The trip’s logistics
We pick back up in Billings Montana. Laura and I had hoped we would have enough time after Wyoming for a trip to Montana. We wanted to see friends there and Glacier National Park before the snow and cold set-in. Our departure from Wyoming was much earlier then we thought it would be, so our hopes came true. The only problem with last minute trips to one of the most popular National Parks with a 34 foot rv is finding a place to stay. This is were the stars of this trip come into play. The first stars were what we like to call our “Montana Host Family”, the Tillerys. Our very good friends have a beautiful house in Billings, and they were ok with us parking our house and truck in front of that beautiful house for the whole time we were enjoying Montana.
The other star was the new addition to the fleet, the Ford Connect. We like to call it the “Vacation Home”. Without having this small van, we would not have been able to find spots to camp around Glacier. The full size memory foam mattress in the back was very comfortable, and we were able to find places with showers or rent showers most nights too. This little van really was a star on this trip, and we will be using it a lot in the adventures to come. Rv parks around National Parks can be pricy, crowded, and hard to get into. With the van we are able to keep the big rv outside the National Park areas and just take the van to the parks.
Glacier Camping Trip
We were lucky enough to get backcountry camping permits while in Glacier. These are pretty hard to come by. If you haven’t planned ahead of time and reserved a backcountry permit before March, you have to show up at a ranger’s station the day before your trip and see what is available. There is a line outside the station most days waiting for it to open. We not only did not plan ahead of time, we got to the station very late in the day. Still we found a backcountry campsite that was available the next night. It was on a lake call Harrison Lake. It is about a 7 mile hike into the backcountry that requires a ford of Middle Fork Flathead River. By the time we got there, the river was about chest high on me and moving pretty fast. We had to place our gear as high on our packs as we could and walk across. It was cold, and I was only scared for a few seconds.
Along the trail there is an abandoned cabin that was built by Josephine Doody who ran a distillery there in the old days. It was amazing to see how people lived in wild places back then. About a mile after the cabin we got a reminder that this place is still wild. As we climbed a hill we forgot to make noise for the bears. When I got to the top of the hill we heard a bark that soundedd like it came form a grizzly and a few twigs breaking under foot. Almost as soon as we stopped walking we saw a female grizzly pop up at 60 yards away and look at us. Thankfully she seemed to be more spooked than us about the encounter, and she ran away very fast. I was shocked to see how fast they can run up the side of a mountain. I was too slow to get the camera out for a picture, but you better believe I was quick enough to have my bear spray in hand. I have become a bear spray quick draw.
After we arrived at the campsite, I took off for the headwaters to fish. It was a few more miles up on a less maintained trail. I caught as many West Slope Cutthroats as I wanted. I fished an Adams dry fly. I only had two flies with me, and they hit them so much all that was left of the flies was the hook. When the last fly was gone, I looked up to notice that day light was ending soon. I needed to get back to camp before nightfall, and Laura might be worrying by now. No cellphones in the backcountry. As I walked back I could smell the fish on me and I heard something run off from my walking through the woods. This is when I started singing “99 Bottles of Bears Spray on the Wall” very loud the whole way back. Laura had started out to check on me and heard me singing the new hiking song from a ways off.
Wow, what a camping trip. We had so much fun, and there was not a person besides us at this campsite. I can’t believe there where so many people looking for a backcountry permit and overlooked this place, but I’m glad they did.
Glacier the easy part
We also did the easy stuff that is crazy beautiful as well like Going to the Sun Road. This is worth the miles and crowds. We did some easier hikes as well. We thought with the crowds of people and being so close to populate areas we could drop our grizzly guard. We hiked along in silence to find a male grizzly feeding on berries in the middle of a heavily human traveled trail. Laura almost walk right into his butt. Thank god this bear seemed to know the drill when humans interrupt his lunch. He didn’t even look at us. He just got up and walked the other way. I was quick on the bear spray and slow on the camera this time too, so no pictures. I did get a picture of a moose later in that hike. I’m not as afraid of moose at 100 yards.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada
If you are planing a trip to Glacier, remember your passports. Waterton is a very cool place to visit. It has a little Canadian town in the park, and the views from there and the lake are worth the trip. When we got there it was the 150th anniversary of Canada, so all of their National Parks were free. Oh Canada, first free healthcare then this.
While in Waterton we went on a hike the Tillerys hipped us to. It is called The Crypt Lake Hike. It is a 11 mile around trip hike with 2300 feet of elevation gain that you start after a boat ride to the trail head. It was voted one of the World’s 20 Most Thrilling Trails in 2014, and Canada’s “Best Hikes” in 1981. When one reads the write ups about the hike, one feels as if they are going on a roller coaster. It was an awesome hike, and a great way to see the park from a different view point. I’m glad this was a later in the season hike, because I was in better shape. Starting the hiking season out with this one would have sucked.
We had a blast in Montana and Waterton, but again it was too little time. We only had enough time to make us want to come back and see what we missed. We would not have been able to do this without the kindness of the Tillery family. We cannot thank you all enough.
This area of the USA and Canada had large wild fires right after our time there. I’m grateful for our time there before the burn, and I hope we as a people keep protecting these lands so it has the time to regrow to what it was when we were fortunate enough to be alive in it’s beauty.
But wait there’s more. We were California or bust after Montana, but we had one more adventure to have in Yosemite before the Bay Area winter. See you guys on top of Half Dome…