Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Glacier - West Glacier

On Monday morning we left Waterton, going back toward the U.S. At the border, there was a large group of government employees gathered. They were from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and they were checking every car for fruits, vegetables, meats, etc., that people were bringing back from Canada. Even worse, it seemed that some of the employees were actually in training. Ugh! If they decided to take apart our car to search for an undeclared cucumber, we could waste a lot of time. Fortunately, after they inspected Brian’s parents’ car, a line of people waiting to cross the border built up, so they didn’t hassle us too much. After sacrificing three apples to the USDA (they were actually from the U.S. so they should have been OK, but they didn’t have stickers designating their country of origin), we were on our way.

Our original plan had been to drive across the Going-to-the-Sun Road today to get to West Glacier, where we would spend the next three nights. Unfortunately, Logan Pass, the high point of the road, still hadn’t been cleared, so we’d have to drive around the south side of the park.

On the way, we stopped at Silver Stairs Falls.

After that, we also made a stop at Goat Lick, supposedly a great place to see mountain goats. We decided to eat our lunch there, and sure enough, as we ate, we saw about eight goats on the rocky opposite shore of a river. Several were mothers with babies. They were too far away to get good photos, but here’s one anyway.

Then we headed into West Glacier, where Brian’s parents checked into the lodge where they would be staying, while we found a campsite. It didn’t take us long to find a nice site in the Apgar campground, just a short ways into the park from West Glacier. The day was hot – the hottest we’d seen since the California desert – but we threw a Frisbee around anyway to pass the time before meeting back up with Brian’s parents at the visitors center.

After reuniting, we all went back to the campsite for a tasty dinner of beer brats and a game of Scrabble. Then, since the campsite’s previous occupiers had left us a big stash of wood, we built a fire and made s’mores. Given the day’s heat, the fire was a bit uncomfortable at times, but it seemed to do a good job of keeping the bugs away.

It thunderstormed overnight, and it was still raining the next morning, so we decided to hang out at Brian’s parents’ luxurious lodge, the Great Bear Inn. The lodge wasn’t quite finished yet, but what was there was absolutely fantastic – a gorgeous exterior, rooms with huge beds and showers, satellite TV, a pool table, a big deck with great views, and lots more.

Several massive dogs greeted us when we arrived.

We read and played games to pass the rainy morning before making lunch in the lodge’s sunroom.

In the afternoon, it started to clear up a bit, so we decided to do some scenic driving. We headed into the park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, making our first stop at the Lake McDonald Lodge.

Like all of the Glacier lodges, Lake McDonald was fabulously decorated. We especially liked this chandelier.

The back of the lodge had a nice view of the lake.

And when we found a river rushing into the lake, we had to stop for some posed shots.

Further along the road, we parked with several of the renovated red tour buses.

As we climbed, the views got better and better.

Traffic occasionally came to a standstill because even though the road was supposed to be completely open any day now, significant portions of it were just a single lane, due to construction.

We saw more pretty waterfalls as we approached the end of the open section of the road.

Where the road was closed, there was a large parking area so we could get out of the car and look around. The spot was amazing, with fabulous 360-degree views. And just as we got out of the car, a bighorn ram appeared. He wandered around the parking area for quite a while, occasionally licking spots on the pavement, presumably looking for salt. He had a large crowd of tourist paparazzi surrounding him, photographing his every move, us included.

The waterfalls above us were amazing.

The Weeping Wall is one of the big roadside attractions in Glacier. It’s a wide section of rock wall that normally has a trickle of water flowing down its face – not a huge flow, but enough to keep the face wet, and a wide enough expanse of rock to make it interesting. Today, it was something else entirely – rather than weeping, it was gushing like some of those girls do on The Bachelor when they find out that they’ve been kicked off the island.

Brian’s dad thought it would be fun to drive the rental car under the waterfall and get a car wash, and he sent Brian outside to photograph the moment.

It really did feel like a car wash, as water thundered down on the car.

The ride back down the Going-to-the-Sun Road was mostly uneventful, with the exception of the roadside appearance of a buck deer, with his antlers just starting to grow.

That night, we went out for dinner to celebrate multiple events: the one-year anniversary of Brian’s dad’s retirement, Sarah’s upcoming birthday, the 11-year anniversary of Brian and Sarah’s first date, and Brian’s parents’ recent 35-year wedding anniversary. It poured outside as we ate dinner – we were glad to have taken advantage of the best hours of the day for sightseeing.

The next day was more of the same weather – overcast and threatening rain – so we began the day the same way, heading to the Great Bear Inn. We played more Scrabble, pool, some rummy, and made lunch in the sunroom. The weather started looking better in the afternoon, so we headed into Glacier to hike the Trail of the Cedars, but it drizzled the entire time, so we didn’t take the side trail up to Avalanche Lake, which is supposed to be fantastic. Then we stopped at a restaurant in Apgar Village for spectacular hot huckleberry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream.

We made it back to the lodge in time for the afternoon wine and cheese, which featured some delicious huckleberry wine. Then the weather cleared up, and we made a spaghetti dinner while we enjoyed the views from the lodge’s back porch.

That evening, a young couple from Cedar City, Utah, arrived. As it turned out, the man had recently taken the Wilderness First Responder course, like we did back in April, so we chatted about that for a while. They’d been to Yellowstone and warned us that the mosquitoes were voracious – a bummer, since we were planning to go there. Before we left for the night, Susan, who runs the inn, invited us over for breakfast the next morning, and we gladly accepted.

Tuesday morning, we headed over to the Great Bear Inn for a great breakfast of pancakes and bacon, with fruit and whipped cream for dessert. Then we said goodbye to Brian’s parents and headed south.

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