August 10,2013 Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road Bighorn Sheep and more

Now that’s more like it!

Entered Glacier NationalPark east entrance just before 7 AM in hopes of avoiding yesterday’s crowds. Had the road all but to myself on the way up, Logan Pass parking lot had only 20 or 30 cars in it and just a small number of people milling about, quite a bit different from yesterday afternoon. That’s it, from now on, before 7AM or after 7 PM only ( just have to remember to get out by 9 PM or the road closes to the east entrance, construction ).

Weather turned out nice also and with the lack of people, the wildlife was out and about.

Sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses
Sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses
Sentry asleep at his post
Sentry asleep at his post

 

 

Got some cute shots of the numerous ground squirrels around the Visitor Center.

 

 

Dueling ground squirrels

Dueling ground squirrels

Had hoped to get dramatic shots of head butting dueling bighorn sheep, but sometimes in life you have to just settle, so how about some dueling ground squirrels?

Logan Pass marmot
Logan Pass marmot

 

 

 

A hoary marmot also was out gathering breakfast greens.

 

 

 

 

Mountain goat and wildflowers
Mountain goat and wildflowers

Since this mountain goat was looking rather haggard, and that is being kind, I decided to go for the wildflower shot instead of a closeup.

And Then I ran into a little bachelor group of four bighorn sheep on the way back down Going to the Sun Road.

Caught with my mouth full
Caught with my mouth full

 

Another Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep
Another Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting back to yesterday’s rant, the bighorns are obviously used to people and cars, for they browsed for quite a while by the side of the road and the edge of the parking lot, providing great photo opportunities for myself and several other early risers, and then, the first jackass on a Harley shows up and blasts them off down the slope. Five or six people snapping photos, no problem, a dozen cars stop and go, still ok, one jerk on an illegal noise machine and off they go.

The rangers can stop people for speeding, as they should, and set up check points for DUI, which they should, so how about getting these illegal, eardrum shattering, wildlife spooking, inconsiderate, immature jerks off the park roads so everyone else can have a little better experience.

Got back to camp by 10 AM and worked on the journal and processed photos all the rest of the day and into late at night. Didn’t bother to go back out in the afternoon since a series of rain squalls mixed with hail kept sweeping through all afternoon and into the evening.

Logan Pass wildflower
Logan Pass wildflower
Caught with my mouth full
Caught with my mouth full
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep

 

Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep posing for portrait
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep posing for portrait

 

Bighorn munching
Bighorn munching

 

Bighorn heading down to a stream
Bighorn heading down to a stream

 

A pair of bighorn rams
A pair of bighorn rams

 

August 9, 2013 More Glacier National Park

An early morning run up to Many Glacier for bears

 

Got up early around 5 to catch up on journal work and still be able to get out early and go back up to Many Glacier before the traffic picks up. Unfortunately weather is as bad as predicted, really grey and misty, still can’t see the mountains across the valley.

Grizzly on the run
Grizzly on the run

Well, that was worth getting out early for. Three different bears this morning along the way to Many Glacier, two grizzlies and one reddish black bear.

Grizzly on the run
Grizzly on the run

 

Nervous grizzly
Nervous grizzly

The sun came out and the clouds lifted around noon and I decided to make a run up Going to the Sun Road. Lots of night time construction going on, most of the lower turnouts on the east side are blocked off for equipment and a sign at the gate warns that the road closes from 9 PM until 7 AM. But the big problem is traffic. Crowds. I have never visited here in August, usually early June or after Labor Day, and I have always appreciated the lack of crowds in the Park. Certainly not the case in August. The scenery is still breath taking, but the crowds and the roaring Harleys, literally hundreds of them, kind of completely destroy the atmosphere and certainly make wildlife sightings very scarce.

The Logan Pass parking lot was closed due to overcrowding and as I passed, I thought it looked more like Times Square, than a peaceful National Park. I guess, regardless of the weather, I will be at the gate exactly at 7 AM tomorrow to see if I can recapture some of the magic of Glacier National Park.

Took a scouting trip up to the border going to Waterton just to check it out. About a 30 mile trip from St. Marys and nothing in the way of wildlife or great scenery except this one not very bright ptarmigan.

Ptarmigan auditioning for roadkill career
Ptarmigan auditioning for roadkill career

 

August 8, 2013 Arrived at Glacier National Park

Made the final push from Chester to Saint Mary’s this morning.

Sunrise Chester, Montana

Sunrise Chester, Montana

Had a dramatic sunrise over the little town of Chester where I had a great night’s rest at their “city park”.

Wide open spaces of Montana
Wide open spaces of Montana

More pleasant rolling fields and expanses of wide open spaces along Route 2 between Chester and Glacier National Park.

Wide open spaces of Montana
Wide open spaces of Montana

In spots the view seems to go on forever. Forgive the quality of most of these shots, they are taken through the window of the motorhome as I zip along the highway, very hard to find a place to pull off when I see something interesting!

 

Wind farm along Route 2 Montana
Wind farm along Route 2 Montana

 

A new wrinkle on the wheat fields
A new wrinkle on the wheat fields

 

A fairly large wind farm appears on the south side of the highway after Cut Bank, I should imagine that it is quite productive.

 

 

up
Train heading to pick up oil in the Bakken

 

There is pretty steady stream of railroad traffic on the tracks that parallel Route 2 through Montana. This one is most likely heading east to the Bakken to pick up oil.

 

The weather continues to be in and out, a little sun, a little rain, but tending more to the latter than the former. Stopped in Cut Bank at an Albertsons to stock up on groceries for my stay in Glacier national Park. Took Route 464 north out of Browning ( a depressing looking town where I had a VERY scary experience one night several years ago with some young methed out natives at a gas station on the edge of town) to 89 south down to the Johnsons of St. Mary Campground, where I have stayed before.

Site #16 at Johnson's of St. Marys
Site #16 at Johnson’s of St. Marys

Too expensive for my budget, around $40/night, but the people are nice and the view from your campsite is hard to beat, and it is all but impossible to get a site inside the park. Unfortunately today the view consists of only clouds, fog, and mist, can’t even see the mountains across the valley.

 

 

Got set up and headed up to Many Glacier around 4 Pm to look for bears.

 

Blonde grizzly in flowers
Blonde grizzly in flowers

Didn’t take long to encounter the first bearjam, watching a small blonde grizzly and and single dark cub in a field above the road.

Blonde Grizzly in the flowers
Blonde Grizzly in the flowers

Only a hundred yards up the road, another blonde, almost white small griz munching through the shrubbery, not 100 feet from the road. After joining the crowd and attempting some not so great shots here, the grass and shrubs were a little too high to get any good unobstructed shots here, I headed up the road to a point just past the intersection to the Lodge where an even bigger bearjam had the road blocked.

A huge Grizzly fortunately at a great distance
A huge Grizzly fortunately at a great distance

 

On big bruiser bruin
On big bruiser bruin

Here the people were watching a very large grizzly graze his way up the mountainside. He was a long way from the road, but he was BIG, a nice looking brute. Sure would make me hesitate to want to hike in the area.

It was starting to get dark to be able to shoot, so I turned around and headed back home through two more bear jams on my way out of the park. A much more successful little venture into the park than I had anticipated, can’t wait til tomorrow, only wish the weather would improve.

A shaggy looking grizzly
A shaggy looking grizzly
Grizzly headed for the lake
Grizzly headed for the lake

 

 

August 7, 2013 On the Road

Williston, North Dakota to Chester, Montana

I did manage to get some sleep in the parking lot at Love’s last night. Got started out early for the home stretch through Montana.

Apparently Williston is the hub for the Bakken activity, sure seems like a typical boomtown, lots of construction, motel room monthly rates of $3000, LOTS of modular housing up and going up, lots of “Lodges” for the workers, and everywhere one can be squeezed in, 5th wheels and travel trailers, some not in very good shape. A lot of the worker housing simply looks desperate and depressing, but I am sure the money is good. There seems to be a definite “Wild West “attitude on the roads ( that I am sure also applies to the many bars, clubs, and casinos that have sprung up everywhere ) so I don’t think I would want to be in law enforcement in these here parts.

About 20 miles west of Williston, the oil field craziness starts to peter out and you enter Montana, still oil pads here and there, but the traffic ceases and the road drops back to a two lane highway. Not too far into Montana there is a short 2 mile stretch of serious road construction, widening from two to four lanes a short stretch of Route 2. It is completely torn up, and after the rains, a quagmire of black soup and potholes, slick mud for a couple of miles. Great, I now have a coat of black glaze over my red clay base on my poor Prius.

N. Dakota Pronghorns
N. Dakota Pronghorn

Ain’t no deer and the antelope playing hereabouts

After that nasty bit of construction, Route 2 through Montana is a flat, some would say boring landscape of farmland, pastureland and small, somewhat depressing forgotten towns. I happen to enjoy the trip, constantly scanning for pronghorn antelope. This 900 mile trip on Route 2 through North Dakota and Montana did not yield even one sighting of deer or antelope. Guess I can figure how the oil rush would drive out any wildlife through North Dakota, but I am curious about the absence here in Montana, as this is the first time ever I have travelled these states without a sighting.

Foggy going on Route 2
Foggy going on Route 2

 

Hay rolls along Route 2 Montana
Hay rolls along Route 2 Montana

 

Hit a nasty stretch of pea soup thick fog that had me clutching the steering wheel for 10 miles

 

 

 

but finally the fog lifted, the sun came out and the Route 2 I remembered from years ago reappeared.

 

 

Word of warning, fellow RV’ers, you will encounter very few welcoming (meaning appealing) campgrounds or other places to overnight on this long stretch of Montana Route 2. I was growing desperate for a place to stay as I passed through Harve, having already spent a long day on the road. There is a “Rest Area” in Chester, about half way between Harve and Shelby, that is a paved parking lot dead in the center of town, not a terribly welcoming spot.

There happened to be a nice lady mowing the grass around the area on her John Deere, so I asked if people were allowed to overnight there, she said some do, but then nicely directed me to the city park, “city” being her term. Turns out it was a nice quiet gravel parking lot next to the school football field adjacent to the wheat fields at the edge of town, where I managed to spend a pleasant, quiet evening and get some much needed sleep.