Glacier National Park

Westward Wanderlust Day 7
Rest Stop, Montana
July 16, 2012

We spent the night in the car outside Shelby, Montana. With some creative packing and re-packing, we are able to sleep comfortably in the back of our car, with just enough room to utilize our sleeping pads and sleeping bags. We were on our way by 9:30 am, heading to Glacier National Park.

Ranger D welcomes you!

It was around 12:30pm, and a refreshing 70 degrees when we entered the park. We crossed the threshold of the park at the Two Medicine Entrance, which really does not get you anywhere except Two Medicine. Glacier National Park is obviously different than Yellowstone in many ways, the least of which is not the location and accessibility of the roads. Some of the entrances to Glacier N.P. lead you down a road that stretches to a certain point in the park, then stops. These roads often end at various trailheads or camping areas, but also tend to leave you with no alternative but to back-track in order to get deeper in to the park. Two Medicine is one of these roads.

In Yellowstone, almost all the roads connect in some way, making in easy to meander through the park in your vehicle. You can very easily arrive at a destination without really trying to get there. Glacier is much more particular. You cannot count on the road to just get you there without your explicit participation.

Thank you, NPS.

We turned back, exiting the park for a few miles, and headed north to Many Glaciers Road. The drive to the Many Glaciers Valley was stunning. The road curved and curled between the massive, snow draped mountains. The air was crisp and clean. There seemed to be an entirely new emotion that had taken hold of me here, a hybrid combination of awe, majesty, and peace.

Swiftcurrent Lake in Many Glaciers Valley

When we reached the Many Glaciers Valley, we hiked over the stone strewn hills to Swiftcurrent Lake.

Swiftcurrent Lake

As we trekked the rocky terrain, I couldn’t help but spend some time examining the miniature flora and fauna that are often overlooked in the shadow of such colossal scenery.

American Globeflower – Trollius albiflorus (laxus)

Elegant Sunburst Lichen – Xanthoria elegans

Showy Jacob’s Ladder – Polemonium pulcherrimum

Lichen lives on nutrients gathered from the air. The diversity and mass of lichen that thrives in Glacier National Park is an indicator of the excellent air quality.

Colony of at least 9 varieties of rock substrate lichen.

Disc Lichen

Tiny flora like these succulents thrive between the rocks.

D hiked down ahead to the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. I was contently crawling around on the hillside photographing lichen, when D called me down to the lakeside. He had found a new animal to add to our list. A Western Terrestrial Garter Snake.

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake – Thamnophis elegans

The snake struggled to drag his waterlogged prey out of sight.

Photo by D. R. J.

Photo by D. R. J.

We watched him until he slithered beneath some driftwood, then sat along the lake and took in our surroundings.

Before continuing on our tour of the park, we decide to check out the Swiftcurrent lodge.

Swiftcurrent Lodge

We were greeted with beautiful live music played by a man named Dixon on his awesome electric violin.

Dixon and his violin.

David “Dixon” Hammond defines himself as performing artist and Music Shaman who performs “transformational journeys via violin”. An appropriate soundtrack for such a fantastic place.

We headed northwest on Going-to-the-sun Road toward Logan’s Pass. According to Your Guide to the National Parks this road is the top attraction, followed by Logan’s Pass, then Many Glaciers.

Rose Creek

Rose Creek

Rose Creek Bridge

Lanceleaf Stonecrop – Sedum (Amerosedum) lanceolatum

Blanketflower “Brown-eyed Susan” – Gaillardia aristata

Saint Mary’s Lake

Saint Mary’s Lake

I was overwhelmed by the magnificence of the glacier covered mountains, and yet simultaneously calmed. I felt diminutive, yet at ease. There was something about this place. Something that felt incommunicable and distant, but familiar and welcoming. It was as if Mother Nature herself had revealed a secret to us that we had always been meant to know.

Jackson Glacier

Photo by D. R. J.

Photo by D. R. J.

Everything is so huge!

Honk if you love moose!

We took a short hike.

Hiking in the snow in July!

Glacier Lily – Erythronium grandiflorum

Columbian Ground Squirrel – Spermophilus columbianus

We soon realized that we would need more time to enjoy the Logan’s Pass hike to the Hidden Lake, so we decided to finish driving through the park and save the rest of Logan’s Pass for tomorrow.

We continued on Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Weeping Wall.

D drove slowly past the cascading glacial runoff as I stretched my arms out the window. The moment the freezing water hit my skin, I laughed giddily. D smiled at me, then began to laugh too. I was absurdly amused by my arctic, drive-by shower.

The Weeping Wall

The Weeping Wall

The Weeping Wall

I mean, seriously. Could this place be anymore beautiful?

Then through a sweet tunnel…

to the Mountain Goat!

Mountain Goat – Oreamnos americanus


Rocks leaping at your car – next 7 miles.

The roads had not lost their curvaceous momentum, nor had they become less elevated. The road diligently followed the precipice, as the sheer rock walls loomed beside us.

Oh boy…

It’s a good thing that the main motorist of this trip has no problem driving these ridiculous roads; D is also very acquiescent to my photographic requests and desires to “just stop here for a quick second”. I was so fascinated by the surrounding snow in July, that I just had to get out and touch it.

Photo by D. R. J.

Behind the snow wall!

We followed Lake MacDonald toward Avalanche Pass, then out of the park to West Glacier.

Avalanche Pass

Tonight was to be our first hotel night, so we consulted Mike’s book. The Vista Motel on Hwy 2E received Mike’s thumbs up and was very close to the entrance of the park, so we gave it a try. We were fortunate enough to get the last available cabin!

Vista Motel – Cabin 23!

We jumped back on Hwy 2E to scope out some local chow. On the way, we also rescued a tattered, wind-blown copy of The Three Musketeers from the middle of the highway. What Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d’Artagnan were doing in the middle of Hwy 2E I have no idea, but what a great souvenir!

Evening arrives in Glacier.

Glacier Highland for dinner!

We had dinner at the Glacier Highland Café; Bison Burgers with Red Onion Marmalade and Beef and Rice Soup. YUM! Then it was back to Cabin 23 for “plug-in time”, a local brew or two, and an attempt to dry out our tent that was still wet with Yellowstone rain. Tomorrow, Logan’s Pass!

Day 7 Soundtrack-

Entering Glacier – “Don’t Look Back in Anger” – Oasis
Starting at Going-to-the-Sun Road – Led Zeppelin I, II, III, IV, & Houses of the Holy

4 thoughts on “Glacier National Park

  1. I hope to someday travel to Glacier National Park. It’s on my list. In the meantime I am happy to live vicariously through your trip. Thanks. Loved the photos.

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