Hard to believe it has been a week since I arrived in Columbia Falls Montana to visit Glacier National Park. Yes, another wonderful National Park – and my first visit to Glacier. It has been interesting to watch the season wind down here. Places inside and outside the park are beginning to close for the winter but apparently no one told the park visitors. A week ago the parking lots were overflowing and campgrounds were full. As the week has gone by the crowds are getting noticeably smaller (yet still many visitors enjoying the park). The parking area for Avalanche Creek area where I couldn’t get parking at the start of the week had spaces available just a few days ago.
So much to do in the park and in the surrounding area, touring, hiking, paddle boarding and just enjoying the tremendous beauty of this place.
Logan Pass by shuttle bus & hike to Hidden Lake –
After fighting the traffic my first day in Glacier it was time to try the free park shuttle busses. As the busses were only running through September 18th it was time to try out this mode of transportation in the park. Riding up front with the driver was a bonus both for the conversation and the best views. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is considered one of the most scenic in the country and it is easy to see why. Not only an engineering marvel cut into the side of the cliff, but a beautiful way to see the sights in the park. Thanks to the National Park Service for keeping this important and historic road alive and operational!
Logan Pass is the top of the road and the hike to the Hidden Lake overlook from the Logan Pass parking lot is a must do for anyone visiting the park. It is a bit of a climb but worth every step as it cumulates at a view of incredible mountains and a beautiful lake. On the trek up the trail suddenly a couple of folks started pointing and taking photos at a point right behind me, as I turned to look a Bighorn Sheep was emerging over the hill maybe 30 yards from where I was hiking. Grabbing my camera and talking nicely to the sheep I was able to snap some good photos as I backed up the trail.
This “encounter” was followed by views of a Mountain Goat as I continued my way up the trail and a face-to-face moment with a short-tailed weasel as I enjoyed my lunch with a view!
Big Mountain hike & Huckleberries – One of the things that has been great about staying in Columbia Falls is having friends who live in the area to share their favorite places. On Saturday Sherri and I took a short trip to Big Mountain (recently renamed Whitefish Mountain Resort) for a showery day hike. On the way up we visited Sherri & Mattia’s son Sal who is a Firefighter/Medic on the mountain (yes, nice to know there would be someone to come and recue us if needed!). After taking the gondola up to the top of the mountain we hiked around the top and discovered that the huckleberries were having a late season and the locals, bears and tourists apparently hadn’t discovered them yet. My first time picking and eating huckleberries and they were yummy. It was quite a chore to pick them but managed to get a bag of berries to take down the hill for later.
Armed with a map we were planning on hiking the loop trail around the top of the mountain but this directionally challenged hiker managed to get us temporarily lost and we decided instead to hike the trail down off the mountain to the bottom. It was a good choice as the views were amazing although a bit hard on the knees.
Overall a showery but great hike followed by a stop in
Whitefish at the Great Northern Brewing Company (tallest building in Whitefish) to try a sampler of all of their great beers.
Was fun explaining to Sherri the art of beer tasting and she found that the dark beers were actually good!
Crown of the Continent Red Bus Tour – After the yellow bus tour in Yellowstone it was time to try Glacier’s version. The busses were just as historic (see previous post) but painted red to match the berries found here in the park. This was an all day tour that took us over the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Many Glacier on the east side and back.
Our driver “Jammer Cass” was an excellent storyteller and full of facts that were interesting and informative. The drivers are referred to as “Jammers” due to the way the historic drivers were known to “jam” the gears on the manual transmissions going up over the mountain.
Lunch was at the historic Many Glacier hotel on the east side just one day before they were to close for the season. We had lots of opportunity to get out of the bus at many stops along the way to view the sights.
A hungry Black Bear made an appearance next to the road as we were arriving back near the west entrance. These guided tours are a great way to see and learn about the national parks.
Glacier NP part 2 coming soon as I enjoy even more of the activities and adventures here!