Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Glorious Glacier National Park...
Neither one of us had been to Glacier so no idea really what to expect. The trip in was strange in that we left Ft Peck, MT after a 95 degree day so any relief from that at Glacier was going to be welcomed. You know the old saying be careful what you wish for and certainly that proved to be the case. We came into Two Medicine on the East side and from the very beginning the Park was beyond anything I had ever seen and I have seen a good many of them. Unfortunately we just missed the last camping spot at Two Medicine and headed for St. Mary’s about an hour north. It was getting late so we were concerned about finding our spot for the night. St Mary’s did in fact have some spots in the Park and with my Senior Pass we paid the $13 a day for the next two weeks and proceeded to set up the camp and trailer for dinner and bed. Well the next morning it was about 45 degrees and raining, “watch what you wish for”. It stayed like that for 4 more days with only occasional breaks. I felt especially for the foreign visitors to the Park, and there were a good many, that had come thousands of miles only to find rain and very chilly weather. One on day when the sun came out we set out on the “Road to the Sun” a 50 mile road over the Continental Divide to explore new territory. Wow! The drive was simply breathtaking and the scenery so spectacular there is no way to describe it. Wild flowers on both sides of the road and massive mountains with waterfalls dumping the Glaciers melt either to end up in the Mississippi or the Columbia depending on which side of the divide we were on. We stopped at an Old Lodge at Lake McDonald built around the turn of the century by the railroad companies. It sat right on this spectacular glacier lake and if not for dating the cars you wouldn’t know if it was 1936 or 2009. In fact the old White motors busses have been refurbished and run all over the park. They were built by the White Company in 1936 and 37 and refurbished by the Ford Company in 2002. It’s hard to believe but Lake McDonald is 450 feet deep. Several days later when again the sun peaked out we hiked the Nature Trial at Sun Point on the highway and were going to push on to Lake Mary Falls but again the sun disappeared and the rain came back so we “forced marched” the two miles back to the car. Wet and cold we drove home to try another day. The next day we explored the lodge at Many Glacier and again a spectacular look back as it is right on Many Glacier Lake and a really neat place with huge fireplaces and the look of an old Swiss Hotel. It was said in 1936 a fire came close to taking the hotel and without the diligence and work of the people there it would have been gone. The President of the Great Northern commented at the time, “Why did you do that”? The hotel in the middle of the depression had been losing $500,000 per year and a fire looked like a good out to him.
A Fox in Camp
We have a “camp” fox that runs right by our trailer almost on a daily basis. Yesterday he walked right up to Beth, looked her over and ambled on about his business. We also woke up yesterday to a large mound of bear poop right in front of the trailer. There are signs on every trail warning of the bears so having one this close was probably not unexpected. It did however feel good to have a camper and not a tent. There is no electricity in these camp sites so my little Honda generators are doing there job of keeping us with lights and plugs and charging the battery. You can’t run them at night and so several nights we woke to a close to dead battery after having had the heater on very low. I would rate the 50 mile Road to the Sun as probably the most spectacular highway I have ever been on. The highway was completed in 1932 and at some points is only wide enough for two cars and the drop off are pretty much straight down for thousands of feet. The entire road is being redone and all the rock work done in the 30’s is being refurbished. This is a good thing as roads were not in good shape. Today we are off to the St Marys and Virginia Falls. Hopefully this time, no rain.
Back again, and the hike was wonderful, a total of about 4 miles at a pretty slow pace. With the melt of the glaciers and upper snows there are falls all over the place but these were particularly pretty. We were sitting out at our outside table two nights ago and the “fox” came back for a visit. He looked at me and then began to amble up to me he got about 3 feet away, Beth said something and he turned and walked to the back of the trailer. At that point he took one of my running shoes by the laces and proceeded to drag it off. He drug it under the trailer before deciding perhaps it wasn’t going to be good to eat, dropped and was on his way. We decided that we wanted to try fly fishing in the park and took our waders down to the foot of St Mary’s Lake for a try. Wow, the scenery was beyond belief as the sun was beginning to set and the mountains were beginning to take on the pink hue of the sunset. We waded out to where there was obvious action as many fish were hitting the surface at the same time and were able to catch 4 whitefish, a variety common to the lake, and let them go. I won’t say they were trophies but hey we did catch fish. We also went to a presentation and dancing by the Black Feet Indians which was quite interesting and entertaining. We watched a “chicken dance” and a “feather dance” with elaborate costumes and live Indian music. The Black Feet are doing their best to keep the traditions of the Plains Indians alive. The entire East side of the Park is the Black Feet Reservation and about 8000 Indians are living in it. We were told the Black Feet sold the land for the Park to the US Government in the late 1800’s for $1.5 million and kept the balance of the reservation. I understand it wasn’t the beauty we were after but the possible gold and silver in the mountains. We also visited The East Glacier Lodge in East Glacier. This incredible building was built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1913 and the lobby was supported by massive pine trees whose bark as still on.
Yesterday was fishing in Duck Lake with our Indian guide Marc. Marc was somewhat unusual in that he was blue eyed and blond haired but a full member of the Black Feet Tribe. The boat was a fourteen foot aluminum lake boat that seemed to be slowly filling with water as we fished. The motor was a Mercury 7.5 HP that one might have found in a museum except half the cover was broken off. In spite of this Marc was knowledgeable and we enjoyed his company. Duck Lake is not in the Park but in the Reservation. I caught two rainbows so not a good day of fishing and don’t want to think about how much each fish cost us but needless to say it was an expensive meal.
One that day we set off on a boat, hike trip on Two Medicine Lake. The boat was built in 1926 and was of course wood and in perfect condition. We hiked up to a lake in the woods whole only access was by foot. After traveling through this “bear” country all day I bought Beth a bear pin the next day to celebrate her conquering her bear fears. On that day we did the boat hike at Many Glacier and this was actually two boats and two lakes. We decided to hike back to Many Glacier Lodge after taking the boat one way and proceeded on the three-mile hike back. As we were hiking along edge of one of the lakes we noticed something in the water and with further inspection is was a bear swimming from one side of the lake to our side. I put the binoculars on him and he appeared to be a Grizzly and was coming toward our shore. We were perhaps 100 yards away when he made shore and through the binoculars I could see as he left the water he was clearly a large grizzly. He headed up the hill to the huckleberry and service berry patches which must have looked better on our side of the lake. That even Beth and I again decided to fly fish at the bottom of Lake Mary and had been fishing for perhaps 20 minutes when Beth looked at me and said look to your right. I thought she had spotted an eagle as we had talked about eagles earlier that day and I was intently scanning the trees and turned about and said I don’t see anything. She said,”to your right, to your right!” and again I looked and this time saw it; a good size black bear coming down to the water for a drink not more than 50 yards from my position. At that point we decided to slowing end our fishing expedition and we made it back up the hill to our car. Wow, two bears in one day. The next morning our last in the Park we were servicing the trailer, i.e. dumping waste water and taking on fresh before the trip and again Beth said look up there. Another decent size black bear was enjoying the berry patch just ahead of the dump site. Within a short time the bear had attracted quite a bit of attention and he simply ambled down to the road, between two cars that had stopped to look at him and off in the woods on the other side. In the old days at Glacier, bears and people came together a good bit but it ruins the bears as they continue to look for handouts and puts people at risk as they begin to view bears like dogs. Now, seeing a bear is a “wild” bear and any bear that hangs out too long around camp sites is removed from the park. There are 350 grizzly bears in the Park and about 650 black bears so quite a bear population and of course they are all living totally in the wild as they might have hundreds of years ago. I would put Glacier National Park on your “bucket list” and when you do go, hike and explore as this is truly an area unchanged by time and our modern population. With little effort you can imagine the mountain men exploring these areas and living on the land or Lewis and Clark making their way West or the Indians who believe their people have lived in and around the Park forever.