Today was the day! We were finally going to get to do the Going-To-The-Sun Road drive. But first, break and re-make camp within the same park. Ugh.
We had already set up camp yesterday when we discovered that we could not get on the tour bus until today. I sprinted back to the office to sign on for another night. They had room, but we would have to change sites in the morning! So, we had to get up, go through the entire hassle of breaking down camp, move across the campground and then set everything back up again. Doesn't sound too bad, until you factor in that I stupidly dressed for snow weather (top of Logan Pass in Glacier NP) and it was 80 degrees in Columbia Falls! I was in a total lather by the time we had it set back up. And cranky! :-)
After setting up camp, we headed for Glacier National Park, which is about a 30-45 minute drive from the campground. We pressed our luck with the Montana grills, and had brunch at a little dive/grill named The Elkhorn Grill. We thought we had run out of luck as our waitress was extremely hassled and aggravated, and there was only one other table in the place! Lucky for us, the food was still great. In fact, I had to take a picture of Mom's french toast...it was amazing!
From brunch we drove through many beautiful rolling foothills and entered the western entrance and went on to the little town of Apgar at the base of Lake McDonald. This is an unusual town in the park system, because it was "homesteaded" back before 1910 and many of the stores and lakefront cabins are still privately owned! Almost unheard of in the NPS. Here we visited the first of many gift stores, much to little Jimmy's dismay! He was really tired of it by the end of the day. We bought the requisite t-shirts, and took the scenic route up to Lake McDonald Lodge at the northern edge of Lake McDonald.
Lake McDonald is an absolutely gorgeous body of water! We walked out on one of the docks at Apgar, and you could see down through the crystal clear water all the way to the bottom. The water is so blue, we couldn't decide if it was blue because it was reflecting the "big sky" of Montana, or if it was because it was snow melt from the 25 remaining glaciers. I am sure the pictures cannot capture the beauty of it.
Lake McDonald Lodge was built almost a hundred years ago, and looks like a Swiss Chalet. Sort of looks like our friend Burgi's house on steroids! Like the Old Faithful Inn, the lobby is a multi-storied open space with balconies overlooking a huge fireplace.
I'm going to leave this for now, as the pictures have finally uploaded to my computer. It will take me quite a while to get them edited and shrunk down for this site. In the meantime, I'm also going to beg Grandma to take the writing back over. We have nothing but drive time from here on out...maybe I can convince her? I hope so!
Okay, I am going to try this one more time. If you know me, you know I am technically challenged and losing everything I wrote two different times really frustrated me beyond words. Actually, not beyond words, I had quite a few choice ones I was thinking, but since I am playing Grandma out here, I managed to stifle myself. So, on with the Glacier Park Story.
One of the big differences between Old Faithful Inn and Lake MacDonald Lodge besides grandeur is the fact that all the logs at MacDonald still had bark on them because the lodge was built during the winter when the bark had to be left on the logs in order to handle them efficiently. They were actually drug across Lake MacDonald over the ice. The workmanship on these buildings is amazing.
One other note on the facilities, the flowers are incredible. There are hanging baskets everywhere crammed with petunias, calibrochia, geraniums, blue flowers?, verbena, etc., etc. They are so beautiful. It is like mild summer up here. It gets cool in the evening, but not freezing, and the daytime is bright and beautiful. It is just about perfect weather. Of course, it goes to 20 below 0 in the winter! We had a few extra minutes so Paige bought tickets for the last boat tour of the lake that day that we would go on after our Road to the Sun Trip. The boat was supposed to leave at 7 pm and go out over MacDonald Lake.
We had decided to go on the Red Bus Tour for the Road to the Sun drive. The road is treacherous and Paige wanted to be able to really look a the scenery which you cannot do if you are driving, and I certainly wasn't going to drive. I consider myself very brave for even going on this trip. The Red Bus is actually a touring car built in 1937 and refurbished completely in the 1990's by Ford Motor Company. There were 5 doors, one on the driver's side and four on the passenger side. The top was open and it felt like you were in a limo from the 1920's. It was propane powered. Our driver lived in a log cabin he built himself, 42 miles from the nearest store and 4 miles from the nearest neighbor.. He has no phone, tv, internet, electricity, or running water and has lived there for 30 years alone. Probably the biggest hint for his hermetic life, he said he had served in Viet Nam. He was very informative and well spoken and made a great tour guide. He gave us many facts; geological, historical, zoological, botanical, etc., etc.
The Road to the Sun winds up through the Rocky Mountains with only one switchback. The road is an engineering marvel, it runs west across the front of the mountain and then cuts back to the east and north to Logan Pass. The panorama is so breathtaking and just plain indescribable. When you get to the very top, and get out of the motor car, you are standing directly atop the Continental Divide. What an awesome sight! The mountains fall away very steeply to the west and a little less steeply to the east. We learned that most of the snow we we saw was perennial snow and not glaciers. The glaciers are diminishing yearly. However, the snow was at least six feet deep at Logan Pass. Two of the highlights as we drove back down the mountains were that we spotted two mountain goats climbing on incredibly steep cliffs and when we drove along the Weeping Wall, icy water splashed down upon all of the passengers in the motorcar. There were many waterfalls to view on this drive, the best one being The Bird Woman Falls. We also saw the ravages left behind from a large avalanche that occurred there last year. The Road to the Sun was under construction part of the way and had just opened two or three days before we went on it. It was a great experience.
However, due to road construction, we had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes each way, so our tour was late in getting back to the transit center. We jumped out, ran to our car, and raced up the road to the dock to catch the boat. The boat had just left. Paige was able to get a refund and the boys and I were secretly very relieved that we had missed the boat. We were rather fatigued by now and looking forward to bedding down in the camp. We decided not to cook that night, made a quick stop at Burger King and headed for the RV park. We sleep so great in our cozy little pop-up.