Glacier National Park: Part 2

On our second full day in Glacier, Noah and I woke up bright and early in order to snag one of the first-come-first-serve camping spots at the Apgar Campground. Noah and I rented camping gear from Glacier Outdoor Center, so we got up extra early to pick up the supplies before driving to the campground. We rolled into the campground at about 7:45am and immediately started to drive around, searching for a spot.

IMG_9552

After a few minutes of looking, we realized that it would probably be easiest to just ask people if they were leaving that morning. Before too long, we found a group that said they were leaving in a few minutes and we could pull into their spot and wait.

SUCCESS! We immediately pulled our car in and started filling out the tag to reserve the spot:

IMG_9550

The campsite was plenty comfortable – there were bathrooms with running water, toilets, and toilet paper (yay!). Plus they had these nifty bear-safe trash cans:

IMG_9554

We didn’t dally long at the campsite because we wanted to get moving on Going to the Sun Road(GTTSR) – one of Glacier’s most prominent attractions. GTTSR is a 50-mile stretch of narrow road that winds across the whole of Glacier National Park, featuring stunning sights and a number of pull-offs/attractions to stop at.

Here’s a fabulous view characteristic of the sights from the road:

IMG_9555

AND, we saw several bikers along the road – that is seriously ambitious!

IMG_9556

The road itself it pretty nerve-wracking to drive, and Noah and I had to take turns at the wheel so we both had time to look around outside the window. The drop off was way too serious to look around while driving:

IMG_9558

Heading from West Glacier, we made it to Logan Pass – the highest point on the road – in under two hours. At Logan Pass there are several hiking trailheads as well as a visitors center. The Logan Pass parking lot gets full quite early (we were told as early as 9:00am!), so when we arrived around 9:45am we had to drive around for a bit waiting for a spot to open up. Noah and I were planning to join a ranger-led hike starting at 10:30, so we hoped something would be free soon!

Full lot:

IMG_9560 IMG_9561

Fortunately, it didn’t take too long before we were in the right place at the right time and found a spot, and wee joined with about 12 others to hike the Highline Trail.

IMG_9563

In its entirely, the Highline Trail is a 15-mile point-to-point hike. The full distance seemed a bit ambitious for Noah and I – especially considering we were hoping to continue our drive along the GTTSR afterwards – so we were excited to do an out-and-back 6-mile walk with a ranger.

The hike itself started with us walking through some low greenery and then along a rocky mountainside:

IMG_9564

Almost immediately on the trail we ran into two mountain goats!

IMG_9565

From the beginning, the views were great:

IMG_9567 IMG_9569

About a mile into the hike, we came upon the Garden Wall – an iconic part of the trail that’s totally covered in greenery:

IMG_9573IMG_9582

Every so often, the ranger would stop and tell us interesting bits of information about the landscape, the geology of the area, and our general surroundings. For example, he pointed out the variation in the rocks around us, indicating the different degrees to which the rocks were oxidized:

IMG_9570

And, the informational stops also gave us a chance to take advantage of some great photo ops!

IMG_9574 IMG_9577 IMG_9578 IMG_9580

Check out this waterfall!

IMG_9584

We also caught sight of several ground squirrels – quite common throughout the park:

IMG_9585 IMG_9586

Once we made our turn-around on the hike and headed back towards Logan Pass, we ran into yet another mountain goat!

IMG_9587

Logan Pass is on the Continental Divide, so when we made it back to the base area we snapped a pic with the Continental Divide sign:

IMG_9588

And then explored the base area for a little bit, enjoying the views:

IMG_9591

Eventually, we headed back to our car and passed on our coveted Logan Pass parking spot to some excited folks waiting. After driving for a bit longer, we knew we were getting towards the end of the GTTSR when we started catching glimpses of St. Mary Lake:

IMG_9597  IMG_9599IMG_9601

Finally, we made it to the St. Mary Visitor Center, the final stop at the other end of the Sun Road!

IMG_9604

We briefly looked around the exhibits at the St. Mary Visitor Center – mainly about the Native American Tribes that used to live at the park and continue to see the area as their homeland. Before long we started heading back to the West Glacier side of the park, stopping by the Glacier Park Lodge. The Glacier Park Lodge was built in 1913 and is maintained as a historic site (and actual guesthouse!). The decor maintains an old-timey, Western feel:

IMG_9614 IMG_9612 IMG_9616

And we found this ancient artifact… 😉

IMG_9615

We also checked out one of the Red Buses – a historic icon of Glacier – outside the Lodge:

IMG_9610

The Red Buses were introduced in the 1930s as a transportation method for touring groups at the park, and they continue to be used as a way for visitors to be guided around the park.

We couldn’t spend too much time on our way back because we wanted to get back to our campsite with plenty of daylight left for setting up the tent. Once back at the other side of the camp and our campsite, Noah made speedy work of setting up the tent:

IMG_9620 IMG_9623 IMG_9624 IMG_9625

Way to go, Noah!

Our tent was beautifully positioned underneath the trees. 🙂

IMG_9621

After having everything set up for the night, Noah and I were ready for a delicious dinner. We went to Russell’s Fireside Dining Room at the Lake McDonald Lodge (about a 30-minute drive from our campsite) and had an absolutely delicious, amazing, relaxing dinner.

All you really need to know:

IMG_9626 IMG_9627

Yes, that is huckleberry pie with huckleberry ice cream that Noah and I shared for dessert. When in Montana, right?!

If you missed my first Glacier post, check it out here, and be on the lookout for a third post coming soon!