Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: September 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good-bye magnificent Glacier National Park


Yes, it’s time for us to say good-bye to Glacier National Park. From here, we are headed south. Our first stop will be Bertz RV in Missoula to have a leaky water pump fixed. Then heading towards the Sands RV and Golf Resort in Palm Springs with probable stops in Twin Falls Idaho, and Zion National Park along the way. From there we will go home to Colorado. We’re looking forward to sharing the holidays with our family. We sure do miss them all!!!

We will truly miss Glacier. We have really enjoyed and appreciated this particular camp hosting experience. Not only did we get to travel and explore this amazing park but we also had fun discovering the surrounding towns of Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Hungry Horse, and of course Polebridge - I believe we have previously blogged about Polebridge. We had a great dinner at the Whitefish Lake Restaurant at the Whitefish Golf Course with some new camp hosting friends. Just an FYI – it’s fun to read about the unique history with the lots of history link.  We did spend a day exploring the Hungry Horse Dam and adjacent areas.  Of course some fun shopping would have to include The Powder Horn Trading Company in Kalispell. They have a great bead and curiosity shop, and we couldn’t forget the Montana Fur Trading Company eight miles from the West entrance to the park. It is filled with Native American artifacts and stunning jewelry. And a popular hot spot for the Glacier crew is the Montana Coffee Traders in Columbia Falls. In addition to having first-class coffee, they have high-speed Internet, and delicious food.

Like our other camp hosting experiences, we have enjoyed meeting, and working with the park staff, rangers, law enforcement and of course all of the other dedicated volunteers. We have made many new friends.

One of the memories from this summer will be constant reminder of the danger and destruction of forest fires. We left Colorado just as the smoke from the Front Range was starting to clear. We encountered a fire at Guernsey State Park while in Wyoming and had to relocate our camp site. Much of this summer, the valleys in Glacier National Park have been filled with smoke from fires burning in Montana, and Idaho plus in the park itself. Last week I hiked the Avalanche Lake Trail. At the end of the hike is what should be a beautiful view of Avalanche Lake surrounded by snowfield covered mountain peaks. The picture below speaks for itself. 

I started writing this blog on Friday and was lamenting the fact that we had not seen a grizzly  bear.We had seen lots of wildlife including black bear, deer, big horn sheep, marmots, and the ever popular mountain goats...but not a single grizzly bear. We head all the stories of fantastic sightings from other campers - in our quest to see a grizzly bear, we had traveled around the park several times and specifically to the East side and the Many Glacier area (where several sightings had been reported) but to no avail. But today that all changed. We packed a picnic lunch and drove back to Many Glacier. Our persistance was rewarded. At about noon we spotted a mom and two cubs - what a way to spend lunch hour! The photo below is of one of the cubs. More pictures are in the slide show at the end of this post.

The park and the campground have really been transformed over the past two weeks. The days are much shorter and the nights much colder. The leaves have turned and started to fall. Only a handful of campers remain in our 194-site campground.  And as the campers have left, the animals (at least the deer) have returned. All this to say, it is a really beautiful, quiet and peaceful – a great time to be in the park.

Yes, it is time to say good-bye for now but we are already looking forward to returning next year. Link to all the photos here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hiking the Highline Trail


Glacier National Park has over 700 miles of hiking trails. Some easy and some a real challenge but from what I can tell, most provide amazing scenery. The Highline Trail is one of the premier trails in the park (and considered by many one of the best trails in the US). While it is possible to get on the trail and hike to Canada the most popular section is known as the “Garden Wall” and is a 7.6-mile hike from the tip of Logan Pass to the Granit Park Chalet.

 I got up early and caught the express shuttle to Logan Pass – the jumping off point for my hike. (Taking the shuttle is really the best way to get to Logan Pass as the parking lot fills early) My plan was to hike to the Chalet and then take the Loop Trail to the “Loop”, a hairpin turn on the Going-To-The-Sun road where I could catch a shuttle back to Apgar campground. The total hike would be 11.6 miles.

I have done a fair share of backpacking and hiking in the Colorado Mountains. So, I found the hike itself pretty easy to moderate. It was mostly flat with only a couple of long gradual climbs and corresponding descents. However, much of the hike is at or above tree line so the panoramic views from this hike were beyond description – really spectacular (even in the haze of smoke from fires in the surrounding area and neighboring states).

This hike is also great for viewing wildlife, including grizzly bears, big horn sheep and mountain goats. While I didn’t see any grizzly bears or big horn sheep, I did spend time watching several mountain goats traversing the sheer cliffs. At this time of the year it is the amazing wildflowers as much as the animals that draw hikers.

Hiking alone is never a good idea - a lone hiker went missing in July of this year and was never found. This hike is very popular and I was never totally isolated or alone.

Once you reach the Granite Park Chalet you can either go back to Logan Pass by backtracking over the same trail or do as I did and take the 4-mile Loop Trail to the “Loop”. The Chalet was built in 1914-15 by the Great Northern Railway to provide comfortable lodging to backcountry visitors to Glacier National Park. A woman in one of the groups I hiked with recalled visiting the Chalet in the 50’s and 60’s where Gourmet meals were provided. Today, while bedding is provided, you typically need to pack in your own food and water. Nonetheless, I have to believe that spending a Montana star filled night in the Chalet would be magical.

After a short lunch stop at the Chalet I headed down the Loop Trail. My stop at the Chalet was intentionally short. Looking out across the valley it was clear to me that a pretty good storm was headed my way and I wanted to get down as quickly as possible. And down it is with a 2000 ft. vertical drop. Thankfully, I have good knees.

JoAnne and I had just watched a PBS video on “The Night of The Grizzlies”. On August 13, 1967 two 19 year old girls were killed by grizzly bears in two unrelated and separate incidents. Up until these two deaths there had not been a bear related death in the history of the park. One of the girls was camped in a primitive campground just down the trail from the Chalet. It was hard not to think about this tragedy as I hiked down the trail 45 years later.

Unlike the Highline Trail much of the Loop Trail is in thick forest – or what was thick forest. Most of the hike now goes through area ravaged by the 2003 trapper fire. I found the change in vegetation and the regeneration taking place to be interesting but certainly not as spectacular as the trip up.

As I started down I caught up with another couple. The women asked me if I thought we would make it down before the storm hit - my response, “not likely”. I was right. About 30 minutes into the hike it started to rain. I stopped to put in my rain gear. My hiking companions had none. The weather got significantly worse. The wind really picked up, the rain came down in sheets and there was plenty of lightening and thunder. Luckily, I was prepared but my fellow hikers were not – they were soaked and cold. Yes, we all made it down to the “Loop” but it was a good reminder to me to always be prepared when hiking in the mountains  (or anywhere for that matter) for the quick and crazy weather changes that can occur.

It’s a cliché to say that pictures don’t do justice to the magnificent scenery on this hike –anyway here are the rest of my pictures.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wild Flowers, Wild flowers everywhere!


Part of the beauty of this area, especially at this transitional time of year, is the wildflowers!
Every drive you take, every meadow, sides of mountains, every rock that has a nook and cranny, along the roadways, and in the campgrounds….they are ever present.

I won’t pretend to know about the various types of these flowers – but what I do know is we enjoy taking photographs of them. I can only imagine the flowers in the “back country” we have yet to see.
When we first arrived in late July, the park was indeed beautiful – but it didn’t have the explosion of flowers we have been seeing lately.

We are blessed with an array of colors and textures!

It appears most of these flowers have adapted to a short growing season, and like the cool evenings – then truly burst into glorious color during the sunny days!

The people who know about this type of thing say, as the winters here seem to be milder than in the past, the glaciers are gradually melting, and this also affects the wild flowers. It's sad but true, that some experts have predicted, by the year 2030 there may be no more glaciers in Glacier National Park. These huge ice fields have created the beauty of the landscape we see today. As the glaciers slowly slide, they have molded the peaks and valleys that are so lovely. As the melting progresses, it will affect not only the plant life but the animals who roam this area in freedom. 

We are fortunate and very blessed to be here!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Do you ever get bored?


Honest answer…NO! 

Not even sometimes? Nope!

Bowman Lake

Not only are we having fun, enjoying the beauty of this place by just being here, but by taking hikes, tons of photographs, kayaking, 

Kayaking on Lake McDonald

walking along the beach, attending nightly ranger talks,

Lake McDonald

and naturally our own general exploring…we have meet some fabulous campers (yes – there are always a few not so fabulous), 

Rick & JoAnne in Polebridge, MT

and we’ve made some new friends. 

Camp Hosts - West Glacier Campgrounds

Part of our family has come for a short visit, and we are forever grateful that some of our “old friends” come to visit as well. 

Tracey & Eric
Lois & JoAnne
Hal, Lois & Rick

Really and truly, never a dull moment! From helping campers, fixing problems, giving information, sharing experiences – and yes, “war stories” from the campgrounds!

Last Sunday, we hosted a BBQ for the Rangers who were on duty, and fellow camp hosts from this side (the west side) of the park.

The west side camp hosts all go the breakfast every Sunday morning at West Glacier Restaurant, in West Glacier – we go to dinner with other couples, and have cocktails after work!

In between all of this, we blog, email, talk to, and FaceTime with the grandkids. I of course do genealogy, Rick works, and we also have hobbies we enjoy – plus we occasionally have to do some grocery shopping, and the ever growing laundry!

Nope…never bored!!!!