West Glacier, MT, One week in KOA West Glacier, #165
Eight years in our bus.
FRIDAY, JUNE 5. TWO MEDICINE LAKE AND GLACIER LODGE.
We love our location here. The KOA is a large park and we’re at the far end in a pull-thru with no neighbors. Looking through the couch window (passenger side) I see lawn and small to large planted trees and empty sites. Straight ahead of us is a large enclosed pet run. so I can see out my desk window (driver side) and look past empty pull-thru sites towards some cabins and then a thin wall of pines that marks the end of the property. It is very quiet here.
On our first morning I went outside early with the dogs and saw a strange sight. At the property line is a grove of pines with tall thin trunks. Standing just behind these trees was a white horse. He stood very still and the effect on a misty morning was eerie and other worldly. I later saw the the private property has a nearly invisible electric fence that encloses a small band of horses.
Our neighbors are from Monterey in CA and have two sites to accomodate their trailer, boat and pickup truck to gether with other camping paraphanalia that take up space. Their daughter and family live in the area and they are building a home nearby to spend summers with family. They bought unimproved land and it’s taken a long time to clear it and get the permits and make it ready for habitation. They are almost done.
I began to regret our missed opportunity to hike up to the Avalanche Basin. I knew it would be a beautiful hike. I talked to this neighbor who described hiking up the same trail with his dad. They came face to face with a grizzly and there was a standoff while they stared at the bear who stared at them. Finally the grizzly let out a loud “woof” and charged sideways therough the underbrush “sounding like a tank”. My neighbor impressed upon me that we must carry “Bear Spray” if we want to hike. He said he talked to bikers who went up the closed portion of Road-to-the-Sun. They saw nine bears on their ride. They called it quits when they came up against a grizzly mother with a cub. She was clearly not in a negotiating mood so they turned back. This story altered my enthusiasm about hiking up to Avalanche Lake.
Mid-morning today, we left to make a scenic drive to the east side of Glacier Park. This is familiar territory because in August ’08 we stayed in East Glacier. On our way to East Glacier, we stopped briefly at the Isaac Walton Hotel where we recalled our walks around the railroad depot. Continuing east we passed by Goat Lick and Bear Creek, which we’ve seen before. We did stop at a waterfall by the road near MM 189. We also stopped at Glacier Meadows RV Park where we spoke to Connie who was our host when we stayed there. We asked if the cell phone or Wi-Fi situation had improved since then. To our astonishment, it hasn’t. You still have to walk to the cell phone tower to make or receive a call and there is no Wi-Fi at all.
Turning north on MT-49 we stopped at Glacier Park Lodge where we thought to buy Bear Spray. Essentially this is pepper spray contained in a little canister that fits into a holster that you fasten to your belt. The price at the lodge was $49.00. We decided to pass. How often will we need it and when would we ever have an occasion to use it in Morgan Hill?
We continued north and wound our way past Lower Two Medicine Lake, which is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. We parked above at Two Medicine Lake. The scenery here is unbelieveably gorgeous. There is a tourboat that takes you out on the lake and a store but the season starts tomorrow — on Saturday. The store was once a part of a larger chalet complex and the building is a National Historic Landmark.
From the parking area facing west down the length of the lake, the perfect cone of Sinopah Mountain sets off the beauty of the lake. On the north side, the steep south face of Rising Wolf Mountain towers above the lake. Ths was sacred ground for the Blackfeet who performed Vision quests here.
The lake is a starting point for many hiking trails leading west and north. Upper Two Medicine Lake is a four mile hike. We looked at the trails going up into the mountains and paralleling the lake. The signs said that we “must” take Bear Spray. We decided against a hike. Too bad!
On our way back we stopped again at Glacier Park Lodge where we had lunch in the lounge. Dennis received a call from the office that lasted all during lunch. I ate my BLT wrap and enjoyed a magnificent view of snow covered mountain peaks stretching along the horizon. On the way back to West Glacier we took note of Summit Pass where Rte 2 crosses the Continental Divide. We also stopped at Goat Lick to look for goats who like the minerals in the rock cliffs above the river. We did see one Billy Goat above the highway but no others. We made it back to our KOA just before 5:00 PM.
MONDAY, JUNE 8. TRAIL WALKS WITH THE DOGS
After our drive on Friday, we decided to spend a quiet day in camp. We’e been walking the dogs around the KOA but on Saturday we discovered a trail across the street that is in National Park land. We had walked 20 min on the road past our KOA entrance when we spotted a dirt road and a gate opposite our KOA. It had no signs such as “No Trespassing” or “Private Property”. Beyond the gate were tire tracks that tapered down to a narrow trail. We walked north and along the way we saw poles that said we were on National Forest Land. The marked the divider between park and private land. We came to other trails and saw that they are regularly used horse trails.
After half an hour, we turned around and returned southward on the same trails. It was so much more preferable to be on a trail then in the campground or by the road. Yet we had little fear of bears as we were also near private land and the forest land was cleared and logged leaving an open vista with trees and meadows. It is a fairly domesticated area and not near water or berries or game. Door-to-door we walked about an hour and a quarter. Dennis had his iPhone set to a walking calculator. The app said that we’d walked 2.02 mi at 1.64 mph with an elevation gain of 250 ft.
This was hardly Olympian but upon our return, we both lay down and fell asleep. So did the dogs. They wore themselves out galloping back and forth on their 20′ extended leashes. For dinner Dennis cooked four turkey legs in his cooker and we had baked potatoes and vegetables and we ate at our picnic table. So far we haven’t been bothered by horse flies or mosquitoes.
Well guess what we did on Sunday? We broke down and bought bear spray. It was $5 cheaper in West Glacier at the Glacier Outdoor Center. They also showed us how to pull back the safety catch. They advised us to spray in short bursts and start by aiming low and doing short bursts working upward. The spray works within a distance of thirty feet. I said, “What’s 30 feet?” Dennis and the sales people all had different ideas about a distance of thirty feet. I got a giggle out of that.
We went to Conoco for fuel and then stopped at the Alberta Visitor Center. Inside we talked to Muriel who was fabulous. She gave us maps and brochures and told us all the stuff we should see in and around Banff. She was a huge help. Next we stopped at Nat’l Geographic Parks Books where I scored a few books on US parks and how to identify northwest trees, flowers and birds. Last we got a few groceries at West Glacier Mercantile.
On Monday we decided to take the dogs for a longer walk on the same trail. We left at 11:00 AM and this time I got serious. I wore my walking shoes and took my hiking purse with water and I set my GPS app on my iPhone. We repeated our horse trail walk in Nat’l Park lands but this time we headed straight for the trail and we walked farther and longer on the trail. Dennis carried our bear spray and I soon concluded that it would do Rudi and me no good whatsoever since we tend to lag behind. Margot and Dennis like to be in the lead. If I stay too close to Dennis, Rudi pulls on the leash and tries to heal on Dennis. So I stay far enough back so that Rudi is happy to run and and forth or heel behind me. We heard birds but saw no sign of life on this trail. Still, what if a hungry coyote or something larger decides to pounce on Rudi? It’s pretty hard for a 13 lb. dog to defend himeself when he’s on a leash.
Aside from wild animal considerations I enjoyed our walk. This time we walked an hour and a half at an average speed of 1.8 mph and we walked 2.4 miles. I had swollen ankles and muscle cramps to show for my sudden athletic endeavors.
LFAB is about to go public. I spent the rest of the day added to my letters and uploading photos. Tomorrow we will move northward and enter Canada.