Posted by: chlost | July 23, 2011

Glacier(s)-for now-National Park

Just a week ago, we were still in Glacier National Park. It was a wonderful vacation. Although the glaciers in the park are rapidly dwindling, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I could have stayed there much longer than the 10 days we were there.

This was a road trip. I love to just take off and drive. We drove straight through North Dakota the first day.  To appreciate this part of the country, you have to love miles and miles of virtually nothing rising from the horizon.

North Dakota-about 350 miles of this.....

Broken up only by this:

North Dakota skyscrapers mark almost every little town.

And this:

Windmills along the ridges of North Dakota/Eastern Montana

At the North Dakota and Montana border, there is a small, relatively unknown national park. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the North Dakota badlands. There is no chunk of rock with presidential faces, no sculpture in process on another mountainside depicting a Native American icon. Here, it is just the wind, the land and the wildlife. We saw bison, prairie dogs, vultures, deer and antelope. This is the prairie. With deep crevices carved into it by centuries of wind and water.

Bison grazing at Teddy Roosevelt park. Wild horses are also in the park, although we did not see them this time.

The Painted Canyon is the main sight of the park, although there are roads that go through the entire park.

When a fifteen-year old boy is impressed, you know it is good.

We had driven all day, so by the time we reached the park and checked into the hotel, it was evening. The wildlife are particularly active at this time of day, so we saw quite a few animals. My nephew was very impressed, and began to look very carefully to try to find animals before my husband spotted them. It became a game.

The canyon is really quite magnificent, and is usually not covered in greenery, as it was this time. I don’t think this photo does it justice. Unfortunately, it is the only one that I have that does not include my family’s faces.

As we left the park to return to the hotel for the night, behind us was one of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve ever witnessed. On the prairie, the light of the sun does amazing things.

Sunset at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The next morning, we were up early and headed out over eastern Montana to Glacier Park. It was another day of flat, boring landscapes for about 400 miles.

We were a little late in making our reservations, so we had to change hotels within the park three times. This actually was all right, as we were able to be in the different sides of the park and the different hotels. We met our daughter and her s.o. who came on Amtrak from Oregon. One of our hotels had two bedrooms, so they stayed with us for the three nights we were there, otherwise, they camped in a tent.  Perhaps surprisingly, we spent nearly all of our time together, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I was not sure that they would really want to spend their full vacation with us old folks. I worried that the s.o. might not be comfortable spending so much time with the “inlaws”.

This past year, Glacier has had a very snowy winter. The main road through the park, Going-to-the-Sun Road did not open until July 13th. The road had been blocked by monstrous snow drifts of 30 to 50 feet tall. This was the latest date that it had ever opened. Up until then, the latest had been July 10th, sometime in the early 1940’s.

The largest drift over the road was approximately 50 feet high, only recently did the plows make it through.

My fifteen year old nephew came along for his first long road trip as well as the first time in a national park. We weren’t sure that he would enjoy hiking. He is a big video game kid. But he did great. They (husband, daughter, s.o. and nephew) did several mountain hikes-10 miles, 5 miles, 8 miles and a few shorter ones. Many of the trails were closed due to bears, mountain lions, or snow. Nephew did great-with just one major meltdown on the trail-and seemed to love hiking.

Yes, this is the wilderness.

The views make the work of hiking worth every step.

We had beautiful weather during the week. There was just one true rainstorm, and even it was beautiful to watch over Lake McDonald, where we were staying at the time. Our hotel was within 20 feet of the lake. It is an amazing lake, with turquoise water in the forefront of green snow-capped mountains.

Lake McDonald from the balcony of the Village Inn at Apgar.

The same lake during a rainstorm:

And at sunset:

There are no telephones or televisions in the hotel rooms. They are pretty much unchanged since the 1950’s. The rooms are not fancy. The cell phone service is spotty at best. There is no internet service except at an internet cafe which did not seem to be getting much business. It was a blissful break from the world and the events we didn’t need to know about.

The activities here include spotting wildlife (we saw moose, elk, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, ground squirrels, marmots and many species of birds) and flowers.

Here is a mother moose and calf that we saw twice during the trip:

                They were feeding right along the side of the road. They stopped just long enough to have their pictures taken.

I  love the flowers. This is the first time I have been to the park when many of the glacial flowers were in bloom.The bear grass, in particular is one of my favorites.

There are patches of flowers alongside the road, or fields of them on the mountainsides.

Flower patch alongside the road.

Mountainside flowers

Flowers brighten the highway ditch.And along paths.

The other wonder of Glacier this year is all of the water. We visit the park approximately every 3-4 years. When I first visited the park back in 1978, the water was spectacular. It was much the same this year, after many dry years. There are waterfalls at nearly every turn-

A waterfall along Going to the Sun Road.

Bering Falls on St. Mary's Lake

Daughter searching the mountain for wildlife near waterfalls along Going to the Sun Road.

Some areas have so much water that it is not even formed into a waterfall. Here is the “Weeping Wall”.

The "Weeping Wall" along Going to the Sun road.

The park is made up of several valleys. Each valley has a distinctive lake and a corresponding atmosphere. Our favorite of these is the Swiftcurrent Valley. The hotel along the lake looks as though it is in the Alps. The lake is often calm and smooth as glass, allowing a reflection of the mountains on the water. This is more of a hiker’s area, with many trails starting at the hotel area as well as a campground and “motor lodge” just a short way down the road. The Many Glacier Hotel is our favorite place in the park, located on the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake.

The Many Glacier Hotel, in the Swiftcurrent Valley.

Swiftcurrent Lake, from the balcony of the Many Glacier Hotel

While the hikers were on the trails, I spent several hours here reading. My idea of the perfect vacation is a bit different than theirs.

This was a great vacation in a beautiful place. I am so proud that the U.S. still has a place like this. We met a couple from Germany one evening. They visited the park because they wanted to see wilderness. They explained that even though there are mountains in their country, there is no wilderness. They loved to be able to experience it and told us how lucky we are to have it in our country.

Yes, we are.

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Responses

  1. Such beautiful scenery! I love road trips.

    • Road trips go back to when I was a kid. I love them, too.

  2. Gorgeous! I’ve not made it east of Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) and look forward to one day being able to visit more of the National Parks after we retire. 🙂

    • I was thinking the other day that it would fun to try to visit every National Park. I am not even sure it is do-able, but it would be interesting.

  3. Just wonderful photos and this seals it, I have to visit that park myself.
    I would kill to kayak that lake and the mountains are breathtaking. I love that your nephew not only survived with out electronics but thrived.
    Thanks for the virtual trip.

    • Yes, I hope you do visit the park. It is a different world.

  4. Thanks for sharing so many pictures. Sounds like a wonderful vacation was had by all.

    • Most of the photos were taken by the husband. He had a new camera/toy to play with. They turned out well.

  5. The parks are just beautiful and I always love mountains. The long stretches of flat barren land would be harder for me.

    • At least at the edge of the flat barren land, there are these wonderful mountains. Quite an abrupt change of terrain.

  6. Glorious vistas!!!! I envy you!!!!

    • Thanks. I feel lucky that we can visit there as often as we do.

  7. Simply, utterly, wonderful miles. I long to go there. Thank you so much for taking us with you to these magical places.

    • Thanks. It feels magical to me, too. I would love to visit your area as well!

  8. Your pictures are breathtaking! I do hope I get to visit Glacier National Park someday. It was nice seeing the wind turbines – perhaps wind power is catching on after all. And all the wildlife sightings – you got so many great pictures – thanks so much for sharing them! The snowdrift was incredible! I would have had a hard time deciding between reading with such a spectacular view for company or hiking and the chance of spotting wildlife. It sounds like it was a wonderful vacation for all of you!

    • It is a bit odd, my two favorite places are the mountains and the ocean. So different, but so soulful to me.

  9. Now I know I MUST plan an extended visit to this breathtaking area! Your photos are extraordinary. Sunsets, waterfalls, mountains – it just does not get any better. Know what you mean about S Dakota. I can picture the route you likely took as I’ve traveled the area often. I’m so glad you took the time to share your trip.

  10. Wow! That’s about all I can think of right now, because that place looks so pretty! I can see why you go back every few years. Thanks for sharing the pictures. The waterfalls are my favorites 🙂

    • I love the waterfalls, too. It was so wonderful that they were so overflowing with water this year.

  11. I’ve been to all of these places! YAY! Incredible — I’ve been to so FEW places that to see these pictures is exciting.

    🙂 I’m a simple gal.

    America the Beautiful!

    Pearl

  12. Truly remarkable photos. It looks like a wonderful trip. I haven’t been to Glacier since my first marriage. A bear came through our camp one night but people scared it off. After that we slept in the car.

    They say that by the end of the century there will be no glaciers in Glacier National Park.

    • I don’t like to camp there, for that exact reason. I have done it, but I prefer a nice, safe hotel. Tents seem so vulnerable to the whims of a bear.

  13. That! is an AWESOME looking place! It is now on my official BUCKET list of places to visit! Wow! So glad you had a wonderful trip. 🙂

    • I hope you get there. How are you doing in the heat?


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