Dreams of towering peaks clawed rugged and crystal clear lakes dug into the landscape by Glaciers from our last ice age has always called me north. I’m so grateful that on this road trip I was finally able to visit Glacier National Park.
We pulled into McDonald’s Lake to grab a campsite before heading out exploring. Glacier has a ton of camping, which makes life so easy. Many of the other national parks don’t have as many campgrounds available. The weekend before we arrived, Glacier had already received it’s first major snowfall. There was no snow at the lake, but it was already down into the low 40s when we arrived. The higher parts of the park had received at least 8 inches of snow and the Road to the Sun was closed.
We decided to explore the western side of the park and headed up to Bowman Lake which was north of Polebridge. Polebridge is really too small to be called a town. It was a just a General Store and Bar. We drove on dirt roads for over an hour to get there. Most of the road was outside the park, so there were several mountain ranches we drove past.
Before getting to Polebridge, out on the dirt road for miles, probably 20 miles south of the Canadian boarder, we drive past a Little Library. We slip by it, but I make my dad turn around and go back. I’ve seen these wonderful little libraries all over California. But what I loved about this one was how remote it was. I haven’t finished any of my books I brought for the trip since there has been just too much to see, but if I had I would have added it to that library.
Back to the journey to Bowman, we turn north from Polebridge onto a dirt road that is so much worse than the one before. It was so bumpy, my dad wanted to turn around and head back. Luckily, we crossed paths with another car, which said the lake was incredible and we had to go. The road was slow going and twisty, but the trees and vistas were absolutely incredible. Finally, we make it to this huge glacier lake surrounded by giant peaks. It was still cloudy up at the lake so I couldn’t see the far end of the lake or the peaks. The water was still choppy from the storm that had come through, but I can imagine that when it is calm it would be an incredible place to kayak. Just a reason for me to go back to Glacier. The lake had a beautiful campground as well with very few visitors. If we hadn’t already paid for our camping back at Lake McDonald, I would have stayed here. The sun started to set so it was time for us to head back to camp.
The next morning, the Road to the Sun still hadn’t opened, so we decided to drive to the east side of Glacier taking the souther route the tracks the the park board and the Blackfeet Reservation. Before heading out, we walked around Lake McDonald which is the clearest lake I’ve ever seen!
Our first stop was the East Glacier entrance and the huge log lodge greeting guests. This lodge was built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railroad to encourage people to travel across the north. Huge round chandeliers cross the ceiling with massive skylights letting in the Glacier sun. At the far end is the biggest fireplace I’ve seen. It was at least 10 feet wide and 6 feet high. It was big enough that over the sumer, a drunk guy to fall in trying to put a log in, even though there was a big sign saying not too. There was still plenty of snow in this area of park and it was cold, so we didn’t do any hiking or exploring. Even though the sun was high, this was going to be a driving day.
So we headed up to Many Glacier, but when my dad realized we were only 15 miles from the Canadian boarder he kept driving north. I’ve been asking both my parents to get their passports, but neither of them have. So I told him that he would be able to see Canada across the boarder and that’s it. Yet, he had to go talk to the boarder patrol. I stayed in the car because every boarder crossing I’ve ever done, the boarder police are way serious and don’t tolerate anything. But the best part of the journey north was seeing Chief Mountain which is a holy place for several Native American tribes.
We turned back and went to Many Glacier, which still has 5 remaining glaciers that can be seen. They had pictures of these glaciers from 10 years ago and they were still a decent size. But now there is not much left to see. Unfortunately, I bet they will be gone in the next 5 years. Many Glacier also had a beautiful old lodge that sat on the glacier lake across from the peaks. I made an incredible new friend in the lodge. His name was Big! Unfortunately, he was a bit too stuffed to join me for dinner.
Finally, we headed back to Saint Mary’s Lake where we were camping for the night. We ate in the park, which is not usually my recommendation. It was even worse since it was end of season and most of the staff had already headed home. The food was okay, but it took us a few hours to eat a hamburger and brat. I guess we should have headed out to the town to grab dinner.
I woke up to one of the most amazing mountain views I’ve seen. Through the trees, the peak stretched up into the clear blue heavens. I knew that even if the pass over Road to the Sun didn’t open today, I had seen the amazing beauty of Glacier. I was even blessed to have a snow view of the park which most don’t have unless they come at the very end of season. We decided to drive up the Road to the Sun until it was closed since the weather hadn’t improved enough to clear the snow at the top. It was still so gorgeous, it became reason number two for me to come back. So we headed back down the mountain to head out into the high mountain prairies of Montana and south into Wyoming.