A Travellerspoint blog

Rained Out

storm 13 °C

My second and last full day in Glacier National Park began with a lie in. If the long hike I've been doing don't qualify me for one then perhaps all the early morning I've been having do. All suited and booted with my camera and bear spray I caught the Park shuttle bus up to Logan Pass, the high point of the Going to The Sun Road and a popular area for short hikes. I had the hike to Hidden Trail Lake in mind. It wasn't cross country, but across broadwalks so it really wasn't too tough. Or at least I thought. Well everything started off fine, if not a little breezy and chilly high in the mountains. I spotted a few mountain sheep (they somehow manage to hang to the sides of cliffs and call it home) and a few ram with very curled horns - everything was good. Then it started to drizzle with rain, then it spattered, then it fell and then it unleashed itself. For the next hour I was thoroughly sodden, although my rugby jacket was keeping me dry. This isn't what I wanted. I got to the lake, could just about see it through the clouds and made a swift return, anxious that a thunder and lightening storm might start whilst I was stuck on a mountain side. I made it back down to the Logan Pass visitor centre, but unfortunately spent the next hour and forty five minutes stood in the rain waiting for a bus that should have come every twenty minutes.

I got back to the campsite and sat in the car with the heating on to warm up and dry off. Today gave me a time to reflect on where I've been, what I've experienced and where I'm going. Well to start with the last of these, I've decided that I won't be visiting Alaska. For the money I have left I don't think I'll have the experience that I want and which will make the journey worthwhile, I would in short just be going there to say I'd been there. A better idea would be to come back in the future and fully appreciate the state. I don't feel too disheartened about this. I had never intended to have three weeks exploring the Rocky Mountains, certainly never thought I would drive the length of the contiguous United States and visit the National Parks that I have done. As for where I've been and what I've experienced. My stay here in Glacier National Park has made me think of homesickness, I underline not made me homesick. I've found that there is nothing so good at beating a feeling of staticism than moving on and ending idleness. That's perhaps what's made this trip a success - while I have explored the places I've been I've constantly been on the move exploring new places.

I will moving on tomorrow, my first foray south since I was on the easy coast. I have two days to return to Boulder, Colorado as I will be flying to Las Vegas from Denver in three days time.


Posted by MattOGrady 13:27 Archived in USA Comments (0)

O Canada!

sunny 29 °C

My plan for today was to hike up to Iceberg lake, roughly an eleven mile round trip. The Iceberg Lake trail starts in the Many Glacier region and I checked in at a Ranger station to see if there were any special warnings about the route. There were none, excpet to be aware that Many Glacier is very populous with bears so I should be sure to make lots of noise when talking.

Speaking of bears, this seems like an appropriate moment to mention the highly contradictory advice given about encounters with bears. On one hand you are warned be noisy on the other be quiet and make your way slowly. Some leaflets say you should make yourself large and intimidating, others say that to do so would be a threat and that you should just drop to the floor, play dead and presumably be a toy for the bear as it maimes you. Other leaflets say bear bells work well to warn bears of your approach, but the Rangers say they are useless. If a grizzy attacks it is probably doing it defensively so just put up with it for a while, whereas black bears don't attack to be defensive. I just hope I have enough time to asses not only whether I've been detected, but whether I should drop dead or fight hands and fists. It was at this point as I was going through the leaflets that I was glad I had my pepper spray on my hip and planned to make that my first port of call if I was confronted with a bear.

So, saturated with knowledge I head off along the trail. It wasn't too long before I bumped into a couple who were hiking the same way, who had bumped into another family and suggested I join them for the hike for our collective safety. Safety in numbers seemed like a good idea. They were interesting people, one was a union lawyer and the other worked for the charity Action Aid. Soon enough the eight of us came across another group of people and we became a trail of humanity collecting together to protect ourselves from the bears.

The hike up was pretty straightforwards and was well worth the two hours twenty minutes it took to get up to the lake. The lake sits high in the mountains and what is so great about it is that huge chunks of ice just float around the lake aimlessly, having fallen from the mountain glacier. After my spaghetti lunch we made our way back. On the way down we saw a few people stopped in the path looking up. It turned out that about 500m up the side of the mountain was a grizzy bear with a cub. It having a cub was not good news as regardless of their differences on most topics they universally agreed that a bear with a cub as most dangerous. The bears were moving towards our route, down through the trees so although we wanted to enjoy the sight, we didn't want to be there so long that our sight got much better! I found out on the way down that this trail had been closed for three weeks and opened for the first time today, this wasn't now too much of a surprise.

The hike over with I sat in my car thinking what to do next. Well Canada was just ten miles north and it was just too close for me to resist making the journey, crossing the border and getting my passport stampted. I got to the border, but I didn't want to drive over, so I went up to the border guards and asked them if I could walk. They retorted saying that both they and the Canadians frown upon people walking across the border. What did this mean? If I went over and got over would I not be allowed back? I didn't want to take my car over because I needed permission of my rental company, which I hadn't got. The US immigration said that if all I was doing was driving over and coming back there would be no trouble and the border is not GPS correct. The border guard did this with a great deal of pride as if suggesting that the Candians were stupid to have put their border station in the wrong spot. Was that stupid or the fact that the Americans had let it happen? I don't know. Something else tat I noted there were the car park full of idle US Border Patrol vehicles - I won't let Arizona know about this when I get to the Grand Canyon - they may not be best pleased.

I jumped into my car and drove up to the border, declared my pepper spray and asked if my passport could be stamped, which it was. There was a small shop on the border amongst the Alberta wilderness, had a look around and sent a couple of post cards. Most of the shop consisted of bone China of a young looking Queen of Canada and plates celebrating William's 21st birthday, nothing of the heir to the throne however.

A number of people I've met, once I spoken to them about my travels, suggest I must have a real travel bug and that I passed it onto them. I can't say I feel as though I'm exhibiting any symptoms. I feel less as though I'm travelling America, rather that I'm living here and have become a part of American society at large.

I'm pretty pleased with myself right at the moment. Not only do I have a Canadian stamp in my passport, but I have now driven the entire length of the contiguous United States, from New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Canada - that's a very long way and I can't help but find it a little overwhelming to think of where I've come from and all the things I've seen and experienced.


Posted by MattOGrady 18:02 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Big Sky Country

semi-overcast 22 °C

I was up at 6am today to make the long journey out of Yellowstone to Glacier National Park in Montana on the border with Canada. Montana is known as Big Sky Country, although I really can't attest to its name. The sky was so heavy with dark clouds and really did this state's name an injustice.

After passing mountains, lakes and praries I arrived at Glacier National Park's west entrance at about 3pm. I had assumed that arriving at this time would have left plenty of time to find a campsite somewhere. Well I arrived at my preferred place in the west and all full. The host there told me that the only sites that may be free would be the 'primitive' sites. Hmm. I thought it worth trying an eastern campsite to see if there had been any cancellations.

Getting over to the Park's eastern side involved travelling along the Going to The Sun Road. The road is a narrow route that traverses Glacier's mountains. The road is so narrow that many vehicles are prohibited from using it. I would say that the views on the drive over the glaciers and lakes were , but as anyone else who has driven this road will be able to attest to, it is neigh on impossible to appreciate the views because the road demands total concentration.

The sites I visited in the east were full as well. This meant a night in my car. At this point I didn't feel too pleased to be here. It felt very isolating to be in the middle of a National Park in deserted Montana and rather than being able to have a base somewhere, I was in my car. I knew that these feelings had to be overcome and I've long learnt since being here that when things get tough, it's time to just get on with things and stop my idleness, and be aware that they would be overcome. I was right. I got on with making dinner and the car up for the night.

Hopfully it wouldn't be too long a night ...


Posted by MattOGrady 17:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Mamouth Hot Springs

sunny 33 °C

After a long lie in I took a short hike to the disappointing Tower Falls, a waterfall in the Tower area. Unfortunately the overlook to it was pretty poor because of path closures.

In the afternoon I drove over to Mamouth Hot Springs, the central adminstrative area of Yellowstone, which took about an hour or so to get there. The Mamouth area has unquie geotheral features, the most famous of which are the steps of cascading springs.

I chilled out at the campsite for the rest of the day, doing some reading and preparing for my next drive north to Montana.


Posted by MattOGrady 17:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Bears and Wolves at Tower

sunny 29 °C

Rise time: 5.40am.

As I had promised myself yesterday I got up early to get myself back to Artist Point for the sunrise over the canyon that I was denied before. I should picture what I looked like; so I'm here at the overlook with camera on tripod, I'm wearing tracksuit bottoms, a hoody, my rugby jacket top and I have my bright red socks on my hands to keep the biting wind off them. What a picture. I wasn't disappointed with the runrise today. It was breathe taking. Just as I had expected the sun lit the cayon and distant waterfall up in warm colours.

I got back to my car, put the heating on, and began to drive north. For the next two nights I'm staying in Roosevelt Country, the home of the best of Yellowstone's wildlife; bears, wolves, cayotes and more. I got to Tower campsite roughly an hour after I set off (the fact that it takes hours to travel between areas of the Park gives you an indication of how large it is). I had to put myself through the National Park service campsite reservation system, found myself a spot and immediately head out.

I went to Slough Creek, which was reported to have bear and wolf activity. When I got there I put myself on a hill, but say nothing. I had expected this seeing as the best wildlife activity is early in the morning and it was 10am. After I bumped into a Ranger who told me that a bear had recently been see with a carcass about nine miles down the road I headed down there. I wasn't disappointed. I looked through another Ranger's telescope and my own telephoto lens and saw a lone wolf and a grizzly bear on the other side of a valley.

By the time I got back to the campsite I was pretty exhausted and the early mornings were catching up on me. I spent the rest of the day reading. Reading hasn't been something I've done a lot of here. While I haven't read as much as I would have liked, I've read as much as I expected to. I bought a Grisham novel a couple of weeks ago and picked it up and read it all this afternoon. They are pretty trashy, but something is better than nothing. I'm now on the highly acclaimed biography of Abraham Lincoln and his competitors for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination and their service in government together during the Civil War, Team of Rivals by Dorris Kearns. It is fascinating read. I'm interested in this period of history anyway, but it is remarkable to learn about Lincoln's political brilliance and ability to unify his opponents and country in the lead up to his nomination, election and success in the Civil War

Posted by MattOGrady 08:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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