My vacation days usually start well before the hint of sunlight. That means I need to haul myself out of my cramped tent, pack up and leave the campsite in nearly frigid conditions. It was such a beginning to the day at Fishing Bridge in West Glacier. After a quick pit stop at a gas station, I was on my way towards East Glacier. First destination was the strangely named 'Goat Lick' point along the main highway that connects West Glacier to East Glacier. Knowing about the grand naming schemes in and around the park, I wasn't hoping to see the mysterious mountain goats.
And as expected, the parking lot at the Goat Lick pullout was empty. The tropical ape that I am, I didn't want to get away from the heated car into ice age temperatures outside. I was very, very positive that this was just another tourist trap and there would be no goats, gorillas or goblins around. My more adventurous fellow-traveler from the cold north wanted to go scan the area and did just that while I sat in the car. Seconds later there was a frenetic waving of hands and I forgot the meaning of cold as I rushed out with my (ever-ready) camera and tripod. Mountain Goats! With little ones too. There were a whole lot of them sitting, standing and sleeping in precarious places on dangerous looking cliffs. I had seen the famous mountain goats of Glacier National Park at last! Photographing them would be a letdown though because the sun was still not up. I would have waited for the sun to drop by, but then the goats were too far for my telephoto lens to make any decent photographs, so I made a few documentation photographs and headed onwards to a place called Two Medicine.
Moose are giants. You don't realize how huge they are until you see one of those things for real. They are as tall as camels and with antlers that can span seven feet across they look more intimidating than camels. American bison look dwarf-like next to a bull moose. Since I couldn't imagine that they could really be so big, I just had to see one. Now, my fellow traveler knew a thing or two about Moose. Besides being their national animal, there was a great experiment done in their country to build a mighty moose cavalry. A cavalry so strong that enemies on mere horses would be trampled and crushed. Victories in wars would have been a moose-walk for the Swedish army. But it wasn't to be for moose are creatures not built for war. The Swedes would be wiser in their know-hows when it came to moose talk since that day. So, according to Swedish knowledge moose are to be found in places where there are trees, old and young, with water close by - old trees to hide, young trees to eat and water to play around in. I was also told that Moose are usually seen running by the roadside looking for the best place to escape into the forest by the roadside. And the Swede was right. By Thor, the Swede was right! On a deserted road through a conifer forest, I saw a giant animal running along the road. Moose! I couldn't believe the I could be so excited with my first moose sighting, but it was that exciting. It was a young male moose running along the road looking for a gap in the forest to run away into. Just as the Swede had predicted. Moose really are giants!
So, in the first hour of sunlight I had two lifers - Mountain Goats and Moose. It couldn't get any better than that right? Well, what else could happen to make an already fantastic day better? It just did get better. Driving on the edge of the park, I noticed a animal in the shadows by the roadside. I first thought it was cattle from one of the surrounding ranches until I realized I was looking at a bear! Grizzly? My heart wanted it to be a grizzly, but I just knew it had to be a Black bear. And it was. It was another young black bear, but unlike the black bears I had seen on previous occasion, this one was really black. He was walking straight towards my car, on my side of the road, when I stopped at a distance and put on the emergency lights so that passing cars would slow down. Unfortunately, a bunch of cars came by from the other side and scared away the bear into the forest. I had gotten a couple of photographs, but I wished I had seen more of him. Slightly disappointed, I went ahead and pulled into a turnout to review my photographs. Now bears are inquisitive little buggers and I should have known that. While I sat there wondering when I would see my next bear, I casually looked at my rear view mirror and imagine what I see!? That young bugger had come out of the forest and was looking very curiously at my car! I got out of the car with excitement and that spooked him and he ran away into the jungle once again. I turned the car around and waited on the turnout on the other side and I just knew the bear would come out. And come out he did. This time I didn't get out of the car since I had parked it in a way that I could shoot from the window. He first stood behind a bush and looked at me for a few seconds. He then took a few baby steps out of the bush towards the car and then decided that he wanted to cross. He moved towards the other side of the road rather slowly and I was hoping no car would come by because that would surely kill him. He went to the middle of the road and then stopped. He raised one paw and looked at the me plotting his next move. At that point I wanted to get out to force him to cross the road quicker, but thankfully he decided to continue moving. He then got into the bush and disappeared into the forest. What a beautiful animal and what a magical moment!
Later on during a day a beaver was seen in one of the lakes at a place called Many Glacier. A moose was seen running (as usual) along the forest's edge. And after the sun had gone down we came across a stopped car. The driver said he had seen two grizzlies in the meadow next to the road. The wait was exciting but we didn't see any grizzlies that night. And so ended the stay at Glacier national park. It was a beautiful stay and I was impressed by the Rockies. However, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons were coming up next.
A tame mule deer and a photographer
The deer decided to walk away after some time
First glimpse of the Mountain Goats
I'd have to see to believe how that little kid got to where it was sleeping!
Moose doing what they usually do
First glimpse of the bear
The bear came out cautiously
And then decided to study the situation
And finally decided to cross. The photograph numbered 5 was when he decided to stop and I got really scared that some passing car would kill him. And the last picture shows how long their necks are!
A small creek in a small gorge
Flowers next to the creek