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Published: October 3rd 2007
St Mary Lake
This is on the east side of the park.
This is a great park with different personalities on the east and west sides. It is 1,600 square miles and was created in 1910. We spent 5 days exploring the park and could have spent many more. We began on the west side of the park at the Apgar Campground on Lake McDonald
. The fall colors were beautiful with the yellows and gold against the dark green evergreens. The campgrounds were closing down for the season or switching to primitive camping. We had lots of campsites to choose from. This was a great time to be at the park with fewer people, fall colors and cooler weather. Unfortunately there are less organized activities and tours to take advantage of this late in the season. It was fascinating to see changes occurring in preparation for the winter, such as tall poles to mark the edge of the road or where structures are located for the snow plows to avoid.
Going to the Sun Road
In Nov 2006 the park received 9 inches of rain in one day. A section of the Going to the Sun Road was washed away. Due to the amount of snow that the park receives, many roads
This is on the west side of the park. It's a two mile hike to the lake with a 500 foot elevation change. It was another beautiful area to savor.
are closed during the winter. The Going to the Sun Road is closed during the winter and the average date that it is completely opened is in early June. This year due to the rain damage, it didn’t open until early July, and that was with enough temporary repairs to open it for the season. There are more repairs that need to be done after the season. The amount of time that is available between the road closing and too much snow to work can be brief. It was decided to close the road a couple weeks early, so it closed on Sept 16. We were disappointed to not be able to drive The Sun Road, but it will be a good reason to go back some other time. The first 16 miles from the west and east sides were open, so we were able to drive those portions.
Ranger Interpretive Programs
We went to various presentations given by a variety of rangers. Ranger Doug Follett
was our guide on the Fire Walk. We had a great walk and we were impressed with his knowledge and original poetry . The walk was about the forest fires of
Lake level was a little low, but not as severe as on the east side of the park.
2003 and how the forest is recovering. It was a 2 mile walk with some hills and great views. Ranger Doug is 81 years old and has been a Ranger for 40-some years. He was a history teacher and has a great way of sharing his knowledge. This is the end of the season and we were fortunate to be the only two that showed up for the walk. We also talked about visual memories and he described a few of the things he has seen over the years. He has a way with words and I could picture the scenes he was describing. He has written poems about some of them and shared a few of his poems with us. Ranger Doug will always be a part of my memory of Glacier National Park. It was one of those perfect fall days that is cool enough to be comfortable hiking under the beautiful blue sky. There’s snow on the mountain peaks and a riot of color on the sides of the mountains and in the valleys. His one poem that spoke of this day was titled “Come Back in September.”
The last section of it states:
West side of park. This was from the Rocky Point Trail.
Walk with me
When the north wind blows
Of the coming snow
Tossing golden leaves
As summer bids
A sad goodbye
These and other things
You’ll see -
If you will come
And walk with me!
East and West
On the west side of the park there are more forests and different trees. There is more rain on the west side and it is more arid on the east side. Both are beautiful, but seeing one side does not give you the full picture of the park. We lingered longer than we planned on the west side. On the last day of the good weather forecast, we packed up and headed to East Glacier. We camped at Glacier Meadow Campground, on the last day that they would be open for the season. Then we drove in the car to see as much of the east side as we could and to check out some of the primitive campsites. Snow forecasts are given according to elevation and we knew that the snow had been occurring above 6,000 feet but was now being forecast for 4,000 feet. We didn’t want to
Light fixture at McDonald Lodge
The lodges and chalets were built in the early 1900's. We only saw the McDonald Lodge, but were impressed with the style. The lobby had a fireplace that was so big it could have been a small room. In the lobby people were playing cards, knitting, visiting, playing a guitar, etc. It felt like what people would have been doing in a past era in this room. Of course there was a roaring fire in the fireplace and some people were sitting in front of it and just enjoying it.
have the RV at a higher elevation and have to exit by a winding steep snowy road.
During our whirlwind east side day we first went to Two Medicine Lake
. This would have been an awesome place to camp and just absorb the spectacular views of the mountains that encircle the valley. We then headed to St. Mary Lake
and drove The Sun Road up to Siyeh Bend. This drive had a different feel and view than the other places we had seen. The sun was getting lower in the west and the clouds were blowing in as we headed for the last destination of Many Glacier
. We made it to the end of the road and were able to watch one of the mountains be enveloped in a cloud. Even though we didn’t get to walk, linger and explore this side of the park to the degree we would have liked, we got a great overview.
We did see wildlife on both the west and east sides. On the west side we saw several does with their fawns. They were un-phased by people and cars and just kept eating. The campgrounds were a safe place for them
Cedar tree with shallow roots
This is on the west side of the park. It's along The Trail of the Cedars. The soil is shallow, so the plants there are adapted to the conditions. The problem with shallow roots is obvious in this photo.
as there is no hunting in the park and campgrounds are not attractive to the bears. On the east side of the park it has more open areas and we saw a bear fording a stream in a valley. We also saw a fox walking along the road at dusk. We had seen this also at Denali and were surprised to see the same behavior in an obviously different fox. These foxes were cruising for road kill or any remnants. It would move to the side of the road, for the car to pass, but did not want to leave the road. The various animals are doing a great job of keeping the roadways free of road kill.
We got back to our RV after dark. The temperature was dropping and we had some light rain on the way home. We settled in for the night, feeling that it would be better to head east in the morning and keep our blue sky memories intact. In the morning we could see an obvious change in the snow on the mountains. There was snow at a much lower elevation. The clouds would reclaim some of the lower mountains and when
Weather and mountains
We drove north to Polebridge. The weather was sunny there, but we could see in the distance that other areas had dark clouds. This area is also recovering from a forest fire.
they would reappear there would be more snow! We were back to wearing our winter jackets as the temps had dropped to the low 30’s. This reinforced our decision to not linger any longer in this area, but to begin our journey eastward.
The number of glaciers that are present in the park has greatly diminished over the years. There used to be more than 100 and now there are just 25. Some will be declassified this year. The latest projected date for when all the glaciers will be gone form the park is 2020. It will still be called Glacier National Park, even when there are no more glaciers. It is a beautiful park with much to see.
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The pictures of Glacier NP are awsome. Sounds like your still enjoying you trip but we miss you and look forward to your return.