West Glacier National Park Montana

Published: June 22nd 2015
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Returning via Route 2 around the lower edge of the park, we returned to West Glacier, the Apgar area and to our campsite in the Fish Creek campground on Lake McDonald. The weather was perfect the day we arrived so after setting up the tent, we drove the 10 mile available distance on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and took the hike to Avalanche Lake where it ended. We later learned visitors were allowed to walk or ride bikes a further 10 miles on the road and one of our big regrets was learning too late we could have ridden our bikes along that legendary road without sharing it with cars.

The 5.2 mile roundtrip Avalanche Lake hike is one of the steep uphill types with a reward only at the end, but what a great payoff. The lake is situated in a lovely bowl with three tall waterfalls feeding it.

On the return trip to the parking lot, we met a terrific young man, Joshua, in his twenties that left home without any money to explore the world a few years ago. Originally from Branson, Missouri, he’s worked odd jobs in almost every country you can name and among his adventures, he’s been a travel blogger for Huffington Post, acquainted himself with his father’s family in Indonesia, crewed on ships in Chile, picked fruit in New Zealand, worked with the homeless in Maui and has now decided to become a Navy Seal to give back to his country!

The following day was rainy as predicted so we decided to explore the more wild northwest part of Glacier. We first drove to the little town of Polebridge, which has a celebrated general store, bakery and cappuccinos. The last part of the road is not paved and gets even worse if you venture further to Kintl Lake.

When we arrived at the tiny isolated ranger booth at Kintl Lake, we were surprised to see yet another female ranger, a phenomenon we noticed all over the park. We rarely encountered a male ranger. When we asked about bears, this quiet woman proudly pulled out photos of 3 grizzlies she had captured right next to her car on the way home from work the day before. When I mentioned this later to one of our rangers at our Fish Creek campground, she gave a deep envious sigh and said “They are so lucky up there. It’s very wild.”

It took a long time to get to Kintl Lake on a terrible dirt road with two open areas, Great Prairie and Round Meadow. During the drive, we thought we saw a horse in the distance, but when it started moving rapidly in our direction, we realized it was a moose coming right at us! Luckily, it was just going across the road ahead of us. It happened so quickly, we were only able to capture him running away. It was amazing to see how fast he could gallop. It was grey and drizzly at the lake. There were only a few campsites with vehicles and warnings posted about a mountain lion in camp. Later, we heard this mountain lion killed a deer right next to and in view of a camping group.

The rain cleared up partially on our last day in West Glacier so we decided on the 7.2 roundtrip hike to Apgar Lookout. I have to give a shout out to my colleague Jim Apgar, who is related to the man that the town, center and lookout are named after. Several miles in, it began to pour. A few of the other groups of hikers gave up on the trek but we had experienced enough of these quick storms in the Rockies and in honor of our friend, we were determined to wait it out and persevere to the top. It was a long slog but worth every step. There were great views from all angles – it was an excellent way to finish our exploration of West Glacier.

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23rd June 2015

just catching up; stunning beauty.

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