|I have concluded that God must really like Montana because He gave it more than its fair share of beauty. There is lots and lots of open space and when you drive on the interstate they will tell you at each exit how many miles until services are available. What this means in practical terms is, if your gas gauge is showing half or less, you better fill up. Driving up to the park I drove over 100 miles along curvy mountain roads with a gurgling sparkling river beside me on one side of the road or the other like this.
My chosen campground was privately owned, just 1 mile from the park entrance. There are several campgrounds within the park itself but they do not have hook ups. I know lots of people stay without hookups and I could if necessary, but I really didn’t spend all that money on a fully equipped rig to “rough it.” The tiny town of West Glacier has at least half a dozen campgrounds as well as several others in nearby towns. There is a relatively short season here, so far north, so they have to make the most of it. I was staying 3 nights, with 2 full days to enjoy the park.
Glacier National Park is unique in that it is linked to its Canadian counterpart, Waterton. Its official name is Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and according to its literature “represents a vision of a world in which peoples set aside their differences to work collectively in the interest of all life”. I don’t know about all that but it is a wonderful place to visit. I didn’t go to the Canadian side because I don’t have a passport. I like to take pictures of the entry signs to national parks but I never could get one here because there were always too many cars pulled over to leave me enough room to safely do so. Another famous feature of this park is a 50 mile highway called “Going to the sun Road”. Fortunately for me, because I really don’t care for mountainous driving, vehicles over 21 feet long are prohibited. The park provides an efficient free shuttle so I drove to the transit center to hop aboard.
My first stop and hike was Avalanche Creek where I walked the wheelchair accessible boardwalk of the Trail of the Cedars.
This hike was easy, short and very refreshing.I saw this cool looking tree also.
I wish I could send you the fantastic smell also. Soon I hopped on another bus to head to Logan Pass. I took these along the way – through the bus window, so please overlook the glare.#
There is construction along this road so we sat still for a few minutes but the view made the time fly by. At Logan Pass there is a visitor center, complete with rangers to answer any and all questions and a place to stamp NPS passports. I had packed a small day pack with hiking essentials including the large passport, specifically so I could collect another stamp. Well, their stamp had been broken the day before by “overly enthusiastic stamping” per the lady ranger. So I carried that heavy passport all day for nothing. I liked this cast of a grizzly bear print with my hand in it for comparison.
Earlier that morning the pass had been completely fogged over, obscuring the view, but during my visit the sky was clear and blue.
I hiked a little around the visitor center where these mountain goats did not want to leave. The ranger is trying to shoo them away but they kept coming back.
I enjoyed the contrast here between the sturdy wildflowers and the snow.
All kinds of people visit this park to view the scenery, hike or even bike. Look at these serious guys –
I was told by an older biker that this road really shouldn’t be such an accomplishment because the grade is never more than 6%, which is the maximum amount allowed on any interstate. I don’t know about that but I think biking to 6645 feet is a pretty big deal!!
Next I got on another bus to head east for more hiking. I really wanted to go to an overlook billed as the most photographed spot in the park called Wild Goose Island but I learned that there was no shuttle stop nearby. Instead I got off at Sun Point Nature Trail to take what was supposed to be a short hike. After a short distance and climbing a few rocks I found this.
The couple I met up there (who took this shot) were from Toledo and we chatted a bit about the refinery strike. They also told me that the island we could see was Wild Goose!
After soaking up all I could I headed back for the loop to the parking lot and shuttle stop but somehow missed it and ended up hiking to a nearby waterfall called Baring Falls.
Again it should have been a short walk to the shuttle stop but somehow again I missed the turnoff and hiked quite a little way along the shores of this gorgeous lake. I kept wondering how cold the water of this glacier fed lake would be and at one point the trail led to a boat dock so I was able to stick my hand in to check. It felt great to me, but I wasn’t submersed in it either. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining brightly and cool mountain breezes to keep me from overheating. I walked much further than I intended but it really was so beautiful I didn’t mind. I never walked more than 5 or 10 minutes without meeting another group of hikers so I wasn’t too worried about the bears that I seemed to just miss at every point along the way! Right at the end of my walk, in the last 100 yards to the top, I came upon this beautiful lady munching away just 30 feet or so from the trail. She showed no fear or even curiosity – I guess she knew she lived in a place where she did not need to fear human predators.
Soon enough the west bound bus came along and I made my way back to the transit center and “home”, exhausted but exhilarated with all I had seen.
The next day I rode the shuttle only to Lake McDonald to take a narrated cruise in an historic wooden boat.
The cute little ranger (from Wisconsin) told us lots of fun and interesting facts about the lake, a massive forest fire in 2003,
and wildlife in the park. The lake is the largest in the park at 10 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. It is 472 feet at its deepest point, collecting water from glaciers and snowfields. Some kids didn’t seem to think it was too cold to play in though. The dock is near the lodge and I couldn’t resist a few pictures of this famous structure, the oldest one in the park. Once upon a time, visitors arrived here by boat, so the part facing the lake is actually the front.
Today, most visitors arrive by car and park in the lot so they actually enter at the rear. But isn’t this a cool lobby?
The center is open for several stories and the fireplace looks big enough to roast a whole cow in. The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another way many people choose to tour Glacier is in these historic red buses.
The tops roll back to allow sunshine and fresh air and unimpeded views. These were specially rehabilitated by Ford a few years ago with new wiring, interiors and paint jobs. One was kept intact for historical value and is now owned Glacier Park Inc., the company who operates the park’s lodges. These new ones run on clean burning propane to help keep the air in this mountain park clean for years to come. This shot shows a wedding party set up on a tiny little spit of land right on the shore.
What a gorgeous spot to start a new life, huh?
I made one more quick stop at the area of the park called Apgar Village. There is another visitor center there so I got that important stamp in my passport and purchased a few postcards for my friends back home. Several guide books had mentioned that a “must visit” place was a restaurant called Eddie’s. I wasn’t too hungry but I did want to try an area specialty – huckleberry ice cream. They seem to put this local fruit in many, many things but I had never tasted them. I’m not usually a big fan of fruit flavored ice cream(it’s all about chocolate in its infinite varieties for me) but it was pretty tasty. Soon enough I headed back to the RV park to start prepping for tomorrow’s big drive to Yellowstone, almost 500 miles.