After a brief one night stay in Victor, Idaho we made it to another new state for both of us. Our goal was Glacier National Park, before crossing over the border into Alberta, Canada. Not sure Andrea was looking forward to Glacier too much after scaring herself stupid reading about bear attacks– seems like this area of Montana is, or at least has been, rife with bear maulings!
The drive from Idaho up through Missoula and Columbia Falls was picturesque, passing by lakes, forested areas and mountains, very much like the way forward as we headed into Alberta. Missoula seems like a haven for small, local breweries, something which I’ve been enjoying more and more as this trip progresses.
We had decided to stay a couple of nights just outside the park at Glacier campground in West Glacier, followed by two nights at Fish Creek campground inside the park, and then back to Glacier campground. If I had known they were only six miles apart we would have stayed the entire time outside of the park where we had hot water, great showers and a place to escape the horrendous weather we had to endure pretty much our entire time there. We knew the weekend forecast wasn’t up for much but didn’t expect a full week of downpours and a snow storm whilst heading from the west to the east side of the park.
Glacier National Park
We already knew in advance that the highlight, traversing the park over the Going to the Sun Road was closed until early July to motorized vehicles due to snow at Logans Pass, but with loads of hiking and biking available we still planned on making the most of the weather over the next few days.
Fortunately the last weekend that the road is open all day to bikers was the weekend we were there – after June 15th bikes are prohibited from the road between 11am and 4pm, mainly due to the vast amount of cars that are usually making the crossing on the very narrow and winding engineering masterpiece. Our day uphill started off pretty good, that is until we passed The Loop, where we started to see more snow on the sides of the road and the reduced temperature – this should have been a sign that travelling around 6-8mph up hill would mean flying down at 20-30mph, freezing us!
With our steady gain in altitude came a narrower and narrower roadway, barely wide enough for the snow ploughs that carve their way through at the end of each winter. We eventually arrived at the high point, Logans Pass, where everything was pretty much still completely under snow. This was mid-June and the scene looked like a winter wonderland, with the car park barely ploughed and the visitor center still completely under snow. After warming Andreas freezing feet for a few minutes and chatting to a couple of guys that had cycled to the pass to do some skiing we headed back down. This was hell as the warmth we generated in the ascent working so hard was now zapped from us as we flew back down without having to turn the pedals. Andrea had her gloves, my gloves over the top and my leg warmers over her arms and gloves, just enough to enable her hands to hold onto the handlebars – luckily my donations didn’t cause me too many problems, and we were soon back at the car trying to get the circulation back!
Exploring by vehicle was often the better option and did give us the opportunity to see parts of the park we would have missed out on otherwise. The conditions on the sixty mile round trip to remote Bowman Lake ensured the SUV would need a damn good clean, but we did get to picnic and take a short hike along the shore before heading back to Fish Creek.
In between the deluges we did manage to get in a couple of hikes, where on one occasion I headed out solo for six miles to Fish Lake, a small secluded lake along a trail from Lake McDonald Lodge. Not a good idea to go against park advice and travel solo due to bear presence! The day before we departed we actually had partially blue skies and Andrea and I left the Many Glacier area late afternoon for the Grinnell Glacier lookout, knowing we would encounter snow blocking our way after a few miles – we did get to slip and slide through a few small snow fields before having our way blocked by a dangerous travel warning. From here on we would need crampons and better clothing, something we were not equipped with.
June 9th – June 19th 2014