Montana & Glacier National Park

22nd July - 1st August 2008

Harvey left Yellowstone Park with three extra passengers.    We gave a lift to three Taiwanese employees of the park, who were bound for Bozeman for a shopping trip on their days off work.   Asta, Ting and I-Ying were very excited to find we were headed all the way, 90 miles, to Bozeman too.    

Having learned a lot about Taiwan, we dropped our new friends off at their hotel in Bozeman.    We were soon re-united, however, when we headed to Wal-mart to restock!    

A shock was in store for us on leaving Wal-mart with our heavily laden shopping trolley.    We had been oblivious to the severe storm which had passed over whilst we'd been shopping.  We found ourselves ankle deep in flood water in the parking lot.    With some ingenuity we managed to get the groceries back to Harvey dry, but our feet were a different matter!

Our Taiwanese friends.

Phil fishing the Missouri Headwaters


On recommendation from locals, we headed to the Missouri Headwaters State Park to camp and fish.   Our first evenings fishing was abandoned, however, due to another wild thunderstorm.   There was certainly a lot of wild weather to worry about in the USA.

Next day, fishing gear on hand, we explored the park.   We visited spots pretty much unchanged in the 200 years since their exploration by Lewis and Clark, during their epic journey in search of a northwest water passage across the country.   On reaching this location guided by their Shoshone guide Sacagawea, they found that the Missouri river was formed there by the confluence of three smaller rivers.  Believing that none of the these three waterways was large enough to be considered as the Missouri, they had named them after prominent politicians Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin. 

The park's many historical and geological landmarks kept us entertained but the fishing proved disappointing.  It seemed the current was still running too swiftly.   It was hot and we watched a group of local teenagers struggling to swim across the river whilst being swept rapidly downstream.  At the Park we encountered Harvey's identical twin, driven by Billings artist Dick Ellis and compared notes for a while.

Next morning we hit the road for Glacier National Park, encountering murky weather and major roadworks on the way.    After spending the night in a commercial campground just outside the park, to deal with domestic chores, we headed into the Park early the next morning to ensure we'd find a campsite before they filled.   We were in luck and found a wonderful site at the Rising Sun campground.    No sooner had we settled in, than the cleaning crew set to work!

Harvey at Rising Sun Campground


Grill cleaning ground-squirrel crew at work.

The major artery through the park from east to west was the 50 mile "Going To The Sun Road".    Whilst Harvey was of a size on the limit of vehicles permitted to cross the highway, we decided it would be prudent to make the most of the free shuttle bus service to check it out first, before subjecting him to the trip.    The weather was perfect to make the most of the striking, alpine scenery.    

The bus service was excellent, although our bus to Logan Pass proved troublesome.   Half way to the pass, the rear passenger doors refused to close.    Built-in safety features on the vehicle prevented it from moving with the rear doors open.   For a while the driver struggled to force the doors closed, with assistance of passengers eager not to be stranded.   Finally we reached Logan Pass up at 6646 feet and exited through the front of the bus.  We had to change to much smaller minibuses for the next leg of the journey.    


This part of the trip took us around the stunning hair-pin bend, known as The Loop and through the section of road undergoing major roadworks.    At the roadworks we were delayed for around 20 minutes at a single lane section of road, giving us the chance to get out of the bus and admire the view. 

We knew Harvey could have made the trip but bearing in mind the perilous sections of over-hanging rock, narrow lanes at the roadworks on sheer cliff edges, steep climb and poor road surface, we decided that the free bus was definitely the way to cross the mountains.    Harvey would be taking the considerably longer but much quicker route westwards around the southern edge of the park.


Do not lean out of the window.

Next day, again on local recommendation, we made a stop at Lost Lake for a spot of fishing.    The lake's name was certainly justified as it was not visible from the road, only a short distance away.    Unsigned and hidden by surrounding trees it was a peaceful spot and we hooked enough trout for dinner for ourselves and a German camper who adopted us that evening at our campfire.

From Sun Point we took the trail to St. Mary and Virginia waterfalls, a three mile stroll along St. Mary Lake through beautiful woodland.    Part way along we were passed by a speedy team of rangers with an ingenious stretcher, supported by one bicycle wheel.    They were on their way to the falls to recover a casualty with an ankle injury.   The one-wheeled stretcher certainly made transporting a casualty along the rough trails much easier.

St. Mary Lake

St. Mary Falls

Our next trip on the shuttle bus did not start smoothly.   Due to a breakdown (which looked suspiciously like the bus with dodgy doors!), we waited over an hour for the trip up to Logan Pass.    We wanted to take some photographs of the stunning scenery and take a look at the Highline Trail.     After a short stroll on the vertiginous Highline Trail, perched precariously on a steep slope, we had our photographs and decided to head back to the visitor centre.   On the return trip, we realised we had passed inches beneath a mountain goat and kid resting overhead on the cliff face and hadn't even noticed.

Highline Trail, perfect territory for mountain goats.

From the visitor centre we took the trail to Hidden Lake.   The walk began as a stroll on boardwalk through alpine wildflowers in full bloom.    We set off in company with many other tourists but soon the number thinned dramatically when those in flip-flops and Crocs reached the snow line.    We hiked across several long snow sections and caught up with a Ranger led tour, where we tagged along learning about the wildlife and flora we passed along the way.    The ranger also pointed out perilous snow bridges we should walk around, where water was running under thin layers of ice, which could collapse at any time.    This certainly was not flip-flop territory.

Logan Pass Meadows

After passing foraging mountain goats, dwarf alpine pines, which spent the winter buried under snow and cheeky opportunistic ground squirrels, we finally reached the Hidden Lake Overlook.    Our ranger was explaining the geology of the area to the group, when suddenly a distraught lady ran up and asked the ranger for help.   Apparently her husband had collapsed and was turning blue whilst suddenly covered in a rash.    From leading a pleasant afternoon stroll, educating tourists about wildlife,  our ranger suddenly found herself racing a mile back down the mountain to deal with a serious case of anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction.    Luckily all turned out well and it made us appreciate the multiple talents required of rangers.  

Next day we moved campsite to the Many Glacier area, further north in the park.    This site was up a dead-end road, a very peaceful spot where we could walk to all the trailheads from our campground.   It was time for more fishing and we selected a four mile trail which took us along a crystal clear creek and past four lakes.   We hiked around four miles to the farthest lake before we tried our hand at fishing.

Crystal clear melt waters

Christine fishing at Bullhead Lake

We had no luck with the fishing at the highest lake, so began to make our way downhill again, trying every likely spot on the way.   Finally in the creek, we hooked a few small trout but returned them to the water to grow some more.    As we passed the third lake on our return trip, Redrock Lake, we spotted a serious looking angler carrying a one-man float.   Curious, having never seen this type of fishing before we began chatting and picked up some fishing tips.   It seemed that the float was the best way of lake fishing in the area, allowing you to drift out into the deeper water, however he told us of a couple of spots near the campground we could try without needing a boat or float.

Back at Many Glacier, we found there was to be a campfire talk by a locally well-known Blackfoot Tribe historian and entertainer, Jack Gladstone.   We dragged ourselves along on our weary feet and were not disappointed.   He gave us a very entertaining insight into Blackfoot tradition and history through his stories and songs.

When the next day dawned wet, cold and grey we rested our hiking legs, only venturing out to explore the historic Many Glaciers Lodge across the lake from our campsite.    Luckily the next day brought much improved weather, allowing us to hike up to Grinnell Glacier, a five mile steep ascent.   Again we encountered stunning views, alphine flora in full bloom, snow, and even a waterfall through which we had to walk.    

Grinnell Glacier

Braving the slippery rocks and ice cold waterfall

On our downhill return hike we were prepared for the ice water dunking at the waterfall, having dried out from the soaking during our ascent.   Our next peril was an encounter with a Bighorn Ram.    Normally sheep are not considered particularly dangerous but this variety truly lived up to their name and it wasn't only the horns that were big.   The animal was about the size of a deer and grumpy because we and two other hikers on the trail had come between him and where he wanted to be, to rejoin his buddies.    We had effectively cut him off from his planned route and he was most unhappy about the situation.    As we tried quickly to get out of his way, he began to look threatening, head and horns down in our direction.   Luckily the situation resolved itself as we all hurried by and he continued on his way.   We were glad it wasn't a grizzly we'd encountered!
Our last campsite in Glacier Park was at Two Medicines in the south of the park.   We took advice from the ranger on where to fish but on attempting to reach the spots she had mentioned, found ourselves deep in undergrowth, bushwhacking to reach the water.   Berries were ripening all around us and we felt a little nervous of the bears which may be nearby to feast on the sweet berries.    Reaching the water was hard work and finally we gave up and returned to camp.    

Later Phil walked to a slightly more accessible but equally berry filled area, bear-spray in hand just in case.   He returned with a beautiful trout for dinner. 


There was plenty more to see and do in Glacier Park but we felt it was time to move on.   Hopefully we'd get the chance to visit again in the future.
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