Crown of the Continent
“Far away in Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountain-peaks, lies an unmapped northwestern corner- the Crown of the Continent. The water from the crusted snowdrift which caps the peak of a lofty mountain there trickles into tiny rills, which hurry along north, south, east and west, and growing to rivers, at last pour their currents into three seas. From this mountain-peak the Pacific and the Arctic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico receive each its tribute. Here is a land of striking scenery.” —
– George Bird Grinnell, “The Crown of the Continent” in The Century Magazine, 1901
As I mentioned in the last post, it was time to move on – we had extended our time in the Bozeman area to see and do as much as we could here, but it was time to head north to Glacier National Park.
And, since the Denver business plans had to be canceled, the “Reluctant RV’er” would be along for a few more days on this journey of discovery – a few days to move deeper into Montana, explore Glacier, and get in some horse back riding…sounded like a plan!
We pointed the rig west and headed first to Missoula to break up the travel and to do a whirl wind tour of Montana’s so-called “Garden City” – a town situated where five valleys converge and where three major rivers run nearby – it was a very scenic drive and we arrived in town with enough time to walk along the river, explore the historic downtown and catch some dinner at a popular Missoula bistro – too short a visit but Glacier was calling.
Time to head north – through some stunning countryside, the Flathead Indian Reservation, and along the edge of Flathead Lake to Kalispell, MT – our base, right on the Flathead River, from which to explore the region and nearby Glacier NP.
First stop in the Park was Lake McDonald – Ten miles long and nearly 500 feet deep, Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, is a direct result of glacial carving.
It’s a pretty impressive first stop! High peaks surrounding the lake all show evidence of the power of glaciers to carve even the hardest of rock. The powerful glaciers that carved the broad “u-shaped” valley that Lake McDonald sits in also carved smaller hanging valleys with wonderful waterfalls that are accessible by numerous hiking trails.
Four miles east of Lake MacDonald we stopped at the trailhead for Avalanche Lake Trail. One of the easiest and most popular hikes in the park, the trail gains only 505 feet over three miles to a beautiful alpine lake – surrounded by cliffs and with waterfalls dropping hundreds of feet into the lake’s edge it was the perfect place for a picnic lunch.
Nothing like a nearly 6 mile round trip hike to start the visit into the park – still left an entire afternoon for driving through the Park on Going to the Sun Road…
One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana…
Going-to-the-Sun Road is the marquee drive in Glacier and perhaps the most scenic stretch of tarmac in all of North America. It has been described as a “don’t look down” road. It bisects the northern and southern halves of the park, crosses the Continental Divide, and is designated a National Historic Landmark.
And, what a marquee drive it is. And, yes, the reluctant rv’er had many, many moments of “don’t look down” – think she was actually a bit spooked by the sheer drop offs along the winding and narrow roadway. I even offered to leave the driving to someone else – the red bus folks – but she declined 🙂
“There is no highway which will give the seer, the lover of grandeur of the Creator’s handiwork, more thrills, more genuine satisfaction deep in his being, than will a trip over this road.”
Governor Frank H. Cooney – Dedication of the Sun Road -July 15, 1933
The Going to the Sun Road takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the park.
And yes, it can be a bit scary – portions of the road hug the mountainside, and there are a few tight curves, and there are spots where you are able to look over the edge of the road but I figured thousands of cars have safely made the journey from one side of the park to the other – no worries for this nomad!
After a brief stop on the east side, it was time to do it all over again going the other way 🙂 S was really having fun now!!
So much fun that she decided she needed a different kind of adventure – yup – when this girl goes West she needs to get in some horseback riding
So the next day , after a bit of research, we’re off – first a quick visit to Whitefish and then to her chosen ranch to ride up high into the hills overlooking Flathead Valley – actually a wonderful afternoon
And finally, with her time here winding down and only one day left – time for another hike – time to catch a rainbow over Lake McDonald –
time for a nice dinner in Kalispell…and, sadly, time to pack up – after nearly 2 weeks, the Reluctant RV’er had to return to ATL
For my part, yours truly would be spending a few more days exploring the Park and trying to get in some photography despite the smoke and haze – hoping for a nice shift of winds to clear things out
More to follow…
Take care…see you down the road…