Glacier National Park- A trip report by Bonnie Patowary AdhikaryDecember 1, 2011
A trip for leisure is always special, more so, if it is a gift from somebody very dear (here in my case, it was from my dear Husband) and the joy knows no bounds if the occasion is as special as an Anniversary. As it was our second anniversary we thought of going out to a special place which not only is very beautiful but cold, as well as cozy and of course,was nearby..I googled the words ’10 most beautiful place in the world’ tentatively and there it appeared-‘ Glacier National Park , Montana, (not far away from our place where we stayed , that is Ohio. Well at least that was what I assumed then) the images charging up the many neurons of my brain…..Bingo! We got our place.
My next important task was to plan the whole trip as I am supposed to be the official trip planner..We could not afford a prolonged trip and just had four days but who cares about the days when we were looking for moments of happiness that would remain till eternity? We planned to start on a Thursday, stay till Monday morning and then back to base.
Glacier national park is in Montana (state of US) bordering Canadian provinces of Alberta & British Colombia. Montana actually houses two National Parks of prominence- The Glacier national park and Yellow Stone. Yellow Stone is beautiful too, but most of our friends and colleagues had already been there and we thought we would rather do something different and go someplace else , from where when we return , for a change face the question, “how is it?” rather than a “oh ! there? We have been there ages back, couple of times”
The place is seasonal as in it is open from July – Oct end. We stayed at St Mary’s Lodge located in the heart of the National Park itself. Booking our reservation was a piece of cake by going through this- http://www.nationalparkreservations.com/glacier_stmary.php
We searched for some information from the internet and after much deliberation decided to zero in on
1 The Sun road: this was one of the most amazing highlights of GNP.
2. Trek to Grinnel glacier:
3. Iceberg Lake
Covering the huge area of the National park in just four days was not humanly possible hence we had to prioritize and after the rough plans, we were ready.
Our flight was booked for the evening, so that we could rush off to the Dayton airport,just after Hubby dear came back from office . The nearest Airport to our destination was in Kalispell city. We reached there late (Ohio to Montana = far) rented a car, and hit the road. It took us two hours to reach our lodge and when we reached there it was already one in the morning.
Day 1– Next morning we were up early, (well as early as I could,) had a sumptuous breakfast. They served one of the best eggs Benedict I ever had and after that set off to the national park . We went on a drive on the Going to the Sun road, supposedly one of the most beautiful drives you can take and it justified the fame. Pictures cannot do justice to that place, though we did take a lot of them. There were just insane numbers of scenic beauty spots on that road. There are parts of the road which would go through forest, some parts went through the Rocky Mountains and then there were parts where you had lake on one side and mountains on the other. Most of the scenic spots had areas marked where you could stop the car and just enjoy the view. Then there were few where they did not allow you to stop the car, no matter how much you wanted to. One such place was the Weeping Wall, It’s literally a wall of water seeping down from one side of the mountain on the road itself but we had to drive on. We went to Lake McDonald, Sunrift Gorge, the Loop at Logan Pass. We did stop in for few of the scenic hikes on this road (Avalanche Creek, Trail of Cedars). They were not much tough and were of 20-30 minute duration on an average. As it is I wanted to save energy for the next day.
Day 2 Saturday – We wanted to take up the challenge of Grinnel Glacier Hike that day. It rained heavily in the morning. We were disappointed at the setback but still decided to wait up for a miracle. It is an all day hike (around 6 hours average) and we wanted to be back before dark and for that we needed to start early. Around 10am it started to slow down a bit and we decided to take the risk. We were warned to get ourselves equipped with bear spray. Its grizzly bear country and we needed to be prepared, Hubby got himself trained on what to do and how to use the spray if grizzly showed up. We were told to make sure to hike in a group and keep shouting so that the bear knew that people were around. After a few misguided turns, we ultimately reached the starting point of the trail. It was drizzling and there were very few cars around (which meant very few people on the trail). We still decided to continue. Once on the trail, we met a mother and her two daughters coming back, we asked them how come they were back so fast? They said that they didn’t go all the way to the Glacier, but just went up to the Swift current Lake and back. To give a heads up, the trail we followed could go to Swift Current Lake, beyond which was Lake Josephine and further beyond that, was a fork from where you could either go down to Grinnel Lake or go up to Grinnel Glacier. We met another family who said that they started on Grinnel Glacier Trail, but as it had started to snow they had to come back and go to the Lake instead. We were facing a dilemma, if we went we would definitely find snow on the way, and hence had a chance of having a nice view of the glacier, but that would also mean we would have to face rough weather, strong winds etc. We decided to continue on an impulse. Soon we crossed Swift Current Lake and Lake Josephine (when I say soon, I mean almost 2 hours of hiking on rough terrain) after which we started our ascent to the Glacier. After a certain point, we could see all the 3 lakes below, one after the other which I admit must be one of the most beautiful views of the trail. We met few more groups coming back from the Glacier and all said the same, “You ‘re almost there but you still have walk a little while, there are mountain goats on the way so don’t disturb them,” Fortunately no grizzly was sighted, and once we reached the top, everything would be worth it, we thought. We still kept shouting the whole way to keep grizzly at bay.
We reached the waterfall which formed from the Glacier melting and fed the lake below. We had to keep putting on more clothes as we went up (we started with jackets tied around our waist and by the time we reached the top, we had all our jackets, gloves and caps on but were still shivering). We encountered rain quite a number of times on our way and had to stop to take shelter. By the time we reached the top, we were quite exhausted. We had walked for about 3 and a half hours but the beauty of the place was something that we had never anticipated. Breathtaking was an understatement. The glacier was a shade of blue- water melting out of it formed a rich blue colored lake there, all surrounded by bluish-white glacier capped peaks around. The silence was blissful there. Thanks to the extreme cold, we could not stay there for more than 20 minutes. and had to beat a hasty retreat. The way back was much easier, We started coming down at a nice pace. On the way back we met a couple going up and then we were the advisers ‘almost there, mountain goats, no grizzly and excellent view’. By 5:30 pm we had reached the bottom. A tiring day no doubt, but worth it, I would say.
Day 3 We had planned for Iceberg Lake, but we were too tired from the hike previous day and since it was again raining, we thought of going off for a long drive towards the Canadian Rockies instead. Again it was a drive to remember which had many scenic locations on the way but most of all it was memorable because the drive turned out to be a bit adventurous. There were many hairpin curves and narrow turns. Hubby had a gala time driving, while I constantly hollered ‘lower the speed, lower the speed’. We drove till the Canadian border and as we had no Canadian visa, (we never planned to go that side) we turned back from the border. On the way back we took a different route back to Kalispell city instead of the lodge (well that was the plan from the beginning). Again it was an interesting drive filled with different sights and scenery. We reached the city in the night, stayed in a hotel there, and early morning we were on our way back.
Being a tourist place it was surprising that there were not many restaurants in and around and most of the time we would have food at our lobby restaurant itself, not that it was bad or something, but still… Being non-vegetarians it was pretty easy for us food wise and hubby went experimental by tasting Bison meat (Bison Meatball, Bison Burger etc etc) there, but I refrained. I could do without the Bison meat and I did what I wanted to…simply enjoy.
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