Saturday, August 13, 2011

Days 9 & 10, 8/8 - 8/9: Glacier National Park

Duncan: Thus, after an unexpectedly eventful night in the little-known city of Spokane, we ventured for the first time this trip into a state that shares no border with the Pacific. There was a certain sense of unease perched in the back of my mind as we crossed into Idaho; we definitely weren’t "in Kansas anymore". Still, the scenery was pleasant as we drove through the pine-covered mountain passes of the state’s panhandle. We stopped in Kellogg, Idaho to experience the self-proclaimed “longest gondola ride in the world” up to the top of some mountain. At the summit we took a few pictures, climbed on a dormant ski lift, and just hung around for a while. Upon our return to the foot of the mountain we ducked into a restaurant to see if Idaho potatoes really lived up to their hype. They tasted just like any other potato to me, but hey, what do I know? We returned to the car and our long eastward haul.
Small town in western Montana
We passed miles and miles of not much at all as our route turned north toward Montana’s Glacier National Park. There were cows, endless miles of rolling grassland, and very few people. We stopped only briefly to clean the floor of the Golf after our noses alerted us to a monumental spill of laundry detergent under the driver’s seat. Luckily, our first-aid kit was the only casualty of the deluge of sticky blue liquid. We were soon back on our way, and the scenery grew progressively more remarkable. We made stops at bold-looking rock formations and swiftly flowing rivers as the sun steadily descended, and I began to develop and awe and even a love for Montana's vast, untamed landscape. I kept wishing we had more time on our itinerary to stop and hike and explore and enjoy every inch of the wildly beautiful terrain. We arrived in Glacier at around 10 pm. After a quick dinner of frank ‘n’ beans prepared on our propane stove, we put all our food and dishes in the Golf (on account of the park’s population of hungry bears), pitched our tent, and quickly fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning in a puddle of sweat—our tent acts as a sort of greenhouse when the weather is hot—and walked outside to find Raffi whipping up some oatmeal. We ate, packed up our camp, and began our drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road, a mountainous route world-renowned for its stunning views of ancient glaciers and jagged mountain peaks. We cruised past thickening pine forests, meadows carpeted with vivid wildflowers, and crystalline rivers, stopping frequently to walk down to the bank of the stream our road followed and mill around for a while. The water was cold enough to make your bones ache.
As the road climbed higher and higher into the Rockies, the view of the mountains surrounding us and the river valley below us grew preposterously beautiful. Waterfalls would periodically wind their way from the still-frozen heights above downthe cliff faces adjacent to our route. I won’t do it injustice to the place by attempting to describe it any further. What I will do is tell you this: sometime in your life, make the trip to Glacier National Park. I know I'll be making at least one more.
We arrived at the Eastern part of the park around 3:30 p.m., but the campsite at which we had intended to stay was full, so we instead fished for a while in the St. Mary river right above St. Mary Lake. We caught nothing, but I did succeed in losing a lure and somehow breaking my fishing rod. About an hour later we hopped back in the car and headed 20 miles south to another campsite tucked away in some woods along Cutbank Creek. Finding plenty of campsites open, we set up our tent and explored the place a little bit. We decided to hike a nearby trail despite the fact that it had started to drizzle, a decision that I’m glad we made as it soon cleared up and we got to enjoy seven or eight miles of the park's nature in relative solitude. After we returned to camp, we fished in the creek by our campsite for a while, but to no avail. Troutless, we settled for Chef Boyardee ravioli. It started hailing (strangely enough), and soon after we all climbed in our tent and went to sleep. It had been a wonderful day.

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