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