Glacier National Park, WOW! It is almost indescribable in its beauty and diversity of landscape, flora, and fauna.
Arriving at just after 2pm, we were able to snag the last walk up campsite in Apgar campground, whew! The campsites are very large and surrounded by trees. We set up our GO and our CLAM, settling into our new home for the week ? It does require a bit of organization and planning, in that all food related items must be kept in a hard-sided vehicle when not in use. We put down the back seats in the CRV and kept our kitchen storage bin, bin with our grill, and coolers with food in the back of the car.
Woke to a beautiful morning. Breakfast cereal using our GO green bowls.
Apgar is at the very west side of the park. Our plan for our first day of hiking was to hike to Hidden Lake from the trailhead at Logan’s Pass. We were told that the parking lot can fill up early (and the free park shuttle was not yet in service), so we headed out around 7am. Although the sights on Going to the Sun road are spectacular, we drove straight to Logan’s Pass. As it turns out, the parking lot was mostly empty at that time. We geared up and headed out. Most of the hike was over snow, so we were very happy to have our trekking poles. The snow was pretty deep and quite slushy, glad we have good waterproof boots.
The views were majestic. From the Hidden Lake overlook, we could see the beautiful, still mostly frozen, lake.
We also saw many mountain goats, where they belong, on the mountain sides, and had a few closer encounters.
Past the overlook, we continued to relatively unchartered territory, to the actual lake. After powering through the snow, we found a nice rock on which to sit and eat our lunch.
It would have been really nice to have skis for the downhill return over the snow! Back at Logan’s Pass we got to see beautiful big horn sheep.
We were kind of tuckered out after 5 hours of hiking, so after a little tailgating lunch, we decided to continue driving the Going to the Sun Road to the St Mary’s (the eastern entrance). Stopped at many of the lookouts, including Jackson Glacier. We checked out St Mary’s campground and happened upon a cute red fox; what a nice surprise! Then back in the car for the return trip, we saw our first bear – romping in a meadow (too far to photograph, but very clear with binoculars).
To finish up the day, we rode our bikes to the amphitheater overlooking Lake McDonald to hear Ranger Dave tell us about keystone species in Glacier. I love ranger talks!
Love waking up to birds singing, but do they have to start their choir at 5am?? After breakfast, we rode our bikes into West Glacier, to get the blood flowing (excellent sleeping weather in the high 40s, but cozy warm in our GO). We decided to hike to Avalanche Lake. Due to the rain on the drive over, we opted to stop at Lake McDonald Lodge to read while it poured! Finally geared up and did the hike. It rained sporadically during the hike, but not enough to dampen our spirit!
Picked the hike to St Mary’s Falls and Virginia Falls for this day’s adventure. Lulled into complacency from our first drive across the Continental Divide (Logan’s Pass), we left a bit later and, wow, was there congestion on Going to the Sun Road! The up side is that you have plenty of time to enjoy the marvelous vistas and animals. We saw a herd of big horn sheep on the roadside snow and the road, when the mood possessed them!
It was raining on and off and we drove through and above clouds – that is such a unique experience! Not anticipating the crowds, we were lucky to find parking at our trailhead. The numbers of types of wildflowers was unbelievable – every color, shape, size!
The falls – well, I’ve run out of extraordinary adjectives!! We watched a dipper bird skimming around St Mary’s Falls.
The wind up at Virginia Falls was extreme – if we weren’t already wet from the rain, we would have been soaked from the mist blowing from the falls.
To rest our weary limbs after 4-5 hours of hiking in the rain, we decided to rest up and dry out with a drive out of the park on the east side and head north to the Many Glaciers portion of the park. We were rewarded with a great show of a grizzly prowling through a meadow turning over rocks looking for food. The bear crossed the road, still turning rocks, then we saw it with a groundhog by the tail and it ran into the brush. We hung around (we were always IN the car) and eventually the bear came back up to the road and wove back and forth along the shoulder searching for more good eats!
After taking in the Many Glacier mountain views and having a nice dinner at Nell’s, we headed back to the camp. On our way through St Mary, before entering the park again, we saw a juvenile black bear prancing around in a parking lot!
The ride back through the park on Going to the Sun Road was a bit hairy – it was really raining and going through the clouds was not nearly as much fun. Felt really thankful for the very long days, so that driving at 9-10 pm was still daylight, albeit cloudy.
Rained through the night, but nary a drop of wet in our snug, dry GO!
Having learned our lesson about the crowds on Going to the Sun Road, we decided to take the long ride around the park to the south to return to Many Glacier for our hike to Grinnell Glacier. Sure enough, leaving the park through West Glacier we saw a huge backup at the entrance and a zillion cars all going in that direction. The drive was still beautiful and the sun was finally shining ? However, mountains often make their own weather and when we were back in the park at Many Glacier, it was again raining. We were also told that there was a warning for the last 1.5 miles of the trail to the glacier, but that the hike and views of Grinnell Lake were beautiful. So off we went! At the trailhead, we met a young couple that asked if they could join us; they were nervous about hiking alone, even with their bear spray. We were compatible hikers, traveling at a similar pace, with plenty of photo opt stops (when it was dry enough to pull out a camera). Again, incredible vistas and multitudes of wildflowers. We saw a grizzly across the valley (far, far away!).
At the warning sign, we met Ranger Bob; he said it was just a warning, that we could continue, but keep in mind how much work he and his fellow rangers would have if we fell, as we inevitably would, and they had to recover our bodies. We decided that we’d hiked far enough and turned around for the return trip. It was a soggy but satisfying hike back. I can’t say enough about how good it is to have the appropriate gear: rain jacket, rain pants, gloves, waterproof boots, water, food (and chocolate!).
On our way out of the Many Glacier section of the park we saw another grizzly – a blond one!
We took the scenic route outside of the east side of the park to stop in at Two Medicine, to get the lay of the land before returning to camp via the southern route outside the park.
For our final day in the park, we decided we’d like to take one of the Glacier Lake cruises, across Two Medicine Lake, then hike to Twin Falls and Upper Two Medicine Lake. As luck would have it, we arrived in time for a ranger led hike!
Ranger Lynne told us all about the lake and the surrounding mountains as we crossed the lake in the old wooden park boat and continued her ‘discovery talk’ as we hiked to our destinations.
For the first time, we donned our rain pants, as it was colder than our previous hikes and we had intermittent hail between the almost constant rain, and very sporadic sunshine.
Although it might not seem the case, it was still a phenomenal hike through beautiful alpine meadows, viewing Twin Falls, and finally reaching Upper Two Medicine Lake.
When we got to the dock for the boat return, the sun came out and we considered skipping the boat ride and hiking an additional 3.4 miles, on the chance of seeing moose at the beaver ponds on the south side of Two Medicine Lake. The return of rain sealed the deal on the boat ride.
We met a delightful couple from Japan while waiting for the boat and after landing had coffee with them in the old lodge; we had fun finding common points of reference from our experiences (what we’ve seen/done at Glacier, other travel, where they live for a 2 year job in the US, where my son lived in Japan).
Before leaving the Two Medicine section of the park, we did the short hike to Trick Falls.
We returned to the west side of the park via the southern route outside the park and stopped for dinner at the Huckleberry Patch in Hungry Horse, MT. The food was good and reasonably priced, but, be patient if it’s crowded – and if you get ice cream, be prepared for a very large one scoop!!
Happy 13th Anniversary!! Was hoping to be able to pack up dry, but alas, as soon as we woke up, it started to rain again. Luckily, it is quick and easy to pack the tent up (wet’s ok), load the gear into the trailer, crank it down, pop the bikes on top and hitch it up. That said, I think that just as we had our GO packed and hitched up, it stopped raining ?
On our way to Tonasket, WA, for a gathering of my siblings from both coasts and us from the Midwest. Taking the northernmost scenic route, through Canada, then back down into WA.