The Magic of Glacier National Park

A trip to Glacier National Park inspired this incredible painting by my dear friend, Ellen Brenneman.
“This is an exercise in civics as much as it is in conservation, or the environment, or anything. This was this unique compact that we are all co-owners of some of the most beautiful places in the world. And ownership suggests only modest, in this case, responsibilities. Go out and visit your property. Make sure it’s being taken care of. That is, be a good constituent of them, and make sure they’re being taken care of for future generations.” (From A Conversation with Ken Burns on the National Parks: Americas Best Idea by Kurt Repanshek.)
Regardless of how you feel about the management of our National Parks the fact that they even exist should give those of us who love the wilderness and support conservation at least a little hope. I get it, it's frustrating to go visit a park only to find you can't take your dog with you on hike (Nellie's not too happy about that) but Mr. & Mrs. Tourist-For-a-Day can bring their children who, like quite a few adult visitors, have no concept of sacred spaces, leave-no-trace or "Don't Feed the Animals". (You can't blame the kids though.) And yea, they really screwed the pooch (pun not intended) when they paved the way to so many of the main features in places like Arches National Park that you don't even have to exit your vehicle to snap photos these amazing formations.
“Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably, to leave behind for a while.”
Edward Abbey,
Desert Solitaire
Still, I am in love with our National Parks and visiting them has done more for my appreciation and defense of our public lands then I ever imagined. So when my sister-from-another-mister, Ellen, and her husband, Craig, wanted to meet at Glacier National Park during their summer vacation we got out the map and planned pretty much our whole year around this get-together (they're worth it).

Craig, Ellen, me and Clark.
Since Ellen and Craig aren't fulltimers (yet) they decided to rent an RV and make the really, really looonnnggg drive from South Bend, Indiana to West Glacier in 3 days. Crazy, right?! But Craig was determined and Glacier NP was all his idea so he set his goal and would not be swayed. Being in a rental posed a few limited fresh water and small holding tanks so we decided to stay at a private RV park, San-Suz-Ed Montana RV Park, that could provide full-hookups. This was prior to our solar install so it worked well for us too. Plus they have a little cafe on site where you can get breakfast, coffee and pie while pouring over area maps and getting tips for the best hiking in the park.

We also were fortunate to meet up with Deas and Jennifer Nealy of Nealy's on Wheels (check out their blog post on our gathering for additional photos). They had been camping inside the park for a couple of weeks and were kind enough to join us for a week at San-Suz-Ed. They're input was indispensable in our adventures since they'd already been at the park for a while.

Some things you should know if you plan on visiting Glacier National Park:
Here's what our week visiting Glacier National Park looked like:

Going to the Sun Road
The infamous foot picture at one of the Going to the Sun Road overlooks.
View from our hike at Bowman Lake in West Glacier NP.
Non-stop beauty...
Making our way to Beaver Pond in the St. Mary area in East Glacier. That's Ellen!!
Fields of wildflowers welcomed us on the Beaver Pond Loop.
Wildflowers flourish in the area devastated by the Red Eagle Fire which burned more than 34,000 acres in Glacier National Park and neighboring Blackfeet Tribal Lands in 2006. The scorched trees still stand and when the wind blows they make's actually quite moving.

The two mile (one way) hike to Avalanche Lake is one of the most popular hikes in the park since it's relatively flat, easily accessed from Going to the Sun Road and really pretty. But even though it can be crowded I still think it's worth it. You can easily incorporate the Trail of the Cedars into this hike as well. Trail of the Cedars is wheelchair accessible too!
Right down the road from our RV park we found Glacier Distilling Company (West Glacier).
So we sampled several of their fancy a reward for our exhausting hikes, of course.
On top of Going to the Sun Road...
More wildflowers from the Red Eagle Fire area.
Bald Eagle near Polebridge (West Glacier).
A *must-stop* in West Glacier is Polebridge, an unincorporated community that skirts along the National Park border. As a matter of fact you pretty much have to drive through it to get to Bowman and Kintla Lakes. Be sure to stop in the bakery and try their huckleberry ANYthing. Next door is Northern Lights Saloon. Both establishments are powered by generators and often host live music and other events.
Huckleberry Coolers at Northern Lights Saloon. The Saloon is also a cafe which serves fantastic food including vegetarian and vegan options.
View from Going the the Sun Road.
One of the Hidden Ponds along Swiftcurrent Trail in Many Glacier (East Glacier) is a feeding ground for moose.
This female moose was resting right along a trail...her calf is on the other side of her. We would never have approached her or gotten this close had we known she was there. After snapping a quick photo we notified a park ranger due to the high volume of traffic on this trail. Moose are often more dangerous than bears...especially a mama moose.
As if our cow moose encounter wasn't "close enough" this guy (or girl) met us a few minutes later on the trail.
The big horn sheep never got close enough for a close up...

This hiker, however, DID get his close-up on the Highline Trail.
But don't fret, the mountain goats will happily pose for photos near Logan Pass which is about halfway along the Going to the Sun Road.

Hiking Grinnel Lake in Many Glacier (East Glacier).
Glacier is pretty high up there on our favorites list beating out both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. Of course, we did have excellent company but still...this place is beyond my abilities to describe or even capture on "film". Ellen, who happens to not only be one of my dearest and best friends ever, is also a fine artist. Her time in Glacier National Park brought her much inspiration and connection to nature. Check out her inspiring collection at her Etsy shop here. And view her blog post at Fat Girl Wearing Thin with some more photos of Glacier.

Ellen's mixed media Mule Deer was inspired by our encounter with the deer on the trail (see photo above). Check out her Etsy store for prints as well as her stunning series of Spirit Animals.
Bitter sweet. Spending our last night together watching the sun disappear.

A few tips (based on our visit July 21-28, 2014):
Watching Ellen and Craig head on down the road. Til next time my friends...

As most of you know by now, I (Lynn) am an avid reader. I highly recommend reading up on our National Parks, Forest and Public Lands and find out how you can help support these incredible places for future generations. High on the list of recommendations are:

The National Parks: America's Best Idea A Film By Ken Burns. This 6-episode series is available through PBS and Amazon. (Not a book, I know).

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. Recounts his time as a Park Ranger in Arches National Park.

The Last Season by Eric Blehm. The story of Sequoia National Park backcountry ranger Randy Morganson.

Ranger Confidential Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. The Gila Wilderness in New Mexico was the world's first designated wilderness area (Jun 3, 1024) and was created as a result of Leopold's environmental efforts. It's now part of the Gila National Forest.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan.

And, of course, the writings of Henry David Thoreau, John Wesley Powell, John Muir, Rachel Carson and Gifford Pinchot.

If you have any book or movie/documentary suggestions leave them in the comments...I'm always looking for recommendations.

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