Showing posts with label glacier national park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label glacier national park. Show all posts

09 July 2013

Going-to-the-Sun

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On our third day in Glacier National Park, my sisters and I decided to drive north from Two Medicine and check out the famous Going-to-the-Sun road, the only through road in the entire park. Starting in St. Mary, MT on highway 89, we passed through the main entrance -- where we would have ended up had we stayed the course when we first arrived. After the fact, though, we thought that Two Medicine was our preferred place to stay, and visiting the more heavily-traveled Going-to-the-Sun road made for an excellent day trip!

The road winds around amazing vistas, past numerous falls and sliding snow/glaciers, and in many places the melting snow falls onto the road, so we got a cool sprinkle on the car every once in a while!

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This guy was super cool, although seemingly sort of cornered in the middle of a little visitor walkway that led to a scenic view point. Eventually he managed to get out of there, but not before taking a little stroll in front of me. My sisters were patient for a second while I waited for Mr. Goat to figure out which way he was going to go. 

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The photos above were taken at a falls, looking westward toward the Weeping Wall on the right.

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We drove to Lake McDonald on the western end of the park, and decided to call it. Since there's only the one road, we had to drive all the way back, so we stopped to get our feet wet and my sister was able to actually swim for a second, since the water in this lake was much warmer than the lake at our campground.

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We spotted a little more wildlife, just hanging out on the mountainside... and came back around St. Mary Lake on our way back out. It was such a gorgeous day for a drive. The campgrounds and stops along the Going-to-the-Sun road offer a lot in the way of recreation and views, so no one's bored. Perhaps if I made it to Glacier NP again, I'd stay in another campground there just to get a different perspective on the park.

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Skipping ahead to day 4 of our journey at GNP, we woke up early and did a little canoeing on Two Medicine in the morning. Although this area is known to be windy, the previous couple of days had been calm, but this morning the air and the water was a little choppier, so we were challenged more than we had anticipated. Not to mention that since there were three of us, one of us had to be sitting duff, and it was freeeeezing. The water was so cold and with no help from the aluminum canoe, we cut the trip a little short. But it's something to keep in mind for a calmer day. I do love a good canoe trip!

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The last full day that we spent in the park, apart from the canoe trip early on, was very lazy. We sunbathed a lot and read books and cooked food over the campfire, generally taking it about as easy as we could. A lot of driving lay ahead, and bright and early the next morning we ventured onto the road en route to Wisconsin -- by way of Yellowstone National Park.

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In the late afternoon, just as we were starting to approach Yellowstone, the weather began to roll in. This particular storm was fun to watch because it seemed to hover over the small cluster of mountains and the lightning was amazing. Eventually it caught up with us, though.

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We made a point to go see Old Faithful, if we saw anything at all. Luckily, we arrived just in time, and only had to wait about ten minutes to see it. The rain started falling pretty much right after it died back down, and we ducked into the gift shops for a second to grab t-shirts and stickers and all those must-have items. The place was packed with tourists -- it seemed so much busier than Glacier, but we had also arrived just in time for the start of July 4th weekend, so the campgrounds were fully booked and the crowds were enormous.

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We arrived on the much quieter eastern side of the park in the evening, entering Buffalo Bill State Park and Wyoming proper. As the weather swept through and darkness fell, the landscape became increasingly creepy-looking, and well into the night, through Wyoming's Bighorn National Forest, the Black Hills of South Dakota, as well as a little of the Badlands -- the landscape was weirding me out in the dark. By the time it was morning, I (the other two were zonked) was treated to an amazing red sunrise and then we were straight home as fast as we could possibly get there.

All in all, it was an amazing week, and the first real sister road trip I've ever taken! We wanted to be able to get one in before I move, and before other busy life events come along... 

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Tomorrow I'm headed to Milwaukee to get my biometric information recorded for my visa! Documents are rolling in and that is getting wrapped up pretty quickly. Soon enough I'll purchase a plane ticket -- can't wait to get that taken care of!



Days to Edinburgh move-in: 60

08 July 2013

Day 2: A hike around Two Medicine

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The second full day we spent at Glacier National Park, we decided to do a hike around Two Medicine Lake, which comes to approximately 8 miles, give or take. It was an absolutely gorgeous, windless day and a lot of other people were out hiking, taking advantage of the warm mountainsides.

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The footbridge on the South Shore Trail was awesome! We felt very much like we were channeling Indiana Jones. I'd never been across a bridge like this before, and I understood pretty quickly why they limit crossing to one person at a time. The swinging and natural movement of the bridge after you get about halfway across (physics: something I'm not good at, but can totally appreciate) can be really disorienting.

The South Shore Trail was posted pretty heavily with signs about bears, namely grizzly bears. It was marked as a "bear frequenting area," and although we didn't have any bear spray with us (that's a thing!), we were conscious about making a lot of noise. We actually made a game out of it at one point, to keep us talking and making ourselves known to any potentially frightened/aggressive animals in the forest. My youngest sister Maddy would holler, "hip hip!" and that I would call out an adjective, and Ali would name a food. We were pretty relieved, needless to say, when we finally stepped onto a less grizzly-frequented trail.

We did get a little spooked a couple of times when we ran across some scat in the middle of the trail. None of it was super recent, but it was enough to make us rethink how seriously we needed to take the whole "bear frequenting area" thing.

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We hiked along the side of Sinopah Mountain -- it never fails to astound me, the scale of these mountains. From a distance, one knows they're monumental, but getting up the side of one, and even climing up a little bit -- and looking up: that's something else.

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Our main destination on the trail was Twin Falls at Upper Two Medicine. There are indeed two beautiful falls, and it was a popular spot for day hikers, so when we got there, some had packed along chairs to sit in and hang out for a while. I, for one, would not be interested in carrying a chair for three miles.

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The trail opened up quite a bit as we went around the North Shore trail of Two Medicine Lake. In one spot there was a small group of Inuksuit (which are traditionally made by Inuit people), to mark directions or places of respect. I remember seeing these in various sizes (some huge) in Canada, and it reminded me how close to the border were were in GNP.

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The evening ended on a brilliant note, per usual for our trip. We made pudgie pies over the fire (ever had one of those? a camping cuisine must!) and enjoyed a suitably calm evening except for a campsite filled with teenaged boys who didn't know the meaning of "quiet hours." Alas, teenagers. ;) Every night we were treated to the sun setting behind Rising Wolf Mountain (Rising Wolf was the husband of Sinopah, whose name graces the mountain next to it).

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Last but not least, the final post will include our drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and our long drive back through Yellowstone and South Dakota. Cheers!

Days to Edinburgh move-in: 61

07 July 2013

Getting there and setting up camp

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The drive from eastern Wisconsin to western Montana is not a short one. We took Highway 2 practically all the way there, driving up through Duluth, MN to catch it out of Wisconsin, and then it was straight on 'til morning. All in all, it took us about 24 hours with stops. We drove through much of western Minnesota and North Dakota overnight, catching a red sunset in the northern Minnesota forests. We passed through a bit of North Dakota oil country (interesting) before crossing into Montana where it was suddenly clean, green, and gorgeous on the plains.

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We stopped for a very quick last break before getting near the park, in a little wayside in Chester, MT. Across the street was an old diner, the Sugar Shack, which was closed, but looked like it had been in use somewhat recently. We watched the Empire Builder speed by on the railroad, brushed our teeth, had a quick snack, and got back on the road.

And finally, mountains! After stopping in Shelby, MT for groceries (and ice!) to fill the cooler, we were set to go. We wound our way through the Blackfeet Reservation and Browning, the last small city before entering the park. We turned into Highway 89, which would have led us up to St. Mary, but having been super prepared, none of us knew where the best entrance was. So we turned around, got back on Highway 2, and headed down toward East Glacier at the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park. It turns out that St. Mary is the main eastern entrance to the park, but in the end, it turned out well that we saved that for another day.

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We drove to the end of the road and found ourselves at Two Medicine Campground, which sits on Two Medicine Lake. There is a large general and camp store there, with boat rentals and scenic tours along the water departing from there, but it was Sunday evening and the crowds were tame. We checked out the souvenirs, got ourselves some firewood, and headed to the campground to set up camp.

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The water was clear as glass and cold as ice, so we didn't get to properly swim or anything. But we made the best of it, and often rinsed our hair and went ankle-wading.

Our campsite was set back a bit, bordered on both sides by other sites, one for RVs and one for a tent, which was often not occupied. Behind us the hill swept up, so we were aware of wildlife, but it was also nice and quiet. 

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Each night the sun set behind a mountain around 8pm. It stayed light out until well after 10pm every night, and we were so exhausted that not on not one day did we stay awake long enough to see a true night sky. We did peek some stars through the tent window screen one night, though -- the night the wind picked up and a book I had in a tent pocket swung and whapped me in the head. So I woke up and looked at the stars. ;)

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Plant life was kind of scrubby. There wasn't a lot of grass and everything was very dry, at least on the east side, where it tends to be windy. 

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Evening was gorgeous each and every day. The first night was calm and cool, and we simply took it all in. We planned for a hike the next day, which I'll post about next time.

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Days to Edinburgh move-in: 62