Monthly Archives: September 2019

Glacier National Park

After being gone for 72 days we were looking forward to our return to the United States’ lower 48. We anticipated great cell service, lower gas prices and fabulous grocery stores. Well, that wasn’t exactly the case.

We came across the Canada – US border in a remote area of northern Montana, heading towards the KOA in St. Mary, Montana. We discovered that there is absolutely no cell service all the way down to, and including, St. Mary. Bummer!

While checking into the KOA I asked where I might find some fresh fruit and vegetables. US customs does not allow most fruits and vegetables to come in from Canada so we did not have any. The lady at the KOA office laughed and said the closest grocery store worth visiting was 45 minutes to an hour away. There is a small market in town but she could not recommend it. The thought of driving another couple of hours just for groceries was not appealing so we decided to check out the local market. OMG! I should have taken a photo. It was the saddest store I’ve ever gone in. The fruit and vegetables looked old and near the point of being inedible.  So, we decided to make the drive to Browning, MT. Since we were going to be in St. Mary for 6 nights I figured we had better stock up.

The drive to Browning was interesting. It is along narrow curvy country roads with wild cattle and wild dogs roaming around. We never knew what would be around the next corner. It was getting late and fog was rolling in so I wanted to make our visit in Browning as short as necessary. Driving in fog with cattle roaming the road did not seem appealing to me at all.

The town of Browning has the saddest looking IGA grocery store I’ve ever seen. Fortunately, there is a second grocery store, attached to a casino and gas station, which is run by Native Americans, that is fully stocked and awesome. We stocked up on groceries and then looked for a place to grab a quick bite to eat. We found a drive-thru burger joint that turned out to be pretty good. Next, we decided to see if the liquor store had any good bourbon for Old Fashioned drinks. LOL. I should have taken a photo of the liquor store. It was scary looking. Charlie went in and asked for a basic bourbon, like Woodford Reserve or Knobs Creek. The sales clerk looked at him as if he had come from a different planet. She said we have Jack Daniels. That’s it. Oh well. After dodging wild dogs running across the road we left the town of Browning and headed back to St. Mary.

A cute sign in Browning I thought I’d share with you.

We got up early the next day and headed into Glacier National Park. We drove along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, taking in the beautiful vista views. The road is narrow and windy, but fun to drive.

The view along the Going-to-the-Sun road, between St. Mary and the Logan Visitor Center
You can see the Going-to-the-Sun road. It is the thin brown line in the distance
The area of St. Mary Falls, where remnants of a past fire are still seen

We stopped at the Logan Visitor Center and hiked up to Hidden Lake. Our walk was timed perfectly, as right after I finished taking some photos some low clouds rolled in and covered the area.

The area of Hidden Lake Overlook trail
Hidden Lake Overlook
Hidden Lake Overlook Trail

After our hike we continued driving west, along the going-to-the-sun road. We stopped along the way to take in views of the river with its crystal clear water. 

We stopped at Avalanche Creek and took a hike along ‘The Trail of the Cedars’, and then continued hiking up to Avalanche Lake. Along this trail you pass a very beautiful gorge.

It was not an opportune time of the day to get a good photo of Avalanche Lake, but we did enjoy our hike and the scenery.

Avalanche Lake

Next we decided to take a drive up to Polebridge. This is a tiny village 25 miles north of the West Glacier park entrance. Half of the drive is on a rough dirt road, but the views were nice.

I had read that you should not miss out on visiting the Polebridge Mercantile, as their Huckleberry Bear Claws are delicious. Well, they were right. The claws were fabulous, as were the pecan rolls and cinnamon rolls.

In addition to the Mercantile building there is a tiny saloon and a stage where a band plays nearly every night during the summer. It was definitely worth the drive.

If you go to Polebridge, make sure you have a full tank of gas. This is the ‘gas station’ in Polebridge. Maximum allowed gas fill is 3 gallons at $6.50 per gallon!

We were going to drive on towards Bowman Lake but the mercantile sales clerk advised that the road was not maintained by anybody and she wasn’t aware of its current condition. It was getting late and we needed to drive 2 to 2.5 hrs to get back to St. Mary so we decided to forgo a visit to the lake.

For the next three days we had rain, fog and low clouds so we hunkered down and relaxed. We rarely do that, but felt we needed to as we had been going non-stop for what seemed like forever. Although we did not have any cell service in St. Mary, MT we found the WiFi at the KOA to be very fast. Having that gave us the ability to do stuff on-line and stream some movies. We enjoyed our downtime.

On our final day in St. Mary the clouds finally broke so we explored the Many Glacier area of the park. We hiked 8 miles around the lakes and took boat rides across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes. We enjoyed lunch at the Many Glacier Lodge. It was good to be back outside, enjoying nature.

During our walk we came across this mountain goat skull. Just thought I’d share it with you. 🙂

We left St. Mary the next day and drove over to the West Glacier KOA for a night. Our original plan was to spend a few days there while exploring the western side of Glacier National Park. However, we felt like we had seen most of it during our drive on our first day and we wanted more time in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The West Glacier KOA Resort is very nice. It is the nicest, outside of a Motorcoach Class-A Resort, we’ve come across. I highly recommend it if you visit Glacier. They have some great Huckleberry Ice Cream too!

After a great week in Glacier we headed over to Coeur d’Alene to visit with some friends that we hadn’t seen for many years. While in Coeur d’Alene we stayed at the Blackwell Island RV Park. It is a great park, and within walking distance to the Cedars Restaurant, which was excellent.

The beautiful Montana countryside

Our next stop is in southern Utah. More on that later.

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Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

OMG!! Talk about Eye Candy. This place is just gorgeous!

We had great weather for our drive down the Icefields Parkway, from Jasper to Lake Louise. On the way we had to stop for some female big horn sheep. It looks like they were trying to hitch hike a ride with the RV in front of us.

We also spotted some mountain goat. I was surprised at how close to the road these guys were. They are usually high up on the mountain side.

We stopped near the Parker Ridge area and took a hike along the river. I was thrilled to find this beautiful gorge. The water color of many rivers and lakes along the parkway is amazing, and the water is so clear.

Our RV is way in the distance, with Mo (our Jeep)

We arrived at the Lake Louise campground just before some rain moved in. We set up the RV and headed to the visitor center. Lake Louise is a small village. There is not much in the way of restaurants or grocery stores. You have to drive 45 minutes to Banff if your heart is set on shopping and being with the crowds. That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that Lake Louise is quiet and peaceful. On the contrary. We were woken up countless times in the middle of the night to train horns! What is it with campgrounds almost always being next to train tracks? At least that is what it seems like.

On a couple of occasions we made the trek to Banff, but we took the scenic route, along Bow Valley Parkway. Highlights of the parkway include Morant’s Curve, which would have been really nice if there was an old fashioned passenger train in the picture.

Castle Mountain

And Johnston Canyon. I did not care much for Johnston Canyon, after having been to Maligne Canyon up by Jasper. I found Johnston Canyon to be overcrowded, with very narrow walkways. It is nice, but not nearly as scenic as Maligne. We did enjoy getting out and hiking though. After our hike we stopped by the bistro at the canyon and enjoyed a nice lunch sitting on the patio. Here are a few pictures from Johnston Canyon.

While in Banff we enjoyed walking around the town. There are a ton of great shops and restaurants to explore. We were happy to have stumbled upon the restaurant Saltlik, as their calamari and salmon were excellent.

We explored Yoho National Park, which is just 30 minutes west of Lake Louise. We took a walk around Emerald Lake, just in awe of its beauty.

We also enjoyed Takakkaw Falls, the 2nd tallest waterfall in Canada at 1,250 ft.

We spent a bit of time at Lake Louise; the lake, not the village :-). We took a hike up the Fairmont Overlook Trail and was rewarded with this view:

At the Fairmont we found the best bartender we have ever come across. Nils is very detail oriented and his drinks are exceptional. The Fairview bar has a Brown Butter Old Fashioned on their menu so we decided to try it. We absolutely LOVED it, so much so that I told Nils I was going to make it at home. He was kind enough to give me the recipe. I can’t wait to get home and make it!

Early one morning we did the Agnes Tea House and Little Beehive Hikes at Lake Louise. It was a 1,600 elevation gain and 6 mile trek roundtrip. It was fabulous! Highly recommend it. The day we went to the tea house was apparently delivery day. A helicopter flew over numerous times, dropping off propane tanks and other supplies. It was neat to see.

It is such a joy to reach the tea house, after the long hike up the mountain. We got there early so we didn’t have to wait for a table, unlike these folks who arrived a bit later.

After enjoying some great tea and scones we hiked further up the mountain, along the Little Beehive Trail. The views are amazing.

That’s me on the edge, taking in the beauty of Lake Louise.

(Click on the first photo to enlarge and start a slideshow)

The tea house sits on the tiny, but beautiful, Agnes Lake.

Here’s Charlie taking in the scenery along the hike.

Mirror Lake, along the hike:

You can hike to the top of the mountain, seen in the middle of this picture, by taking the Big Beehive Trail. We stuck with the Little Beehive Trail.

Then of course there is the beautiful Lake Louise.

I loved this statue, along the grounds of the Fairmont.

He’s just taking in the glorious view.

Sunrise on Lake Louise:

While I found Lake Louise beautiful, it was Moraine Lake that I could not get enough of. I’ve never seen anything like it. The view is so beautiful that it was on Canada’s twenty dollar bill at one time. The water color, the mountains, the reflections, oh my!!!

Another angle, shortly after sunrise the next day.

We returned, with our winter gear on, at night to capture the Milky Way over the mountains.

Moraine Lake is beautiful day and night!

We also visited Peyto Lake for a sunrise shot. Turns out, you don’t need to get there until a couple of hours after sunrise. However, I enjoyed watching the shadows fade as the sun worked its way out from behind the eastern mountain range. Charlie is such a good sport, and very patient, with my passion for photography.

Peyto Lake

On our way to Peyto Lake we stopped by Herbert Lake and caught this shot.

I just love mornings on the lake with mist and reflections!

I’ll wrap up this post with a few more pictures taken along the southern end of the Icefields Parkway. This is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I guess that is because I just LOVE mountains and lakes.

Bow Lake. You can see the red lodge on the lower right hand side of the mountain range.
The reflections on most of the lakes along the parkway make photographing them a joy.

Well, that wraps up our week long stay in Lake Louise. If I ever return I might just set up a chair at Moraine Lake and camp there. Seriously, it is BEAUTIFUL! If you make it up that way note that in order to get sunrise pictures at Moraine Lake you MUST be there 1 to 1.5 hours before sunrise. We got there at 6am for a 7am sunrise and almost didn’t get a parking spot. Lake Louise is a little better, as their parking lot is bigger. They also fill up though, but not nearly as fast.

The Lake Louise campground was very nice. It sits along the river and is within walking distance to the village. There is no water service at the sites though so we had to dry camp. Surprisingly, we made it through the week without having to drive over to the dump. Fortunately, we did have 30amp power. The trains were unbearable though. If you ever stay here you might want to consider ear plugs.

Our next destination is Glacier National Park. We will be thrilled to be back in the lower 48 of the US. We left it 72 days ago. Wow!

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