Before starting my trip in January I asked my friends to let me know if they had any part of the US they wanted to explore. I figured they could fly out, ride around with me for a few days, and fly back.
My good buddy Mike was the only one to take me up on that offer.
Right from the start Mike was adamant that he wanted to check out northwestern Montana, specifically Glacier National Park. I tested his interest by giving him the “lions, tigers, and bears” speech, but he remained convinced that the Rocky Mountain wilderness was calling him.
He arrived in Kalispell late Tuesday night (7/21/15) and instead of going to sleep when we made it back to the motel, we stayed up drinking Cold Smoke Scotch Ale discussing life as a hobo and the latest news on our friends back home. It was great to catch up. Unfortunately, our third topic of conversation was not so exciting.
A fire had started in the park earlier that afternoon, and we speculated on the area of the park that would be closed.
Apgar Visitor Center was a zoo when we arrived. The Going-To-The-Sun Road, which is the only road connecting the East and West borders of the park, was closed. It became clear that many families were going to have to change their camping plans, and the first-come first-served campsites were going to fill up quicker than usual. We joined the north-bound caravan heading toward Bowman and Kintla Lakes. The day-use parking area was completely filled, but fortunate for us, the Bowman Lake Campground still had spots available.
We pulled into a site, booted up, and set off on an afternoon warm-up hike.
Back at camp I started our fire, and Mike got the the tent set up. Tin foil Hobo stew was on the menu that night, and we picked up our stories where we left off the night before.
Thursday afternoon we hiked six miles to Quartz Lake Campground for a overnighter in the bush.
I’ve only been backpacking a handful of times, and every outing has been a simple overnighter. I’m sure spending multiple nights backpacking is a much more immersive and rewarding experience, but I haven’t followed done that yet. What I am proud of is the fact that up until that day, I had never backpacked with anyone. No one showed me what to bring or how to pack. I got all my info from the internet and jumped right in with the expectation that “there’s nothing to it but to do it”, and for that I give myself top marks.
This was Mike’s first taste of backpacking, and the orientation video we watched in the backcountry office put him on high alert for the grizz. To my surprise, Mike took the initiative to lead us down the trail, and we loudly whistled and clapped our way through the underbrush and pine trees.
The next day we learned that the fire had grown from 1,000 acres to 4,000, and there was no expectation of it being contained soon. Part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was still open, and we decided to brave the traffic and see what we could see.
They turned us around within a mile of Logan’s Pass which was much further than I expected to get. The traffic wasn’t bad either, and we were able to take our time searching for mountain goats on Mt. Oberlin across the valley. No luck though. In fact, we didn’t see much wildlife at all beyond birds, squirrels, and prairie dogs.
Here’s a quick run down of the rest:
- Huckleberry ice cream is amazing. Huckleberry pancakes are divine.
- If you’re looking for a good bar in the area, check out Stonefly Lounge. Mike and I both fell moderately in love with the bartender, and then promptly drank enough to be excused from doing anything about it.
- The tasting room at Whisky Barn Glacial Distilling is reasonably priced, and Kalispell Brewing Company has a nice stout on draft.
I’m sure there are other things to do in Montana beyond exploring around and drinking, but you’d have to ask someone else for those details.