We’d been talking about going to Glacier National Park in Montana and watching the weather closely before committing. When we departed Coeur d’Alene on September 24, and the weather report continued to improve, the four-hour drive to West Glacier made sense. After biking the Hiawatha Trail on Saturday afternoon, we boondocked that night along a very dodgy road high above Tarkio, Montana (46°59’22.7″N 114°46’39.5″W)
What we didn’t realize is that the GNP pretty much closes down all services on September 19, readying itself for the early snows that hit northern Montana. That means the hordes have gone home, too!
We arrived around noon on Sunday September 25th to find the huge Apgar Campground on Glacier’s west side all but deserted. Three of the five loops were already closed, and the water would be shut off completely in a few days. We were thankful for the spectacular fall color and an almost front row spot along Lake MacDonald.
The next morning, we drove the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, even though warning signs banned vehicles over 21 feet long, 8 feet wide and/or 10 feet high. Our Ford Transit is 22 feet long (plus hitch step), 8 feet wide (with mirrors) and 10.5 feet tall (with vent). Monday morning traffic was light, however, and we encountered no tricky spots whatsoever. In fact, we’ve been on many more challenging roads than this one— Moki Dugway in Utah, for instance.
We stopped for a 3-mile hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook at Logan Pass, at 6,646 feet and the highest point along Going-to-the-Sun Road. A trail side mountain goat loitered in the bushes along the way.
The vistas all along the way never failed to amaze us. We look forward to driving east to west along the Going-to-the-Sun Road next time. Early fall is the perfect time of year, as the changing colors break up the “monotony” of all that rock, the blue skies and green trees.
We headquartered for three nights at the St Mary’s Campground on the east side of the park. It was also on “primitive” status with water turned off to the restrooms and shower, and a single vault toilet left in use. Each morning, large piles of fresh bear poop were left around the van. But the internet signal was strong and the views lovely. From there, we drove 45 minutes north to the Many Glaciers area of GNP to hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail on September 28.
For our final three days in GNP, we relocated southeast to the Two Medicine area of Glacier. It turned out to be our favorite location, right on the shore of Two Medicine Lake. With our signal booster, we were able to get adequate connectivity to stay in touch with family and David’s clients. A resident group of a dozen bighorn ewes and yearlings trooped by several times each day. We brought our chairs to the pebble beach and trained our binoculars on the slopes high above to watch mountain goats eat or lick who-knows-what up there.
On the last day of September, we hiked 9 miles along the north shore of Two Medicine Lake to Twin Falls which lies beyond the west end of the lake, loudly talking the entire time (do you know how hard it is to talk for over four hours?) for the benefit of any nearby bears. Once we cleared the south side of the lake on the way back, I, for one, was greatly relieved to have seen not a single living creature.
With the weather turning decidedly colder and wetter, we’re off to the bear-free zone of Moab, Utah for the next leg of our Fall adventures: October 4 – ? 2016.
(David will add his photos to the mix soon!)
I’m sure it’s wonderful that time of year with especially with fewer people. But you don’t get to see the bunches of 1,000 ft waterfalls that are along the Going to the Sun Road that you get in the first of summer with the snow runoff. Some even cascading down on the road and your vehicle as you drive along.