The drive to St Mary, MT was uneventful. Passing through some beautiful landscapes, just wish I could capture them all. We travelled I-15 northbound, then headed west on U.S. 2 at Shelby, MT. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Shelby is just a hop, skip and a jump to the Canadian border. I-15 stops right at the border. We were that close. The rest of the drive was passing through pasture and farmland, crossing in to Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Something we weren’t used to in our travels, Blackfeet Nation has designated their land as open land for livestock. Meaning they can roam at will, wherever they wish. And they did. Wasn’t unusual for horses to be on the road, taking their time crossing the street or not. They knew they had the right of way and took advantage of it.
Approaching the national park one could see a line of mountains from a great distance. A seemingly unbroken line from north to south of snow topped mountains. Intimidating as it was impressive.
The RV park (East Glacier KOA) was literally a mile from the east entrance to the park. Its setting was right along the St Mary river. While the sites themselves were not that great, gravel and dirt, too narrow, and the neighboring kids not always respect the dividing line between sites, the scenery was breathtaking. And that I enjoyed. Have to admit though, never got used to the time difference here. Sunset wasn’t until 10:15 to 10:30. Makes for lots of daylight, but sometimes it felt like the day never ended!
The next day we learned that the main road in the park, Going-to-the-Sun Rd, wasn’t open yet from the winter cleanup and road repairs. One could only drive a few miles in before reaching closures from either the east or west side. Still we were able to able to go for a few hikes, commune with nature (though that’s really not William’s “thing”…..what he sees are a bunch of weeds, rocks, some bigger rocks and hopes to keep a healthy distance between us and some of the wild life, especially bears. But he’s good at keeping me on my toes, trying to be prepared for whatever may happen, stocking his backpack for things we may need, especially water. Always the Marine.) We both search out waterfalls. I look out for wildflowers. He’s usually first to catch site of animals.
The first morning we went through the east entrance planning on driving as far as we could on Going-to-the-Sun Rd., we caught site of a fairly large black bear along the side of the road, partially hidden by weeds. She sat there watching, waiting while we passed in the car just a few feet away, literally, then crossed the road when we were out of the way. This was a good sized bear, and pretty sure it was a grizzly. (We heard later there were several grizzlies, a mom and her cubs, hanging around this particular area. Not sure who we saw, but glad the windows were closed and that we didn’t stop.) One half of me wanted to stop, dying to take a picture, the smarter half said it was better to move on. I guess it was good I wasn’t driving.
While we were driving about, we located a relatively easy 2-3 mile hike, destination St Mary waterfall. Glad that there were just a few people about, as it was still early in the tourist season. But still, with fewer people, the more of a possibility of meeting a not so friendly local resident. After all, this was their home we were traipsing through. The hike was worth it as the waterfall was invigorating, lovely blue color (runoff from the glaciers gives the water a turquoise-bluish color).
Let me digress a bit right now on how people can be downright stupid. I’m sure you’ve heard how a few people this summer (and I know this has happened many times before), they get way too close to dangerous animals. (I believe an angel was on the shoulder of that little girl who got tossed by a bison just a few weeks ago in Yellowstone) Bisons are not cute and cuddly. Why would you get close enough to pet one? And then people get way too close to hazardous places with little thought or preparation for their safety. Case in point, while we were watching the waterfall, I understand the temptation of climbing on the rocks and getting close to the water. It’s totally inviting. We watched as two guys tried to get the optimum picture. One guy was on the platform, put there so us humans can safely marvel at the water. The other climbed over the designated path to higher ground across the icy, slippery rocks and right next to the waterfall, pretty much goofing around so his partner could get that perfect picture. Don’t know if they were successful or not. But we were glad no one had to rescue him from that churning, deep water.
On the trek back from the water we came across a group of deer munching several feet away. All but one decided to quickly leave in the opposite direction when they spotted us. The last had a certain destination in mind and that was across our path (guess the munchies were tastier there). So ignoring us humans, though keeping us in sight, he slowly walked to the other side of the pathway to a copse of trees, where he then continued his meal and stayed out of sight. Later found a young deer curled up under some trees. Resting. Really hard to spot and, yes, William spotted her first. She looked like she wanted to bolt but when we didn’t approach, she stayed put, watching every step we made. We saw foxes walking along the side of the road as we drove by. One day a fox wandered in the rv park, seemed a bit lost and undecided which way to go, nervous, too much civilization. Then decided to go back the way he came.
Oh the mountains. How can one not be impressed by Mother Nature and what she has created. Words are just not adequate to describe them. Towering, rugged, majestic, awe inspiring, big rocks! Makes one feel insignificant beside them.
I did a little learning about glaciers while we were there. Never realized there are several types. Those in GNP are alpine glaciers. Left over from the Little Ice Age, about 7000 years old.
When the park was first established in 1910 there were 150 glaciers. Now there are only 26 remaining. Speculation is that by 2030 they will be gone.
Here’s an interesting article.
Is their melting at this rate a natural phenomenon? result of climate change? or both??
Our next stop was a nice rv park in Kalispell. Back to a bit a civilization that had been missing since we hit Montana. I didn’t mind all that much, but William had a hankering for better cell signal, tv and Applebees. We left the east side and drove to the west. Without going further south and hours out of our way we took US Hwy 2, the southern route to the west part of the park. While Going-to-the-Sun Rd does connect east to west (a much shorter drive and the route our GPS wanted to take) vehicles over 21 ft are restricted. And at this time of year, still closed to all traffic. BTW, US-2 is a nice scenic drive, two lane highway, at one point it does travel through GNP (make sure to stop at Goat Lick Overlook). I had read it was a dangerous road, but really, the road was fine, just have to watch out for the reckless ones driving.
My hope was that we’d be able to complete the drive of Going-to-the-Sun Rd. And when the weather finally cooperated, we did! It was an awesome drive. With lots of curves, narrow lanes, waterfalls in unexpected places, people stopping in the middle of the road at something that caught their eye and fog, so dense at times we could hardly see the car in front of us. Still, worth the trip! Just be alert for those drivers who just shouldn’t be allowed to drive.
Wildflowers of Glacier
Some mountains in Glacier…….
Mt. Grinnell (8812 ft); Mt. Cleveland (10,466 ft); Medicine Owl Peak (8268 ft); Md Wolf Mountain (8327 ft); Little Chief Mountain (9406 ft); Gunsight Mountain (9258 ft); Brave Dog Mountain (8474 ft); Almost-a-Dog Mountain (8922 ft); Bad Marriage Mountain (8350 ft).
Safe Travels / FjK