The 2017 Grubert-Dicus National Parks vacation completed its itinerary Friday September 1, the first day of the Labor Day weekend and three weeks since we all left Mountaintop for the adventure. Our last week was enjoyed in the incomparable Glacier National Park in Montana, where ancient mountains rise high next to the plains and command an amazing view incomparable to anywhere else on earth.
Glacier was not the end of the tour for Charlie and me. We were to drive 924 miles to Denver, Colorado to meet up with Amy Grubert and Chris Wolpert and our granddaughters Clementine and Penny for the last week of our journey.
Getting back to Glacier, the 11-hour ride from Seattle advanced our travel clocks back a notch, but we were back on the trail in no time. Mark Grubert and Liz Rostan joined the Dicus family and us for the week. The Many Glacier Hotel was our headquarters.
Monday morning was to be a day exploring the interior of the park from the Logan Pass Visitor Center, which is located dead center in the park half way through the Going to the Sun Road. The road traverses the park from West Glacier to St. Mary’s at the eastern end and is an engineering marvel. It is carved along the sides of mountains, has tunnels burrowing through rock and stunning views that you never tire of. Construction of the 53-mile road began in 1920 and was completed in 1933. It is closed from the first big snowfall in autumn until late spring. Going To The Sun Road opened on July 17, 2015, half way into the tourist season. The road usually opens in mid June.
We hiked the Hidden Lake trail behind the visitor’s center nearly two miles uphill past beautiful wildflower fields, waterfalls and finally overlooking the lake. The trail extended further down to the lake but the exercise was plenty for our group. We saw Big Horn Sheep and smaller mammals along the way. Glacier has a surprise around every turn.
We had taken the park shuttle to Logan Pass and back, an easier way to see the park than being turned away at the small parking lot that fills by 8 a. m. Back at St. Mary’s Visitor Center where we had taken the shuttle we took in the exhibits and checked our the gift shop, one or our favorite stops for souvenir shopping.
Many Glacier Hotel is located 12 miles to the interior over rough roads. We were happy to complete our vigorous hike and relax with the view of Grinnell Peak and the sunset over Swiftcurrent Lake.
Tuesday dawned clear but forest fires in the Sprague section near West Glacier were sending smoke our way nearly 50 miles away. 1,490 acres of forest fire in a remote section were burning. Fires are part of the ecosystems in national parks and we had seen fires in Yosemite and Crater Lake. The number and frequency of fires in Montana this year is huge because of the dry conditions. One ranger told me “Montana is a big state and we have a lot of fires”. A fire in 2003 blackened 146,000 acres. Another fire in July 2015 burned 4,000 acres in a single day. The 2017 fire clouded our views of the mountains for two days.
Lakes and Falls Our family enjoyed a hike to Red
Rock Falls on Tuesday uphill and downhill through forest habitat that did not offer any animal sitings. The falls flowed into a clear lake on our way. Glaciers are melting, waterfalls are flowing into creeks and rivers and lakes in a perfect symmetry of life for millions of years.
Tuesday afternoon we took a short boat ride across Swiftcurrent Lake to a dock that led us to a half-mile trail to Lake Josephine and another boat to another trail to Lower Grinnell Lake. There are no roads between Glacier’s interior lakes, but there are lots of trails.
At Lake Grinnell within sight of Salamander Glacier and Grinnell Falls Patrick and Mark Dicus swam in the chilly glacier fed lake. Patrick and his sister Maggie frequently enjoyed swimming in the parks we visited.
Many Glacier Hotel Rushing back from the boat and
trail excursion the family enjoyed a special dinner at the Many Glacier Hotel Dining Room. The hotel is a unique property that opened in 1915. It was built by the Great Northern Railroad Company as a tourist destination for rail travelers to enjoy the western mountains as an alternative to traveling to Europe. Built in a Swiss Chalet style, the 220-room hotel has been expanded and refurbished to its original beauty and grandeur. The last upgrade was to the lobby and the dining room completed for 2017.
Our family had stayed in Glacier first in 1984 at the St. Mary’s Campground and again at Many Glacier in 1990. The hotel has 102 years of tradition to enjoy. Internet and cell service are hard to connect. There are no plans to upgrade. The site manager told me that people come to enjoy the mountains. Writing and posting this column two times this week has been challenging. Screens are useless in many national parks. The beauty of nature is more exciting.
Glacier-Waterton Park We spent our last day at Glacier
at the Canadian portion of the park known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Traveling to Waterton we entered Canada at the border, stated our business and proceeded across the prairie to another view of the Northern Rocky Mountains in Alberta Province. The Prince of Wales Hotel sits atop a windy overlook of Waterton Lake and the quaint town below. Our young family had stayed at that historic property 27 years ago.
We picnicked in the town and then set off for Red Rock Canyon into the mountains. Another easy 3-mile hike overlooking a vigorous mountain stream gave us our daily exercise. Coming back for a closer look at the lake the grandeur of the vistas was noted and will be long remembered.
Our Glacier Park experiences are always memorable. Our first visit was 33 years ago and I hope we will see it again one day.