Chapter 6 -- Glacier National Park

September 9, 1997

I e-mailed a "postcard" to several friends and relatives before I left my motel room this morning. The room at the Motel 6 was typical, that is to say, very spartan, but with one unusual feature. There was no cold running water! In both the sink and shower, they had those one-handle faucets, where you pull to turn on, push to turn off, and twist right and left to adjust the mix between cold and hot water. However, with these, both sides were hooked up to HOT water! I didn't believe it, but I felt the pipes under the sink to be sure, and both sides were indeed hot, so it wasn't just some problem in the valve. For some reason, if I pushed the valve in a bit to reduce the flow, the shower would cool off enough so that it was bearable, but at full flow, it was scalding no matter what. As I checked out, I told the desk clerk about it, and she said, "Oh yeah, there was another room with that same problem. I think it was the one below yours. I'll tell maintenance about it."

Drove to Spokane, where I got gas. I calculated 20.00 MPG, the best mileage of the trip so far (usually it's been 17-18). I toured downtown Spokane, and decided it was a very nice city. Most state capitals are. It had a pretty Riverfront Park. Free Parking downtown was basically unavailable, but the parking garages charged a mere $2.00 per day!

Then it was on to Coeur D'Alene, a very pretty town in Idaho, and the home of Mark Fuhrman (The O.J. Simpson Detective). I stopped at the North Idaho College, a very pretty campus located on Lake Coeur D'Alene. Pepper and I walked the entire perimeter of the campus, and most of the interior streets, as well. The place isn't too big, but it's pretty. I can see why Detective Fuhrman chose this place; there's plenty of natural beauty and not much ethnic diversity evident.

I left the interstate next at Kellog, Idaho, where they had the world's largest Gondola ride (which was closed, and which I wouldn't have ridden anyway). There was a beautiful little quaint shopping district called Alpine Village.

Next stop was Wallace, Idaho, where they filmed the current movie Dante's Peak. I haven't seen the movie, but the town was a quaint old mining town, like most around here. I stopped at the grocery store to get Pepper some dog food, and there were big signs at the video rental section advertising the movie.

Finally, I cross the border into Montana, land of no speed limits. As you cross the border, there's a big sign, that says

NIGHT - 65

I wasn't in much of a mood to go fast, and besides, it's an understatement to say the Interstate is pretty twisty here, but it's nice to know that I don't have to watch my speed too closely, nor worry about an overeager cop with a radar gun.

I camped at Cascade Creek Campground, a NFS campground on highway 134. There's a nature trail that follows an old mining road up to the Cascade for which the creek is named. Pepper and I walked partway up it, but turned around after awhile because it's getting dark. The road was last used in 1914, and it was originally wide enough for one ore wagon. It's overgrown now, but the contour is still very visible. I wonder how long our Interstate highway scars will last...

Sept 10, 1997

Today's destination: Glacier National Park. The sky really IS pretty big up here. Stopped at Kalispell for gas, a water bottle, and a pizza at the local mall. Called my high school biology teacher, Tom Ulrich, but didn't get an answer. He "retired" from teaching while I was in high school, and came out here to Glacier to be a wildlife photographer. I admire his independent spirit, and I understand why he chose this place to be his home base.

I finally entered the park, and drove across Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The geology is pretty impressive here; I liked the way to rock strata are all twisted in this picture.

An older man in a Cadillac with California plates kept stopping at the same lookouts that I was stopping at. He had a Nikon, and talked a bit about photography. We'll probably have similar photo albums. Unfortunately, it was kind of cloudy and grey as I was driving across, which didn't highlight the scenery very well.

Near the top of Logan Pass, there was a big crowd gathered watching a bear. He was far enough off the road that you needed binoculars to see much, but it was still neat to see. Since I couldn't get a picture of the bear, here's the crowd watching it.

You can also see the path of Going-to-the-Sun road, scarring the mountains just above the people's heads in the above photo. It's a narrow road that twists along the mountainside, and unfortunately, many of the most beautiful vistas don't have places where you can pull over and take pictures. There's a very good reason they prohibit large vehicles (over 21 feet) and trailers on this narrow twisty crowded road.

Right next to the spot where everyone was watching the bear, I snapped this picture of a waterfall, with its precarious-looking block of stone.

Further along, I stopped at this beautiful creek, with lush vegetation.

I camped at Rising Sun resort, on the east side of the park, within the park borders. I had my first shower with both hot and cold running water on the trip. I've washed my hair nearly every day, but usually in cold water at the back of the van, and the one motel night so far at the Motel 6 had only hot water, due to some demented plumber. That evening, I snapped this picture of the moon over the mountains. (The big bright thing below the lone cloud is the moon, the smaller spot to the left is a reflection in the lens.)

September 11, 1997

I drove to East Glacier, and there was nothing there. Well, there were a couple of old buildings, but it was not at all developed like West Glacier. I was sort of looking for a laundromat, but none was in evidence in East Glacier. So I went back up north to St. Mary to do laundry. The laundromat had 7 dryers, of which four were broken. I took one of the three remaining ones, put a dollar in it, and it ran for less than 10 minutes. Then it wouldn't even take any more money (I was foolish and desparate enough to try). The other two dryers were occupied. So I decided to take a load of damp clothes, and dry them elsewhere. Went to Baab, and had a sub sandwich at the local diner. The folks there said there was no laundromat until the Canadian border, but I didn't want to try crossing the border with Pepper. So I drove to the Many Glaciers area of the park, got a campsite, and hung clothes out on a line.

The many glacier area has spectacular peaks.

It was pretty cloudy, blustery, and almost wintery by the time I got there.

I saw a couple more bears up high on the mountain nearby. Still, the clouds are lower than the mountain peaks around here, so I can't see very much.

Pepper and I went to an evening campfire program, where the Ranger talked about bears. During the talk, Pepper started sniffing the air, got very alert, and focused on the woods. We heard something walking around out there. Pepper barked in her hushed alarm bark. We heard a loud snort, and some crashing branches from the woods, not far away. The ranger said it could have been a bear. I don't know what it was, but Pepper said it was definitely a large animal.

The bears in this park aren't like the ones in Yosemite. For one thing, nearly half of them are Grizzly Bears, which are bigger, stronger, and meaner than the black bear. For another, they're less accustomed to associating people with food. The staff here is very careful to make sure bears don't get people food, and as a result, the bears are better behaved, not raiding campgrounds so much. They're still a concern, and everyone has to be very diligent about not leaving food out.

September 12, 1997

I woke up just before dawn to the sound of rainshowers. It's cold, grey, and dreary here. I drove back across Logan pass on Going-to-the-Sun road. There were scattered broken clouds, making for interesting lighting effects. Camped in Sprague Creek campground, a tiny campground in Glacier N.P. that doesn't allow trailers or large RV's. I preferred the crowd there to the big RV set.

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©1997 Richard Cochran
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