On our way out of Missoula today we stopped by the Adventure Cycling Association’s headquarters. Alan bought the maps for the Pacific Coast leg of our tour and I poked around their lounge for cyclists. Missoula is on the Northern Tier Route and they see a lot of cyclists coming through. Alas, we are not currently cyclists, so we didn’t dawdle too long at the ACA. Instead, we gassed up the minivan and hit the road for Glacier National Park in northern Montana. We planned another scenic day of driving, taking the route that Alan had biked previously on his trip to Alaska in 2007. The highway wound through beautiful forests and picturesque lakes all the way to Glacier. We arrived at the west entrance to Glacier around lunch time, so after a quick stop at the Visitor Center we found a picnic spot on Lake McDonald. Alan enjoyed some smoked salmon that Helen and Gary sent with us from Boise. At the Visitor Center, we found out that the main park road, the Going To the Sun Road, was open only about halfway across the park to Logan Pass. We decided we would drive there and back, stopping wherever the spirit grabbed us to see the sights.
As we started our drive, I declared to Alan “I want to see bears!” Little did I know I would get my wish, in spades. About halfway to Logan Pass we noticed a few people on the side of the road with cameras, so we pulled in to see what they were looking at: a momma bear and two beautiful cubs. The mother was light brown, but the cubs were very dark brown, almost black. They looked so soft and silky, following their mother as they ate anything and everything they could find, mostly berries and grass. The cubs and mom were oblivious of cars and people, focused entirely on eating, as I imagine they are stocking up calories for winter hibernation in the coming months. We snapped a lot of photos and some funny video of the mom scratching her back on a post. Lots of people stopped to watch them, and I found myself wishing the bears would just wander off into the woods, so that people would stop doing stupid human things like running up to them too close to take a picture. Eventually they did climb the hill on the other side of the road and we lost sight of them after one of the cubs knocked a rock off the hillside down onto the road.
More photos of the momma bear and cubs:
Here’s a short video of the bears:
We got back in our car to finish the drive up to Logan pass, which is a bit of a heart-stopper. The road seems to hang precariously on to the side of the mountain at times, I don’t know how the park service manages to keep it drivable from year to year. The weather today was cloudy and we approached the low-hanging cloud ceiling as we arrived at Logan Pass. Even without unlimited sight distance due to the clouds, the scenery was tremendous. And cold. Alan noticed a thermometer at the top reading temps in the 40s (F). The drive back down, was only slightly less heart-stopping, although it started to get dark. In the waning daylight, I spotted another single bear, feeding on the side of the road. Unlike the mom and cubs, this bear was noticeably spooked by car traffic, which I was glad to see. But he (or she?) was singularly focused on eating and we watched it for a while before heading out of the park.
Glacier is a spectacular park and I highly recommend visiting, even if you only have a day. There is so much to see and enjoy in this park. We may have lucked out with a weekday visit in the off season, so crowds and traffic weren’t an issue, but this park is truly a gem.
Here are more photos from today: