Montana Part VI: West Glacier

I had been dreading the trip to West Glacier since Mike made the plans to drive there in the Monaco when we were way back in Cody. I wanted to see Glacier, no doubt. I just didn’t want the Monaco to see Glacier! To be honest, I had never really settled down after the stress of being the passenger in the coach when we drove over the pass into Butte, or when we drove through the narrow construction lanes to Great Falls. I was doing my best to hold it together as we pulled out of Dick’s RV Park and back onto the northbound lanes of  I-15. Everything was fine on the big highway. I was a bit more nervous when we turned west on Hwy 44 and north on Hwy 80. Those roads were two lanes, but they had a shoulder, so it was bearable. That last leg of the drive was 55 miles on Hwy 2 along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. The scenery became more beautiful with every mile, and my anxiety became more acute at the same rate. I will have to admit that I pretty much lost it for the last nine miles. But, of course, Mike did a great job of driving the rig and we arrived safely with no incidents.

We stayed at the West Glacier KOA, which wins the award for nicest campground we’ve ever stayed in. The facility was amazing. They had RV sites available with differing lists of amenities and prices. They also had tent sites, cabins and cottages laid out in the most magnificently landscaped environment I’ve ever seen. There was a family pool and an adult pool (complete with two hot tubs). They even had a small restaurant that served breakfast and dinner, and an ice cream shop that opened in the evenings. It was more of a rustic resort than a campground. I would recommend this lodging option to anyone, regardless of whether they are in a motorhome or not!

We were in West Glacier for two days and three nights, so we decided we would spend one of our days in Whitefish and one of our days in the National Park. We picked the rainy day to visit Whitefish and we saved Glacier for the sunny day. When we met Jim, Deb, Mike and Vicki at “The Kill” in McLeod they told us to go to Casey’s Rooftop Bar when we got to Whitefish. The charming town has about 7,000 residents – or less. The quintessential downtown is set against the backdrop of a mountain and ski resort. The community has lots to offer with its quaint architecture, outdoor activities (including a lake within walking distance of downtown), art, food and shopping. We spent a couple of hours walking through the local shops and galleries. At one point we found a fabulously eccentric grandfather clock that a gentleman had built of out birch and other pieces of wood collected from the forests in the area. However, it was $26,000 and we would have to build a stately cabin in the woods complete with an entry that could facilitate its grandeur… so we decided to pass on the purchase. If I ever win the lottery I’m going back to Dick Idol Signature Gallery to buy something. We did go to Casey’s but the weather was not conducive to spending time on the rooftop bar, so we settled for a drink at the luxurious interior bar instead. After that we walked over to the Craggy Range for another drink and a light dinner. The Craggy Range was hosting a Grand Re-Opening Party after an extensive remodel of the interior and their menu. It was a fun atmosphere to enjoy during happy hour!

We got lucky when the weather forecast actually held true and the day we set aside to visit Glacier was beautiful. The temperatures were brisk and the sky was a clear bright blue. The environment was nothing less than perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Dogs aren’t allowed on most trails in the park, so we walked Piper and Cessna down the road from the KOA to Hwy 2 and back, and then left them at home when we went to Glacier. The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road was not open for the season, so we were only able to drive 16 miles into the park before we had to turn around.  We parked  where the road ended and walked past the barricade for a little while, then we turned around and hopped onto The Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. This was a popular and easy trail, and since it began and ended at the place where the road reached a dead-end, it was packed with humans running the spectrum of ages and nationalities. The crowd factor meant we had to spend a little less time marveling at nature and a bit more energy maneuvering around hopeless individuals with absolutely no cognitive awareness of anything around them. Other than that it was an enjoyable excursion.  We also stopped at McDonald Lodge to have a look at the lake and enjoy a drink and snack in the tavern. The historic lodges in our National Parks are all so wonderful in and of themselves!

Since this was such a quick stop, the rest of our time was spent enjoying the wonderful environment of our campground. I’ll just let the pictures finish off the remainder of the West Glacier story for me.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding... not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding… not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would pummel into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would plummet into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

The West Glacier KOA had several "tiers" of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table - umbrella included. Luxurious.

The West Glacier KOA had several “tiers” of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table – umbrella included. Luxurious.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn't mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn’t mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

Our view.

Our view.

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

The roof top bar at Casey's in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we've seen! I'm sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

The roof top bar at Casey’s in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we’ve seen! I’m sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer's market!

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer’s market!

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

My new favorite number.

My new favorite number.

Glacier.

Glacier.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

I've not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

I’ve not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

Mystical purple rocks.

Mystical purple rocks.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

Green.

Green.

How's this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

How’s this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

McDonald Lodge.

McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

 

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