August – September, 2015 – Spending these two months exploring Glacier National Park while camping in my 35′ motorhome was really a dream come true that formed in 2003. And this is still my favorite national park!
I don’t remember ever hearing of Glacier National Park before I just happened to pass through there on the way back from Alaska (Inspiration’s Journey Sept. 3-4, 2003). My mom was with me and it was due to wildfires then that we could not get all the way up Going to the Sun Road. But just that little glimpse way back then started me dreaming of a return when I could devote more time to fully exploring the park.
So it felt like some cruel twist of fate that wildfires were once again raging around the park during my long awaited return trip here.
Charred Trees on Going to the Sun Road
I spent the month before exploring Yellowstone and I started hearing news reports like “Glacier National Park Wildfire Explodes to 1,000 Acres” resulting in Going to the Sun Road being closed. I sure didn’t want to deal with the disappointment of going all the way there and not being able to complete the road yet again. So I debated myself on whether or not I should even go, but I was ready to leave Yellowstone and there was nowhere else I was itching to be so I figured I’d go ahead and take my chances that at some point during a month there I’d get to see something. I never regretted that decision and periodic blue sky days managed to make up for a lot of grey, smoky sky days and just made me appreciate them all the more.
8/29/15 – This day you could barely see across Lake McDonald the smoke was so bad.
9/11/15 – But there were still clear blue sky days to make me happy to be here.
13′ 6″ clearance from West Glacier entrance off Hwy. 2. This is how you get into Apgar Village, including the campground.
13′ 0″ underpass clearance from East Glacier entrance off Hwy. 2 onto MT-49 (also known as Looking Glass Road). Besides the low clearance for height, don’t go this way if you’re driving anything over 21′ long; it’s a super winding road. Pass this up and head to Browning (13 miles) to get to Hwy. 89 for a much easier park entrance (21 miles from Browning). In a car, if you turn here to get to St. Mary, it’s a total of about 31 miles.
Me & Lake McDonald – August 22, 2015
This was such a picture-perfect day, I remember thinking then that I sure was grateful that I came to Glacier even if I only had this one day.
Scene from Hwy. 49 – Two Medicine area
I spent a lot more time on the west side since that’s where I was staying and getting around to the other side wasn’t always easy because of road closures due to smoke and fire. It took hours to get to the east side from the west side via Going to the Sun Road, and also when taking Hwy. 2, which is a longer distance, even though the speed limits are higher. When I return, I’d like to spend a whole lot more time and would stay on this side while exploring around here.
At the St. Mary visitor center, I was glad to see they acknowledged that this land was once sacred to a number of Indian tribes: “The National Park Services invites you to experience Glacier National Park from the perspectives of the American Indian tribes that have called the park home for thousands of years: the Blackfeet, Kootenai, Salish, and Pend d’Oreille.
This land has been a national park since 1910 – protecting scenic beauty, wildlife and geologic history. In recent decades, the park has also embraced its mission of protecting the area’s diverse cultural heritage. As you explore these exhibits, you will hear directly from contemporary Blackfeet, Kootenai, Salish and Pend d’Oreille tribal leaders and elders. These are long-term perspectives: Indian people have used this area since the time when the continental ice sheets melted.
Each tribe provides its own ideas about its relationship to this land and history. Diverse viewpoints expand our understanding about the significance of Glacier National Park.”
“Kootenai: We are thankful for the preservation of an area that has 500 year old cedar trees who listened to our ancestors sing and dance long before the Kootenai were aware of Europeans. Yet, we are also aware that this place has not been preserved because of its significance to us. It is preserved because of the many visitors that come to the area.
Blackfeet: The landscape of Glacier is the source of our oldest and most venerated ceremony…The inception of the national park concept preserved the landscape, but excluded Blackfeet cultural and spiritual practices.
Salish and Pend d’Oreille: When natural areas start to disappear, cultures will disappear. National parks provide a means for keeping culture alive; they have become sacred places and sanctuaries. For the elders, these trips are both joyful and sad. These trips record the tribal relationship with these places…but also their loss.”
They tell a little about the 1855 Hellgate Treaty and the Blackfoot Treaty that resulted in an interpretation battle over what land was actually ceded. Guess who lost?
Of course we all enjoy this incredible natural wonderland now, but I think it is fitting to at least pay tribute to those who were here first.
See Native Culture: A Rich Past, Present and Future for information on the seven Indian reservations and 12 tribal nations that call various areas of Montana home now.
Glacier National Park – General Info:
Glacier National Park (NPS) — Glacier National Park full map
Going to the Sun Road (NPS) — Glacier NP Webcams
Glacier – Enjoy Your Parks — GlacierParkInformation.com
Hiking in Glacier — Glacier Country Montana
You Tube Videos:
Glacier’s Early Days (5 min.) – Wonderful photos of original Indian inhabitants, later travelers, and how it became the nation’s 10th national park.
Glacier National Park (58 National Parks) (7 min.) – Overview including the Canadian side at Waterton.