Magnificent, Mammoth and Unfortunately Melting: Glacier National Park

I’m going to pretend you clicked through for my sage words of wisdom about visiting this magnificent park, and not just for photos.  Here’s what I learned.

  • Glacier National Park is huge. I knew 24 hours would barely be enough to see a fraction, but it’s all the time I had.  So I focused on East Glacier, Many Glacier Lake and Going-to-the-Sun Road up to Logan Pass.
  • Go early in the season, but check for conditions (Going-to-the-Sun road sometimes doesn’t open til mid-June and the shuttles don’t run until July.) It’s less crowded, and some of the icefields still cover hiking trails because they haven’t melted yet.
  • Attach a bear bell to your pack, sing loudly and clap your hands as you approach blind corners on the trail, hike with a friend and/or stick to the heavily trafficked trails, and carry bear spray.  Within 5 minutes of driving into the park, I saw a cinnamon brown bear, and another 10 minutes later, I saw 3 more.  I did not see any Grizzlies but a park ranger who was not carrying bear spray was killed by one while I was in the park.  There are signs everywhere that you are in Grizzly Country, and to respect where you are on the food chain.
  • That being said: go outdoors as much as you can. Hike as much as you can.  Within a single trail of 1 mile, you can be treated to wildflowers, waterfalls, temperature rainforest, alpine evergreen forest and a glacier. Microclimates are everywere and you don’t have to go very far to see a lot of them.  If you like solitude, go early in the morning.  I had the trails to myself before 9 am, only saw a few people before 10:30, and found the turnouts moderately full by 11.  But by noon, a lot of parking places were stuffed full with waiting lines.  Same as sunset approaches, most people are eating dinner between 6-9 pm, so you have a lot of viewpoints to yourself, but this is when bears are most active, so be especially careful. I stayed in or near to my car.
  • You don’t have to be an expert alpinist or skilled hiker to hike in Glacier. There are so many trails that are 1 mile or less, and so many vantage points directly from the road, making nature more accessible for people who might have difficulties experiencing it otherwise.  Don’t skip this park just because you think you’re not wilderness-y enough!
  • If you are afraid of heights and suffer from vertigo, Going-to-the-Sun Road is terrifying, but doable.  I did it and I’m terrified of heights.
  • The Many Glacier Hotel is Alps-themed, which I did not realize when I saw someone in Lederhosen smiling at me, and I replied by waving and using the traditional Bavarian greeting of “Servus” along with a friendly “wie geht’s?”  A look of panic and confusion clouded the Lederhosen wearing gentleman’s face.  Just then, I noticed his name badge and realized that it was the staff uniform, his name was Chad, he was from the Midwest, and he did not speak any German.  MY BAD.

I can’t wait to go back and see more.  Along with the overwhelming and awe-inspiring beauty, I felt a deep sense of sadness that unless climate change slows or reverses, the majestic glaciers in the park will probably all be gone in the next 15 years.

Ok, here are the photos:

The shuttles have changed very little over the past century.

I’ma stay in my car.

My accommodations for the night

I tried to stay awake long enough for stargazing, but sunset was 9:45 pm, and the skies were still slightly dusky at 11:30.

Who needs sleep. I set my alarm for 4:45, brewed myself a coffee, drove to St Mary’s Lake, and watched the sunrise.

Back to the lodge to pick up my pack.

My gorgeous view at breakfast

My cabin was so kitschy and cute. And comfortable.

Just one of my hikes in Grizzly Country. I sang them Beatles songs loudly and badly.

St. Mary’s Lake was like glass, and I had the view all to myself at 8 am

As a reward for washing it for the first time since New Orleans, my hair decided to style nicely.

Dear Mum, it’s a clip-in and not a real piercing. Don’t worry. I love you.

Wildflowers peeking out where the icefield had receeded at Logan Pass.

Around the time I realized what crampons and poles were for.

I hiked on an icefield!

Many Glacier Lake

I got in an actual glacier-fed lake and it was still warmer than Lake Huron

Huckleberry pie and ice cream at Two Medicine Diner.

The film on the lake is pollen. Yikes.

The hills are alive with the sound of music

I am still unclear why TLC advised against chasing waterfalls…

Until next time, Glacier!

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