August 20, 2017
We drove up from Missoula to Kalispell last Tuesday so we could visit one of our “Bucket List” items, Glacier National Park. It has been on our list for many years, but being in western Montana, we were never able to make enough time to give it a visit. I read several years ago that the glaciers would no longer exits after 2020, so I wanted to see them before they were all gone.
In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in what is now Glacier National Park, today there are only 25 because of the rise in the earth’s temperature. The park service defines a glacier as being at least 25 acres in size, at least 100 feet thick in ice, and must be moving. When they do finally melt away, it will have a huge impact on the surrounding environment. I had never realized that the ice that melts in the summer provides water for the plants and animals that rely on it during the summer droughts. So, no water, no life. Whether the rising temperatures are man-made or just one nature’s cycles, I don’t know. I do know that the lack of water will have a terrible impact on this beautiful place.
The Flathead River runs for miles along the highway going through the park and is crystal clear due to the snow melt. It flows into and out of Flathead Lake, which is about 200 square miles in size, about the same as Lake Tahoe. It would be sad to see it disappear. While driving through, we spotted a little six-point buck deer standing on a sandbar in the middle of the river, just having a cool drink and enjoying his surroundings.
We drove most of the 50 miles along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which runs from one end of the park to the other, but decided to stop near the eastern end because smoke from wildfires in the area blocked the views and also made it a bit difficult to breathe. Breathing seems like such a simple thing, but I have grown quite fond of it.
Until today, we had only seen the sun for one day in the past three weeks because of wildfires in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. In Washington alone, the fires have already consumed over 256,000 acres or 400 square miles. The smoke has cast a gray haze over the entire state of Washington and with the wind blowing to the east, the smoke just follows us. Just west of where we are currently, there is a 35,000 acres fire raging and we get that smoke also. Fortunately, there was some rain last Friday and it cleared out some of the smoke. That is the reason many of our pictures look rather hazy.
The road is a simple two-lane ribbon with spectacular scenery along the way. Words and picture don’t begin to do it justice, you have to see and experience it. If you don’t want to drive it, there is a shuttle service between the major points and hiking trials. You can also take a bus tour on one of their historic 25-seat red busses that have been operating since the 1930’s. The guides tell a lot about the park and its construction, but also about the Blackfeet tribe who were native to the area.
We opted to just drive our car so we could stop when we wanted and do things at our own pace. It took a couple of hours each way, but we were able to take lots of pictures.
Though there are shuttle busses inside the park, we found out there are way too many people and way too few busses. Often there is an hour wait to get on a bus to the next stop. As we were approaching one of the stops, there was about twenty people sitting in the outdoor waiting area but there was one lady, probably in her 60’s standing along the side of the road pumping her thumb quite enthusiastically in the air and holding up two fingers. A much shyer looking man was standing off to her side. What the heck, we decided to pick them up. Eileen, and Mike had been hiking for about seven hours and were just wanting to get back to their car at Logan Pass, about 10 miles away by road.
She was originally from Dublin, Ireland and still had that beautiful Irish accent. I joked that we make keep them for the rest of our trip back across the US just so we could hear her talk. She replied rather coyly that she liked our distinct Southern accent. They lived in San Francisco, but asked us not to judge them for that. We told them San Francisco was one of our favorite places.
Logan Pass is where the continental divide separates the continent, with one side channeling water to the east and the other side to the west. The parking lot usually fills up by 9:00 in the morning and it’s about impossible to find a place to park. They thanked us for the ride and said to take their parking spot when they pulled out. Being nice to people is its own reward, but sometimes it pays extra dividends, a new friendship and a parking spot.
Just beyond Logan Pass are the two glaciers you can see from the road, Jackson Glacier and Barefoot Glacier and they are about five miles away. The rest of them require quite a bit of hiking, so we opted not to do it this time. That just means we will have to come back again and that’s fine with us. On our return trip from the east side of the park back to the west entrance, we could see the smoke from a new fire high up on one of the cliffs that overlook the road. There was a ranger pulled over just past us and was surveying it as well. I hope it does not get too serious.
Here are a few more of our favorites pictures in the park.
We are still having a wonderful time seeing all the sites and meeting new people, but we really miss our family as we are RVingTheCountry.