Things have been a bit crazy since returning from our trip. We had to make an unexpected trip back to Indiana for my grandfather’s funeral (the second of my grandparents’ funerals we’ve attended there in the last 3 months) so I haven’t been able to keep up on my posts as much as I was hoping to. Now that we’ve returned home I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things. I’ll post more about some of the trails we hiked in Glacier later, but until then some highlights from the trip:
This is a tiny town about 25 miles north of the park and about 15 miles south of the Canadian border located off of North Fork Road. It consists of a Mercantile (which is known for it’s DELICIOUS homemade pastries); a saloon where we had lunch–I highly recommend the homemade potato wedges and ranch dressing–and a few cabins available for rent. It is the starting point for several hiking trails in the area and there are numerous lakes nearby. We visited Bowman Lake and hiked a portion of the Bowman Lake Trail there. The trail was a simple walk through the woods on a smooth trail with little to no elevation gain. It wasn’t crowded though we did see several other hikers. Be watchful for bear in this area–as well as throughout the entire park. We did not see any but we saw evidence of them. The trail could be made into a full day excursion to the end of the lake and back (the lake is 6 miles long) or a multi-day backpacking trip if one wished to take advantage of all the trails that connect to it. It had gorgeous views of the mountains and their reflections on the aquamarine water.
Being that we were so close to the border we decided we HAD to drive up and say “hello” to our friendly neighbors to the north. We knew there used to be a border crossing in this area but that it had been closed several years ago. We were expecting some sort of obvious signage indicating the divide between the two countries, a fence preventing entry, something…we were in for a bit of a surprise. You reach the border by traveling north from Polebridge on a narrow dirt road. Drive carefully and be watchful as there are sharp turns. Wildlife–and the few inhabitants of that desolate region–may be seen on the road; we encountered a very friendly couple biking with their 3 dogs. The couple encouraged us to check out the border though we thought they were “pulling the tourists’ leg” when they described what we’d find…they weren’t. You will know you’ve reached the border when…the road ends…at a gate that looks like something that will close a local city park for the winter. There is also a SMALL sign that reads “no admittance to Canada” and a trench about two feet wide and a foot deep that you can walk across that spans the border as far as the eye can see in both directions. You see a clear line cut through the forest that stretches for miles and continues up the mountains to the east and the west. There is also an obelisk with plaques marking both countries and commemorating one of the longest of international borders that has been held peacefully for one of the longest time spans in history. There is no fence (don’t tell Trump!), though there are security cameras and we saw border agents patrolling the area so I would strongly encourage you to be respectful to the laws of both countries. Pictures are allowed but even if you have a passport, this is not an open border crossing.
*I had a bit of a philosophical epiphany while observing the border. Humans are not allowed to cross freely, but as there is no fence, the animals cross back and forth completely unhindered. The same forests and mountains reside on both sides and were the border not artificially maintained by human hands one would not know when it had been crossed. It gives you pause regarding man’s futile attempts to divide humanity based on imaginary lines. If the animals don’t care which side of the border they (or their fellow forest inhabitants) reside…should we?
Goat Lick Overlook
This is a very neat area located directly off of US 2 on the southern edge of the park about halfway between West Glacier and East Glacier (this is one of those areas of lousy signage I mentioned in my previous post). There is a large sign announcing the overlook from the west…and nothing from the east…so be watchful if coming from that direction. The Overlook is exactly as the name suggests…a canyon where the wild mountain goats come to lick minerals that seep from the rocks. We saw a herd of close to 20 goats complete with adults and babies scampering with carefree vigor–you could hear them calling to each other from quite a distance. Most of the goats stayed on the other side of the canyon but one mother and baby were camped out very near our location. These animals are usually fairly harmless but please always remember they are wild. They should be treated with respect and given space. If they act in any way uncomfortable, you are too close. MOVE BACK! It should always be assumed that any animal (but especially a parent protecting a baby) may attack with force at any time if they feel threatened.
Sunset on Lake McDonald
Our hotel was only 5 minutes outside the border of the park and only about 10 minutes from the largest lake in the park, Lake McDonald. Every night we enjoyed the sunset on the shores of the lake in the tiny community of Apgar. The view actually faces northeast so you won’t see the actual sun drop below the western mountains but you will see the play of shadows and alpenglow on the mountains to the east and their reflection in the lake water (if it’s calm)–one night we got to watch lightning from far-off storms in the clouds towering over the mountains in addition to the beautiful sunset. Every night a family of ducks would swim by. They were unique in that they would dive under the water and remain submerged for ten’s of seconds before popping back to the surface quite a distance from where they went under. The ducklings were especially entertaining to watch. They would build up speed by quickly skimming the water with their wings–almost to the point of taking flight–before diving below the surface. I highly recommend stopping for ice cream at one of Apgar’s several shoppes before heading to the lake!
*Another important note, none of the lodges or motels inside the park or near it’s entrances have TV’s. This is done intentionally to help preserve your surroundings in a rustic, 1950’s manner. It was a bit like taking a step back in time and we found it incredibly enjoyable. People left their rooms at night and gathered in parks and along the lakeside; eating ice cream, skipping rocks and conversing with each other. There isn’t much cell service either so you’re forced to disconnect a bit and commune with nature (or *gasp*, actually talk to the person next to you!) It catered to a relaxed, communal atmosphere.
The water in the park (the rivers and lakes) is crystal clear (and COLD!) and tinged with a greenish hue. This comes from the glaciers that feed them. I’ve seen pictures of this phenomenon before but had never seen it in person. It’s one of the most beautiful, difficult-to-describe colors. One wonders if the glaciers melt, how it will effect this unique quality of the park.
Below are some pictures from the highlights of the trip: