Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Glacier National Park

On travel days with the moose, we try to keep our miles at less than 300. Today, we did just about that. In the Jeep. Glacier National Park doesn’t look that far away. And, really it isn’t. It’s less than 90 miles. It’s simply much bigger than it appears on the map! Our route took us up the eastern side of now familiar Flathead Lake to West Glacier. There we entered the park, took a gander at peaceful Lake McDonald, picked up a couple of maps and headed for the Going to the Sun Road.

Our first stop was the waters just above Lake McDonald, the aptly named McDonald Creek. This was one of many small creeks and falls we saw in the park.

Today’s weather was not the best for Glacier gazing. While the temperatures were quite pleasant and the winds were calm, there was a bit of hazy overcast and growing cloud cover. Our pictures turned out just OK, which is doubly frustrating. Glacier is one of those magnificent places that’s tough to capture through a lens. Add to that some less than desirable viewing conditions and it’s a real challenge. (Of course, as you can see, we did manage to salvage just a few photos!)

My mom is a self-proclaimed acrophobic. This is important because when she encouraged us to make Glacier National Park a stop on our Montana journey she said the Going to the Sun Road was a drive we wouldn’t want to miss. She and Dad made a second pass through this area just a few years back. “When you go,” she added, “remember that I did the driving on that road.” Thinking of her on our journey today, I made an early assessment of our journey to the sun. This picture sums it up: straight, wide and fairly broad shoulders. And, Mom had a problem with this?

The 192-foot long West Tunnel was bored in 1926. I was just glad we were in the squirrel and not the moose. (Actually, Bullwinkle wouldn’t get past the length, width or height restrictions for this road.)

Heaven’s Peak was peeking through the clouds for just a bit. Much of the area in this part of the park was destroyed by the Trapper Fire of 2003.

We kept climbing up the road and taking in the views. Remember, this photo doesn’t do it justice.

Neither does this one.

Time for another road assessment. Oh! This is what mom was talking about. Narrow road, hairpin turns, a short little rock wall and a long, long way to fall.

Summer is road construction season in these parts. And, the Going to the Sun Road was no exception. There were several spots where traffic was limited to one lane to accommodate construction crews. (Mom would’ve loved that!)

At Logan Pass we crossed the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet. There we had a decision to make: Go back the way we came or keep heading east to St. Mary. Although it was definitely the long way, we decided to head east and keep enjoying new views.

Rocky loves this altitude!

The best view of a glacier on the Going to the Sun Road is this look at Jackson Glacier. Again, the picture doesn’t do it justice. You’ll just have to head this way and see it for yourself.

As we approached St. Mary Lake traffic stopped again. This time it wasn’t road construction. Apparently someone spotted a bear somewhere up the canyon, and everyone - and we mean everyone - had to stop and look. Our friends Linda and Steven have a name for these stupid folks who put their safety, and the safety of others, at risk to attempt to take a crappy photo of wildlife in our nation’s parks. They call them Stupid Newbies, or “Stoobies.”

Tiny Wild Goose Island is dwarfed by the majestic peaks surrounding St. Mary Lake. (One day we’re coming back when the light is better!)

We stopped for a picnic lunch at St. Mary Lake. Then, we put the gorillapod in a very precarious position to capture this shot. (We look like we’re ready to see a camera and pod go tumbling!)

Shortly after leaving St. Mary Lake, the canyon walls of Glacier National Park were in the rear view mirror, and we were on the far east side of the park. Rather than taking a return trip on Going to the Sun, (Once is enough, thank you.) we circled the park to the south on a 100-mile journey back to West Glacier. Along the way, just as we were slowing down to at East Glacier, I saw something out of the corner of my road-weary eyes. Out of the bushes just off the road up popped a black bear! We didn’t get a picture, but Paul was my witness as he saw the big beast lumber across the two lane road behind us. Unlike the stoobies we saw earlier today, we can say we actually a saw a bear - up close and personal. No binoculars needed!

Our bear encounter gave us just the adrenaline pump we needed to make one more stop on our long Jeep drive home: Hungry Horse Dam. And, just for the record: We'll take 300 miles in the moose over the squirrel any day. Hands down!

1 comment:

happytrails said...

Oh my gosh! What a beautiful place. I can't wait till we actually get rolling.