[note: This entry actually happened before my arrival at the Arctic Circle, just the order on the website is wrong. Sorry about the confusion.]
From Grand Teton National Park, I headed north towards Idaho, Montana and the Canadian Border. My destination, the international peace park, Waterton-Glacier. Driving through the town of Hungry Horse in the Blackfoot Indian Reservation, I hit the busiest gas station I’d ever seen. This place was booming! The line at the counter was five lanes wide and about six people deep. It’s not that there were so many pumps out front, but people we buying newspapers, wood, food, beer, clothes – all kinds of stuff. All the while, the cashiers were calling people by name, chatting and catching up on families and gossip. As far as I could tell, the cashier line at the gas station was the social center of this town.
After extracting myself from Hungry Horse, I drove through the unmanned gates of the St. Mary’s entrance to Glacier on the east end of the famous Going-To-The-Sun Road. While I knew the whole road wasn’t open, I had hoped to drive as far up the road as possible in an attempt to get the flavor of the park. Unfortunately, the Going-To-The-Sun Road has a vehicle length restriction of 21 feet, and poor Harold is 23 feet long. Easy enough, I thought. I pulled into the Rising Sun campground, and took the camper off the truck and abandoned it in a campsite. I was now 20.5 feet long. For the first time in 27,000 miles, I was driving the truck without the camper attached. I had forgotten what it felt like unloaded – a lot like my ol’ sports car (at least in comparison). It also provided the chance for a few rare nude shots of Harold . Adult supervision suggested.
The road took me just past Sun Point, and I hiked another 3 miles along the road, getting glorious shots of glaciers, lakes, streams and overall rugged beauty. On the way back, I camped out over St. Mary Lake, and watched the sun sink over the water and turning the mountains a wonderful pink.
That night, back at Rising Sun, I pounded down a late dinner, sat and enjoyed watching the stars come out over a ridge just south of the campground. Since I was next heading up to Alaska, land of the eternal sun, I savored these stars, as they would be the last I’d see for a few weeks.
Next morning, I awoke late, but refreshed. I reattached the camper to the truck without incident – remarkable since I hadn’t had any practice for five months. I started the engine up, and headed toward Many Glaciers Road. Destination: Grinnel Lake. It started out to as an easy hike along the banks of a small lake. After rounding the end of the lake, it headed deep into a forest that, not so many weeks ago, was buried in snow. This I know because the trail was completely flooded with snow melt and glacier runoff. This was not just get your boots wet while stepping across kind of flooding. This was rushing stream hundreds of yards wide. I picked and sloshed my way from tree trunk to small island to snow bank and finally made it to the lake. I was rewarded with an impressive view of Grinnel Glacier, clinging above Grinnel Lake. Picking my way back, ran into some fellow hikers that were warily eying the water. They weren’t as prepared to do all the jumping and scrambling that I had done, so I promised to post the photos of the lake for them. I hope that they drop by and see ‘em! Worth wading through icy water? I’d say yes, but only because I had a change of shoes back in the truck!
On the return trip I followed a side trail to Hidden Falls that started just past a cool suspension bridge. I climbed to the top and snapped some pictures that utterly failed to show the power and presence of the raging water not 5 feet below me. Trust me, it was loud, wet and scenic. After listening to that roaring water for twenty minutes, I have no problem believing that a river can carve through a hillside.
Back in the truck, I set my sights north to the only border crossing within a national park, the one on the Chief Mountain International Highway. Driving towards dark clouds, then through pouring rain, I finally arrived at the border station. A very serious and very young Canadian man checked my passport (“Looks fine”), quizzed me on my complement of illegal material (none), my destination (Alaska via Banff and Jasper) and how long I was staying (a few days). With a quick nod and wave of the hand, I was back in Canada again, heading for Alaska and the Arctic Circle. See you on Wednesday…