Thursday, June 29, 2017

Glacier National Park, Montana

We finally made it to Glacier National Park. We arrived in Coram, Montana on Tuesday, June 27, after spending Monday night at Lake Placid State Park in Seeley Lake amidst a slew of mosquitoes. Glacier National Park is an International Peace Park World Heritage Site along with Waterton Lakes National Park, which is in Alberta, Canada.  Going-to-the-Sun Road connects St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side with Apgar Visitor Center on the west side.  It was closed due to snow and it finally opened Wednesday. There was still quite a bit of snow at Logan Pass Visitor Center, which is about the half way point. The Continental Divide comes through Logan Pass with an elevation of 6646 feet.

By recommendation of our next door neighbors (who we met when we worked at Amazon in 2013), we drove Route 2 south on the east side along the Flathead River around the southern end of the park, past East Glacier up to St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side. That took us two hours and 97 miles of driving. That route was OK but there was not much to look at, besides the speed limit is 70mph most of the way and we did not stop. 

By the time we got near the end of our trip seven hours later we were so tired that there were some things we did not stop to see, which we will go back and visit in the next few days.

Glaciers that lie against mountains erode ever-steeper cliffs by repeatedly freezing and thawing, plucking rock loose. The moving ice carries the rock down valley. Where glaciers surround a mountain peak they may eventually erode it to a tooth-like horn.

The same back-cutting erosion may carve a mountain ridge as a sharp-edged arete (a sharp-crested ridge in rugged mountains). Many subalpine lakes rest in the bottoms of cirques, steep-sided valleys once holding glaciers. 

Deep glacial lakes fill the bottoms of some larger glacial valleys.

There was so much to see and take pictures of, I had to try to get it all so I could share the beauty of the mountains and waterfalls. (Hit "Read More" to see more pictures.)

These pictures were taken on our way west before we got to Logan Pass.  There is still a lot of snow on both sides of the road.

Wildflowers at Logan Pass

I am standing on the trail to Hidden Lake Overlook, a 1.5 mile trek. I would have walked it if there had been no snow, but with all the snow I thought better of it, and decided not to try it. 

Mountain Goat

Driving on Going-to-the-Sun Road was a little nerve racking.  On one side is a mountain and on the other a small concrete barrier with the mountain going straight down. 

Waterton and Glacier have been named the world's first transboundary dark sky park. The International Dark Sky designation requires a long-term commitment to preserving dark skies and commits the parks to meeting specific objectives. Dark night skies are environments undisturbed by light and air pollution. Dark night skies have natural, cultural, and scenic importance. Currently, two-thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyard, and if current light pollution trends continue, there will be almost no dark skies left in the contiguous United States by 2025.

The road hugging the mountainside

Weeping Wall

Driving under the waterfall
There is only one road open to get into Canada to visit Waterton Lakes National Park, which is from the east side of the park up Hwy 17 to Chief Mountain Customs. We did not venture that far north, but it would be a nice drive and place to visit one day.

Note the bridge & car by the waterfall

Waterfall coming down a distant mountain

The mountain comes into the road
We had to pull in our mirrors on each side to keep from scraping the mountain and hitting a car coming from the opposition direction.

We went back to Glacier on Sunday, July 2 to see a couple of places that we missed on our first drive through.  We stopped at the Trail of the Cedars, a short trail that went around some huge cedar trees. 

We passed by this large tree that had fallen over and left a massive view of its roots, cleaned of dirt and mud from years of rain falling over it.  It's quite spectacular.

Our next stop was McDonald Falls, showing the tremendous volume of snow water coming down from the mountains and the force of the water.

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