Aug 252011

Glacier National Park is mind-bogglingly beautiful.  You’d think that we might have become jaded to natural beauty having just come from the Badlands and Yellowstone.  Not so.  Glacier pushes the bar that much further.  Lush, verdant trees (mostly pines) are everywhere; blue-green rivers and lakes (a color locals call “glacial flower”) dot the landscape; and to top it all off, glacial peaks hover in the background no matter where you are in the Park.  The whole picture is fairly overwhelming to the senses.  Luckily for us, each day has also presented a gorgeous sunny sky, not letting us forget why Montana is called the Big Sky state.

Here is a photo of us at Avalanche Lake from a hiking trip earlier today:

Avalanche Lake

We have been staying at the Belton Chalet, which is across Route 2 from the Park at the Western Entrance.  Though we tried to make a reservation at a lodge in the Park seven months ago, there were no available bookings.  This has actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  The balcony off our room provides a view of an active train line, and of a stop about 40-50 yards from our room.  Cargo trains pass frequently, and passenger trains stop every once in a while.  Every two-year-old that I have ever met has been completely and utterly enamored by trains; Jude is no exception.  The thought that a train might be likely to pass soon is enough to distract him from almost any bad behavior.  When a train actually is passing, he stands rapt in attention, pointing, mouth agape.

Here is a photo of the train stop directly across from our hotel:

Bear fever has gripped this Park, even more than Yellowstone.  People talk about grizzly bears constantly.  There are big warning signs about bears at every trailhead.  As I am writing this, some kids are even playing a “run-away from the bear” game just below our balcony.

Our hotel has a racket going where they rent out canisters of bear repellant for $10 a day (a canister retails for about $50), which they push heavily on all the guests.  On our first morning, I asked the concierge how many cans she had ever rented—“oh, thousands.”  Then I asked her how many times a guest had ever used one—“never.”  It was the same answer when I asked how many times a hotel guest had ever been approached by a bear.  I’m as safety-first as the next guy, but I also like to play the odds.  My thought was that if we stayed on the trail, made noise, and didn’t do anything stupid to aggravate the bears, our chances of attack were pretty much nil.

Summit of Apgar Lookout Trail

On our 6.6-mile hike up the Apgar Lookout Trail on our first morning, we met two longtime visitors of the Park, septuagenarians and Angelinos, Jeannie and Wayne, who claimed to have seen nine bears, grizzly and black, over the course of many visits to the Park.  Wayne was packing a canister of bear repellant in a holster on his belt, and he was not afraid to use it.  He even showed me how to spray it, in case he was “taken out.”  I appreciated the instruction, and we hiked with them for a while, admittedly getting a little more nervous about the prospect of a bear attack from Wayne’s horror stories.  Was I regretting my decision not to rent our own canister?  A little.  Then, on our way up the mountain, we met a guy from Utah traveling with his approximately 10-year-old son, on his way down, who told us he had just seen a black bear at the summit.  He said he had scared the bear off, and doubted we’d see it.  As proof, the guy even showed us digital pictures of the bear running away.  In any event, we made a pretty constant din for the rest of the hike, and followed the same precautions we discussed in our Yellowstone post, while I was definitely regretting my decision not to rent bear repellant at this point.  To make noise, Bliss got pretty musical, and even sang some soccer chants she’s learned over the years.

The food situation here is better than in either of the other two parks we have visited on this trip.  A restaurant, The Belton Grill Dining Room, which is under the same ownership as our hotel, is immediately adjacent.  On the first night we tried to get a reservation and were pretty much told to forget it.  Bliss had the great idea of take out.  This started a pattern where, on each of the three nights here, I have brought back food from the restaurant, which we have eaten on our balcony, us watching the sunset and Jude hoping for trains.  The bison and pork meatloaf tastes fantastic after a long day of hiking.  It is also relatively relaxing to eat dinner on the balcony to our room, rather than at a fancy restaurant full of adults trying to enjoy themselves in peace.  We also picked up some wine in Bozeman, MT (great place!) on the way to Glacier, which we have enjoyed with our take-out dinners.


Bliss' dad's family also visited Glacier National Park in 1967. Pictured above is the family's '63 Buick Wildcat on Going-to-the-Sun Road.



  2 Responses to “Glacial Adventures”

  1. Perhaps you’ve since learned this, but the “glacial flower” you speak of is actually “glacial flour” – an easy enough mistake to make.

    But the story gets more interesting when you know the truth about glacial flour. It’s not just a cutesy name for beautiful blue lakes; it’s the finely ground rock that makes the lakes blue. Caused by glacial erosion, this very, very fine, well, flour, is suspended in the water, giving it a greater opacity and also reflecting certain light wavelengths – which you see as bright blue.

    Alright, I see that you haven’t been on here since 2012, so maybe you won’t ever see this. I hope that your family’s life is still full of adventure and excitement!

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment and great info! We are looking forward to visiting Glacier again this summer.

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