Going to the Sun

September 26

Wildlife: Bison; elk; antelope

Miles: 225; 90; 440

At Granite Chalet, Glacier NP

At Granite Chalet, Glacier NP

When we woke up our last morning in Canmore, the water in the van didn’t work. It was frozen at the hose connector. Time to head south.

Waterton Lakes

Waterton Lakes

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Waterton Village is a peaceful little tourist stop nestled on the shore of a big lake, with mountains rising in the background. There’s an easy bike ride around the village, and a hopping little lounge that stays open late.

The wind howls at Waterton Lakes.

From Waterton we crossed back over into the Lower Forth-Eight and headed for Glacier National Park. Driving up Going to the Sun Road from St. Mary’s, we could see the results of the fire that kept us from visiting the park in July. The fire had swept across the road and consumed forests on either side almost all the way to Logan Pass.

We camped at Abgar Village, which sits on the western shore of Lake MacDonald, a pleasant, wooded campground with no

Prince of Wales Inn

Prince of Wales Inn

electric hookups. We discovered we can camp without plugging in. Okay, we camped sans hook-up at Denali, but after Glacier we are convinced.EB1A1886

There’s a nice bike path we rode around the village, but it doesn’t go around, or even beside, the lake, which is an indication of American short-sightedness. You can ride on the main road which runs along the lake for miles, but it’s narrow, busy, and no substitute for a dedicated bike path.

They’d also stopped the park’s shuttle service. A great hike is from Logan Pass to the Loop, which covers about 11 miles, climbing a thousand feet before dropping 2200 feet to a hairpin curve near where Going to the Sun Road bottoms out. Without the connecting shuttle, we decided to park at the Loop, hike the 4.5 miles to the Granite Chalet, and return.

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald

Due to a fire that took out much of the forest along the trail since we previously hiked it, most of the route had excellent visibility, but also harsh and constant exposure to the sun. So while we were on balance glad summer was running long this year, there were a couple of very trying hours that afternoon. It wasn’t helped by hiking at over 8000 feet above sea level.

Burned out forest

Burned out forest

I have a better appreciation of the park after this visit. We met two couples on the trail who are regulars and who have hiked “all” the trails in the park.   I realize from conversing with them, and from looking at the park map more intently, that we’ve got a lot of nice hikes waiting for our next visit, especially on the east side of the pass and at the Two Medicine section on the southern side of the park, which I had previously ignored.

Our trek south next took us back to Gardiner, Montana, at the Mammoth Hot Springs gate to Yellowstone, where we’d spent several days back at the beginning of our journey. We reprised our dinner of elk nachos and bison burger at the Iron Horse, where we were able to dine outside, much to everyone’s surprise and delight.

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