Thursday, July 24
Glacier National Park
We left Sean & Nicole's on Tuesday morning, Picked up the rental car, (Ford Focus), and headed north to Glacier National Park. We drove up alongside the Mission Mountains and then along the east side of Flathead Lake. We checked out the motel in Woods Bay where we were going to meet Sean & Nicole on Friday and continued to head north, passing the Flathead Brewery,Bigfork and onto Hungry Horse and the entrance to the park. The Highway to the Sun road had only just opened the week before we arrived. Montana had a late snow fall and there had been a lot of snow on the roads. The Highway to the Sun crosses the park from the SW to the NE side, sort of diagonally and crosses the continental divide with only one switchback. The drive is spectacular going alongside the mountains and through the valleys. The stone guardrails were being rebuilt in a number of areas, so in places there weren't any and the road had been damaged by avalanches during the winter. As we headed up for the continental divide we were in the lane next to the mountain. There was plenty of roadway on my side of the road, (driver's side), before the valley drop offs, however after we left Logan pass and started down we were on the outside of the road and Ellen had the best view. A Ford Focus will not figure as one of our future cars, as there are no grab handles above the door. There were signs that said we should expect up to a 4 hour delay in crossing the park, but we lucked out and got in on the tail end of a group that had already been waiting. It was one way traffic for a couple of miles.
When we reached Logan Pass on the Continental divide there was still snow on the ground. In fact the trail to a lake that we had wanted to go to was impassable without crampons, which we of course did not bring. From Logan pass we headed to Lake Saint Mary and the end of the road. We then traveled out of the park and drove north to Babb and re-entered the park and headed for our hotel.
The Many Glacier Hotel is located along the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake with panoramic views of Grinnell Point and Mt. Henkel. It was built in 1915 by the Great Northern Rail Road and has 208 rooms.
This view of the hotel was taken from the parking lot. In the 3 days we were here, the daily hike to the parking lot was the hardest climb I had to make. I never made it up in less than 3 stops to catch my breadth. The view from our room looked right out on the lake and the mountains beyond. We were right on the first floor, a short hop to the lobby. With only one uncomfortable chair in our room the lobby, with a huge fireplace and plenty of comfortable seating, turned out to be a great place to read in the evenings. As an aside, it would also be a great place to have a USCGAA reunion!! I can't figure out why they have this absolutely beautiful hotel in the middle of a grand National Park and have mediocre dining. I mean there was really no place else to go. It was the only disappointment in the trip. Our dinner waiter on Tuesday night recommended a restaurant in Babb for a great place for steak. After our long hike on Wednesday we ate in the bar and on Thursday we ate in Babb. On Thursday I was looking forward to a great meal and a nice cold draft. When we arrived at the restaurant we found out that it was on the Blackfeet reservation and because it was the time of their Pow Wow no alcohol was being served. The steaks were only so-so. Sean & Nicole took us to a much better Steak House in Lolo. We had good lunches while we were hiking and breakfasts were from the canteen-coffee and egg Mc'Muffins. A little protein to start off the days hike. There always seemed to be good crowds going to breakfast in the dining room, which we skipped because they only offered a buffet. Lunch's we purchased in the canteen and ate on the trail. We never could figure out what all the people did for dinner. I have decided to split our stay at Glacier into our arrival and our hiking, so this will be the end of this post and the next will cover the hikes.