As a child, Whitefish native Kay Knapton wanted to hike the glaciers in her own backyard. But her father shut down the idea, she said, claiming “girls don’t do that type of thing.”
Now 81, Knapton shares her passion for the great outdoors with her 11-year-old granddaughter Olivia Secord. The sixth grader first started hiking at just 3 years old.
“She's a good travel companion, so we have lots of fun together. She keeps me young. She keeps me active,” said Knapton, who currently lives in Seattle.
Most recently, the duo hiked about 50 miles through Glacier National Park in five days. The team has raised over $9,070 for Climate Hike Glacier since August 2021.
She said each day of the hike featured a different trail. The pair slept each night in a camper van, she added. About nine other people participated in the fundraising hike as well.
Secord, a very social pre-teen, was able to secure several donations throughout the trip by meeting people at different campgrounds. A portion of the funds will be designated to the Glacier Park Conservancy, Knapton noted.
Knapton, who grew up 27 miles away from Glacier, said she jumped at the opportunity to help raise some money for the park. It wasn’t hard to convince her granddaughter to come along, she said.
“I keep coming back to Glacier because it just resonates with my heart,” she said. “It's home.”
Her favorite part of the journey was being able to introduce Secord to a part of the world that has meant so much to her, Knapton said.
“I spent a majority of the last 25 years hiking in the park, “she said. “And I consider it one of the more beautiful places in the world. I know I'm biased.”
Throughout the trip, Knapton said, the pair listened to recordings from storyteller and musician Jack Gladstone. One evening after dinner, he actually showed up to sing for the group and share stories about Western and Native American culture.
Secord and Knapton faced two major challenges during the end-of-summer hike: smoke from nearby forest fires and extreme heat.
“My favorite part in Glacier was the actual scenery, not the actual hiking,” Secord said. “Because I was just sweating like crazy.”
Knapton said she hopes to inspire her granddaughter to engage in conservation and preservation efforts to combat climate change, especially with the worsening conditions each summer.
Despite the heat, the duo ended up staying at the park for several extra days to complete some additional hikes.
With the pandemic now in the rearview mirror, the pair looks forward to experiencing more challenging hikes together.
“My favorite part about hiking is being outdoors and not being stuck inside,” said Secord.
Climate Hike Glacier is hosted by the nonprofit Climate Ride, which raises awareness while supporting sustainability and environmental causes.