We drove into Glacier National Park late in the day as the sun was already setting. In a stark contrast to the grass plains that we drove through, the mountains rise up out of the plains, mysterious and enveloped in a shrowd of clouds. The peaks are part of the Rockies mountain range. The name of the park comes from the 150 or so glaciers which existed in the park over 100 years ago. Now there are as few as 25 glaciers left and all will be gone within 20 years if the temperatures keep increasing. The road into the park leads through various ecosystems – we pass through horse ranches, small pine forests, birch tree groves, older pine forests, and naked rocky cliffs. One of the mountain peaks is surrounded by a ghost forest burned by fire, naked of its green needles, charred and grotesque. As we check into the campground on the east side of the mountain range, the wind gusts are picking up, its getting cold and overcast. There is barely enough daylight to pitch a tent behind a grove of small birch trees, hoping that they lessen the force of the wind. Overnight, the tent was thrown about viciously by the gusts coming down from the mountains.
The road that goes over the mountains from the east side of glacier park to the west side is called the “Going to the Sun Road”, yet we saw no sun on the last day this road was open to traffic before closing for the winter. This mountain road, which leads to a pass high in the peaks, takes the “fearless” park visitor through its most picturesque valleys, past glacial lakes and scenic overlooks, offering easy pull offs for cars along the way. Most visitors don’t venture farther than this, leaving the hiking trails supposedly teeming with grizzly bears to the more adventurous.
On the last day that the road was open, we drove through moody and cloudy scenery to the pass in the mountains, and crossed over to the other side, which had significantly better weather and a beautiful lake. In the following days the weather improved, allowing us to do some hiking to another lake surrounded by high peaks, see a couple glaciers, and visit the scenic views that were obstructed by fog previously. We survived our first encounter with bear country, no thanks to all of the signs, which at every trailhead and hiking trail messed with our heads pronouncing the danger of being in grizzly territory.
Roma and Natalia are world travelers, photographers, and an all around fun couple. When they are not travelling far away continents or driving around USA in their trusted Highlander, they can be found in San Francisco, California.