I only learned of Glacier National Park a few years ago and added it to my “Travel to” list with some trepidation. I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it there and I hate not being able to cross things off my list! Luckily, my friend was planning her wedding in Idaho and I saw the opportunity to add a few days to the Idaho trip to stop at Glacier. Two of our friends, also going to the wedding, joined us for a fun-filled four days.
We rented a house, via AirBnB, in Kalispell. Kalispell is a wonderful place to stay if you want to come in and out of Glacier and not camp in the park. It is only about 40 minutes from the park’s west entrance and has a decent variety of places to eat, shop, and have fun. We only saw a small part of the city because we mostly stayed up in Glacier and cooked at home, but the owner of a record store we shopped at told us Kalispell was the fastest growing city in Montana.
Choy and I arrived late Tuesday evening and enjoyed a nice evening at home with our friends. We realized that it was going to be much colder than we expected and colder than Montanans expected! They received a cold front the day before we arrived and temperatures were between 25 and 50 degrees the entire time we were there. Choy and Matthew (our friend) made a stop at the Kalispell Army Surplus and Goodwill to see what cold-weather gear they could rustle up. They found some good stuff. A few lightweight jackets and waterproof pants for under $80.
We had a taco breakfast, packed our gear, and jumped in the car to head to Glacier. We entered from the west and stopped at Polebridge Mercantile after about an hour of driving just outside the park and gawking at beautiful mountains, rivers, and lakes. At Polebridge we grabbed a little something to eat and some hot chocolate before officially entering the park. The terrain is pretty rough – narrow, dirt roads on the sides of mountains – so if you can bring a 4X4 I would recommend it. We drove a compact and did just fine, but it was a little nerve raking at times. We stopped to do some hiking on the Quartz Lake Trail and I was completely taken by the landscape. It is so beautiful, so quite, so clean. The water is crystal clear.
The Quartz Lake Trail is a pretty do-able trail if you take it slow. It does have a handful of steep climbs. We didn’t make it all the way to the top. We ran out of time, but we did hike to the snow line and it was magnificent. Sometimes the wind would blow and the very tall pines would sway from side to side. Preoccupied with the possibility of seeing wild animals that could kill and eat us, we stopped to listen to every sound that was made.
We heard that the east side of the park was drastically different from the west side so we were excited to see what was in store for us on Thursday. We drove to Glacier Park Lodge, had a lunch, and then pressed forward to find a nice place to hike. There was snow everywhere. It felt like Christmas-time. It was amazing to think that we had been two hours into the park the day before with no snow and after only 30 minutes on the east side there was snow on every surface. We parked at Two Medicine Lake and did about two hours of hiking. There were a lot more people on this side of the park and we heard whispers that a woman had been charged by a moose. By the lake, we found moose tracks.
After Two Medicine (Two Med, as the locals say) we decided to head back into town before we got stuck in Glacier, in the snow, and in the dark. As we were exiting the park we stopped mid-road because a huge black bear was in our path. I’ve sometimes thought about what I might feel or do if I ever came across a real live wild animal. In my head, I was freaking out, but outwardly I was pretty cool. I think I was in shock. I couldn’t really register what was right before my eyes. A monstrous black bear. Huge. It looked at our car for a few seconds and then wobbled away into the forest. I exhaled. A freaking bear.
We talked over each other for about 10 minutes about our near-death experience and then hightailed it to the record store in town. The next day, we packed up our stuff, ran some errands, and headed to Idaho.
Choy and I had such a great experience that we’re considering buying a house in Kalispell! I can’t exactly describe how Kalispell and Glacier made me feel. I just know I want more of it.