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A rainy introduction to Glacier National Park

Posted by on September 7, 2015

Hellooooooo strangers! It’s been a while since we’ve talked! It’s been SIX…WHOLE…MONTHS…since our last blogging stint. But what can I say, a girl’s gotta work at some point…and work I did. Sigh.

But now it is time for our almost-year-long anticipated return to the wild west of Montana, with the highlight being our first ever trip to Glacier National Park. Eeeeek!

Glacier Sign 1In the weeks/months leading up to our trip, the big news in Glacier NP was the presence of ever growing wildfires. These fires closed roads, trails, and sections of the park.

We had our fingers crossed that they would let up before we arrived. We got what we wished for (and what many Montanans have been wishing for as well) in the form of rain (at lower elevations) and snow (at high elevations). We can’t curse it, since it is much needed, but we did try to make the best of it.

So the 10-month wait to see Glacier NP became 10 months and 2 days as parts of the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier NP were closed due to weather for our first 2 days. The anticipation was killlllllling me!

Here is how we survived.

Two Medicine

Our first introduction to Glacier NP occurred in the southeast corner at Two Medicine. The 4.5-hour drive from Bozeman was intermittently rainy with very few cars — so nothing stressful there. But the closer we got to the Park, the cloudier it got, as the rains grew heavier.


Instead of doing a 45-minute boat tour of Two Medicine Lake and a 1.8-mile hike up to Twin Falls with a naturalist, we looked longingly in the direction of the clouds that shrouded the elusive gorgeous mountains. We snapped a couple of pix and checked out the campstore (which had an awesome stone fireplace) before heading on our way.

Here is how quickly the clouds moved in.  At most, we saw…

Two Medicine 3

which quickly turned to:

Two Medicine

and then:

Two Medicine boats

Trust me when I say the backdrop behind those clouds is supposed to be GORGEOUS! Since we weren’t sure if we could to get back to Two Medicine during our 4-day stay, we had given it our best effort. Maybe next time.

Columbia Falls

From Two Medicine, we headed to Columbia Falls on the west side of the park, to lay our weary heads in our awesome vacation rental.

We haven’t perused Columbia Falls much yet (and may never) but this property had a huge advantage — Flathead River frontage for Jeff to fish in. [He’s out fishing as I type this, in fact.]

Despite the rain, life is indeed good!

Flathead River at VRBO

After a delicious dinner with friends, we watched some college football and US Open tennis before heading to bed — willing the snow to stop so that the Going-to-the-Sun Road would re-open tomorrow. Fingers (and toes) crossed!


When we woke up the next day, our wishes had not been granted. Seven inches of snow had fallen on Logan Pass, making it impassable. So our all day tour of the Park was cancelled.

Plan B?

Plan B was a visit to Polebridge, a remote, off-the-grid community known for its iconic mercantile store, gorgeous surroundings (when you can see them), and lack of electricity.

Given that the road to Polebridge was not closed, it became our prime destination.

Aside from the lack of paved road for most of the trip, the most notable feature along the drive was the Flathead River as it snaked through fire ravaged forest. The crystal green waters made me appreciate my heated seats and comfy rental car. I can only imagine how cold that water was. Brrrrrrrr.

Flathead River

Alas, we spotted the sign for Polebridge. [Right after the deer who munched happily on the grass and looked curiously at us…]

We turned right, and came upon the Mercantile quickly. We chuckled as we passed the sign that told drivers to Slow Down — People Are Trying to Breathe Here. The irony was not lost on us, as we splashed through rut-filled mud puddles — there wasn’t an ounce of the normally dusty road in sight.

Merc from Road

Aside from being powered by generator, the Merc is best known for its bakery. Walking in, it instantly reminded me of the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis in the mountains of North Carolina.

Polebridge MercThe wood stove warmed the small store, as homemade baked goods lined the counter and walls, and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee made me want to curl up in a ball and purr. It’s huckleberry season in this neck of the woods, so huckleberry muffins, huckleberry bear claws (a pastry), and all things huckleberry were on offer.

Mercantile Pano

After grabbing some coffee and a sandwich for later, we walked around the small “town?” and took in its unique character. With no electricity, comes an outhouse…


…and with any small community in the northlands comes the great need for a watering hole. In this case the Northern Lights Saloon. Unfortunately the saloon was closed, so we just admired its personality (hippies, use side door, please!) and went on our way.

Northern Lights Saloon

Small cottages for campers, alongside the garden and solar panels, rounded out Polebridge. From there, we headed down the 6-mile dirt road to Lake Bowman.

Garden and Cottages

Lake Bowman

The drive to Lake Bowman was soggy and bumpy in parts, and felt like we were driving into the forest primeval.

Again, we crossed the beautiful Flathead River before heading into Glacier NP from the northwest. Even the more rustic sign was indicative of our presence in the middle of nowhere.

Glacier Sign 2

Upon arrival at the lake, the view of our muddied Buick Enclave should give you an idea of the state of the roads.

Dirty Car

For such a remote spot, there were actually more people and cars than I would have thought. [I think they all had the same idea for Plan B since the main road was closed.]

Again, the idyllic backdrop was mostly masked by clouds, but this lake reminded me very much of the lakes region of the South Island of New Zealand.

Bowman Lake

Hello Lake Bowman.

The shafts of light on the trees are about the only sun we’ve seen during this trip thus far. And the clouds lifted enough to give us a teasing glimpse of the gorgeous mountains that lay beneath…Aye, aye, aye!!!

Lake Bowman

To shed the crowds, we did the 1.5 mile out and back hike that lined the coast on the left of the pic. There were several folks on the trail, but it was mainly peaceful and relaxing. We passed this rustic cabin that had an amazing view of the lake.

Rustic Cabin

After our hike, we enjoyed our delicious Mercantile sandwiches before heading out.

On the outskirts of Polebridge, Jeff took this shot at Home Ranch Bottoms that pretty much summed up the area. Friendly and laid back. Even the pups.

Dog in Polebridge

And with that, it was back to Columbia Falls (and to cell phone service!) where Jeff fishes as I blog, and the Going-to-the-Sun Road remains closed. For now.

To quote Annie — the sun better (I mean will) come out, tomorrow!!!

We (really, really) hope to show you more intriguing (ie, less cloudy) pix then. Stay tuned!!!!

3 Responses to A rainy introduction to Glacier National Park

  1. Anna Sitki

    HOWDY. Nice pictures. Thanks.

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