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July 3, 2010


Glacier National Park – So Pretty It Hurts


I can finally say I’ve been to Glacier National Park.  Its a place I tried to get to once before and ended up having to cancel my trip do to a back injury.  Now I’ve made it, but still didn’t get to it explore the way I wanted to.  

Driving north from Missoula I teased myself by driving right past the west entrance and circling the south park boundary heading for Two Medicine.  The going-to-the-sun-road was supposed to open any day so the east and west sides of the park had to be accessed separately.   I focus on the east side of the park first and pick up the west side after the road opened.

The sun was shining for my ride and there were plenty of other motorcycles out enjoying the ride as well.  My anticipation to get into the park kept rising as I paralleled the mountains and rivers along the way.   Reaching Two Medicine in the afternoon plenty I had time to explore the lodge in town and a short nature trail.  The trail led to a cool double waterfall where part of the water was falling down a hole behind the main fall onto a ledge where it rejoined the other water.  I can’t remember seeing a fall like that before.

While in Missoula I’d stayed at a friends house where I’d made another attempt at waterproofing my tent.  This time getting a spray that went onto the fly to seal it up.  I used two bottles covering hoping it would do the trick.  It was put to the test night one and failed miserably.  This time I was even getting a drip landing on my face waking me whenever I was just about back to sleep.  I finally put a towel over top of me and was able to get some sleep.

First thing in the morning though I was off to a hardware store to buy a tarp and call REI (in Missoula) about getting a replacement.   They didn’t have the flies separate, but said they would give me credit for what I paid for the tent. The tarp was good enough for now and I decided to think about a detour south at the end of my time in Glacier.

With that out of the way I set off for a hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake.  Starting from my campsite I finally was getting a chance to get into the park.  Walking along the north side of Two Medicine Lake mountains towered above shedding their snow as large and small waterfalls made their way down the rocks.  I’d already seen a moose on my way to the hardware store that morning and was keeping a lookout for other animals along the way.

As expected the trail was nearly empty allowing me to set my own pace and enjoy the solitude.  I took a short detour to Twin Falls which I thought were really more of fraternal twins.  Reaching the upper lake I was surprised to find it still surrounded by snow.  I still walked halfway up the side I was on, but didn’t feel like blazing a path all the way around.

On the way back my knee started tightening up on me again.  I hadn’t done a good hike for nearly a week when I was in the Absaroka National Forest and it did fine then so I thought I was past this.  I still had almost two hours to go and it was really hurting when I made it back.  I took some painkillers and made it an early night.

There was no miracle cure overnight as every little chore magnified while I broke down camp.  The road through the park was still closed so I went north of the Saint Mary entrance up to Many Glacier.  This is where the big animals like to hang out and it a hiker’s paradise.  It was easy to see why too.  A similar setting to Two Medicine except for being in a bigger valley with higher mountains surrounding.

Sadly, being able to walk is a critical function to enjoy a hiker’s paradise.  I got some advice for a flat trail to try hoping that some easy walking would loosen me up.  Nope wasn’t happening.  I made it a mile pushing myself to see a waterfall I kept getting glimpses of.  This was one of those you could sit beside and get lost in its roar quickly forgetting that there were other people around you doing the same thing.

Limping back with another make do walking stick I kept thinking about how predators always look for the easy kill and that I was it.  Luckily, it was a well traveled trail so I was rarely on my own and I did have my can of bear spray with me.  The rest of the day was spent in hammock as I tried to figure out what to do about my knee.

Deciding that if I couldn’t even walk a mile there wasn’t a reason to stick around that part of the park.  I headed to St. Mary’s in the morning hoping Logan Pass would be open so I could head to Missoula to see about my tent and finding a doctor.  No open pass still so I went as far as I could about 12 miles and drove around the south end again.  This time I turned into the west entrance though.  At least I could see what I could from the road and cover most of the road.

Admitting that I wasn’t happy about leaving Glacier so soon and with a hurting knee the crowds at West Glacier got to me quick.  In all honesty it felt like going to the mall and Christmas time.  If you know exactly what you want and where it is then it’s worth putting up with the extra hassle.  If you’re just there to wander and see the sights you’re going to be bumping elbows with people all the way along.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 3 2010

    Brian – what a beautiful place. Really makes me want to spend time there. Hope your knee gets figured out and you feel better. Animo! (@cowgirljab on Twitter)

    • Jul 3 2010

      Thanks Julie. I’m getting by with the knee hope it continues to improve. I’m leaving Glacier on my list of places to go. One day I’ll make it and stay healthy!

  2. Jul 4 2010

    These pictures are so beautiful! They remind my of camping in the snow in the Gila Mountains. I never had thought about going to Missoula but you have piqued my interest.

    • Jul 5 2010

      Thanks Erica, glad that there are others out there who enjoy exploring all the places we have to see in the US.


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