We love our National Parks. It’s one of the reasons why we are doing this whole nomadic thing. But way too often, humans ruin it. We populate places where God didn’t intend and our experience at Glacier National Park was one of those. We’re about to share with you why this National Park was not amongst our favorites!
We decided to park 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.
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.
Weeks before, we reserved a beautiful two bedroom apartment above a 3-bay garage.
Dan and I arrived the Bad Rock Bed and Breakfast, which was approximately 15 miles from Glacier National Park. We were pleasantly greeted by Donna, one of the employees to show us our room…er….apartment.
We had plenty of room to spread out but because of our RV living, it was actually quite overwhelming. However, that big honkin’ jetted bathtub called my name as soon as I stepped foot in the master bathroom. The bedrooms were spacious and tidy with crisp white linens to welcome us.
We unpacked our cooler of provisions, set out our belongings but didn’t settle in as it was only 1:00 pm. After putting everything away, we headed out to do a drive through of Glacier NP to get a feel of what to expect the next day.
Our first day at Glacier National Park…
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.
If you have a big vehicle like our 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 (as if we were really looking!). However, it was an incredibly better view if we were to go off the edge and I mean that sarcastically.
The drive was seriously 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 amazingly beautiful and breathtaking!
I prayed while Captain Dan gripped the wheel like he was wringing the neck of a squawking chicken. 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 so tight that I feared we may hit mirrors of oncoming drivers. That was the least of our worries!
I occasionally looked ‘down’ the deep ravine below us wondering, “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.
Seriously, I got the better end of that deal…or DID I???
Every so often, we would score a place to pull over and get out for some spectacular majestic views. If you’re an East Coaster like us and never have been here, you truly are missing out. The mountains were HUGE!!
Donna, at the B&B, recommended that we stop at every turn-off if we could because we just never know what Kodak moments awaited us.
We could at least say we tried, however, again, driving a big dually proved a huge challenge as most people, these days, don’t know how to park leaving ample parking spaces between them and the car beside them but not enough room to squeeze even a Smart Car in. Also, the parking spaces weren’t long enough leaving our truck bed sticking out.
So, if you plan to visit, heed these words on these signs!
That said, we weren’t the biggest vehicles though. Somehow, folks who were towing small towable campers or small motorhomes to do the same however, they 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 considering this was on Wednesday. All that said though, 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. It made for a fun experience!
The Park was establish May 11, 1911 and established as Waterton-GlacierInternational 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 the park, make certain you and all members in your party are equipped and keep your children within arm’s reach. Bear bells are also a good idea to pin on your clothing.
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 altitude was affecting us a bit.
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 much needed coffee.
After breakfast, before leaving, 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 and affordability at these parks.
Day 2 of exploring Glacier…
We were so glad we left the B&B early to arrive at the park’s Apgar Visitor Center. The parking lot 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. We’re glad we did!
Unlike a museum where everything is behind glass showcases, this was a ‘see, touch and smell’ hiking experience. We learned about evergreen needles, berry textures, tastes and how the Native Americans used them and how we use them today.
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.
After our hike, our group disbanded and we all went our separate ways. We didn’t want to overdo it so we just stayed parked at the Apgar Village and hiked an intermediate/moderate hike on the west side of the Lake McDonald. We were a bit disappointed because we thought we were going to be hiking along the lake shore. The trail map was a bit misleading.
Most of that particular 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 trail sign was really small and not as visibly marked, so its no wonder we didn’t find it. But once we got on it, we walked through what was ravaged by a fire thirteen years prior.
Unfortunately, our hiking day was then cut short because I got a whopping nasty blister on the back of my right heel. Stupid me wore the wrong socks. Oh, and do you think I was smart enough to pack moleskin in my daypack?
Nope! Anyway, Dan led us back as I limped to the truck growing hungry. Granola bars only fill a hiker’s tummy only so much. I tried so much not to complain.
We got back to Captain America and headed for some picnic tables right outside the park to chow down our box lunch. That morning, we packed cheese and crackers, fresh cut cold vegetables, hummus and ice cold water to replenish.
Afterwards, we did a little gift 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!
Recapping our Glacier experience…
Our experience at Glacier National Park wasn’t really the best or amongst our favorites. We asked ourselves, “what is the point of having these pull-offs?” if they couldn’t facilitate most vehicles today. Further, not many were remotely near hiking trail heads either.
Though the park was incredibly beautiful, this certainly wasn’t our favorite but maybe it will be 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’.