Meet the Berzowskis Summer Edition: Glacier National Park

Jim and Robin are back on the road in their GO (nicknamed LEO – ‘Low Earth Orbiter’) on an adventure through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Alberta & Manitoba! Along the way, they are stopping at SylvanSport dealers and giving them a little taste of the GO Life.

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.

Next stop:

Washington!

14 thoughts on “Meet the Berzowskis Summer Edition: Glacier National Park

  1. Great pictures and commentary. Really enjoy your adventures and it was part of the reason for my purchase. One question, do you use the Go for sleeping? If so, have you added any additional items to improve your comfort for nighttime use? I now have a GO and though the initial setup is great for guests at a table or just resting, it does lack enough cushioning for nighttime use.

    1. Thanks, Doug, glad you are enjoying it and it helped make your decision to purchase a GO!!
      Yes, we sleep in the GO – it is our home when we are camping 🙂
      I am just fine and comfortable sleeping on the green mattress that comes with the GO. Jim likes it a bit cushier, so he either uses 2 of the green mattresses, or one mattress and a thick yoga mat under it. There are other thicker mattresses that would fit that are available at outdoor/camping stores, if you feel the need to augment.
      Enjoy your GO!

    1. Hi Michael,
      We use organic heat – that is: our bodies!
      We do not use a heater. If it’s above 40 degrees F, our sleeping bags are sufficient. If it’s colder, we add hoodie sweatshirts (to keep our heads and neck warm and a wool blanket on top of the sleeping bag. The coldest camping we’ve done so far was last September in Yellowstone; the mornings were between 29-35 degrees F. It was fine for sleeping – but chilly getting up in the morning 🙂
      Next summer when we go to Alaska, we are thinking about bringing a small electric heater that we have…haven’t decided yet

  2. Gosh, your trips with Go are so intriguing! You’ve given me some thought on what activities to do when I retire in a couple of years. Could you provide us with a packing list and how to pack the stuff you take on your trips?

  3. Hi Sid,
    We purchased our GO just a few months before we retired, spent a good part of our first month planning, and then by our second month of retirement, set out to GO on our first month long trip! For us, it is the perfect retirement camping vehicle because we can easily bring along our bikes and kayak (although we also use it plenty for moving and hauling).

    You can see how we pack our equipment in the ‘Heading Out’ blog: https://www.sylvansport.com/meet-berzowskis-summer-edition-heading-out/

    Our usual configuration when we are camping is with the GO in the down position, packed like this:
    -The GO poles, chocks and straps, our tools and tarps, and the inflatable kayak are all stored in the front storage compartment of the GO.
    -In the trailer itself, we store our bins (one for sports equipment, one for kitchen supplies, one for our little Weber grill), our coolers (one for cold food and one as a pantry for dried/canned goods), our Clam dining tent, camping chairs, and other equipment, as needed (such as fishing poles).
    -Bicycles on racks on top of the GO
    -In the back of the car, we put the duffles with our clothes, shoes, bedding and towels.

    In a future blog, you’ll see how we easily re-configured our GO packing mid-trip, to add 2 more people and their ‘stuff’ (my sister and brother-in-law joined us in Tonasket to go camping in Banff!)

    Retirement if great – we highly recommend it!

  4. Hi Robin & Jim!
    Was wondering about your methodology for finding and/or reserving campsites. Do you reserve ahead or have you been successful with “drive-up”? Any tips / resources you could share would be greatly appreciated! Thanks and keep “orbiting”!

    1. Hi Michael,
      Our methodology depends on a several factors – most importantly: our flexibility for a trip or portion of a trip and how far in advance we are planning. For example, for the trip to Glacier, we were planning only a few months in advance. At that time, all the sites that could be reserved were already booked, so we knew it would be ‘drive up’. Glacier has a very nice feature on their website, where you can see the history for each campground – meaning, what time they filled up. We could see that the campground we wanted typically fills in early afternoon. We knew we would be arriving in the afternoon, so we booked a motel for that night, just in case, but drove into the park to see if we could find a site. We actually snagged the last open site, set up camp, then went back out of the park and stayed in the motel that night, so we could shower!!

      For Banff (that blog is coming soon), we made sure to book a campsite, as we had other people with us, and there was no flexibility with the dates.

      For our winter trips to Florida, we book our campsites in advance, because we know when we will be there and how long we want to stay.

      Next summer, we are planning an extended trip to Alaska. We will definitely book a campsite at Denali National Park because that is one of our keystone destinations (and fills up). As we begin to map out our general itinerary, we’ll check the availability of the parks we’d like to visit and try to ascertain if they typically fill up or not. Based on that, we’ll decide whether or not to book in advance. We’d like be very flexible on that trip, to allow us to detour as the wind blows us, so we’ll book as little as possible in advance.

      The best resources for the US and Canadian National Parks are the websites for each park. Same for the state parks. They are usually booked through a third party, but many of them provide good maps for picking sites and some even include photos of the each site! For more info, I call the parks directly and talk to the rangers; they cannot make reservations, but they know their parks!!

      Good luck and happy camping!!

  5. Thanks Robin, great info! Could you please give us some of your favorite Florida campgrounds? I’m planning a trip there this winter and would appreciate the benefit of your experience.

    1. Florida has great state campgrounds!! Our favorite, on the panhandle, is T.H. Stone Peninsula State Park. There are 9 miles of incredible powdered sand beaches. We’ve always been there in March, and while there were people swimming, it was too cold for us to swim. But we spent hours walking along the beaches and shore fishing, in addition to riding our bikes and kayaking . We even saw GO there a couple years ago!

      We also loved camping on Sugarloaf Key, just outside of Key West, but it was destroyed in the hurricane a couple years ago. This coming winter, we’ll try a campground on Key Largo, near John Pennekamp State Park. Try as we might, we have not been able to secure state campgrounds in the Keys!

      Last year we campef in Ocala National Forest at Alexander Springs. I’d been there over 50 years ago and had fond memories. And while it was nice, the showers were less than great, however, the campsite was large and shaded. Very nearby, at Salt Springs campground, also in Ocala National Forest, was phenomenal kayaking, the manatees came right after kayaks to greet us!! It was an unforgettable experience.

      We’ve heard good things about some of the state campgrounds up by Jacksonville and St Augustine. We are considering camping at one of them during our trip this winter, but haven’t settled on one yet. There’s a dealership with two locations in Jacksonville that carries the GO!!

      You can see pictures in the post from last winter:
      https://www.sylvansport.com/meet-berzowskis-part-3-florida-camping/
      Have fun!!

  6. We are from Idaho and I have been researching the Go and it looks wonderful. Two questions? We have a family of five. Is there room under the king size set up for an air pad for one of the kids? It looks like there is enough clearance. Also, I have seen a picture of an additional “Go Tent” that can be set up but it doesn’t look like they are marketing one yet for sale?

    1. Hi Jeff,
      We have seen GO owners that use the space under the bed for their kids’ sleeping area, so there seems to be room, and it looks like a fun place to be!!
      The GO Tent is called a GOZEEBO and SylvanSport will begin shipping them out on Sept 25th to people who pre-ordered them. Contact them to find a GO dealer near you and how you can get a GOZEEBO.
      Just to say it: we love our GO – and it is the COOLEST CAMPER EVER!!
      If you like utility and flexibility and something you can tow with a car and load up with all your gear – no need to research any further – go get a GO:)

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