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06 July 2009 @ 09:06 pm
West Glacier  
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

A tree next to Lake McDonald

The River Wild - McDonald Creek

Besides being beautiful green, it was one of the fastest flowing streams I've seen

The Big-horned Sheep at Logan Pass

They call this The Weeping Wall. I wonder why.

Bad-Weather day, but still very beautiful. This was the view from Going-to-the-Sun road. The lower right side of the image is the road from where we started just a few miles before!

Rocky Mountain Snowy Mountain. This is the tip of one of the mountains in the previous photograph. Looking up at them from Logan pass was just spectacular.

Pretty much the only other wildlife for the day - A Columbian Ground Squirrel...

...who likes to make faces at tourists. Bad squirrel.

After sunset at Lake Kintla

Jayseakaredpirk on July 7th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
wow those are great!
IdahoSwedeidahoswede on July 7th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
Superb, but then when do you take anything other than superb photos (well, I guess when they are amazing, extraordinary, outstanding).
Yathinyathin on July 7th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
It's just that I choose to vacation in superb, amazing, extraordinary and outstanding places. Things that took millions, billions of years to form surely need all the credit. The eyes, mind and camera are just lucky to see and experience them. ;)
talekotaleko on July 7th, 2009 09:06 am (UTC)

iblog93avocett on July 7th, 2009 10:18 am (UTC)
Wow , so beautiful ! I especially love the squirrel photos , they are fantastic !
madapan on January 10th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
Right, the picture is absolutely amazing and the second capture seems almost photoshoped (I know it's genuine) but as much as I'd like squirrels I'm always carrying a squirrel repellent spray in handy since my daughter was severely bitten by a rogue squirrel.
Rafkoorafkoo on July 7th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)

I just wonder if rafting on the McDonald Creek would be allowed and feasible.
Rafkoorafkoo on July 7th, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
btw. I can not figure out what the word "scat" means :-(

"look at them run away", hm?

But then the sentence does not have much sens.

stupid me. :-/
Melkendokamel on July 7th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
Scat = poo
Yathinyathin on July 7th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
I would have thought the creek to be just a little too dangerous, but I did see a bunch of rafters upstream. However, their rafts were still on their vehicles, so I'm not sure if they intended to go rafting on the creek or somewhere else.
ZuZusuzan_s on July 7th, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
Stunning photos of a incredibly beautiful place.
Melkendokamel on July 7th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
Black bear scat will have leaves, berries and such. Grizzly bear scat will have bells, whistles and pepper-spray cans.
Hahahaha! :D

Lovely photos! (And that squirrel pic is just begging for a lolcat-esque caption. (; )
Aparnainspirethoughts on July 7th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
My! My! As always amazing (and all other adjectives you used) photos!

I have not seen you write so much in one post, at least from the time I have known you. Oh, and never seen so many adjectives listed in one post. :P Nice to see the updates and thanks for the notes! It does help people like me who want to plan such trips in future. :)

Lochness Monster was created for audience or spectators, really? Hmm...I thought it was a true encounter that turned to a legend and then to a myth!

Grizzly bear scat will have bells, whistles and pepper-spray cans. Very funny! LOL!

Thankfully you are safe, although the sheep (from your pic) did look like they were enjoying your antics of getting down the steep! ;)

Wow...the picture of River Wild looks like something out of a Thomas Kincaid collection! Absolutely stunning and picturesque!

Edited at 2009-07-07 04:16 pm (UTC)
Yathinyathin on July 7th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
so you believe the Loch Ness monster exists/existed? ;)
Aparnainspirethoughts on July 7th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, I do! I believe in so many things that you might be surprised if you know what they are! :)
(Anonymous) on July 7th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
Lochness Monster was created for audience or spectators, really? Hmm...I thought it was a true encounter that turned to a legend and then to a myth!

If that's the plausible explanation for a myth like the loch ness, I wonder what the real version of the elephant headed god is! Don't tell me you really believe that Jesus Christ could walk on water and make water into wine, and that there did walk a boy on this earth with an elephant's head!
aurora_renaurora_ren on July 7th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
the weeping wall looks amazing!!
purely_narcoticpurely_narcotic on July 8th, 2009 03:48 am (UTC)
I also read that grizzly bear scat smells like pepper! Heh.

Lovely pics, Yathi!
KrisKatskitty_kitty on July 8th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
I haven't been to Glacier since elementary school and I still remember mountain goats in the roads and standing in deep snow with my shorts and sandals on. I loved it there, thanks for the reminder of why it holds such a nice place in my heart. ;D One of many places I need to revisit!
ashbirderashbirder on July 8th, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
very nice.interesting bit of history as well.