Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crown Jewel of the Continent

This weekend I had the time of my life at Glacier National Park. I loved every minute! Even the drive out there was beautiful!
I drove up to the park along the west side passing by Flathead Lake along the way. I am pretty sure that this lake is as close to paradise as you can get on this earth. The sun was shimmering off the lake, there were people reading and relaxing on their sailboats, and cherry orchards around where you could pick your own fresh berries. It was wonderful to take my time and check out the little towns.

Eventually, I made it to the west entrance of Glacier NP, and set out for my ride along the Going-to-the-Sun road. The ride was beautiful, but slightly dangerous when going passed jagged rocky cliffs on one side and on-coming traffic on the other. I thought for sure my mirrors were going to get taken out at some point. There were a lot of other people visiting and the look-out stops were jam packed full of cars. This is the only problem with going during the "season." As a result most of my pictures were taken from inside the car. However, even with all the annoying tourists, I was still in awe as the expansive vistas that kept coming into view around every corner.


At one of the visitors centers I asked about guided hikes, and one of the rangers, a young girl about my age, told me about an all day hike that she was leading the next day. It sounded amazing so the next day I met up with her, and about 5 other people to begin our 10 mile hike. It was a loop trail that gained 2,400 feet in elevation and then descended 3,400 feet back down to the river and out to St. Marys Lake. We began the hike with picturesque fields of wild flowers. Then, once we climbed above the tree line I was able to see past the edge of the rocky mountain range all the way to the plains beyond. On our way down we hiked over countless streams of snow melt that formed waterfalls, and ran into the river. The view was breathtaking. The group of people that I hiked with could not have been better, too. One had a degree in geology so he showed us the difference between a valley formed by a glacier vs. by a river. Another, studied plants and she knew a lot of the wild flowers and their uses. The ranger, Megan, also knew most of the wild flowers and those that she didn't know we looked up in her book. It was interesting.
Some of the flowers are edible. One of the flowers I got to try was the Glacier Lily. It tasted like a snap pea. The other was a chive. Which tasted...surprisingly... just like a chive. :)

By the time we were done hiking I was beat. I went to a little cafe just outside the park where I got dinner and a Moose Moss Milkshake as a reward. Moose moss is Moose tracks and mint chocolate ice cream mixed together. It was amazing!
The next day I went to the northern portion of the park called Many Glacier. This is where there is a lot of bear activity, or so I was told. I was doubtful since the park is so huge, and I hadn't seen the faintest hint of a bear the whole time I was in Glacier up to that point. However, my skepticism was soon erased as I drove into the park and in less then a mile I saw a bunch of cars pulled over. I stopped and I saw my first Grizzly. It was far away on a hillside, but it was there! Then, later I decided I would stop in a pullout, and wait like those people with the big scopes. I would just be patient and a bear would show up, right?  Well, I wasn't seeing anything so I got out of the car to take a picture of the scenery before moving on, and out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I thought it was just a leaf blowing in the wind, but when I looked through my binoculars into the bush I could see a big black bear head hiding in there! I had found this one all on my own. No big bear jam to clue me in... no ranger pointing him out... just me happening to being in the perfect place at the perfect time. I couldn't believe it! Just when I saw it, it meandered out of the bush and back into the woods. I was the only one who saw that bear! I was so thrilled! At this point, I couldn't believe my luck and I was perfectly content with my bear sightings, and decided to head for home. Then, just to add a little more joy to my already full plate there was a young grizzly bear just hanging out right outside the park exit.

So cute isn't he?
Loved Glacier and all the wildlife! Can't wait to go back someday when I have more time to explore even more!