Going to the Sun and Canada

When we were in Glacier a few years ago we had wanted to do stop at the visitor’s center at the top of Logan Pass, but the parking lot was so packed we had to content ourselves with stopping at a pull-out further east and taking a short hike along a stream to find a spot to eat our lunch and enjoy the view. This time I was determined to make it to the visitor’s center and the popular Hidden Lake hike originating there.

So in our first attempt, not wanting to fight the parking, we planned to snag a seat on the 7am direct shuttle, but alas, waking at 0 dark thirty we both felt tired and off and ended up back in bed asleep. The next day we decided that we would just drive the pass and try to find a spot, figuring that arriving before 10am ought to do it. So I had our lunch all made and backpack packed the night before. When we woke up we ate breakfast, threw on hiking clothes and headed out by 8:30am.

IMG_1645Driving up Going-to-the-Sun Road in the early morning was nice. There were a several cars winding along the twisty narrow road with us, but it wasn’t jammed and since only a couple of cars were coming down we could hog the road instead of hugging the steep edge of the cliffs. By 9:45 we had wound our way to the top to find a full parking lot. As we circled we saw several people find spots as someone else was leaving, but after 30 minutes we had no luck and decided to give up and keep heading east. Also on my list was a visit to St. Mary, the eastern entrance of the park. So we continued on stopping by St. Mary Lake for lunch. Figuring the parking lot would still be packed, we continued east out of the park and turned north toward Canada. Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park were joined together in 1932 as Glacier-Waterton National Peace Park signifying the peaceful border with Canada. I had wanted to see Waterton as well so on we drove.

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As we headed toward Canada we got a different view of the peaks. The tabletop of Chief Mountain was stunning and different from any of the views we had seen so far. Crossing the border here in the middle of nowhere was a breeze, no lines at all. As we continued along the smooth Canadian road we noticed cattle grazing on the shoulders. At one point on the way back we had to stop when a lost calf darted into the road and it’s mother charged bellowing down the center line and stopped in front of us so her baby could nurse.

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In Waterton we walked through Prince Wales Hotel, another stunning lodge situated above a lake with views of the peaks. This time though the feel was distinctly Scottish as the waitresses bringing out the afternoon tea wore kilts of tartan plaid. Since I couldn’t convince Chuck to sit down to a fancy tea, we headed into the small town to walk around. Although there are a couple of roads that go further into the park, the one here was closed and we didn’t want to drive further into Canada to get to the other, so after exploring a bit of the town we headed back.

This time we headed east over Going to the Sun Road enjoying a different view of Glacier’s peaks. Just before arriving at Logan Pass the Red Jammer Bus in front of us slowed to a stop. As I searched the upper hillside for what they were all looking at, Chuck noticed the big horn sheep right out our side window. What luck! Indeed, we were getting luckier because as we arrived at Logan Pass we immediately found a van pulling out and snagged their spot. We went into the small visitor’s center and then headed out to hike the trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook.


This trail starts out as a boardwalk that climbs through the alpine meadow. Again the views in every direction were postcard perfect. We stopped to view a group of bighorn sheep as tiny specks in our binoculars and even a few far off mountain goats. Little did we know that if we just kept going we would have close up views of mountain goats right on the path! Part way up a waterfall gushing out of the snow gave us a cool breeze. At the top we peered down into Hidden Lake, which is supposed to have a beautiful turquoise color, but with the cloud cover and raindrops falling it was but a dull gray. Still the views were awesome and this hike was a great ending to our day of exploring the park.

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Bears Oh My!

It was our first day at Glacier National Park. We had arrived at the crack of dawn (well, ok, 8:30, but it felt like dawn), circled the campground like vultures and scored a sweet campsite. Some of the sites are just parking spots on the side of the road, but we managed to find a big pull through site with a nice outdoor space and a bit of view through the treetops up to the sky and tree covered slope beyond. We set up the trailer, cleaned the dust off the solar panels from that awful Tally Lake dirt road, ate lunch and read the park brochure they handed us at the entrance.

Figuring the visitor’s center would be a good place to start exploring, we jump on our bikes and head for the bike path. On the signpost is a bear warning sign. Hmmm, wonder what that’s all about.


Arriving at the visitor’s center, we happen upon a ranger doing a presentation on wildlife encounters. Hey, I wanted to listen to this one. Little did I know I would really be needing it.


The ranger tells us to stay 100 yards away from bears and explained that the yellow sign on the path means a bear has been spotted in the area. In fact about 15 minutes ago a bear was seen on the very same bike path we had just ridden down. He told us the best thing to do is make noise when you are moving through bear areas. You don’t want to surprise them. A bear bell isn’t enough, you need to talk loudly or clap. Bears usually avoid you if they hear you coming.

But what if you do see a bear? Talk softly to it, give it lots of space and watch to see what it does. Usually they will move away. The chances of being attacked are about the same as winning the Powerball (really???). Do not run because that triggers the bear’s chase response and carry bear spray just in case.

So as we ride back to camp (no bear spray in our possession yet) I’m asking Chuck, how are we supposed to see the bear 100 yards away through all these trees and curves in the path? Well, I’ll just make a lot of noise and hope for the best!

A few days later we decide to take the bike path into West Glacier, just outside the entrance to the park. We overheard the clerk at the rental place tell some folks it was a good ride and you could stop for pie at the restaurant there and I’m always up for pie :). It’s about 2.5 miles of paved path in each direction so we figured it wouldn’t be too bad for our down day recovering from a recent hike. Turns out that when it’s hot out and you have a bit of adventure along the way it can really take it out of you.


We ride the path which heads through the pines, greenery sprouting up below and sun peeking through from above. The shade feels good and even though there are a few ups and downs we’re creating our own breeze on this hot afternoon and it’s not too bad of a ride. We arrive at the entrance sign and snap our official picture. Then in West Glacier we check out the Alberta Visitor’s Center, mail off some postcards, look through a couple of little shops and decide we’re ready to head back (being good we decide against pie).

First off, there’s a steep hill climbing up from the river’s edge to the main path. Surely that should have earned me some pie! Then as we’re riding through the woods Chuck says he saw something next to the path up ahead and to keep an eye out. So my heart is pounding more as I’m looking but we see nothing and he says it must have just been a shadow. Then all of a sudden he stops and  I nearly ram into him as I squeeze the brakes hard and my rear wheel flies up and my whole bike nearly tips over into a little ditch as he points to the bear about 15’ off the path from us. Back up he’s saying, and I’m trying to get my bike upright so it will go backwards without making too much commotion as the black bear is staring right at us. Hmmm, that ranger said always stay 100 yards away from bears. Now what?

Well not really remembering what the ranger said to do we are frozen and staring right at the bear totally forgetting we’re supposed to talk quietly to him and not stare directly. Another couple on bikes stops behind us. “Whatcha looking at?” she says loudly. Shhh! “A bear,” I whisper. We stay still and he moves just a few more feet into the trees. Chuck decides it’s time to take off. I see him leaving and decide he’s got the bear spray and I’d better follow!

It all happened so fast I really didn’t have time to be scared, but later as we’re talking about it is when I feel my heart start racing. Whew, that was a close one. Forget pie, I deserve a drink!

Virgin Mojito

Into a tall glass squeeze several lime slices (about 1/4 lime) and drop them in the bottom. Add 10 or so mint leaves. You can add a teaspoon of raw sugar if you want. Use the end of a wooden spoon to smash and muddle it all together. Add ice cubes or frozen watermelon chunks. Fill half way with club soda and the rest of the way with filtered water. Stir and enjoy! If you have recently come face to face with a bear and need something a bit stronger, add a shot of white rum. 🙂