Monday morning we got an early start for us, by 8:30 we were already on the road heading for the Glacier National Park gate. When we got to the gate, we realized we weren’t all that early based on the long lines to get thru the $35 entrance gate. I sure do like that $10 lifetime park pass!!
Our first stop was a short way, about 10 miles up the Going To The Sun Road (GTTSR) to the Lake McDonald Lodge. We parked and walked around the hotel and gawked at all the old red tourist buses (or Red Jammers as they are called) from the 1930’s that actually looked brand new to me. Turns out around 2002 Ford Motor Corp had them all redone with new chassis and motors. I am not sure if Ford bought the original bus maker called White Motor Company. They looked magnificent! And there are 33 of them running thru the park. We were dodging them all day on the GTTSR. They are no longer manual transmissions, but the “Jammer” name has stuck even without anyone jamming the gears all day long. The open tops looked pretty awesome.
The lodge was pretty rustic inside, kind of a Swiss Chalet look and feel. The big fireplace in the main room was pretty massive, would be a real treat to hover there after a cold afternoon some winter day. We went out back, which overlooked Lake McDonald. There was a dock and a tour boat that looked like it had been there a long time. The lake was pretty large, at least 10 miles long, probably longer.
After checking out the lodge and grounds, we headed further up the GTTSR. It was slow going once the 45 mph signs got replaced with the 25 mph signs and the road got steeper and narrower with sheer drops on the right side.. Phew, not on my side as I was driving! This road clings to the rock walls, it must have been a bear to build back then. And it appears to be a bear to plow the snow off it each spring. I read they start plowing in April and get it all done around the first week of July.
We stopped at a lot of viewpoints and there were plenty to go around. Once we got to the summit, we stopped at the Logan Summit visitor center. Absolutely no parking there, but there were lots of the Red Jammers. I had read that after 9:30am the visitor center parking lot is full the rest of the day. They weren’t kidding. Luckily I really wanted to get further down the road to see the Jackson Glacier as it’s the only one visable without a day’s hike and our pup’s not allowed on the trails.
We finally got there, and it is way off in the distance south of the road. Not sure how much longer it will be there as it didn’t look as big as I expected. The road got a bit better after the Jackson viewpoint and got back to the 45mph fairly quickly.
We started heading for a picnic area near the St Mary Lake. After a couple of false starts, we finally found the area with tables and proceeded to have a delightful lunch, all the time watching for the bears the sign on the table described. Not the Grizzlys that were roaming the park while we where here.