Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Near the start of the Going to the Sun Road

In 1887, Theodore Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club.  He idolized Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett as pioneering men who hunted extensively while opening the frontier, but (at least in Teddy's imagination) realized  the consequences of over-harvesting game.  (Boone only began to realize these consequences late in life, after he had helped wipe out all the buffalo and much of the other large game in Kentucky and had to move to Missouri to find more.  Davy Crockett only gave up shooting wildlife to go shoot Mexicans instead.)  The club was (and probably still is) basically a group of wealthy men who wanted to preserve nature and wildlife primarily so they could go out and kill it.

Two members of the Boone and Crockett Club, George Grinell and Henry Stimson, became enamored with the area between the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian reservations in the late 1800s so they got the club to spearhead efforts to preserve the area.  They got help from the Great Northern Railway which had built a line through Marais Pass and wanted to promote tourism along the tracks.  They were opposed for awhile by mining interests, but when it finally turned out there was nothing there worth mining, they were finally able to lobby congress to designate the area as Glacier National Park in  1910.

For 20 years the main way to reach the park was by rail, so Great Northern's lobbying dollars paid off handsomely, but by the 1930s vacationing by car was becoming the norm and in 1932 the Going to the Sun Highway was completed.  We learned while we were still in Washington that the eastern half of the road was closed due to fires and the air was pretty smokey when we arrived at West Glacier, but when we drove into the park the next day we discovered that they had managed to open the Going to the Sun Road all the way through... sort of.  You could drive all the way from West Glacier to St Mary, but on the eastern half of the road you were not allowed to stop your car and you "might" still see areas of smouldering or burning trees.  Not knowing what to expect, we headed up the road.

It turned out to still be pretty impressive.  The air was hazy but not as bad as Spokane or Missoula had been.  And when you got near the summit (which took us about three hours) the scenery was truly gorgeous.  We drove to the top and a few miles past, then decided we weren't really interested in seeing the burnt out eastern slope, turned back around and  went back to West Glacier.  The pictures can tell the rest of the story.  Enjoy.


Two Medicine Lodge
The next day we drove over the previously mentioned Marais Pass along the park's southern border and into the east side of Glacier to Two Medicine Lake.  Before the Going to the Sun Road was completed and most visitors arrived by train, this is where you went if you visited Glacier Park.   Now it's a lesser known secondary destination.  No one told us what the two medicines were.  I'm guessing they were just aspirin and Tylenol but I hear bear bile was popular among the natives for much the same reason that Viagra sells so well today.  It was a nice day trip that resulted in a few more pictures to share.  We considered driving up to look at some of the devastation further north but decided there was no point in getting all depressed so instead we drove out Hwy 89 a ways into the Backfeet Indian Reservation.  Although it is a major US highway, this is Indian land, so after a few miles the pavement disappeared and we drove on gravel as far as Browning, then got back on US 2 and returned to West Glacier.
Rising Wolf Mountain at Two Medicine Lake
One odd thing  about the RV lifestyle is that you do keep running into folks. We met a couple at our campground in Oregon named Geoff and Mary Jan parked a couple of slots over from us.  They seemed really nice and had recently moved into a smallish RV and come out west from North Carolina.  Fair enough.  Then after we had been at Chimicum a couple of weeks we were walking the dogs one evening and who should we run into but Geoff and Mary Jan.  Now that seems like a bit of an odd coincidence but life is sometimes that way.  So we left them in the Olympic Peninsula and headed off to Spokane and Missoula and then on up to Glacier.  When we pulled into our campground in West Glacier, guess who pulls into the driveway right behind us?  Yep, Mary Jan and Geoff.  Now this is starting to get creepy.  I'm pretty sure at this point that we are being stalked.  Anyway, we went out to dinner with them a couple of times and discovered that, strictly by chance, we will also be at Yellowstone together.  Then they are supposedly heading back to Durham, NC for some family get together.  If they show up at our house in the Black Hills, I'm calling the FBI.

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