August 11-26, 2017
Glacier National Park, Montana
We had heard so many reviews, in particular those from other full-time RV’ers, that this was the crowning jewel of the National Parks and was their favorite place to explore. The one misconception that all of this gave me was that I didn’t think it would be crowded. I was wrong about that. This place actually surpassed Yellowstone in visitation numbers this year, so instead of the off-the-beaten path experience I was expecting there was a lot of waiting in lines (at park entrance, at visitors centers, for shuttles) and hiking in pristine alpine wilderness while listening to the conversations of other groups of people. This is a bizarre thing – to cherish these wild spaces so much that they become so popular that we begin to slowly destroy them together. And it’s a bizarre thing to drive hours into a wild part of our country that will be forever protected, only to walk in a long line of other people who would also like to have an experience there. All of this makes a swirling of emotions and thoughts and concerns inside of me but the way it manifests when I’m waiting in line is RAGE. I’m not proud of this fact, but I am my absolute WORST self when I’m waiting in line. It doesn’t even make sense to me, but it’s like I become another person.
The facilities at Glacier, even the brand new ones, were only really designed to accommodate about half of the visitation that they’ve begun to receive in the past few years, since being “discovered” as the most amazing, more secluded option for National Park hoppers like ourselves. So when we waited in long lines to ask simple questions or get Jr. Ranger books from the very in-demand rangers, in a pseudo-line/pseudo-mob that reminded me of trying to board a Ryan Air flight, it was all I could do to contain myself when people who came in behind us would lean forward and get the attention of a ranger to say, “I just need to ask one quick question…” and so manage to cut in front of us in line. “We are all here to just ask one quick question!” I wanted to scream.
It was also a harsh realization that many of the places we wanted to hike and explore were 1.5 – 3 hours away over an INSANE traverse called Going to the Sun Road, and there was no better, closer place to stay. We stayed in a family-owned campground right outside the park entrance for 15 nights to thoroughly explore and enjoy this area, and in that time we clocked 400 miles in our truck to access trails, vistas, and pizza places.
So my first few moments within the park were a little less than thrilling. But then we went on a few hikes, and all was forgiven. Oh my Goodness Glacier…everything was forgiven.
They call this place “The Crown of the Continent” and it lives up to its name. It’s called that because it is where 5 very different geological landscapes all come sweeping up together to meet in the wildest part of the rockies, the largest undisturbed ecosystem in the lower 48 where grizzlies, elk, moose, and wolves still thrive, and the headwaters begin for 3 major US rivers.
Oh, and did I mention…..
I SAW A MOOSE HERE!
Full disclosure – there were some rough days here, too. One morning the girls and I left with Brad before 8:00am to go on a “short morning hike” while he went on a full-day trek. We packed a few snacks and some water and jumped on a park shuttle about 8:15am. Due to the shuttle system not being designed to manage the number of people visiting the park, our slow hiking speed through hot, burned-out forests when we’d dressed for cool, mountain temps, and some very inconvenient road construction, the girls and I didn’t return from our morning hike until 5:20pm. That was probably my least favorite day…
The drive to a grocery store was 20 minutes, and it was 45 minutes to a store with prices I was used to. The first few days we were in this area the smoke from nearby fires made visibility terrible and breathing wasn’t super fun either. We considered changing our plans, but we were glad we stayed. About the 3rd or 4th day we were in the area some weather systems rerouted the smoke so that we had mostly clear skies for the remainder of our stay. It was also at this location that I was dealing remotely with the new floor debacle that I described in my earlier post, Ode to Long Distance Landlording.
But despite all of these things…Glacier still managed to take it’s place among one of the most amazing places that we’ve visited on this trip. Sunny went on her first 10-mile hike with Brad (and was still LITERALLY skipping back to the truck, confirming our suspicion that it’s impossible to tire her out), I went on a 12 mile hike on my own one day and saw views like I’ve never seen, we added grizzlies, moose, and mountain goats to our list of animals seen on this adventure, and we celebrated our anniversary of 1 YEAR IN THE RV!
We also reconnected with 2 sets of friends from our stay in the Tetons here! We thoroughly enjoyed hang out time with Tom & Andrea around an imaginary campfire one night (burn ban…) and spent several days having fun with our Texas friends, the Blairs.
I would say the main lesson learned at this location was….Washington people, if you’re not vacationing here, WHY THE HECK NOT?! I can’t believe we’ve only been 8 hours away from this paradise for the past 13 years. This was our maiden voyage in this over-crowded playground of the divine, but I sure hope it wasn’t our last.