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A Trip to Glacier National Park

July 17-26, 2011

It was August 9 and 10, 1983, that we first set eyes on Glacier National Park. Ever since that brief encounter we have been wanting to revisit this awesome place. We could remember the drive up Going to the Sun Road and Logan Pass filled with mountain flowers. So we finally decided to make the trip and spend several days. In 2010 we tried to get reservations but waited way too long and on top of it all, it was the Centennial Anniversary of Glacier National Park. So we waited another year. This time we waited almost too long again to get good accommodations but we managed to get three nights in the park at Rising Sun Motor Inn on the east side. Unfortunately we were unable to get two more nights in the park so we settled on staying over in Whitefish about 35 minutes west of the west gate at Grouse Mountain Lodge which is managed by the same company that manages the Rising Sun.


Linda and I, along with friend Joyce Kirby, planned to spend a few extra days "in the area" so to cut air fare costs a bit and see more of the area we flew to Spokane, Washington on the 17th. We traveled west through eastern Washington to Coulee Dam through the rolling hills groomed into wheat and hay. Then south from there through the Grand Coulee and back to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From there we ventured to Libby, Montana via Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, Idaho.


Images for July 17-18


Images for July 19


After Leaving Libby on the 20th, we continued to travel some of the lesser traveled roads until we arrived at Kalispel, Montana and ultimately a few miles down the road, the west entrance to Glacier National Park. As per our standard operating procedures we stopped at the visitor center at Apgar to get leads on places to go and things to see (you know, wildflowers and waterfalls) and easy to moderate hikes we should do. We ventured on to a picnic site along side Lake McDonald and had lunch.


From there we ventured on to the Rising Sun Motor Inn east of Logan Pass. This was on Wednesday, the 20th. Traffic was not too bad and we encountered only a few delays in the construction areas on the Going to the Sun Road. We took our time and stopped often to take in the views and make a few images.


Images for July 20


On Thursday the 21st, I popped my head outside just at sunrise to behold the start of a beautiful day. I couldn't wait on the slow pokes so I ventured out on my own to enjoy the early light and make a few images along St. Mary Lake. I eventually returned to the room and after the slow pokes had breakfast, we ventured over to the Many Glacier area of the park. We hiked to Iceberg Lake. From the trail head to the lake is 4.9 miles but the trail head was easily a tenth of a mile from the parking lot or more. So we set out on our first day hike completing 10 miles in 9 hours rising about 1200 feet in elevation. The end is a beautiful little lake that was still snow and ice covered. It was a nice place for the lunch we packed. Along the way we saw many flowers and animals (moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats, butterflies and other little critters). The temperatures started out in the 40s (ski hat and wool mittens came in handy). At times the temperature spiked when the sun came out but the wind quickly chilled you back down. The day ended with three sore bodies and a nice pizza dinner. We saw our first bear (grizzly) along the road as we exited the Many Glacier area.


Images for July 21


On Friday, we had very loose plans to venture south to the Two Medicine area. This day started out cold, cloudy, and misty. We were not certain if we wanted to hike in the rain. As we headed out of the park to St. Mary the sun came out and it was out almost all the way to Two Medicine. We stopped for a short hike to Running Eagle Falls. The sun was in and out along the way but no rain. We ventured on up to Two Medicine picnic area thinking we might have a nice place for lunch along the lake. It started to rain. The wind was howling. Now what? We packed it in and headed down to East Glacier Park and the old Lodge. The sun was out ,the place was beautiful, but the wind was incessant and cold. It was looking as if we might need to have lunch in the car. We headed back towards Two Medicine just a few miles away hoping that the weather had shifted to more sun and less rain. Not to be. We found a nice view point overlooking Two Medicine valley in the sun AND in the rain (both at the same time) and ate our lunch in the car (not fun but we were warm and had a beautiful view). All along the foothills east of the park the sun was out and the flowers were beautiful but go just a few miles west and you had cold rain under cloudy skies. On the road to Logan Pass is a stop at Sunrift Gorge. It's a beautiful place where the creek has sliced through the rock formation to form this very narrow canyon. At that location is also Baring Falls a relatively short hike down stream towards St. Mary Lake. From there we drove up to Logan Pass to see what we could see and figure out if it was a good hiking area. Well, it was still covered in many feet of snow and there were a few (very few) glacier lilies blooming as they pushed up where the snow field was retreating. We decided it was a hike to do if all you wanted was exercise on snow and ice. We said no and planned to see other things on Saturday. Friday night we went back to a patch of indian paintbrush and other wildflowers and made some sunset images.


Images for July 22


Saturday the 23rd, we packed up and checked out of the Rising Sun. On the way west we stopped and hiked to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. This is a several hour hike to two nice waterfalls. Given the amount of snow cover in the higher elevations, water was flowing briskly in all creeks and waterfalls. After the trip up and over Logan Pass we stopped at the Lake McDonald Lodge area and had lunch (a sit down be waited on lunch). From there we made just a few stops on the way to Whitefish and our lodging for the next two nights at Grouse Mountain Lodge.


Images for July 23


On Sunday we came back into the park and landed at the Avalanche parking area. We had seen how busy it was when we left the park the day before. So we planned to arrive early (a relative term). For us we set a  record that day and were on the road by about 7:30 and on the trail by about 9:00. This is a hike through a cedar forest and on to beautiful little lake - Avalanche Lake. While we saw no bear we did see their scat at several places on the trail. We did encounter a deer that I guess was trying to join in our hike. It just decided to get on the trail behind Linda and in front of me. This was the second time I had seen this behavior. Clearly it did not care that we were just feet from it. As is usually the case we find ourselves having lunch about 2 in the afternoon whether on the trail or at the end of a hike.


Images for July 24


Monday the 25th we traveled back to Spokane. It was a scenic drive through mostly farming country with a few stops along the way to enjoy the view. We had lunch in Wallace, Idaho, a big silver mining area. At the end of the day we found our Super8 lodging and readied ourselves for the return flight the next morning.


Images for July 25 - 26


All in all a great trip and as usual too short. Glacier National Park is a winner in our book.


Tips: book early, very early in the year; always get advice on where to go at the visitor's center; take your time; pack your lunch for the trail; let all your sensory systems enjoy the trip.


Now, out of some 1600 images I made here is a subset I chose to share that captures the essence of this trip.


July 17-18


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Very fun trip!!!!!

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