Montana - Glacier National Park--Breathtaking!

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Thursday, June 25, 2009

DAYS 67- 71, Sunday, June 21 to Thursday, June 25

Fathers' Day, in the rain we headed north to the legendary Virginia City, MT through the gorgeous "Big Sky" state. It's strange, but the sky really does look bigger over the green rolling mountains. Virginia City is a remarkably well preserved old west Victorian gold mining town just 20 miles west of Yellowstone. When the gold ran out for prospectors, there was only enough left so that homes and businesses stayed occupied, but there was not enough wealth to remodel the buildings. So it froze, and now represents the Victorian era in the original Old West. Lunch at the Virginia City Cafe and a stagecoach ride around town . . . fun, but we were tired of the rain.

After much discussion, Monday we headed out to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, a good two-day drive. Our concern was whether the famous "Going to the Sun Road" would be open. Due to late season snowfalls, there was a 75' snowdrift over Logan Pass at the summit of the road that crosses the park, allowing only parts of the road to be open, one from the west and the other from the east. The road has been damaged in several locations by avalanches. The only way to get from the west side where we were entering was to go around the park at the south, about 2 hours way. We spent the night in Bozeman, MT and went to Ricciardi's, and Italian Seafood House in Polson, for dinner near the Flathead Lake.

Tuesday we stopped along the way in Columbia Falls at the Montana Vortex and House of Mystery. The claim is there is an anomaly in the earth's electromagnetic field that causes weird phenomena. They have a leaning building, a walking challenge that makes you feel unstable. It was a fun diversion on the two-day drive. The weather improved, so we were hopeful for good days in Glacier. We got to Glacier in time to ride up on the Going to the Sun Road from the west as much as possible. Heavy forest, waterfalls, and at the point where we stopped, snow and gorgeous mountains (see the photos).

Our second day in Glacier, we rode all the way around to enter from the east. The road on the east side was narrow, and winding with heavy winds. That was the adventure of the day. The east side was more arid and less dramatic than the west. The boat ride on Two Medicine Lake, one of several glacier-carved lakes in the park, was pleasant in the sunny, warming weather. A short hike to Running Eagle Falls (Trick Falls) required us to walk a very narrow plank over water, but rewarded us with a two falls, one behind the other, apparent only after watching the falls for a few moments. The best times of the day were the two stops made on the road at Goat Lick Overlook on Rt.2. The mountain goats come down from the higher elevations for the salt in the rocks, and navigate the rocky ledges of the cliffs and the rushing streams with amazing dexterity. In the afternoon, we saw at least a dozen of these very interesting creatures.

Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail were the challenge for our last day in Glacier, a cool uphill hike through a red cedar-hemlock forest that ended with us in a "bowl" beside the glacier-created lake, surrounded by majestic mountains and tall trees.  There were three waterfalls cascading down the cliff in front of us. What a strange feeling! Looking up and around makes you feel you'll fall over. Places like this cannot be described in words. You just have to come out west to see sights like this. All of these national parks are unique and awe-inspiring. After the five-mile hike, we had lunch at the grill at Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the original park lodges. Cute little squirrel-like animals without tails were poking their heads up out of their ground holes. They call them "whistlepegs" because they make a loud whistle sound.

We finished our Glacier visit by again traveling the Going-to-the-Sun Road, this time up to Logan Pass, which opened our last day. What a breathtaking, terrifying drive on the mountain ledge overlooking the cavernous green canyon! The snow at the Logan Pass Visitors' Center was incredible for June 25. We celebrated our great Glacier visit with Huckleberry Pie a la Mode at the West Glacier Restaurant. This is Huckleberry Country!
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