Chrysalis Continues Glacier Tradition

This summer, nearly 60 travelers from Chrysalis School renewed a tradition of community service at Glacier National Park.

Chrysalis, a therapeutic boarding school, is located in northwestern Montana near the Canadian border. The school is about 35 miles from Glacier National Park, which features more than 700 miles of trails set among mountains, meadows, forests and lakes.

Thirty-two Chrysalis students took part in the summer service project at Glacier, accompanied by school staffers and family members. Their trip marked the 12th consecutive year that Chrysalis students have journeyed to Glacier for a service project, according to Chrysalis founder Kenny Pannell.

During the weeklong Glacier trip, the Chrysalis group built three trail turnpikes (a total of 35 feet). The school volunteers also performed 3,700 feet of tread improvement, 430 feet of check and fill, 200 feet of lateral drain construction, 320 feet of lateral repair, 375 feet of drain maintenance, 80 feet of trail realignment, 12 feet of log retaining wall and 350 feet of hand brushing, according to Corey Shea, a Glacier trails foreman.

Building a trail turnpike involves felling a tree, constructing a long log box (10 to 20 feet) along the damaged section of the trail, and then filling the sections with about 12 inches of rock and gravel.

“We’ve built dozens of those turnpikes over the years. It’s really hard, heavy, difficult work,” Pannell said. “Our students discover that they can do things they never thought they could do before.”

Another sweaty endeavor for the Chrysalis students involved using a Pulaski trail tool for trail “grubbing,” or using “loppers” to cut back branches and undergrowth in order to widen the trail.

“Girls who sometimes have difficulty focusing their attention in one direction were content breathing slowly the fresh air and observing the stillness of the forest,” said Chrysalis therapist Sarah Jones. “I found myself overwhelmed with amazement at our students – working for hours on end, digging drains, chopping roots the size of tree trunks, and lifting tools that weighed almost as much as they did.

“Many of the girls worked with intensity and focus, without complaining. In the end, the sense of accomplishment for their efforts could be seen in their beaming, mud-covered smiles.”

Chrysalis students developed a deep appreciation for the benefits of hard work there in Glacier. Many of the students grew up in urban areas and are unaccustomed to spending that much time in such a setting.

“Trail work physically and mentally challenges teenagers to a level that is hard to replicate outside of service trips such as this,” said Jeremy Meyer, an adventure staffer at Chrysalis.

“I work year-round with the girls here at Chrysalis and the time that I see most of them make the largest leap in their personal growth of confidence, ego strength and personal strength is when they walk into a work site and see a washed out trail that’s muddy and murky and three days later see a 15- or 20-foot turnpike.”

Despite the sweat, the Glacier work resonates with Chrysalis students long after graduation. In fact, more Chrysalis graduates return for the Glacier trip than any other school trip or activity.

Visit Chrysalis School to learn how the Chrysalis experience serves as building blocks toward a higher education.