Teddy Roosevelt and Glacier National Parks, July, 2009
We headed west early on the morning of July 6, 2009. We had our "new" vehicle, a 2008 Ford Escape, which gave us ample room for packing a lot of things we probably wouldnít need but just might.
I hooked up the Ipod as our musical source and off we went across Minnesota and most of North Dakota. Itís not an exciting drive, mostly freeway on Interstate 94. In the late afternoon, we ended up in Medora, a little tourist city just outside the Teddy Roosevelt National Park, which is often called "The Badlands of the North". After checking in to a motel, we drove through the park.
I must point out at this point that one advantage of getting older is that, for a mere $10.00, you can buy a lifetime pass to all national parks and landmarks. Yes, a lifetime pass. Just show that and your picture ID, and youíre in, free of charge. Cool.
Shortly after entering the park, we spotted a couple of lone buffalo grazing in the distance. We also saw black-tail deer, and wild horses. Three wild horses came running down the road directly at our vehicle, veered off to pass us at a fast pace, and headed back on the road in back of us.
The wind was blowing very hard when we took a couple of hikes, but itís beautiful scenery, and was a nice change from the boring freeway drive.
In the morning, we took off west again and the majority of the day was spent driving again. At Glendive, Montana, we left the freeway for Highway 200 and eventually hooked up with Highway 2 to bring us in to the mountains. We stopped at a small museum in Malta that had a very nice dinosaur display, but pictures were not allowed. We stayed overnight in Havre, and the next day entered the Glacier National Park in the morning. We went for a hike at Sun Point, and it was a beautiful cool day, perfect for hiking.
In the afternoon we went to Sunrift Gorge, a deep narrow cut through the mountain rock.
The "motel" room at the park was very basic. No phone, no TV, no internet access, only one chair and poor lighting, but the location was the thing that made it attractive, tucked right into the mountains.
The next morning we headed off before 7:00 to drive the "Going to the Sun Highway". This is an exciting drive in a number of ways. First and foremost is the sheer danger of a road that is carved into the side of a mountain with a sheer cliff on one side and a sheer drop off of a 1,000 feet on the other. Add to that a very narrow road, and itís pretty exciting.
More than that though, is the scenery of the trip. Waterfalls, cascades, deep valleys, snow covered mountains, pine forests, all add to the beauty and exhilaration of the drive.
On the top of the highest point, called Logan Pass, there is a visitor center. We arrived so early that it was not open, but there is a walk to an alpine meadow that we took as far as could before large snow patches obscured our path. The Yellow Mountain Lilies were in bloom by the thousands.
In the parking lot of the visitorís center there were two large big horn sheep scouring the lot for what we figured was remnants of salt. They were not shy of people, and wandered very close.
At the other end of the drive was a rainforest area and we went on a hike on "The Trail of Cedars". From there, we hiked another couple miles through some hilly terrain to Avalanche Lake. The lake had 2,000 foot steep mountain walls coming down to its shore.
This was in Grizzly Bear country which added a bit more adventure to the walk, but we saw no signs of any. We did see some deer very close to the trail.
Now while I casually said earlier "we hiked another couple miles", I must say that is seemed very much longer, which is usually the case. The rough footing, and some of the steeper hills really seem to make it seem much further than it really is. Either that, or the National Park Service is lying to us, and I kind of doubt that.
The hike was easier coming back because we had climbed so much on the way in that it was downhill more.
Because we were staying on the other side of the park, we had to drive the "Going to the Sun Highway" again going the other direction. They are continuing to work on the road, so there were a couple of long delays because only one lane was open.
That evening we went over to the campground to see Jack Gladstone. Heís a Blackfoot Indian who has made several CDs and weíve had him to Cambridge a couple of times to perform. He has a great voice, and most of his songs are related to his heritage.
The next morning we left that part of the park and headed to Many Glaciers, which is further to the north in the park. We saw lots of wildlife on our way. We spotted what we thought was a wolf, but could have been a coyote, and a moose wading in the river.
From Many Glaciers, we headed further north for the day to Canada and Waterton Lakes National Park. We got our closest look at a black bear a ways off the road to Red Rock Canyon, but we were far enough away that we were very safe.
After hiking in Red Rock Canyon we went to the town of Waterton for lunch and a little shopping.
On the way back to Many Glaciers, we saw an elk and a baby in the water, and drove though a buffalo paddock to see a herd of buffalo in the distance.
We did see a variety of animals, albeit many at a far distance. At the lodge at Many Glaciers, folks were using binoculars and scopes to watch a grizzly bear on the hillside, far from where we were. I spotted it with the assistance of some borrowed field glasses, but it was too far away to attempt a picture, even with a telephoto lens.
The next morning we again headed out early on a very crooked mountain road toward the town of East Glacier. On the way, we stopped to walk to a waterfall called, "Twin Falls", which is aptly named in the spring during the major snow melt, but at this time of year, only the lower falls, which come right out of the side of the mountain, was running.
Very close to the falls, there were little birds called Ouzels, also called Dippers that were at the stream.
The birds sit near the stream shore and literally bob their bodies so that you notice the motion, otherwise, they blend so well into the background that you'd never see them. There were two babies on the shore with a busy mother bird diving into the stream catching water bugs for them. They are fun to watch.
Soon we headed off again on the winding narrow road toward East Glacier and lunch with a bit of shopping thrown in.
Then it was back in the car and off to a "Goat Salt Lick" where mountain goats climb precariously on the steep hillside so they can lick some salt and other minerals from the rock. It's just amazing how agile and sure footed the goats are even as babies.
We watched them scurry around for quite a while.
On the way back to our room at Many Glaciers, just before we turned into the drive, there were a lot of people looking at the hillside, and it was because of a black bear in the area. we parked the car, and pretty soon spotted it in the distance. It was a golden color, but it is still called a black bear. We again were at a very safe distance. The room at Many Glaciers, by the way, was in a lodge that was build by the Great Northern Railroad back in the 1930's. It was a destination point for tourists, tucked deep in the heart of Glacier.
The evening was spent packing for the trip back to Minnesota. We left early in the morning under cloudy skies with periodic rain.
The two day drive home was spent in more rain, and we stopped in Glendive for the evening. We came to the town from a different direction, and tried to use the GPS to find a place to eat, but couldn't find one. Finally I spotted a small restaurant, and since I prefer those to chains, I pulled in the parking lot. As we walked in, it looked very familiar, and I mentioned to Joan that it was very similar to one we had eaten in earlier. She commented that even the wallpaper was similar, so we figured it was the same owner manager of both restaurants, but neither of us could remember where the other one was. I pointed out to Joan where sat in the other restaurant, and recalled it was for breakfast. Well, upon getting up and paying the bill, I also noticed the same little charity cup on the counter with the same guy's face as the "other" restaurant, and the same postcards for sale, and it dawned on both of us that the was the exact same restaurant we had eaten in a week earlier. Duh. Pretty bizarre that we had ended up at exactly the same place.
We arrived home in the early evening after a very long day of travel again mostly in the rain. It was good to be home after a fun vacation.