Glacier National Park
9/4/2018 to 9/6/2018
Beautiful National Park But We Had To Change Our Plans Because Of Another Wildfire
Tuesday 9/4/2018 Today we drove 118 miles north from Missoula, Montana to our next campground in Columbia Falls, Montana. During this drive, we passed through the Flathead Indian Reservation and past the scenic Flathead Lake. I made reservations at the LaSalle RV Park in Columbia Falls for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that it's near the West Entrance to Glacier. The second reason is that it's less than a half mile to a Dollar Car Rental. Our plans for Glacier are to drive the "Going-To-The-Sun" road. If you have never heard of it it's a 50-mile scenic mountain road that traverses the park crossing the Continental Divide through Logan Pass at an elevation of 6,646 feet. But because it's such a narrow and twisty road they have vehicle size restrictions and my truck is too wide. So I reserved a rental car for two days. We pulled into LaSalle right around 1:00 and as I was checking in the lady behind the counter informed me that 33 miles of the Going-To-The-Sun road was closed because of wildfires. Just our luck! Well, now I guess our plans will have to change. Later we ran into the neighboring town of Kalispell for fuel and stopped for an ice cream cone.
Wednesday 9/5/2018 Our campground is 21 miles away from the West Entrance to Glacier National Park and The West Glacier Visitor Center. I woke up a little earlier today and walked about a quarter mile to the Dollar Rent-A-Car to pick up the rental car. We planned on driving from the West Entrance of the park to the East Entrance on the “Going-to-the-Sun” road. But as my luck would have it, the 33 miles of the road that are closed due to the fire is the portion near the west entrance. We were able to stop at the visitor center which remained open and the ranger said our only option was to drive around to the east entrance which takes about 2 ½ hours. Since I had already rented the car and Wendy told us about a great lodge with nice hikes in that area, we decided to drive the distance. Since the Going-To-The-Sun road is the only road that runs through the park we now had to drive completely around it. It was a very long drive and we didn’t arrive at The Many Glacier lodge until around 12:30. The parking lot was full but we managed to snag a spot that someone was just leaving. We walked down to the lodge, talked with an information representative and ate our lunch before deciding which hike to take. Wendy had suggested a hike on the Grinnell Glacier Trail but being we had such a late start and the trail takes a minimum of six hours and was rated strenuous, we decided on a trail which runs along two lakes and then ends at another really beautiful lake which is Grinnell Lake. After resting on the shore of the lake and taking a lot of photos, we started our way back to the lodge. There was a short trail off the main trail that leads to a waterfall so we hiked that and took more photos. This really was a great hike, lots of great scenic views, wooden-planked walkways and even a suspension bridge that only one person at a time could walk over. In total, we hiked about ten miles today and were ready to start the long drive back to the trailer. I decided to take a different road back and it probably wasn’t the best choice as a long section of the road was torn up for construction and the speed limit was much slower than the road we drove in on. We did make a couple stops along the way, one where mountain goats like to lick the rocks for minerals at certain times of the year (not when we were there) and another in a very scenic spot in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. We finally arrived back at the campsite around 9:30 pm and just unloaded everything and relaxed a little before bed. We ended up spending almost 6 1/2 hours in the car and drove 261 miles around the park and back.
Thursday 9/06/2018 We got up early again today and drove the 2 1/2 hours to the St. Mary Visitor's Center at the east entrance to the park. Today we are going to drive the 17 miles of the "Going-to-the-Sun" Road that remained open during the forest fire closures. 33 miles of the road are closed. We are able to drive from the St. Mary Visitor's Center to the Logan Pass which also has a small visitor's center. There are many scenic pull-offs all along the way and we stopped at most of them. One of the most scenic spots was called Goose Island which is in Saint Mary Lake, the views there were spectacular. The sun was in just the right position to showcase the reflections of the mountains onto the lake. I think these are the best photos we've taken. (Rose took that one) We stopped at the Sun Point Picnic Area and had lunch before continuing up the road eventually ending at Logan Pass. This was as far as we could go as the road was blocked from here on. The parking lot was again overflowing and we had to wait a few minutes for someone to leave before we were able to park. It was a short walk to the visitor's center where we photographed the sign and checked out the Highland Trail before deciding to take another hike called The Hidden Lake Overlook. It's only 1.4 miles but all uphill, a gain of 460 feet. It begins on a wooden walkway full of stairs before becoming a dirt path that ends at the Hidden Lake. We stopped and took a lot of photos along the way and even ran into a mountain goat at the overlook. This was also a pretty good view of the fire and smoke in the distance. You can continue on down the hill to the lake another 1.2 miles but it's a 780-foot drop and we didn't want to climb uphill another 780 feet. After taking all the photos we wanted, we began the 1.4-mile walk back to the visitor's center. While still a little challenging because of the steep steps, it was a piece of cake compared to the hike up. Once back at the visitor's center we just hopped back into the rental car and began the 17-mile drive back down the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We did stop a couple more times, once at a gorge and again at the spot we felt was so beautiful at the beginning of the drive. We came to the end of the scenic road and began the long 2 1/2 hour drive home. The 17 miles of the road that we were able to drive was just gorgeous. We can only imagine what the 33 miles of the road we weren't able to see were like. One fun fact: the drive home became a little entertaining because this is open range country and I had to be on the lookout for the wandering cows. This day we spent another 6 1/2 hours in the car and drove 277 miles.
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