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Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks

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Sunday, August 5

Kelly had wanted to go along on all four weeks of camping from Spokane back to San Jose, but had other commitments, so she had said she would come along for the Spokane-Denver segment. We have traveled before and she's an awesome fellow camper, so I was really happy to have her with me!

She flew into Spokane on Saturday, August 4, and we spent the night in a motel. The next morning we went shopping for food and such at Trader Joe's, then drove into Idaho (where I had my last Del Taco fix for a couple of weeks!), north from Coeur d'Alene then east into Montana, where we stayed at a KOA between Kalispell and Whitefish, to be poised for going to Glacier National Park early the next morning.

One in a series of crazy road signs. Montana was BEAUTIFUL. The sculptures are in the town of Libby, MT.
Our campsite in the KOA near Kalispell MT. Kelly got her tent up with no problem! And a well-deserved rest. Aaaah.

Monday, August 6

Our plan for this day was to drive all the way across Glacier National Park, from east to west, on Going to the Sun Road (known as Sun Road); not only is it a beautiful drive, but our campground at St. Mary was on the east side of the park. We planned to take most of the day driving across and stopping for everything.
We got up SOOO EARLY...yes, it's dawn. But what did I see on my way back from the bathroom? Adorable BUNNIES. Just sitting on their round butts and eating the bushes.
The buffalo was also in our campground, very cool.

This line of cars was at the entrance to Glacier. I'm glad to say that we saw very little of this, in general.

Lake MacDonald in the early morning. It's about 9 am at this point.
And my wonderful truck Boudika tuns 200,000. She is the best truck ever, and did just fine on this whole trip.
And now there's nobody on the road, which suits us just fine.

Driving by Catastrophe Creek.


Douglas's Catchfly

Some kind of fleabane

Scouler's St. Johns Wort Another Fleabane Wild Bergamot
There were a few tunnels on this road, and here's Kelly taking pictures near one of them. More Douglas's Catchfly I would say probably some kind of buckwheat...
More beautiful views, but you can see how the wildfire smoke is coming in...
This might be some kind of hawksbeard, but I wouldn't swear to it...didn't get a pic of the leaves... Tasselflower Brickellbush Some kind of Paintbrush We had pulled over just beyond this bridge to see all of these flowers.
Harebells, and more Wild Bergamot. I just love this stuff, as long as nobody puts any in my hot tea...
Up til now, we had been steadily climbing to the top of Sun Road, Logan's Pass. There had been more or fewer cars, depending on where we stopped, but it wasn't that congested, and we never had any problem finding a place to pull over when we wanted. Until we got to Logan's Pass.
We hit a line of cars just before the last turn to the top of the road...because there was an adorable MOUNTAIN GOAT right there by the road! So I took pictures while Kelly navigated the turns...and then we found out that the parking lot for the visitor's center was closed, it was completely full. The only vehicles they were allowing in were shuttle buses. So we said, no problem, we'll finish driving Sun Road, end up at the St. Mary Visitor's Center, and take the shuttle back up here to see what's what and maybe go for a hike.
Lyall's Angelica

Slender Cinquefoil



Blanket flower

Rocky Mountain Goldenrod


Probably more fleabane

We kept seeing more flowers and pulling over for them...

Fireweed, so called because it's the first thing that grows back after a fire.

More fireweed. We really loved this stuff! No idea what this is, among the daisies, but it's very cool-looking...
Two photos of St. Mary Lake, which was pretty, and after we parked at the St. Mary Visitor Center, this is the relief map of Glacier NP that they had inside. And the view out the back of the visitor center, across the parking lot by the entrance station; smoky but beautiful.

Then we took the bus back up to Logan Pass, riding with two families of adults and about 5 kids from 5 years old up to teenagers that were traveling across the country in two RVs. They were all nice, still on speaking terms and NONE of the kids had their faces stuck in a smartphone. Amazing.

And now we're at Logan Pass! The visitor center was small but very nice. We decided to hike the Hidden Lake trail, either to the viewpoint a mile and a half away, or to the lake itself three miles away, depending on how we felt when we got to the viewpoint; the elevation wasn't horrible (6600 ft) but the trail (or rather the boardwalk with stairs) was a bit steep.
And there were flowers EVERYWHERE.

Row 1: Lewis' Monkeyflower and two American Bistorts

Row 2: Some kind of Paintbrush, some kind of Goldenrod, and Sulphur Indian Paintbrush.

Even in August Logan Pass was right up near the snow line; there were lots of waterfalls. They close the visitor's center in the winter as soon as it's snowed in, and close the road through Glacier as well; in the spring they literally dig the visitor's center out of the snow when they plow the road, and then they open it for the season...

Here's the boardwalk uphill for the first 3/4 mile of the hike to the overlook, and Kelly is up there ahead of me.

It was a beautiful hike, and the temperature was fine, snow notwithstanding- it was about 65 degrees. Pink Paintbrush, and more Lewis' Monkeyflower.

Showy Fleabane

And suddenly we were in Cute Animal Central. First there was the mountain goat family...the first picture is without zooming, they were that close. And the BABY! Awww....
Then this ground squirrel was literally posing for pictures...and another mountain goat a little bit farther down the trail decided to cross a lake VERY picturesquely...
Over and over again, I'd see the animals posing for pictures so perfectly that I could SWEAR they had been paid off by the NPS...!
Adorable but moochy chipmunk, two views down to Hidden Lake from the overlook, which was a wooden platform with a railing, and a Yellow-Bellied Marmot.

And here is the cutest marmot video ever. Greenpeace was doing a time-lapse and this little guy was interested in the camera...

These are Shrubby Cinquefoils, and are evidently VERY attractive to bees and big flies. You can see that the bee has collected a whole lot of pollen on its legs!
Another adorbs chipmunk, another beautiful view...and another mountain goat posing for the tourists.
Another Sulphur Indian Paintbrush, and these squirrels! One was chasing the other, and the one being chased got on the rock near the tourists. King's X!!!
Kelly coming along right behind me...me on my way down...and at the visitor's center is a squirrel yelling imprecations at all the hikers!
And we got back to the campground, and now for my favorite part...NOT having to put a tent up. I'm all ready for the show...and here's Kelly, pitching her tent. Yay Kelly! Well done!
These were the bushes beside our camp site. I can't identify the thistles, but they were mixed in with the berries...and then there was the bear warning. With berries all over the campground. Hmmm... But we never saw or heard a bear in the campground, at least. We did, however, take the stove completely apart and put it in the truck every night, just to be sure.

Here's Kelly, making something delicous for dinner.

Tuesday, August 7

On the shuttle bus back from Logan Pass to St. Mary, we had fallen in conversation with a young woman who showed us pictures she had taken on a hike in Many Glacier that day; she said, you go up past the lake and there's some switchbacks; we stopped part way up those and took this picture. The photo was of an amazing valley with three lakes going off into the distance. Kelly and I both said, ooh, we want that! So we checked the Grinnell Glacier hike in my National Parks book, and that was our plan for the next day.

To get there, we had to drive out of Glacier NP, go north a few miles, then drive back in, because the only road that goes all the way through the park is Sun Road. Everything else in the park you go out and back in.

Deer in the campground Teepees by the side of the road, I think it's a motel of some kind. The road into Many Glacier went along Sherburne Lake, and it was beautiful in the morning light.
When we got there, the parking lot for Grinnell Glacier (and other trails that start in the same place) was already full; we happened across a ranger, who showed us a place by the road we could park for the day. The vehicle that parked next to us as we were getting ready was a pickup truck with a father and son, Frank and Lorenzo, who were going to hike and fish. Frank took this picture.
We had two choices that we were interested in: Grinnell Lake, 3.4 miles one way, or Grinnell Glacier overlook, 5.5 miles one way. The trail for the lake splits off after about a mile and a half, so we figured we'd hike til we got there and then decide.

The first part of the hike is paved and goes through trees; the grizzly bear sign was the first thing you see as you enter the trees. Oh boy!

Fireweed I think this might be Pearly Pussytoes. This is what the first half or 3/4 of a mile looked like, just a beautiful hike through the forest. Ooh, looks like a game board...
The first of three lakes the trail goes past, Swiftcurrent Lake; Fireweed; a beautiful pond; Green False Hellebore
White Spirea Fireweed. We couldn't resist, it was so pretty. We're mostly out of the trees now, following the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. Many people split off to go play in the water, and there was a boat dock. This is some kind of penstemon, I think it's Lyall's Beardtongue.
The trail curved into some trees and bushes, and suddenly this little guy, mouth full of sticks, was running down the trail at me. And he WOULDN'T STOP. If you've never played chicken with a chipmunk, let me tell you, it's hilarious. I stopped. He rushed me. I stepped forward a foot. He ran back and forth then rushed me again. We did this a bit, then he passed me by and went for the next hiker. What a cutie!

And a monochrome pic of a dead tree on Josephine Lake (we had gotten to Lake #2) just because it was pretty.

The yellow flowers are Cinquefoil, I think Sticky Cinquefoil. And bonus insects. The white clusters are Rush Pussytoes. And here we have come to the place where we have to decide which way to go- we've come a mile and three quarters, so we can either go down to Grinnell Lake, a beautiful glacial lake, or up to the Glacier Overlook. We decided to try for the overlook...and off we go!
No idea. Just looked cool. Now the trail is going uphill and getting rocky. Kelly takes a break. This was a rocky/shady place where people going both directions stopped for a break and we all discussed the trail; a man showed me a picture he had taken of his wife with a moose in the background. It was a ways up there, he said, maybe an hour. Cool! I said. Looks like raspberries. Waay up the side of the trail where hikers couldn't reach them, the only ones left.
Yes, that's the trail in the first picture.

Our first view of Grinnell Lake, which is a glacial lake. Glaciers grind against rocks and make tiny grains that wash into the lakes...but they neither sink nor float, they are just suspended in the water. This is why glacial lakes are always a beautiful shade of green or teal or turquoise.

See the double waterfall? there is a tiny line of snow above it, then a hill above that, then a big snowpack. The hill above the tiny line of snow is where the trail goes. Waaaay up there. Yup. That's where it goes.

And we hit some steep switchbacks, and that was where, while we were resting, that Kelly said she was done. We sat a bit and talked, and she didn't change her mind, but she was okay with getting back to the truck by herself; there were plenty of other people on the trail, as well, so that was fine. We looked at our watches. It was about 11:30. Wherever I am at 2 pm, I'll turn around, I said. Even if I hike that long, I should be back to the truck by 5. (I wasn't but it was close...!) So I went on without her.

Rosy Spirea, waterfall, and another adorable critter.
And of course as soon as I left Kelly I started having amazing ANIMAL! ANIMAL! ANIMAL! (joke) sightings. This huge moose was the one the guy had shown me in his picture of his wife...the moose was way up the hill, eating the bushes. It took two guys to point him out to me, he was so far up. But a MOOSE!!! Or rather, his rack and butt; I never did see his face, it was stuffed into the buffet lunch.
Two more waterfalls. The first was just picking your way over rocks through the stream; the second you had to WALK THROUGH the falls and up the steep wet slippery rock stairs. You can't see the spray in this picture, but everyone got soaked. Good thing it was hot that day. Going up wasn't too bad, but I worried about coming down...

I'm passing Grinnell Lake, and some nice folks took my picture.

The trail is made up of old lakebed rock with fossilized mud ripples in it. You don't get any cooler than that. More fleabane. I'm almost past Grinnell Lake, and some hikers stop to tell me there's a mountain goat with her baby up ahead. Thinking of the moose, I say, where? Don't worry, they said, you can't miss them, they're right by the trail. And they were. They were literally right by the trail. Then they got off the rock, went downhill, then came back up on the trail, went along it and up the hill. Mom would get ahead then yell for Jr. to stop eating and follow her and hurry up about it!
Another piece of old lakebed made into a trail. I've passed Grinnell Lake, and am level with the top of the waterfalls. The big line of snow behind the tree is Grinnell Glacier.
Then I got to a place where there were big pine trees and clearings and log benches (and a couple of outhouses, amazingly enough). This was the 5 mile mark where everyone sits and rests a bit before the final effort. And there was a bighorn sheep up the hill near the snow! There wa a sign saying, Grinnell Glacier Overlook, .5 mile. Yippee! Easy peasy. I can do this!
Nope. Here's where I found out what the young lady from the bus meant when she said that they turned back at the switchbacks...the first picture does not do them justice, but they were STEEP ROCK STAIRSTEP HELL. I almost turned back as well, they were so hard, but I looked at my watch...it was twenty minutes to two, when I promised to turn around. So I thought, I'll just struggle up these hell stairs til 2 and then I can turn around. And at 2 pm...I was at the overlook, taking this picture of Grinnell Glacier.
And this was the photo that started the whole thing...the lakes seen from the switchbacks. And they certainly are pretty. And that's not only the way I came, but I have to go all the way back there...this trail goes up 1800 feet in the last 3.8 miles, by the way (the first mile and a half is level). That's as steep as Half Dome, 500 feet/mile. whew!
So yes. I made it to the overlook JUST at 2 pm, took that picture and turned back...didn't think to get someone else to take my picture. Saw two flowers, the first is a Yellow Penstemon (even though it's white) and the second is, of course, paintbrush.

Then I saw a crowd of people in the area with the trees and benches...someone had hung their backpack on a tree while they did <thing> and a bighorn sheep had come to investigate it, which consisted of butting it to see if it fell down or broke open. By the time I got there, he was just hanging out and grazing.

All the people getting FAR too close to a wild animal...I stayed further away...just in case.
And now it's time to head back to the truck...all 5 1/2 miles. At least it's downhill. The wildfire smoke has blown in and it's very gray and foggy-ish...
Ant races! These two guys were ZOOMING by. And a big interesting-looking insect, about an inch long. The trail is still pretty on the way back, even without sunshine.

When I got to the waterfall with the steps, I ran into Frank and Lorenzo again, going down the trail also. Frank gave me his camera to take pics of him as he went down the stairs, then he helped me down. I asked them to look for Kelly and tell her that I was on my way back and was hoping to get there by 4:30, which they did...but I didn't make that, I was going pretty slow. I regret not having Frank take a picture of me doing 'Singin' in the Rain' in the waterfall. Ah welll

I got about halfway down Josephine Lake, and there were some people down on the shore...a kid came up and pointed at the end of the lake, where a lady moose was noshing the greenery. I took one picture from where I was, and when the trail got to the end of the lake, I was about 20 feet from her. Luckily she was more interested in eating her stuff than in the hikers...
And I'm on the bridge about half a mile from the truck. I got to the parking lot at 5:10 and ran into Kelly right away; she had moved the truck closer, bless her, and was just trying to decide if she should hike up the trail and meet me.

She had rested, then continued on to the waterfall with the stairs, then went back and hiked around the lakes til I showed up. Here are some pictures she took:

This bear standee was by the entrance kiosk for Many Glacier, of course we needed pictures with it! And here is a Common Toadflax.
I made dinner and at 7 we walked (well, I limped, I was thrashed) to the next camping loop to see a ranger talk on amphibians of Glacier NP...turned out to be a very simple intro for kids, and halfway through I was just done, so at a point when the kids who were up front singing "I'm a little froglet" sat down, I left, heading for the road I had to cross to get to our camping loop...and this guy trotted down the road right in front of me. After the second picture he jumped in the bushes and was gone.

Wednesday, August 8

If you look at a map, you will see that Glacier National Park actually slops over the US/Canadian border. At that point it becomes Waterton Lake National Park, and is a sister park to Glacier. One of the reasons I got a campground on the east side of Glacier was so that we could drive up to Canada for a day and check this place out.
Oh god, we're up at dawn again, 6 am. Bleah. Waterton Lake NP is about an hour and a half north of where we were camping, so to have the maximum time there, we left at some horrendously early hour like 7:30 am. You can see the sunrise, we each took a picture of it. The mountains we passed were pretty, though.
More beautiful mountains, and our first wildlife of the day...a Montana roadblock!
And we get through the border, and we're in Canada! Of course we had to stop for photo-ops.
And we're in Waterton Lakes. The two 'slow down/ralentir' signs are pretty straightforward. I think the third sign is a 'speed bumps ahead' sign, and the lizard is actually a salamander that crosses the road and was getting killed by cars...so they built a tunnel under the road with chutes leading into it, and put a sign up to warn people. I wanted to stop and look for some of them, but we didn't see the sign on the way out, just on the way in.

We wanted to get tickets for the boat that crosses Waterton Lake and back, and as soon as we hit town we followed the signs to the visitor's center...which didn't exist. Literally. After circling around town (which is pretty small) twice, we asked someone; it burned down in the 2017 fire! They gave us directions to the marina, which is all we needed. We went there and got tickets for the 10:30 am boat ride.

Then we hustled around the end of the lake and up that hill to the Prince of Wales hotel (well, Kelly hustled, I was still limping...). I saw this magpie on the way. You can see Kelly way up ahead of me on the street. And after going up the steep driveway to the hotel...we found out that they don't take reservations for lunch, it's first come-first served. Then we had to hustle all the way back DOWN to catch the boat. Whew.

The marker is the US/Canada border.

The boat shed is on the right, the visitor's center on the left.

Now, this was a beautiful cruise on a lovely warm day, and we had a great time...but you can see how much smoke is in the air; evidently there were new fires in Alberta and Idaho. And just for contrast, on the right is what this lake looks like on a clear day...
The cruise takes about 45 minutes in each direction, and about half an hour at Goat Haunt. On the opposite shore one is actually in the United States, in Glacier NP. There are hiking trails that start there at Goat Haunt, and a ranger who comes in and lives there for three months at a time with two or three other people and that's it. Except the boatloads of tourists and hikers, of course!
The International is a 90 year old wooden boat purpose built to travel on this lake, and she's been in service the whole time. When the 2017 fire burned a big chunk of the town (they weren't joking about the visitor's center burning down) and they were desperately trying to save the Prince of Wales hotel, they took this boat and moved it to the boat shed on the American side with two or three guys ready to take it out on the water if the fire came near the shed...which it didn't, thank goodness. Read more about the International!
On the left you can see the cleared strip that is the actual border; both sides cooperate to keep it clear of trees along its length.

On the right is Triple Divide Peak; there's a square foot area on top where water that falls on it could end up in the Pacific, the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico.

And we're back, and this time we DRIVE up the steep hill to the Prince of Wales hotel, and they do indeed have a table for us to have lunch. We wandered around a bit first, just to see the hotel, which was quite beautiful.
This map of the area was hanging in the hotel, as was the beautiful chandelier.

The view from the patio outside the restaurant.

And here we are, ready for lunch!

Delicious local beer!

And we tried poutine, which is a Canadian thing, French Fries with gravy and 'cheese curds' (chunks of Mozarella or some other soft cheese). It was DELICIOUS. And we had salads along with it, and they were good too. A lovely lunch!

Western Canada Goldenrod Josie Looking Sexy On Bear Bench This is a race car? Really? Very cool moose skull!
Okay, I liked the pun. The other bench I didn't look sexy on Sticky Purple Geranium Some kind of thistles. I love thistles!!
I had to go online to find this one, a nice person at Flowers Forum said it looks like the seed pod of a Blanket Flower...which it certainly does, but I'm not sure of the leaves. Maybe another Gaillardia? but it'll do.

And...this sign would have been very informative if we could have seen the mountains...

On the way home, there were no cows in the road because, as I told Kelly, they MOOOOved. Then I fell all over the truck laughing.

More about melting glaciers. The flags outside the St. Mary Visitor's Center Berries near our campsite. This was written on the picnic table at our campsite. Must be time to move on!

Thursday, August 9

We spent the day driving to Bozeman, MT, with a stop for groceries and for me to call Tracfone and find out why my phone no longer worked. Turned out that even though I didn't use it in Canada, it was on, and that was a Very Bad Thing. The help desk was awesome, and in five minutes I was back and connected to my life again.
Mountains on the way out of Glacier NP The store at St. Mary, where we stopped for gas and caffeine. Turns out the town of St. Mary is on the Blackfoot reservation and they do alcohol-free days every so often. More pretty though hazy mountains on the road. Canada? Just turn right!
We got to Bozeman just in time to check into our motel and pick up Ellen at the airport. We stayed at the Bozeman Inn, which was very nice, and this electrical box was on the street outside...all the flowers!
They had a 'street fair' in Bozeman that night, which was basically a bunch of food trucks and a loud band. We opted for a restaurant, and this one was good! it was the usual bowl of "choose one each of starch + protein + veggies + sauce", with a brazilian twist, and we all enjoyed it very much! The back end was painted in a cool graffiti style but the light was too wierd for my camera.
There were a few amusing things at the street fair...I loved the dog begging outside the bison food truck! And I always like neon.
We saw the dressed-up statue on the way back to the motel, and then I had to do laundry; the motel's machines were broken, so I had to find a place in town and spent an hour and a half getting it done. While I was there, Ellen and Kelly took pictures of fireworks being fired off in the vacant lot a few blocks from the motel. I always miss the cool stuff...

Our adventures continue in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks!


I was driving through Titus Canyon in Death Valley with my husband, and as we reached the Narrows, I said, the road is going to take all my attention through here, so if you see an animal, sing out and I'll stop. Not two minutes later he was yelling, ANIMAL! ANIMAL! ANIMAL!

There were two bighorn sheep not fifteen feet from the road. He said he was so surprised he couldn't even think of what they were called, and just said that instead. It's a running joke now.