Friday, August 31, 2012

Swift Current Lake - 08/31/12

This is our last day at Glacier National Park. We decided we would hike the 2.4-mile trail around the Swift Current Lake at Many Glacier.

On the way to Many Glacier, we came upon an open grass area by a shallow slow flowing river about 100 yards wide at the base of a mountain. On the far side of the river was a momma Grizzly bear with her cub frolicking about on the river bank. We sat in our camping chairs by the side of the road for about 30 minutes watching the two bears interacting with one another in and out of the water. This was our second Grizzly sighting at Glacier National Park, but this one was really special.

We arrived at the Swift Current Lake, had our backpack packed with a picnic lunch and had our bear bells attached to the backpack to signal our presence to any bears that might be near or on the trail. We also had a bear spray canister with us in the event we encountered any bears on the trail. It was a very easy hike around the lake on a trail bordered by a dense forest on one side and the shimmering sunlit lake on the other side. There were several places to rest alongside the lake, so we took advantage of them to admire the majesty beauty of the mountains rising up before us. We had our picnic lunch in a very nice picnic area along the trail. We finished our hike fully refreshed and agreed this was the perfect ending to our trip to Glacier National Park.

Click Here For More Pictures

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Logan Pass - 08/30/12

We got off to a late start today, Sharon was feeling a bit dizzy when she woke up this morning. We decided we would go into Saint Mary to have breakfast at The Park Café. This is a very popular place and at 9:30 a.m. already had quite a few people waiting outside for a table to become available. We discovered that most of the people waiting were in groups of three or more people. Since there was just the two of us we were fortunate and only had to wait for about fifteen minutes for a table to become available.

The food was excellent with a friendly, attentive wait staff that make you feel right at home. This restaurant is also popular for it’s homemade pies. You can order a whole pie to take home with a 24-hour advance notice.

When we were seated at our table, the hostess provided us with a napkin and a fork. Our waiter was a friendly young fellow with a very nice dry sense of humor. He was probably in his late twenties or early thirties. His dress attire looked like he had just come in from a morning hike in the mountains. The wait staff are a really friendly, laid back group, with no apparent dress code requirement. It certainly fit in well with the ambience here.

Our waiter took our order and then brought us our coffee. We still only had a fork and a napkin in our possession! I told him we needed spoons and also a knife. He replied: "Right!" Within a minute or two the spoons arrived. He placed a spoon by Sharon and then proceeded to explain the condition of my spoon to me. The spoon had a brown speckled appearance to it and he assured me it had been washed. He went on to explain the kitchen was backed up getting the eating utensils washed, due to the busy morning breakfast rush. I accepted the spoon with a promise from him we would get the next batch of knives coming off of the washing line! It was a delightful dining experience overall.

A novel feature at this restaurant is the location of the restrooms. They are located in a separate building behind the restaurant. A large chalkboard sign inside the restaurant directs customers to these outside accommodations.

Sharon was feeling better after breakfast, so we decided to explore various locations on the east side of Glacier National Park. We would start our days adventure at Logan Pass, arriving there at 2:00 p.m. We scanned the mountains with our binoculars and discovered four Big Horn Sheep resting in a clearing high up on the side of a mountain. The area they were in was covered with rock and massive boulders, there was no vegetation anywhere. On another side of the same mountain were two Bighorn Sheep grazing in a grass and tree covered area. The size of the curved horns on these sheep were quite large. It is quite interesting to see how they easily traversed through the loose rocky terrain they were in.

Our next stop brought us to a breathtaking view of a mountain valley many thousands of feet below us. High above the valley floor, water from melting snowpack on the surrounding mountaintops carved winding paths down the sides of the mountains. At several locations, brilliant waterfalls were created that cascaded hundreds of feet down the mountain, ultimately emptying into streams that fished their way through the lush green vegetation in the valley below.

We had a late lunch at about 4:00 p.m. at a charming spot along side of a creek. The large rocks in the creek bed created small rapids from the rush of the water over them. Thousand of feet above us we could see the genesis of the water from a melting snow pack. It was such a serene moment, just the two of us, alone at this scenic area to enjoy the wonders of nature.

We arrived back at the Saint Mary Campground around 6:00 p.m. and settled down outside in our reclining chairs with a nice glass of wine accompanied with cheese and crackers to view the sun setting over the mountain peaks. A fine ending to another wonderful day at Glacier National Park.

Click Here For More Pictures

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Avalanche Creek - 08/29/12

Today we took two shuttle busses to reach our destination at Avalanche Creek. We picked up the first bus at the Saint Mary Visitor Center. This is a large bus that takes passengers from the Visitor Center to several popular destinations on the east side of Glacier National Park, with its end point at Logan Pass. This is ride is about a one-hour trip. At Logan Pass passengers transfer to a smaller Sprint bus to get to several popular destinations on the west side of Glacier National Park. The road is very narrow with very tight turns on the west side of Logan Pass, so the smaller bus is required to navigate the tight turns. This trip takes about one hour and thirty minutes, in part due to the road construction that is in progress on the west side of Glacier.

Avalanche Creek is a very popular scenic area for hikers. We hiked the Trail of the Cedars trail that took us through an old-growth cedar-hemlock forest along Avalanche Creek. We had a picnic lunch by the creek using some large boulders as our picnic seats.. The size of these tall, large diameter trees spread out through the forest was a scenic wonder to behold. The carpet of pine needles underfoot provided a nicely cushioned walking path for the hikers. We spent about 1-1/2 hours hiking and then had to hurry back to the bus stop area in order to catch the last bus on the west side of the mountain that would take us up to the bus transfer point at Logan Pass.

When we arrived at Logan Pass we spent about thirty minutes waiting on the arrival of the bus that would take us down the east side of the mountain to the Saint Mary Visitor Center. It was a beautiful warm sunny day at an elevation of almost 7,000 feet, so we just basked in the sun admiring the view of the surrounding mountain vistas.

In summary, we had spent our day traveling, having spent 4-1/2 hours on the shuttle busses, and 1-1/2 hours hiking through nature. Such is life in the mountains of Glacier National Park.

Click Here For More Pictures

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two Medicine - 08/28/12

Today we drove about 35 miles south on US-89 to connect with MT-49 to visit the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park. To reach Two Medicine, you have to travel west on MT-89 for about 10 miles. MT-49 is a two lane narrow and curvy mountain road very similar to the Going-To-The-Sun Road. It has the same vehicle restrictions of 21 feet in length or 8 feet wide.

Two Medicine is located in a very scenic valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. It has a very nice campground located within a wooded area that is close to a beautiful small lake. We found a bench to sit on by the edge of the lake and decided this was the perfect place for our picnic lunch today.

We visited the Two Medicine Campstore primarily because of it’s log cabin type appearance. Inside it had a high cathedral type ceiling supported by massive wooden beams. It was quite an interesting piece of architecture located within this wilderness environment.

We continued our journey on MT-49 to East Glacier Park where we connected up with US-2. We found a delightful ice cream shop there and felt obligated to indulge ourselves. Which we did!

We traveled west on US-2 which took us into the Flathead National Forest. We stopped to visit a memorial park dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt and a civil engineer named John F. Stevens. President Roosevelt was honored for his protection of the wilderness areas within the western part of the U.S. John Stevens was honored for locating a suitable rail route across the Continental Divide for the Great Northern Railroad in December 1889.

Further west on US-2 we stopped at the Goat Lick Overlook area. There is a massive mineral rock there that attracts Mountain Goats. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, there were no goats there at the time.

US-2 runs parallel to a river and train tracks on the north of the highway. The river runs through a deep canyon with several rapids dispersed through it as it winds it way through the canyon. We were fortunate to spot several rafters and kayakers running the rapids on this river. It was quite interesting to see how they maneuvered their craft through the rapids.

The train track is at a slightly higher elevation than the highway. While we were stopped on the side of the road viewing the rafters in the river, a passenger train from the Burling Northern Santa Fe Railroad passed us heading west. There were only about six passenger railcars attached to two engines that looked new. It looked like there was one dining car with the rest being sleeper cars. We caught up with the train while it was stopped at the train depot in West Glacier. We were told by another person at the station that this was a private train that costs up to $5,000.00 per person. Further research online revealed this might be one of those private trains that run from Chicago, Illinois to Whitefish, Montana for passengers visiting Glacier National Park.

We returned to Saint Mary Campground on the Going-To-The-Sun Road, completing a 154 mile trip for the day. Along the way we spotted a Black Bear grazing along side of the road east of Logan Pass. Another perfect ending to wonderful day in Glacier National Park.

Click Here For More Pictures

Monday, August 27, 2012

Logan Pass - 08/27/12

In 2007, Glacier National Park began operation of a free shuttle service with access to many popular destinations along the Going-To-The-Sun Road. The transit system provides two-way service between Apgar Village and the Saint Mary Visitor Center from July 1 to September 3. Logan Pass is the bus transfer point between the two shuttle bus routes: Apgar Village to Logan Pass and Saint Mary to Logan Pass.

Our plan for today is to hike the Hidden Lake trail. The entrance to this trail is located by the Visitors Center at Logan Pass. We took advantage of the free shuttle bus service to Logan Pass which is located 17 miles from the Saint Mary Campground.

The Hidden Lake trail is now a strenuous 1.5-mile hike up an elevated mountain trail for us senior citizens. Our last hike on this trail was in 1996 and I can tell you it was an effortless hike for us at that time in our lives. Part of the trail is a boardwalk with many steps and the remainder of the trail is gravel covered. It is not uncommon to see many people huffing and puffing and taking frequent breaks.

We finally reached the Hidden Lake nestled within the valley floor below us. The lake is fed from the snow melt still visible high up on the mountains surrounding the valley. We saw three mountain goats peacefully grazing along the trail beside us about 20 feet away. It was the perfect time and place for us to have our picinic lunch and view mother nature in all of her glory.

The trail continuing beyond the Hidden Lake area was closed due to Grizzly bear activity on that portion of the trail, so further travel on the trail was not an option on this day.

We continued back down the Hidden Lake trail and found another trail that took us south through an area with a considerable amount of snow pack. It was a bit tricky traversing the snow pack at what seemed to us the steep angle of the slope of the mountain. Our hiking boots provided us excellent traction, so all went well. But it was well worth the effort. We were above the timberline and were surrounded by magnificent mountain vistas above us and lush green forrests below us. On our return trip a mountain goat nonchalantly crossed the trail about 10 feet in front of us and continued on his way. A fitting end to our day of hiking at Logan Pass.

Click Here For More Pictures

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Going-To-The-Sun Road - 08/26/12

Our plan for today is to drive the entire length of the "Going-To-The-Sun Road." This is a 50 mile trip from the east entrance at Saint Mary to the west entrance at West Glacier within Glacier National Park.

Vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are prohibited on a major portion of the "Going-To-The- Sun Road." For good reason too! This road has some very narrow sections, very tight turns and steep drop offs. There are some sections where you are amazed that the mirror on the passenger side of your vehicle did not scrape the side of the mountain and your drivers side mirror did not strike the drivers side mirror of the vehicle passing you from the opposite direction. It is interesting and disconcerting at the same time to witness the number of drivers driving on or over the center double yellow lines. This road will certainly sharpen up your mountain driving skills, no doubt about it!

After about three hours we finally reached West Glacier and settled down for lunch in Abgar Village that is located about two miles east of West Glacier. Abgar is a quaint little mountain village nestled right next to Lake McDonald, the largest lake within Glacier National Park. This is a very scenic mountain area and well worth the visit.

We checked out the campground at Abgar Village and concluded we liked the Saint Mary campground better. The campground at Abgar is within a wooded area which tends to shield the campsites from the view of the mountains. As they say, "To each his own."

Time to return to Saint Mary before it gets dark. No way would this midwest lad ever attempt to drive the "Going-To-The-Sun Road" at night!

Click Here For More Pictures

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saint Mary Campground - 08/25/12

After consuming a very nice homemade breakfast of bacon and eggs with hashbrown potatoes, we proceeded to break camp at the KOA campground and head over to the Saint Mary Campground within Glacier National Park. This was a short trip of only three miles, so we were set up in our new campsite in no time at all.

The scenic views of the mountains from this campground are simply amazing. We feel we will be very content here for the next seven nights.

We decided the remainder of the day would be one of relaxation and planning some trips for the coming week.

Click Here For More Pictures

Friday, August 24, 2012

Many Glacier - 08/24/12

Today we decided we would scout other campgrounds within Glacier National Park. The Saint Mary KOA at $55.00 per night is a bit too pricey for our camping budget.

There are no hookups at any of the campgrounds located within the park, so generators or solar panels are needed to service your electrical requirements. There are water spigots dispersed throughout the campgrounds and they have flush toilets, but no showers.

Our plan is to stay at the Saint Mary Campground that is located within Glacier National Park, but we want to check out the campground at Many Glacier before we finalize that plan.

We headed over to Many Glacier, about 15 miles north of Saint Mary, to check out the campground there. It was a nice campground located within a wooded area, but we decided the open area at the Saint Mary campground provided a more scenic view of the mountains. So we made reservations at the Saint Mary campground for seven nights from Saturday, 8/25, to Friday, 09/01. The cost was $11.50 per night with my Golden Age Passport. Now that price is more in line with our camping budget!

Click Here For More Pictures

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Saint Mary, Montana - 08/23/12

We departed the Downstream Campground in Fort Peck, Montana at 9:30 a.m. We continue on our trek through northern Montana on route US-2. This route will connect with US-89 that will take us north to Glacier National Park. This area of Montana is posted as free-range country, which means cattle roam free. Drivers can expect to see cattle roaming on highway US-89. Alert driving is in order when going over hills or going around curves! We had to stop a few times waiting for cattle to clear the highway!

We arrived in Saint Mary, Montana in Glacier National Park at 7:15 p.m.. Our plan is to spend two nights at the KOA in Saint Mary while we scout the campgrounds in Glacier National Park for our extended stay.

Click Here For More Pictures

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fort Peck Museum - 08/20/12

We are really enjoying our stay in Fort Peck. We moved from the primitive campsite we were staying at and secured a very nice campsite within the electrical hookup area of the Downstream Campground. The cost for this campsite was $8.00 per night with our Golden Age Pass. We plan to spend three more nights here and depart on Thursday, 08/23/12.

We toured the Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum today. This is a fascinating museum which features exhibits on wildlife of the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and paleontology. Visitors entering the main lobby are greeted by a life size, fleshed-out model of Peck's Rex, the Tyrannosaurus Rex discovered 20 miles southeast of Fort Peck in 1997. A skeleton cast of Peck's Rex is also on display in the exhibit hall along with several other regional paleontology displays including a Cretaceous Sea display.

Click Here For More Pictures

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fort Peck Power Plant Tour - 08/19/12

We took a guided tour of the Fort Peck Dam power plant today. There are two power plants, with three massive turbine generators in each plant. We were shown where the water enters the turbines from the Missouri River. The water is diverted from the river through 24-foot diameter tunnels, one-mile long. The tunnels are constructed with 24-foot diameter steel tubes encased in concrete. There are four of these tunnels buried 300 feet beneath the dam. Two of the tunnels feed water to the turbines in the two power plants. The other two tunnels are used to divert water from the lake for flood control. This was an unexpected and pleasant discovery during our first camping stop on our way to Montana.

Click Here For More Pictures

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fort Peck, Montana - 08/17/12

We are currently spending a few days in Fort Peck, Montana.

We were traveling westbound on US-2 through Culbertson, Montana, when we passed by a Visitor Information Center and Museum located on the north side of the highway. We decided to go back and check it out. That turned out to be an excellent decision. We were looking for a place in the area to camp for the night and the very nice lady at the Visitor Center directed us to the Fort Peck Dam and Lake operated by the U.S. Army Core of Engineering, which has several campgrounds dispersed throughout this area.

We selected the Downstream Campground, based on the amenties it offered, and arrived there on Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. This is a very scenic campground with spacious campsites providing electrical hookups. They also have a primitive area, without electrical hookups, for tent campers and small RV’s. This campground has a paved walking/bike path that runs through a series of very scenic ponds containing crystal clear water, stocked with fish. This is a popular fishing area and all of the campsites with electrical hookups were already taken. We settled for a primitive campsite through Sunday night with the plan to obtain a site with an electrical hookup on Monday. The cost for the primitive site was $5.00 per night with our Golden Age Pass.

The Downstream Campground is adjacent to one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S. with 1,500 miles of shoreline. Construction of the dam started in 1933 when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the project as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. More than 40,000 people flooded to the area looking for work, creating 18 boomtowns featuring businesses and schools. The work force peaked in 1936, with 10,564 workers directly linked to the dam. The dam was completed in 1940. The original purpose of the dam was flood control and navigation. Present purposes include flood control, navigation, hydroelectric power, fish and wildlife, recreation, irrigation, public water, and water quality.

Fort Peck Dam is the largest hydraulic earth filled dam in the world. It is 250 feet high, 50 feet wide at the crest, 3,500 feet wide at the base and 21,026 feet long. It took 126 million cubic yards of dredged earth from the Missouri River to build this dam. The lake is 134 miles long with a maximum depth of 220 feet.

Click Here For More Pictures

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Off to Montana - 08/15/12

We departed Illinois at 11:30 a.m. for a 30-day adventure through Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. We will tour Montana first, followed by Wyoming and then South Dakota. We have visited these states in 1992 and 1996, always on a tight travel schedule, so now that we are both retired we have no restrictions on our travels.

Our adventure on this trip will include:

Glacier National Park, Montana

A Ghost Town in Bannack, Montana

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Devils Tower, Wyoming

Custer State Park - Custer, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore - South Dakota

Badlands National Park - South Dakota

Wall Drugs - Wall, South Dakota

The Corn Palace - Mitchell, South Dakota

Glacier National Park is one of our all time favorite places to visit, so we are really looking forward to reuniting our mountaineering experience in the wild once again.

Our planned route to Glacier National Park will take us on I-94 through Wisconsin and Minnesota. Once we get into North Dakota we will take I-29 north to US-2. We will then take US-2 across North Dakota and Montana to US-89 and north on US-89 into Glacier National Park. Our plan is to minimize travel on the Interstate highways and travel the backroads to better experience the local culture and scenery.

Click Here For More Pictures