We are at the top of the USA, at the Glacier Peaks RV Park in Columbia Falls, Montana, just a few miles outside the Western entrance of Glacier National Park. This is the fourth National Park we visited in our travels and a beautiful one to boot.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and a lot of press attention has ensured that visitor levels are up. We noticed that almost immediately when entering the park on the first day. We made the mistake of going there about 10:30am. After standing in line, just to get into the park, we headed up the “Going to the Sun” road, the name of the main road through the park. We got about half way when we decided to call it a day. All car parking locations were full, we couldn’t stop anywhere to check out the scenery. Is was also quite hot (~ 90F), no clouds and the bright sun cast these harsh shadows over the beautiful scenery, making photography quite the challenge. So we headed back and decided we’d come the next day, but much earlier to beat the crowds and get better light conditions for photography.
The next day we were in the park before sunrise and well up the Road to the Sun road before the sun was even visible. Not too many locations for any stunning sunrise shots, but beautiful light and scenery. Just the way we like it.
Glacier National Park at dawn – seen from Logan Creek lookout (6560ft elevation) – Linda Norvelle
We found the best scenic locations along the second half of the road, towards the Eastern section and got multiple beautiful shots in well before we started to see the number of cars with visitors increase. Our decision to hit the road early certainly paid off for us. We could stop anywhere we wanted and never had to wait for, or get frustrated by, people scrambling all over the scenery we wanted to shoot.
We have certainly seen our fair share of stupid people doing stupid things at National Parks. By this I mean things like people climbing onto delicate structures (like fragile arches that took thousands of years to form). Thankfully we have never seen anyone doing actual damage like carving their name into rocks or painting something with indelible ink. You would have read about those in the news recently. Unbelievable that there are people who think it is OK to do such things.
Coming back to the beautiful scenery of these National Parks. Glacier got its name from the many glaciers in and around the area. Originally there were 150 of them, but today there are only 25 and these have shrunk in size considerably and are hard to spot. We saw ONE and needed our longest telephoto lens to get a picture of it. Sad, but we hear that Global Warming is not real, that it is a ploy to fool us all. Yet we got our feet wet sitting in Venice due to rising water levels, we see the diminishing glaciers at National Parks and experience 94 + degrees heat in locations that used to consider 80F a heatwave. This post is not meant to be a rant on global warming, but it is frustrating to see such precious and beautiful natural features, like glaciers, melting before our very eyes.
After exiting the park on the Eastern side, we decided to head south and around the bottom end of the National Park to go back. A significant detour, but we hoped we’d see some of those mountain goats at a place called “Goat Lick”, a location known for these goats to come and lick certain rock types there. Studies have shown these rocks contain minerals and salts needed by the goats. Sadly, it was too hot for them at the time we were there. The local ranger told us they stay at higher elevations when it is hot and hadn’t seen them there for a few weeks (another indication of the higher temperatures experienced in Montana).
So we returned back to the camp site, satisfied with the shots we got, but a little saddened by the effects of the unusually high temperatures there.
The lovely town of Whitefish
The next day, we decided to do something different and headed off to explore the nearby town of Whitefish. We had heard lots of good things about it and were not disappointed. It is a gorgeous town, with a downtown area right out of some travel magazine and a beautiful lake nearby.
We first checked out the lake and marveled at the Yoga class happening there . . . on paddle boards! Yep, there were about 12 people out on paddle boards which were somehow all strung together for stability. There they were, about 100 feet off the shoreline, doing their exercises. Some of these positions were quite intricate and we were amazed at how they maintained balance on a board that is quite “wobbly”.
After that we hit downtown, strolled around the town center and had a coffee at the local cafe. The town’s location is quite spectacular. You can see a big mountain nearby called . . . well, “Big Mountain”. We had seen photos of this in the winter, when the mountain is covered in show. Just spectacular. There was no snow there now, but still a beautiful sight.
We also spent a day on a pontoon boat on Hungry Horse Reservoir, but that will be covered in a later post.