Glacier and Waterton National Parks
The last stop on this leg of our USofA journey was Glacier National Park in Montana, a place that I last visited as a toddler and had no memories of. It is part of the bigger Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site. If you think that sounds a bit cheesy, it was. The parks are amazingly wild and beautiful places, and the name is supposed to recognize the neighbourly relationship and spirit of peace and unity between the two countries. In fact the parks are run completely independently, so don’t imagine that your entry for one will get you into the other!
Luckily for us I have a friend from Queenstown who now lives in Whitefish, just outside the western park gate. From her place we spent a couple day exploring the different areas of Glacier. One of the main attractions here is the “Going-to-the-Sun Road” which was still closed when we were there, and is the only road through the park. It takes crews two months to free the narrow road from about 60 feet of snow, and opens up usually by the end of June.
We drove in as far as the road was open along Lake McDonald and hiked into Avalanche Lake. Spring flowers were out, as well as all the hibernating animals, so we were extra cautious of bears in the area.
The next day we drove up the western side of the park to Polebridge where we were told they had a famous bakery. We arrived around morning tea time and it seemed rude not to sample some of the local goods.
I had been gearing myself up for our third day in the park when Pam had the day off work and we were going to bike the “Going-to-the-Sun Road”, or part of it anyway. This is the only time of year that people are allowed to cycle the road, so it was fairly busy with bikers. When we finally reached our destination just past The Loop I was amazed at how high we had come. Riding down it was much more obvious how steep the road actually is!
After finally dragging ourselves away from Whitefish we headed up the eastern side of the park where we saw a few more bears and a couple of moose. It was so quiet on this side of Glacier, hardly any people made it a lot easier to watch the wildlife.
We haven’t had great luck crossing the US/Canada border with Luke’s British passport, New Zealand residency stamp, and Canadian residency card, but this one was the exception. They didn’t even check the back of the camper, and we’d tidied it up specially for the occasion. And then we drove into Waterton. Now, I don’t want to say that the Canadian side of this peace park is better, but the sun was finally shining after about a week of grey skies, and it was stunning. Both Luke and I thought we’d finally found a place to rival the beauty of Queenstown.
We spent two full days in Waterton Lakes, hiking into waterfalls and a frozen lake, watching bears, and basking in the sun. We even got the bikes out again (which I don’t think my backside was quite ready for).
Now we are in Alberta, and are going to spend the next few weeks exploring the prairies and catching up with family and friends before starting the journey up north to the Yukon and Alaska!