Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Glacier National Park

We reluctantly left Yellowstone and made our way north and west toward Glacier National Park.  The scenery flying past the window was beautiful.  We made a couple of stops to check the tires on Tracker to be sure the new metal valve stems were holding pressure, and that the Pressure Pro time monitoring system was performing properly.

Along the way, we saw a few old barns like these.  They are getting fewer and farther between due to the popularity of “barnwood” furniture and finishes.  We passed several lumber yards that specialize in old wood, and saw the bones of what must have been hundreds of old barns and outbuildings stacked on their lots.  Sad in a way…relics of the past will soon become part of someone’s new home or dining room set.

Our next stop was a  two-nighter at the KOA in Butte, Montana.  It’s an older park, but had nice open areas and the local hike-and-bike trail running along one side.  We got in our daily walks, plus some shopping before leaving.  It's an interesting small city, and one we would like to explore more the next time we pass this way.

We pulled into Kalispell, Montana on Thursday, and found our next “home,” Spruce Park on the River.  This small, family-owned park lies alongside the beautiful Flathead River, and our site had a fantasticl river view.  

At this point, the Flathead runs fast and deep, and from time to time a boat full of fishermen would float past.  We never saw anyone catch a fish, but the water was beautiful, and the dogs enjoyed getting their feet wet even if it was too swift for swimming.  However, they got their exercise chasing balls in Spruce Park’s common area. 

Kalispell was a lovely small city, and we enjoyed it as well.  The farmers' market on Saturday morning gave us a chance to stock up on local produce, including wonderful heirloom tomatoes and fresh plums.

And just outside of town was Lone Pine State Park, a day-use-only area with a great visitor center, challenging hiking trails and fantastic views of the valley below.

Friday was our first day to go into Glacier National Park.  It was a cool, mostly cloudy day, with intermittent sprinkles of rain.  We took the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects the park, and offers the best views of the major scenic attractions.  We weren’t alone.  Traffic was bumper-to-bumper part of the way, and we had to wait our turn to pull into some of the scenic turn-outs. The views were spectacular, though, and we enjoyed our drive.

We had hoped there would be fewer people visiting the park after Labor Day, but this year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, and it seems that everyone wanted to visit.  The Daily Inter Lake newspaper, which serves the Flathead Valley, said that Glacier is likely to set a new annual visitation record.  The National Park Service estimated 736,868 visitors came to the park in August, putting year-to-date visitation 18% ahead of 2015 and setting an August visitation record.  The total visitor count January -August was 2.25 million.

Bird Woman Falls, cascading 492 feet down the mountainside, was spectacular.

And we stopped to look at one of the few glaciers left in the park that can be seen easily from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  

Everywhere you look, there are small streams trickling (or in some cases rushing) down the mountainsides.

Many of the trees are enormous.  There are a number of varieties of conifers in the park, and we think this one is a western red cedar. 

It is berry season at Glacier, and we were told the huckleberries the region is famous for were very numerous.  At first we thought these might be huckleberries, but were told they are the fruit of the mountain ash.  We sampled a couple and found them sour, but apparently they sweeten after the first frost, and some people use them to make jam.  They're very tasty-looking, and mountain ash jam might be worth a try.

Our one and only wildlife sighting was just past the Logan Pass Visitors Center.  We saw several cars pulled off and people with binoculars looking up.  They were just specs to the naked eye, and not much more to my 300 mm lens, but there they were high on the cliff above us...Glacier's famous mountain goats. 

On Saturday, we didn’t dare venture back into the center of the park.  Instead, we planned to drive up the west side along the Inside North Fork Road from the Apgar Visitor Center to Polebridge.  However...(there seem to be a lot of those)…when we got to the park entrance, the ranger told us that the road had been closed.  We did see the west side of the park, but from the Camas Road, which after ten miles or so leaves Glacier and goes up the west side of the boundary outside the park.  There were some beautiful views from there, as well, but not the ones we had hoped to see.

There are a number of hiking trails that go into the interior of Glacier.  Twenty or so years ago I would have been up for seeing some of the park that way.  On a rainy, cold afternoon, though, we opted for the driving tour and enjoyed what we could see of Glacier out the windows or from the scenic pull-outs.  Next trip, though, we'll try to plan our visit when we can book a tour in one of the park's red buses.  That looks like fun, and the driving headaches will belong to someone else.


  1. Guess you are too busy for a yoga session. Lovely shots as usual.

  2. We were in the park on Friday, and her studio was closed on Saturday, so I didn't get to visit. Looked at her website, though. I may order a video when we get home.

  3. Have you been to Banff/Jasper in Canada? I'm trying to decide if we want to do Glacier or Banff.