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Glacier National Park

Sept 8-11, 2015
Written September 8+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

We are up in Glacier National Park and I have digested the first day, the day we drove in from Kalispell.  It was cloudy and a bit rainy, but, as I wrote this, we were sitting in front of big windows, in a 100-year-old lodge, looking out over the lake, spotting bears across from us.  It could be worse.

I am keeping up the diary format, a day-by-day record, even if publishing will lag well behind. The internet connection here is slow and intermittent. I will create it day-to-day, to keep it authentic and so I don't have to remember longer than about 24 hours. (Two days done, as of Thursday morning.)

Day 1, was Tuesday, September 8th.  We drove over from Kalispell, an easy 35 mile jaunt, to the West Glacier entrance.  We were told that 70% of park visitors come via this entrance.

Our first stop was at McDonald Lodge.  We had originally requested rooms here, but it was full and we were sent over to the larger Many Glaciers Lodge, on the other side of the Continental Divide.  I liked McDonald Lodge.  I am still unsure about the larger Many Glaciers Lodge.  Here are some pictures.
From McDonald Lodge, we continued on Going to the Sun Road, hoping to see some of that sunshine.  Instead, we learned about avalanche chutes (left), hand-carved rock tunnels, hand formed ledges holding our road, and clouds.  Maybe tomorrow we will see more.
After a few miles in clouds, we reached Logan Summit and got out, just to determine if we could see anything.  Not much.  Besides, it was just at the freezing mark and we do not have our Kiev-winter clothes with us.
The eastern side of Logan Pass descended quicker than the ascent and soon we were out of the clouds and above the freezing mark.   That enabled us to get a glimpse of our first glacier and the remnants of a recent fire.  There have been many fires in the neighborhood of the park this summer. Part way down, we stopped with a crowd and ogled a pair of mountain goats.  Even with my best lens, they were small images, but big enough to be exciting.
Along the road from Logan Pass and on the Many Glacier Road: clouds, lakes, traffic, and rough roads.
Eventually, we made it to Many Glaciers Lodge.  The resort hotel was built in the winter of 1914-1915 and is kept largely in an original configuration, except for necessities such as electricity, in-suite bathrooms, and very slow satellite wifi (but no cell phone coverage.)  We were in a pleasant refurbished room, redone just last year.  Starting on September 20th, the south wing of the hotel and the hotel lobby will get worked on, closing half the rooms for the 2016 season.

Our first order of business was a quick snack: Montana versions of German sausage and pretzels.  Not too bad!  After that, we settled in to big arm chairs looking out over the lake.  With enough concentration, and a long enough camera lens or binoculars, we could make out two bears on the opposite hill.  We were definitely not in Fresno any more.
German snack
Porch view
Dinner was limited to wine and dessert - not health food, but comfy after a cloudy, cool day.  Tomorrow will be vegetables.

Day 2 (Wednesday)
d150909_02_earlyloby.jpgI started with a stint of loading diary pictures.  I had discovered that the best time for our limited internet is before 6am.  That's OK, since I am an early riser.   The crowd that is normally in the lobby was gone and that gave me most of the hotel's satellite connection. 

Since I was up, I decided to go to the hotel parking and look for sunrise.  I'm glad I did.  The hotel went from almost-dark to red in the sunrise light.  My hands froze, but it was worth it.
Having done my picture taking, I was eager to start my morning travel routine of browsing the results over coffee and a slow breakfast.  Unfortunately, Marianne came down and reminded me that we had a bus to ride

d150909_40_bussign.jpgWe had signed up with the Red Bus Tours, a park fixture since 1917.  The current fleet is only the third generation of buses, having been put in service in 1936 through 1939.  Originally built by White Motors, they were rebuilt in about 2001 by Ford engineers and technicians.  It was a great way to see the roads we had driven in on yesterday.

A beaver pond that we just drove past yesterday.  On the Red Bus, we slowed down and understood more.
Our crew gawking at bears.  For the most part, these viewings became a guessing game of which little black smudge was a furry animal and which just a shadowy rock.  One of the most photographed places in Glacier is this view over St. Mary's Lake toward Mt. Logan (I think).
Despite the cold, it was top-down weather.
On the way up, we saw the effects of the fire that had shut down the road in July as well as a better look toward Jackson Glacier, one of 25 glaciers remaining in the park from the initial inventory of over 150 in the mid-1800s.  Global warming is real up here.
The waterfall just below Logan Pass had considerably more water than yesterday, just from a few days' rain.
At Logan Summit, the views were better than the clouds of yesterday, but still pretty cold.  Winter in this part of the world is just around the corner.  The park facilities are only open for another ten days, closing literally the day before the official end of summer.
The Red Bus color was chosen to match one of the berries found locally this time of year.  Ford was given the right to put their logo on the grill because, 13 years ago,  they paid about $250,000 each to have the three-dozen 75-year-old White buses refurbished.
Riding in a registered historical landmark was a highlight.

Back at the hotel, Marianne posed with one animal we have missed and then we had lunch in the big dining room.  I don't think we did much of anything for the rest of the day, because tourism is such hard work!  I have to admit that most visitors to Many Glacier Valley spend hours and hours hiking, but we're more the stare-and-relax type.  Works for us.

Day 3, Thursday, two hikes.
d150910_02_amwalk.jpg -- Our morning hike was two-and-a-half miles around the Swiftcurrent Lake, in front of the lodge.  Right at the beginning was a sign warning of bears and the need to carry bear spray, and industrial-grade pepper spray carried by serious hikers around here.  We had nothing, but were not TOO worried.  In the end, the only wildlife we saw was the ubiquitous little stripped chipmunk.  What we did see was plenty of forest path and wonderful Rocky Mountain scenery.  A very successful hike.

Our path

Rocky Mountain scenery everywhere

 d150910_30_twopaths.jpg-- Our afternoon boat trip and hike included even more exercise, including another two-and-a-half miles of trails and two boat rides.  The Chief Two Guns crossed Swiftcurrent Lake and the Morning Eagle crossed Lake Josephine.  The boats are run by the Glacier Boat Company and date from the 30s and 40s.  Our last trek ended on the banks of Lake Grinnel, just below the falls coming off Grinnel Glacier.  Another successful hike, but one that left us pretty tired.

The breakfast view of Chief Two Guns and Lake Swiftcurrent convinced us a boat ride was in our future.
Leaving the dock.  Up on the cliff, is a fire lookout.  Can you see it?
We went past Salamander Glacier, trekked over a hill for a quarter-mile, and then got on the Morning Eagle.
The second trek was a full mile, complete with a tippy bridge and a few stops for nature lessons.  I forgot what I learned.  Something about rocks, animals, and winters.
At the end, we were on the shores of Lake Grinnel, with the falls coming off the glacier above.
Marianne was much relieved when she made it back over the tippy bridge and everyone was happy to see Chief Two Guns again.
Wildlife.  We saw two moose, but could only (partially) photograph the second one.  The first one was completely camouflaged in the brush.  We also managed one woodpecker viewing.  Plus the normal squirrels and bugs.
It was easier to shoot the dry flowers and wet rocks.  Details of a walk in the woods.
After such a tiring day, all we could think of was a little food and drink. We went to the bar first and the dining room second. We had our priorities.

Then there was our last overnight in Many Glaciers Lodge, as we face another segment of our trip.

On Friday morning, we started in the main dining room at the Many Glaciers Lodge, an elegant room restored to its original 1917 style.  A pleasant start to the day made even better when the sun came up and lighted Swiftwater Lake and the mountains behind.  Nice. This has been a very nice stay, one we would remember with or without all these pictures, but the pictures do inspire.

We left Glacier not knowing for sure where we would stop for the night.  Another story.

John and Marianne


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