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Glacier National Park

You may have noticed that I didn't post last night. There's a good reason for that: total exhaustion. Following Bert's recommendation, we all got up at 6 a.m. and were driving toward Glacier by 7:30, to beat the crowds. Glacier is getting sadly overcrowded on the only road that goes through the park, namely "Going To The Sun Road." An early start saves a lot of time by avoiding the traffic.

Glacier view.jpg
One of our first views from the hike. Click to enlarge

Now, the plan was supposed to be that we would spot a car at a hairpin turn in Going To The Sun Road, then proceed up to the Visitor's Center at Logan Pass, and hike generally downhill for about eight miles along the Highline Trail back to the first car. However, Bert somewhat underestimated the mileage for the hike ... which turned out to be about 12 miles ... and also neglected to mention that about 1/3 of the hike was along trail with 1,000 foot drops along the left edge.

Glacier highline trail.jpg

This made for a spectacular view, but a nerve-wracking hike for Eleanor and I. Emma is a superb hiker, and can easily cover six miles in a half day, but we've never even dreamed of taking her 12 miles! Plus, we had to hold her hand tightly through some tricky spots. I was envisioning her slipping down the nearly-vertical slope and jumping down after her, so at times my grip was tight.

Glacier pines.jpg
Lake McDonald in the background. Click to enlarge

But Emma was a trouper. Not only did she safely hike 12 miles with 600 feet of vertical gain and 2900 feet of descent, on a day that approached 90 degrees, but she did it in good spirits ... wearing sandals. (I was wearing sandals too, and neither of us had a blister or even a sore toe.) Not bad for a six-year-old, eh? We're very proud of her, and our hiking partners Adam, Susan, and Bert were very impressed. Bert was so impressed that wrote about Emma in his blog, which you can read by clicking here.

Glacier goats.jpg
Mountain Goats resting nearby. Click to enlarge.

This was more than a hike, it was an adventure. Bert, being a former ranger in the park, was full of interesting information about the wildlife, plants, geology, and history of the park. We really got more than our money's worth out of the day.

Glacier chalet.jpg
The historic chalet, about 6.7 miles down the hike. Click to enlarge.

The best thing about this hike may have been the ending: just a few hundred feet short of the trail's end, when we were all hot and sticky, we found this superb cool stream. I immediately ran down and dunked my head in the water. Ahhhhhhh.... Bert and Adam quickly followed suit, and Emma filled her hat with water and poured it over her head. At point, we all felt refreshed enough to hike a few more miles.

Glacier cooling off.jpg

I have posted an entire new album of photos from this hike on Flickr. Click here to see the pictures. If you can't browse the pictures now, suffice to say that Glacier is a wonderful park, huge, gorgeous, and filled with waterfalls from the melting snow.

Glacier view3.jpg
Another view from High Line Trail. Click to enlarge

Glacier is also logistically tricky. To see it, you really need to go hiking. Driving the Going To The Sun Road is great and there are many pullouts to see waterfalls, goats, and fantastic views, but that's only a tiny sampling of what the park has to offer. And it's a huge park -- just driving from the West Glacier entrance to Logan Pass is over 20 miles.

We can't tow the Airstreams through the park. Our next goal would be to travel to the east side, where Many Glacier can be found, but since we have to detour around the park, this would be at least a three-hour trip. After thinking about it, we've decided that we are satisfied with our very full day and we will save the rest of the park for another visit.

Today will be a work day and then tomorrow we plan to start heading south to Yellowstone. Adam and Susan have already headed out, since they have less time than we do. We'll caravan with Rich C. Bert & Janie are heading out too, for several months of work on the road writing and photographing subjects from Montana to Nova Scotia, and then down the east coast. We are hoping to meet them again in Maine, in September.

Last night, after getting the second car and driving to the West Entrance, it was about 7:30 pm. We drove over to Kalispell (35 miles away -- things are spread out in Montana) for pizza at Moose's Saloon. If you ever get to Kalispell, check this place out. It looks disreputable, but the pizza is great and the atmosphere is fun. The floor is covered in sawdust and peanut shells, the music is loud, and it's a great place to get the two things Bert wanted most after our 12 miles of hiking: pizza and beer.

When we finally emerged from Moose's, it was 10 pm and the sun had just set. It wasn't completely dark until 10:30. In this time of year, Montana seems to understand that your days will be full, and it obliges with plenty of sunlight.

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