I didn't know much about Glacier National park except for the fact that it is the only other national park in the lower 48 states that has Grizzly bears. Yahooing (but of course!) for more information revealed that it was the world's first international park and is contiguous with Waterton Lakes national park in Canada. And since I was planning on visiting the world's first national park - Yellowstone - during the trip, the prospect of going to the world's first international park seemed exciting. However, it was the park mascot that sold me Glacier - the Mountain Goat!
Now what does American Football, the Loch Ness monster and Glacier National Park have in common? They were all created for the consumer - spectators, audience or tourists. According to a well known source
here's a history lesson: "In 1891, the Great Northern Railway crossed the Continental Divide at Marias Pass (5,213 ft/1,589 m), which is along the southern boundary of the park. In an effort to stimulate use of the railroad, the Great Northern soon advertised the splendors of the region to the public. The company lobbied the United States Congress, and in 1897, the park was designated as a forest preserve"
And so, Glacier National Park came into existence with catchy names for glaciers, roads, lakes and all. Thankfully the birds and animals were left untouched by the naming frenzy. The most famous of all roads in Glacier National Park is the Going-to-the-sun Road
. It doesn't really go up to the sun (I didn't have to confirm that right?) and it is not all that high up in the mountains at around 6600 feet (2200 meters) on its highest point, but it is a civil engineering landmark nonetheless. You'll have to see and drive on the road to believe what an achievement it is. Really. Winter can dump eighty to hundred feet of snow on the road and it takes forever to clear out the snow when spring arrives. It wasn't even open in late June when I made the trip there!
With the Going-to-the-sun road closed on the west side at its highest point, Logan Pass, traveling to the east side would have to wait for another day. Glacier National park on the west side starts off pretty flat. With beautiful conifer forests, the magnificent Lake McDonald and Grand views of the high Rockies. Every turnout overflows with scenic beauty (and with cars of course!). There are countless trails leading to a lake shore or into the forest. Trailheads and turnouts have notes posted everywhere in bright yellow, orange or red warning tourists that they are now in Grizzly country. The poor animal even carries a scientific name as horrible as Ursus arctos horribilis
(meaning Bear bear horrible. Ursus means bear in Latin. Arctos means bear in Greek. horribilis means... OK, you figure this one out). Anyway, the bear bear bear is known to be notorious in these parts and every conversation for hikers and campers revolves around how to stay safe from them... if you can that is. Hikers are seen carrying bells, whistles and pepper-spray when in Grizzly country. The park also has the smaller and more common Black Bears (which are quite large by the way). So, how does one know if the bear is a Grizzly or a black bear? Well, it is really simple. Just look for their scat. Black bear scat will have leaves, berries and such. Grizzly bear scat will have bells, whistles and pepper-spray cans.
It looked like I had taken the Crater lake weather with me as Glacier National park looked all cloudy and dull. The drive up to Logan pass was an uneventful one except for brief stops at a lake placid and a river wild. The Logan pass parking lot was an excited one. On one of the mountains near the pass, a gang of young male Big-horned sheep were honing their ramming skills on a patch of snow. A steady stream of tourists walked up a very, very, very slippery and steep trail to see the sheep from up-close. Blessed with a giant telephoto lens (compared to those pocket cameras anyway) that the tourists did not possess, I first took a shot of the sheep from down below. And then the greed for better shots took over my mind and I began going up the steep slope ignoring my awful mountaineering skills. I was doing OK uphill until I turned around and saw the near vertical trail (at least for my eyes and ability anyway). And the first slip happened and I had to stop almost immediately. I heard from tourists coming down that the sheep had gone away and now there was no motivation to do the last ten percent of the trail. Getting down was the priority now but not in the rolling down manner. After some circus and some nervous moments on slippery snow, I was finally down on the road with mud and ice on my back side. Did I mention that grass and small shrubs have strong root systems? :-)
The day ended with a long and bumpy drive through deep wilderness to Lake Kintla on the Canadian border. The road was rough with spectacular scenery and wide open meadows. It took several hours to cover the fifteen or so miles because of frequent stops and slow driving in the hope of catching a grizzly on the meadows or a moose among the willows, but it wasn't to be. At one point I wondered if I had crossed off into Canada by mistake. Now that would be illegal and a lot of trouble for me. Anyway, I was more slow than I thought I was and Lake Kintla itself wasn't a letdown. Besides being amazingly beautiful (and I'm running out of words to describe the parks other features) it had one of the most remote camping grounds I've been to. Unfortunately, I had already pitched my tent at another place called Fishing Bridge and I had to turn around for the night.
West Glacier was all about grand scenery and little wildlife. East Glacier was different and that story shall be told in the coming days. For now, here are the images from West Glacier.
Glacier National Park
( More images and a funny squirrel...Collapse )