“The Mountains are calling and I must go!” -John Muir
We love our National Parks. It’s one of the reasons why we are doing
this whole nomadic thing. We appreciate these gifts from God, our Country and the big blue marble we live on. But way too often, we humans ruin it. We populate places where God didn’t intend and our experience at Glacier National Park
was one of those.
We decided to leave Liberty at Malmstrom AFB and book ourselves a little getaway at a Bed and Breakfast in the Glacier National Park
area. Our reasons were two-fold; first, to kind of get away from the RV (everyone needs a break, even us) and because of our size and accommodations in the area, it was just easier to keep Liberty at the military post and where our kitties were happiest…’not moving’ LOL
We had waited to go when we knew at least some of the country’s kids were in school during the week to hopefully mitigate huge weekend crowds. Well, that proved contrary as it apparently was others’ idea too.
We got to the Bad Rock Bed and Breakfast
, which was approximately 15 miles from Glacier National Park and were pleasantly greeted by Donna, one of the employees to show us our room…er….’apartment’
. (Feel free to click on the links to see accommodations) We reserved a beautiful two bedroom apartment above a 3 bay garage. We had plenty of room to spread out but because of our RV living, it was actually quite overwhelming…well, ‘cept for the big honkin’ jetted bathtub that called my name as soon as I stepped foot in
the master bathroom.
The bedrooms were spacious and tidy with white linens to welcome our tired and weary bodies, but that was for later. We unpacked our cooler of provisions, set out our belongings but didn’t settle in as it was only 1:00 pm; we had planned to do a ‘drive through’ of Glacier NP to get a feel of
what we wanted to do in our next day.
And, so we went…
We were greeted by a smiling National Park Ranger at the entrance where we showed Dan’s Access Pass and to get our map and brochure. Hi Josh!!!
The first thing we’re going to say is if you have a big vehicle like ours, a dually, driving it in the park will push the limits of the roadways.
Most of our drive was literally harrowing with tight hairpin turns, small boulders and log fences that separated the roadway edge of the straight-down cliffs that plummeted 8000 feet below.
Driving east to west on the Going to the Sun Road
was the white-knuckle part of the experience as that lane was the outside lane that got the best view…an incredibly even better view if we were to go off the edge.
The drive was one of those ‘coming to Jesus moments’. No, really. That Kenny Chesney song “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to go now” was playing in my head. But the views (keep your eyes on the road, Dan!) were astoundingly amazing and beautiful!
We prayed….well, I prayed while Captain Dan gripped the wheel like he was wringing the neck of a squawking chicken while his eyes were glued to the
yellow line that separated us from the oncoming lane. He hugged the driver’s side tires to that yellow line tight while I occasionally would look ‘down’ the deep ravine below us wondering oftentimes, “would they find us if we took the ‘extra scenic’ route?” I tried to distract what I was feeling by clicking away on my camera trying not to look down. Seriously, I got the better end of that deal…or DID I???
Every so often, we would score a place to pull over for some spectacular majestic views. If you’re an East Coaster and never have been here, you truly are missing out.
We were recommended to stop at every turn-off if we could because we just never know what Kodak moments awaited us. Well, we could at least say we
tried, however, again, driving a big dually proved a huge challenge as a)
people don’t know how to park leaving big spaces between them and the car
beside them but not enough room to squeeze even a Smart Car in and b) they
weren’t long enough leaving our truck bed sticking out.So, if you plan to visit, heed these words on these signs!
Unfortunately though, we weren’t the biggest vehicles; they allowed folks who were towing small towable campers or small motorhomes to do the same which took up to five parking spaces. Many pull-offs we had to just drive by because there simply was not enough room for us, let alone others smaller than us to park.
It became a bit disparaging and this was on a Wednesday. That said, we did get to stop a few good ones and got some incredible views and photos to prove we were there. There were two tunnels which were one lane; barely wide enough for Captain America.
The Park was establish May 11, 1911 and established as “Waterton-Glacier
International Peace Park in 1932; as it shares its border with Canada. The Road to the Sun was also established the same year. It hosts over 750 lakes in it’s one million twelve thousand acres; spanning 1583 square miles.
Its highest mountain, ‘Mount Cleveland’ reaches the height of 10,448 feet while elevation at Logan Pass climbs to 6646 feet. There are 175 mountains. Sadly, when Glacier was established, there were 150 glaciers; now there are only 25; Blackfoot Glacier being the largest, reigning only .7 miles. Glacier National Park shares 130 miles of U.S. Forest land and 31 miles with Canada’s British Colombia.
The number of fish species amounts to twenty-four; eighteen native and seven non-native (Lake Trout are native in the Hudson Bay drainage, but are non-native west of the Divide. There are 71 species of mammals, 276 documented species of birds and 1990 species of plants; 1132 vascular and 858 non-vascular.
In 1911, annual visitation totaled only 4000. In 1950, the total amounted to over 480,000 visitors and by the year 2000, visitors surmounted to 1, 728, 693! Sixteen years later, I’m willing to bet that amount could very well have double and it’s quite apparent.
We continued our journey to see the majestic mountains, trickling waterfalls and inhabitants who live there.
We noticed the highest mountains still had snow at the tops;
even in mid-August.
This is where most of the Mountain Goats hang out because they’re white and blend in with the snow. Their heavy woolly coats protect them from the elements. Here, this one meandered down to the thick vegetation for a meal.
During our visit, we got to see closeups of a Black Bear, Bighorn Ram, Mountain Goat, Native Deer, feasting Marmots and nut-gathering Black Squirrels. And most of these sightings were from the road; they seemed oblivious of human visitors.
We were warned numerous times, even back at the B&B when we checked in, that we needed to keep our bear spray at immediate reach because Glacier hosts the largest of National Park habitats for Grizzly Bears.
Though it would be cool to see them, we weren’t that eager for an up-close-and-personal paw shake. When on trails, it was highly encouraged to make noise as to not surprise such wildlife and meet them face to face.
We noticed as we started our hiking ventures, canisters of bear spray were on the hip of every visitor like pistols of the Wild West back in the day; us included. There were signs everywhere of the reminder.
Even the B&B we were staying at had bear spray canisters to be checked out by their guests. Bear spray is big business at Glacier National Park and taken very seriously. So if you’re entertaining the thought of visiting, make certain you and all members in your party are equipped and keep your children within arm’s reach.
We returned from our drive-through tour finally about 9:00 pm; both exhausted because not only did we drive 200 miles to get to Glacier from Great Falls but also, the elevation air was affecting us a little.
We found a Asian Restaurant for late dinner…BAD IDEA!! We should have known better than to eat junk loaded with MSG before bedtime, but I digress.
We arrived back at our B&B apartment, gladly kicked our shoes off and while Dan caught up with some reading, I immediately headed to the master bath with my salts and essential oils for a relaxing detox bath.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Love my baths!! The one thing I miss is my huge jetted bathtub.
LOOK AT THAT GLORIOUS BATH!!!
We were both so tired that we retreated, turned out the lights only to sleep for just three hours because the MSG had other ideas for us. We eventually got
back to sleep but only for two more short hours.
We woke to our cellphone alarm clock and sluggishly took our showers, packed our backpacks and meandered over to the B&B breakfast rooms for nourishment and COFFFFFFFFFFFEEEEEEEEE! We checked out
another can of bear spray (we only had one)
and an extra lunch cooler because
you never know what’s available for food at these parks.
We were so glad we left early to arrive at the park’s Apgar Visitor Center so we could spot ourselves a parking spot.
It filled up quickly. We decided to join in the morning nature hike with a National Park Intern Volunteer to learn about the botany and forestry of the region and origins of how the Native American’s used them in their daily lives.
Unlike a museum where everything is behind glass showcases, this was a ‘see,
touch and smell’ hiking experience; learning about the differences in evergreen needles, berry textures and tastes.
The two-mile comfortably-paced hike took about two hours which was a nice relaxing way to spend the morning with six other couples.
Our Intern Volunteer, Stephanie, was very knowledgeable, well-poised, and very friendly. I’m guessing she had to be for a job like that.
After our hike, our group disbanded and we each went on our separate ways. We didn’t want to overdo our hiking so we just stayed parked at the Apgar Village and hiked an intermediate/moderate hike on the west side of the Lake McDonald. A bit disappointed because we thought we were going to be hiking along the lake shore (the trail map was a bit misleading). Nope; not even close.
Most of the hike was on a gravel road. Two miles into it, we got to one of the campgrounds to use the bathrooms and decided to turn around and go back. We finally found the trail we were supposed to be on. The sign was REALLY SMALL, so its no wonder we didn’t find it. But once we got on it, we walked through what was ravaged by a fire 13 years prior.
Unfortunately, our day was then cut short because I got a whopping nasty blister on the back of my right heel because I was stupid trying to look all cool with my new cotton yarn woven cute socks. Never again.
And do you think I was smart enough to pack moleskin in my daypack? Nope!
Dan led as I limped back back to the truck growing hungry. Granola bars only fill a hiker’s tummy only so much.
We got in Captain America and headed to some picnic tables right outside the park and chowed down cheese and crackers, fresh cut cold vegetables, hummus and ice cold water to replenish. We did a little shop browsing
and decided to call it a day; heading back to the B&B about 5:00 pm.
We ordered a pizza and wings and there I went again, to take another hot relaxing detox bath. God knows when the next time I will be able to enjoy that again!
Our experience at Glacier National Park wasn’t really our best or amongst our favorites and here’s why…
Our opinion(s) may amount to nothing but a hill of beans to most but part of our mission of our blog is to candidly educate others who may
entertain the thought of visiting these sites and knowing what to expect.
- We were dismayed at the privatized helicopter tours flying all around overhead. They sucked! Seriously, helicopter tours do NOT belong at National
Parks. It totally ruined the quiet natural setting. This is probably one of the
reasons why we didn’t see much wildlife. What we did notice were deer
scampering and slinking down when helicopters flew overhead. We will be writing a letter to Glacier National Park voicing our disdain.
- There is only ONE ROAD in and out of the park. The driving lanes were narrow at best; sometimes even down to one lane through the tunnels. If you have a bigger vehicle like ours, you may want to rethink it. Next time, we probably will rent a small car.
- They need to lower the speed limit, PERIOD! Why do people need to drive 45mph in a National Park to begin with is beyond our comprehension. First, it would be nice to drive slower so we could actually ENJOY the scenery without impatient drivers jamming their vehicle up our Ram’s rear end….OOPS! Did I say that? Geeze people, SLOW DOWN! It’s a NATIONAL PARK, not an
expressway! I will say, Glacier National Park isn’t the only one we’ve experienced this.
- There aren’t many pull-offs that allow photo taking opportunities because tall trees were blocking our views. While we aren’t really favorable with cutting
down trees or ruining the landscape, what is the point of having these pull-offs? Not many were remotely near hiking trail heads either.
- There were very few places with port-a-johns. Not good for those with
small bladders. Did I mention I forgot my She-Wee? (no explanation needed).
- Some of the trails were barely marked; and some had very small signs less than the size of a greeting card hidden in the brush and thicket.
- There was very little interaction from the Park Rangers; only those at the visitor centers, entrance points and campground entrances. We saw several violations yet no policing.
- Gift shops were small and didn’t offer much for souvenir options. For the size of Glacier National Park; we expected a more.
- There were privatized store businesses near the Apgar Visitor Center that seriously price-gouged. $3 for a 75cent candy bar…REALLY?
- This National Park is not equipped to handle the influx of visitor population of today. There are not enough parking spaces and shuttle service is limited. What was available in parking spaces, they certainly weren’t big enough for full-sized vehicles (ie. Pickup trucks, Suburbans, larger SUV’s, etc.)
- If you plan to ride your bicycle on the roadways, don’t. They have certain hours when you can ride. That said, those who DID ride on the roads certainly did not share the road or heed the rules of the road when automobiles were stacked behind them ten-deep. Most groups did not ride single lane which made it even more difficult of a drive.
However, you be your own judge. Though the park is incredibly beautiful, this certainly wasn’t our favorite but maybe it will or is yours. We surely expected different for being one of the biggest and most notable of National Parks. We’ve found smaller National Monuments, Historical and Geological Sites and Interperative Centers to be more appealing, less crowded and a tad bit more accommodating for more visitors.
While we appreciated that this was the National Parks 100th Anniversary and the influx of visitor population to celebrate it, we just aren’t ‘crowd people’.
We want to go to our Nation’s treasures quietly to enjoy what God has given us.
For more information, visiting info or to plan your visit to Glacier National Park, click ——–> HERE!