On Friday morning (after a trip to the Bulldog Saloon in Whitefish on Thursday night – check out the men’s bathroom next time you’re in town..), we got up at an ungodly hour and made our way to the ranger station at Glacier National Park – just northeast of Whitefish, MT.
The recent wildfires (over 16,000 acres threatening the southeast side of the park) apparently scared some people away. Smoke from the fires settled into the valley and just sat there – obscuring views for throughout most of the park. Anyway, there vista obscura loss is our gain.. We were able to upgrade our camping permits to some more scenic spots. After a lengthy, somewhat scary but very informative mandatory bear/wildlife/Leave No Trace educational video and instruction from the rangers, we were on our way into the park I’ve wanted to see for years – since my pal Erik Skorupka started talking about it after his Summer there back in the early 90’s.
It did not dissapoint. While the glaciers are shrinking fast, the scenery is not. We passed over the continental divide as we drove from the West to the East side of the park. Arguably the most beautiful drive in the US, it covers 50 miles and winds through creeks, mountains, meadows and stark mountain scenery climbing from 4,500 to 7,000′ and back down again. It was Spectacular, Spectacular! (Moulin Rouge fans?) to say the least. Another in a long line of ridiculous landscapes I’ve seen since I was in Alaska 5 weeks ago (the amazing preamble to this trip before I left CLIF).
Speaking of continental divide, I have now passed over that once, the Pacific Crest Trail twice, the Oregon Trail, rode along the Lewis and Clark Trail for hundreds of miles and crossed the 45th parallel (the line of latitude that marks the midway pt. b/w the North Pole and the Equator) about 4 times.
Anyway, we hiked in 11.7 miles the first night to Elizabeth Lake, a beautiful spot that included amazing mountain views, great trout fishing and lots of beautiful light – allowing us to stay out until 10PM fishing and taking in the views.
Freaked out (by the rangers) about being eaten alive by grizzlies, black bears, mountain lions and many of the other critters in the park, we scrubbed ourselves of anything that could have touched food (clothes from dinner, faces etc) and hoisted everything we could (including toothpaste!) up into bags hoisted 10′ off the ground. We’re still alive so apparently we done good. Hard not to be conscious when you see fresh bear prints (and scat) on the trail:
A 6 mile hike back down the same trail to Gable Creek brought us to another beautiful spot on the Belly River. With meadows, waterfalls and all sorts of other amazing stuff, this place did not disappoint. I’ll upload some of the waaaaay too many photos I took of Glacier on Flickr soon. Trying to keep up with blogging, journaling and all can be tough on the road!