Sunday, August 19, 2012


After a solid day of travel, two short naps, and 15,000 why-are-we-doing-this-again's, we arrived in the Kalispell area. To save us time, our friends met us closer to the park so we could get in and have some camping time before bed. We said good-bye to Sweet, Sweet Petunia and left her lounging in the lap of luxury while we comforted ourselves with the loaf of chocolate zucchini bread they gave us (VERY good!). Our drive took us along the scenic Flathead River. The scenics were so thick that evening that you couldn't move without tripping over a whole herd of them.

We got to the park entrance with plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely evening someplace peaceful, but alas, all the campgrounds were full except for a few too far out of the way. I reluctantly headed the car back along our route, hoping to find a private campground that had space and didn't require you to have the deed to a gold mine in order to pay for it. The first one we stopped at was the Timber Wolf Resort (,  a campground with RV hookups, cabins, and tent camping. The fee was only $21 a night, so I gladly paid and drove up to the campsite.

Or I would have, but the car wouldn't start.

Our "campsite" fully deployed. Car camping is
so much easier than tent camping!

There was an interlude of frenzied phone calls to various people, all the while trying to get the engine to turn over. I was just getting to resigned to the fact we would have to "camp" right in front of the office when Caleb tried the keys one more time and it started right up. I drove to our campsite, hoping the car would start again in the morning, but knowing at least we would get to sleep somewhere prettier than a gravel driveway.

The next morning the car started right up again----obviously whatever indigestion it had been experiencing the day before was cured---so there was nothing stopping us from enjoying our first time in Glacier National Park. We were going to drive through the park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, soaking in all the scenery we could see before exiting on the east side and heading home.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a  "Historic Engineering Landmark", but it starts out innocently enough, no doubt to lull you into a false sense of security. It winds peacefully along the valley floor, past pristine lakes and roiling mountain rivers. We stopped by one of the peaceful mountain lakes so I could paint a picture---good thing I did it then while I could still hold a brush! No way my trembling fingers could have functioned by the time I got to the end of the "Historic Engineering Landmark". Some lady even took my picture while I was painting, just like I was a real artist. Good thing she didn't look at my sketch up close or she would have taken it back.

The waterfalls and majestic scenery was amazing. Caleb had to endure stopping every few minutes, but I tried to keep things to a minimum. We were on a schedule after all.

I knew the Going-to-the-Sun Road was going to climb at some point, but I was pretty sure that since I was east-bound I would end up on the inside of the road, up against the mountain. So it turned out, as we left the valley floor and began to climb the mountain. I was doing OK, and feeling sorry for those poor schlubs who had the outside lane when we reached....

 The Switchback.

I don't particularly like heights. I don't loathe them, but I don't like them either. You're talking about a person who from a very young age has had recurring nightmares about driving up a hill so steep that the car falls over backward and tumbles end over end to the bottom. Don't ask me why my childhood self picked that particular paranoia, but I did.  Now I  found myself driving along a steeply inclined, endless road suspended over a yawning chasm of nothingness.

What I Felt Like:

To make matters worse, there was road construction and my trusty van started to overheat. Caleb kept trying to get me to look at the wonderful scenery, but I would not be enticed. My van edged closer and closer to the other lane, only moving back into my own lane when there was a strict necessity, oh, like oncoming traffic. Can you believe they let other cars drive on that road at the SAME TIME!? 

Eventually we came to a place where there was NO ACTUAL MOUNTAIN underneath the road. Some silly civil engineers had thrown a few rocks there over 75 years ago and called it good. 

Really, Civil Engineers? Really?

I was SO glad when we made it to the top and began the traditional Parking Place Hunt at Logan's Pass Visitors' Center. It was soothing to drive around in predictable, FLAT circles for approximately forever waiting for a space to open up. Maybe that's why they built such a ridiculously inadequate parking lot---to soothe frazzled drivers. All things come to those who wait and eventually Caleb and I were able to grab a rare spot. Then we got to get out and enjoy some of the prettiest scenery I've ever seen.

You can see the road along the side of the mountain.

The Road of Horrors. It looks worse when you're driving it.
Caleb and I went just a little way out on the Hi-line trail. We were so focused on hurrying (because of one hot, whiny pooch in the car) that we hustled right past a mother mountain goat with her baby. We only noticed it when the people behind us started taking pictures. I was able to get off one award-winning shot of their butts before they disappeared .

Moral of the story: don't just watch your feet while you're hiking, but who could blame us? The Hi-line trail is a pretty spectacular one, but one you wouldn't want to fall off of. Sort of the pedestrian version of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

On the way back to the car we did get to see a very nice mountain goat who posed for several photos only because he was busy eating and found tourists a total bore, too dull to even take notice of.

We reluctantly left the heights of Logan's Pass for our trip down the mountain on the eastern side. Thankfully, that proved a lot less dramatic than the western ascent, and we arrived down at the bottom in short order. St. Mary's Lake was beautiful and we were very sorry to say good-bye to our Glacier Park experience to face the unending prairie again.

Little did we know what it held in store for us this time.........

1 comment:

  1. Love your writing! You are truly gifted and the watercolor. Wow!