July 15-17, 2018 Sat – Tues WOW and WOW again! Glacier National Park and it famous Going to the Sun Road is a jaw dropper! On day one we drove from East Glacier partway up the Going to the Sun Road about 15-20 miles of the the full 60 miles of the scenic highway that bisects the park and crosses the Continental Divide.
We began with beautiful views of glacier fed Lake McDonald’s blue waters surrounded by rising snow capped mountain peaks. Further along we stopped to hike the John’s Lake Loop Trail. The trail wound through mountain forest, and along a cascading mountain river, rewarding us with a bridge over the river view of McDonald Falls.
We continued on the road stopping at pullouts and then had our picnic lunch siting on the stones along a much tamer stretch of the river. We could see a long waterfall cascading down the side of one of the mountains.
After lunch we turned back to the south end of McDonald lunch to hike the Rocky Point Nature Trail. At the trail head we teamed up with Tony and Kenny from Louisiana. Being as neither of us had the recommended bear spray we opted for the “you are are safer in numbers plan” and hiked together as a foursome.
Tony and Kenny travel in the summer to escape Louisiana’s heat much as Michigan Snowbirds escape the winter cold. It was enjoyable to hear their story and and chat companionably while hiking and taking in the beautiful views of Lake McDonald.
Once our afternoon hike was over, we stopped in Apgar Village for huckleberry ice-cream. Boy did that go down good! It was still blazing hot and we had no power for AC back at camp so we stopped again for dinner at a restaurant, leaving our signed dollar bill stapled to the wall above the bar.
Our short hikes in the National Parks continue to be my favorite part of “seeing” a park. I read somewhere that 75-90 percent of National Park visitors never leave their cars or only get out at the viewing pullouts. The bulk of Glacier’s 3 million visitors are squeezed into a very short summer season. The Road to the Sun doesn’t open due to snow cover until mid June or early July. Driving on the park roads is extremely crowded and parking can be very difficult to find but once you are parked, grab your trek sticks, a water bottle or two and stretch your legs on the marked trails. Even on the short trails that we do, population disappears. The trails take you to amazing lookouts, water features and into the forests where one can not only see, but hear and smell the beauty around them.
Our second day at West Glacier was set aside for our Red Bus Tour. At 9:30am we boarded a vintage 1930 open top tour bus at the Apgar Visitor Center. Ed, our driver piloted the bus along the Going to the Sun Road, up and over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass ( elevation 6,647 feet.) Ed shared park information, jokes and stories as he expertly navigated the crowded, twisty engineering marvel of a road, and it treated us to stunning, spectacular views of mountains, gorges, valleys and glaciers.
Once past Logan Pass the bus descended to a stop called Rising Sun where we had lunch at the Rising Sun Grill. We went a little further to Goose Island Lake and then the bus turned back west and we got a second chance to enjoy the sights. The bus stopped periodically for “pop-ups” where we all stood up for a better look and other times Ed parked and we all climbed out for a stop and look. Ed was particularly pleased to nab a parking spot to show us a cool very narrow slot canyon that the water raged through. He said we were the first group this summer that he was able to make this stop due to no open parking spots. The bus returned to Apgar around 4:30. I am grateful to the park ranger that way back in February warned me of the parks crowded conditions and long waits for the free shuttles. The Red Bus was definitely the better way to go.
It was a very hot 90 degrees once the bus tour ended so we had dinner at a little deli style cafe and then finished the day with a nice swim in the cold lake back at camp. Glacier National Park has been on my bucket list for a long time and it did not disappoint. Our pictures hardly do justice to its beauty. We say the same thing at every National Park. ” A few days is not long enough.” I hope we can return sometime.