After spending the amount of time I did in Montana, I’m starting to think that Montana is the only secret America has ever kept. Even if that wasn’t my working theory before I got to Glacier, it definitely was afterwards. The best part of that theory is that most of the people in Montana that I suggested this idea to agreed with me. So don’t tell anyone.
Glacier National Park
Not only is Glacier National Park one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, it’s also right here in the US. To be fair, I only spent two days there and didn’t really get to experience all that Glacier has to offer. I only was on the western part of the park and the bulk of the Going to the Sun Road was closed while I was there due to snowy conditions (yes in the middle of June). The entire area designated as Glacier National Park is roughly 170 million years old. However, the glaciers themselves are nearly gone. There are currently less than 25 active glaciers in the park and it is more than likely that all of them will be gone by 2030 (as compared to the roughly 150 active glaciers that existed there roughly a century ago). Another of the many gentle reminders on this trip that we are slowly but surely losing so many wonderful natural landmarks. But that doesn’t deter from the beauty of the mountains, clear water lakes and streams, flowing waterfalls, and wildlife that makes Glacier one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in the country. There are no pictures I could show or words I could put on the page that would do justice to a place that should be seen by everyone who can make their way out to Montana. The best advice I can give is that although Glacier is a relatively high trafficked park, most of the visitors stay on the roads or in the hotels. If you camp out and take a few hikes deep in to the woods, you will get a much richer experience of what Glacier National Park has to offer than the average visitor. And the effort to take those hikes is well worth it.
Glacier Sunset and Solstice
While in Billings, Montana, I ended up having breakfast at a table next to a group of people in their 70s and 80s talking about bucket list items. One of the guys from that group said that as one of his top of the list items was to watch a sunset on the summer solstice over Yellowstone National Park and over Glacier National Park and compare the two. As a photographer who’s photographed many sunsets, he’d never done them on the solstice of two of his favorite places. He also noted that he was fortunate enough to be going to Yellowstone the following week to do the first half of that bucket list item and watch the sunset and the solstice over Yellowstone. Since I was heading to Glacier, I decided to take his cue and watch the sunset during the solstice over Lake McDonald and needless to say it didn’t disappoint. Here is a time lapse video I made on my GoPro of the sunset over McDonald Lake in Glacier. It also includes the solstice which took place roughly 30 minutes after the sunset: Glacier National Park Sunset/Solstice
On the western side of Glacier National Park was a small town called Kalispell. It’s one of the places that people go when they stay outside of Glacier but still want to be close by. I had only intended on staying one night there, but a flat tire after an 11 mile hike with a 3,500 foot incline for the first 5.5 miles and a 3,500 foot decline for the last 5.5 miles made my decision for me that I would be staying another night. I was originally planning on doing 4 mile hike up to Columbia Falls. Then part way through the hike, I stopped to admire the view and ended up chatting with a guy who was an adventure/outdoor writer for the area. Besides mentioning that I should see the falls that lined that trails further in to the hike than 4 miles, he also told me that there was a car with NJ plates at the trailhead parking lot with a flat tire. So instead of 2 miles in, we went 5.5 miles in to see the waterfalls knowing I needed to change a flat tire in 85 degree weather at the end of the hike. Thankfully changing the tire didn’t take me too long and I was able to get back to Kalispell in time for their yearly food festival called Taste of Kalispell. But I basically only got the scraps from each of the booths as they were closing down (which were tasty, but not quite picture worthy).
It’s also worth mentioning at least one meal that I had in Kalispell that was amazing. The Desoto Grill has a whole bunch of different kinds of excellent Mac and Cheeses. I tried all of them and they were all good. I tried their jalapeno, smokey bacon, and traditional style and they were all excellent by mac and cheese standards. The elk sausage, which after a long day of hiking, was really juicy and a welcome volume of protein. I also got their ribs and brisket just to be sure I took in sufficient calories. I needed to make sure I had all my meat salad bases covered too. And while I’m not normally a fan of collard greens, adding pork belly to it helped me enjoy it quite a bit more. This is one place I am definitely coming back to next time I come to see more of Glacier National Park.
The whole gallery of pictures from Western Montana is available on Google Photos.