier National Park find Morning Eagle Falls not only beautiful, but accessible just a little over five miles away. En route, there are two turquoise colored lakes, stunning views of the surrounding mountains, old growth forest and numerous wildflowers. The hike can be shortened by taking the launches across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes to the trail leading toward the higher Feather Plume Falls and Piegan Pass. Here’s an illustrated account of the hike from Hiking with Barry. And here’s a wonderful 3-D topographic map showing the trails.
Why I Used The Setting
I chose this location valley as a location setting in my fantasy adventures The Sun Singer, Sarabande and The Seeker (March 2013) because I am especially fond of Glacier National Park’s mountains and valleys on the eastern side of the continental divide. When I worked as a seasonal employee at the hotel for two summers, the close-in lakes, falls, and passes were—in a sense—part of my back yard. The glacier-carved peaks and valleys are not only picturesque, they serve an author well for tales of adventure, including encounters with totem animals and visions.
The valley along Cataract Creek where the cold water flows from the falls down toward Lake Josephine near the motor launch dock was called the “Garden of Heaven” in an early park guidebook. While no current guidebook or map refers to this old name, it has so many potential meanings and associations, I couldn’t resist using the old reference. During July and August, there are a lot of wildflowers here, and that added to the mystique I wanted for day time events; the high-rising mountain walls and great old trees made for a perfect setting for moonlit nighttime events.
For the writer, the location is also attractive because its well described in book and online trail guides, brochures and maps, historical articles and other references. Also, Glacier National Park has a Facebook page and a Flickr photo stream where I go often for inspiration.
All three novels have been placed into the Many Glacier environment like a hand into a close-knit mitten. Readers who visit the hotel and who hike between the hotel and Piegan Pass, the hotel and Grinnell Glacier, or hike up another nearby valley toward Iceberg Lake, will recognize my settings, even in the fantasy scenes. While some writers set their novels at famous hotels, major museums and attractions, and along the avenues of tourist-destination cities, I prefer the out of doors. In many ways, I see the location setting almost like another character.
With a bit of luck, I may some day travel from Georgia to Montana again and be able to bring back some of my own close-up photographs of Morning Eagle Falls. Until then, I invite you to see “the crown of the continent” through my words.
Writing and the Out of Doors
I like using accurate location settings—including place names, plants, animals, and local legends—as part of my storytelling. Living in Georgia, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage compared to those who live in northwestern Montana or southern Alberta who are able to drive into the Swiftcurrent Valley on an afternoon day trip. No doubt, those who live in Browning and Kalispell will catch errors in my accounts of the flora, fauna and the weather. Even though I’m a fanatic about accuracy, my passion for Glacier National Park takes precedence over the kinds of errors that might creep into my work when writing about a far-away place.
Passion is, I think, an important consideration in choosing location settings. With passion, you’ll be able to create a story that fits your setting, one that your readers can almost touch, taste and smell even if they’ve never been there.