Thursday, August 12, 2010

Glacier National Park

We enjoyed our visit to Glacier National Park, although I think we could have seen and done more if we had a car.  The Park is still working kinks out of their shuttle service and so there were some delays that ate into our sightseeing time. But... I'm getting ahead of myself.

Once we arrived and got settled in to our campsite, Lynda and I walked over the bridge from the campground to the St Mary's Visitors Center to get more information about the park and transportation.  The Trek is too long to drive on the Road-to-the-Sun and so our plan was to use the Park's free shuttle service.

A ranger at the St Mary's Visitors Center said he thought it would take a couple hours by shuttle to get to the Apgar Visitors Center, which is the West terminus of the Going-to-the-Sun road.

So we made a plan for the next day to catch the shuttle at St Mary's Visitors Center and ride it up to Logan's Pass, enjoying the scenery along the way.  Once there, we would transfer to another shuttle to the Apgar Visitors Center, where we would eat some lunch. Then we would catch a shuttle back to Logan's Pass, take some time to walk on the Highline Trail, and then finish up our day of sightseeing by riding a shuttle back to St Mary's Visitors Center.

Happy with our plan, we made our way back to the campsite and took the dogs for a walk. It was at this point that we noticed posters scattered around bathrooms and bulletin boards to be on the lookout for escaped convict John McClusky and his accomplice/cousin/fiance Casslyn Welch.

Ah, these must be the convicts Lynda heard about from those men at Duck Lake Lodge!

Apparently, the whole area was aquiver with nervous excitement. Casslyn Welch had been spotted in a St Mary restaurant just a few days ago and speculation was that McClusky and Welch might come into the park to hide or to hijack a vehicle. Authorities were particularly concerned about the campgrounds and park rangers were walking around cautioning campers to be on the lookout.

Well, Lynda and I agreed there was nothing we could do except make sure the Trek's door is locked while we're in there, and keep an eye out as we walk around the campground with the dogs. So despite all the excitement, we relaxed, grilled some steaks, and watched a movie.

The next morning we woke up bright and early (well, at least early), had some breakfast and took Sydney and Barley for a nice long walk. We expected to be gone for 6 or 7 hours and so we put the dogs in their crates and then went over to the St Mary's Visitors Center about 8:30 AM. Despite the relatively early hour, the shuttle stop was already crowded and we noticed several shuttle buses parked to the side with "Out of Service" signs. Uh-oh.

As it turned out, we were able to get on the next shuttle and even managed to grab a couple seats, although a lot of people ended up having to stand. The ride up to Logan's Pass took over an hour but we drove through such pretty scenery that the time went quickly.

By the way, of the 37 remaining glaciers in Glacier National Park only 25 are considered to be "active glaciers" of at least 25 acres.  If current climatic conditions continue, it is widely thought that most of the remaining glaciers in the park could disappear as soon as 2020, but certainly by 2030.

Once at Logan's Pass, which was very busy with traffic and pedestrians, we looked around for the shuttle stop for Apgar.  It was then we learned that we actually had to take a shuttle van to Avalanche Creek first, and then catch a third shuttle to Apgar. Well OK... we would do that.

It only took a few minutes for the little shuttle van for Avalanche Creek to appear and we hopped aboard along with a middle aged couple; we were the only passengers. As it turns out, we had a good time talking with those other people.  They were traveling in a truck camper and so I asked them lots of questions about that type of RV, which they answered gladly as they were very happy with their Okanagan camper.  They had also done stints as campground hosts and so we learned more about that. Anyway, they were very pleasant and it was nice to meet them, although I probably missed some of the beautiful scenery while we talked!

Along the way to Avalanche Creek we drove through a fairly big road repair area that was causing significant traffic delays.  We figured out that these delays were wreaking havoc with the shuttle schedules and that's why the crowds were backed up at the shuttle stops.  Of course, the fact that several shuttle buses were out of service only added to the transportation problem.  I remember thinking that the park should at least warn visitors about the delays in the shuttle service. 

Once we got to Avalanche Creek, our truck camper friends went their own way and we waited for yet another shuttle bus to take us to the Apgar Visitors Center. This time it took about 10 minutes for the shuttle to come, which isn't unreasonable. But nonetheless, it was taking us much longer to get to Apgar than we expected - we finally made it there around 1 PM.  We walked around a bit, had a nice lunch (including some awesome borscht soup), and then started the shuttle dance again... working our way back east along the Going-to-the-Sun road. 

Back at Logan's Pass, we decided to walk along part of the Highline Trail even though it was much later in the day than we planned.  And we are so glad we did!

The views were gorgeous and we saw a lot of wildlife including a small herd of Bighorn sheep. Those Bighorns are impressive creatures!

We also saw mountain goats, including one that was walking along the actual trail where it winds along the side of a mountain.  That goat just kept on going and people got out of his way - it was a pretty funny sight!

Notice the green cable along the rock wall?  Its there for people to hold on to as they walk along, or not... depending on their level of comfort with heights.

And we practically ran into some Columbia Ground Squirrels.  These little critters are incredibly bold - one of them ran right up to me and made chuck-chuck sounds as though he were scolding me for being in the way.  Anyway, they are very cute indeed!

After our walk along part of the Highline trail, we made our way back to the shuttle stop at Logan's Pass. By now it was past 4 PM and there were lines of people trying to get to various locations. Kids were hungry and cranky and so were some of the adults.

We waited for the shuttle bus for almost an hour and it was really, really crowded once we got on. Somehow, pure luck, we were able to get seats. But plenty of people were standing, and there were hiking poles and backpacks crammed everywhere. It was the end of the day and no one was a fresh as they had been that morning.

To make matters worse, the shuttle driver kept stopping and picking more people up. Finally, at the third or forth such stop, numerous people on board raised their voices in protest, asking her to not stuff any more people on the $#^% bus!  Although that bus driver got a bit defensive and snippy, she relented and told the folks that they would have to take the next shuttle.  They may still be there for all I know.

Well, we finally got back to the St Mary's Visitors Center about 5:30 PM and walked back to our campsite as fast as we could. Sydney and Barley were sure glad to see us... poor things had been in their crates for 9 hours!  Anyway, they were fine and we took them for a very long walk around the campground.

Click here for photos of our visit to Glacier National Park.

And now we're getting ready to leave for Great Falls for an oil change and to have the Autopark brake worked on.  Stay tuned!

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