Monday, August 30, 2010

The Wildflowers of Glacier

Personally, I thought the wildflowers in Glacier were even more spectacular than the mountains! The roadsides and meadows were carpeted with color, and provided a good distraction for me when there was a high edge on the roadway. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

These puffs are called "bear grass" - Glacier is famous for them!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 27, 2010

Red Bus Tour - Glacier National Park

One of the unique and charming parts of Glacier National Park is the "Red Bus Tours" that explore various parts of the park. These refurbished ecofriendly buses from the 1930's let you visit the park with the help of an entertaining bus driver.

We took the "Secret Valley Tour" which left from the Glacier Lodge. We enjoyed the open air bus, but unfortunately we had several bursts of rain that required putting the top up twice!

Our tour took us to an area called Two Medicine where we took a boat tour on another historic boat.

We also took a short hike to Running Eagle Falls. On the way our guide pointed out the grizzly bear claw marks on the trees.

I enjoyed the trip and the buses are very cool. However going with a group means you are at the mercy of everyone who needs to take a bathroom break or forgets something along the way. Those guides have to be extremely patient! It was a fun way to spend an afternoon!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Glacier Park Lodge

After our overnight stay at the Prince of Wales, we headed back south into Montana along the east side of Glacier. We stayed for the next two nights at the Glacier Park Lodge. This spectacular inn was built almost 100 years ago by the Great Northern Railroad and was located directly across from their railroad station. The gardens in front are quite lovely!

The hotel and lobby is held up by immense timbers that still retain their original bark. There are skylights in the ceiling which makes the interior seem more open and roomy than many of the other national park inns that I've stayed in. There were lots of comfortable chairs and cozy corners to relax in.

Our room was on the second floor. Here I am right outside our door. I can barely put my arms around the logs.

The room was a bit more updated (early 80s??) than previous ones and was quite large. We had a shared balcony that overlooked the gardens in front of the inn. (Too bad we didn't have a mountain view.)

I spent a lot of time on the balcony in the back of the lodge that overlooked the mountains. We discovered that there was an area of about 30 feet where you could pick up a VERY ssslllllooooowwww ATT signal. I would log into my email and then sit for about 10 minutes while my email would download. While waiting I would enjoy the view and pray and relax.

One really can't complain about a slow signal when you get to enjoy a fiery sunset like this!

I enjoyed our stay here. It was relaxing to find a cozy corner with a view and read. I hadn't had much down time this summer, so I appreciated having time to take it easy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Prince of Wales Hotel - Waterton Lakes

After driving the "Going-to-the-Sun" road, we headed north towards the Canadian border. Glacier is an International Peace Park that is merged with Water Lakes National Park in Canada. I enjoyed this part of the drive immensely - it was LOW (re: see fear of heights in previous posting) and wound through the most gorgeous meadows of wildflowers.

Our home for the night was another historic inn - the Prince of Wales. Our first view (through the smudged windshield) shows it standing on a high hill with the mountains in the background. It looks like the place is in the Scottish highlands.

The lobby definitely has a Scottish flare with men decked out in kilts and lots of plaid.

The view in front of the inn is breezy and breathtaking! But the room was small and worn. It looked like the windows had recently been replaced with vinyl windows. The woodwork was pretty but need some touch ups to remove lots of dings and smudges.

The best feature of the room was the spectacular view!

We ate dinner in the dining room - it was ok, but I had mushy pasta and my brother's wild rice was crunchy. (Not worth the high price.)

Next morning we took a boat ride across the lake to a secluded spot called the Goat Haunt. Beautiful views (no goats, however)! We crossed the border again, and I even got this nifty stamp on my passport.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Going-to-the-Sun-Road - Glacier National Park

It is sad that predictions say that in about 10/15 years all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will have melted. Actually, unless you hike deep into back country, you can only see a few small glaciers from the road. If you have been to Alaska where there seems to be a huge glacier tucked between the mountains around every corner that you turn, the glaciers in Glacier will be disappointing. But the gorgeous lakes and mountain passes that were carved out by the glaciers are the true highlight of the park.

We left Lake McDonald Lodge in the morning and took "The Going-to-the-Sun-Road" that intersects through Glacier. This spectacular 50 mile long road was carved through the mountains about 75 years ago. I hate heights, and the passenger side was right on the edge of the road. I opted to sit in the back seat (wise decision) and spent a large part of the drive looking at the wildflowers and waterfalls on the opposite side of the road!

We made frequent stops to enjoy the views. The drive was slow in spots because of construction. We finally reached the highest spot, Logan Pass. We were lucky to score a parking spot during the busiest time of the day!

We were also lucky to find a sweet mama and baby mountain goat right outside the visitor center. My biggest wish during this trip was to see a mountain goat, so I was a happy traveler!

The wildflowers along the road were unbelievable! Below is a mountainside covered with fuzzy bear grass.

It was too bad that it was gray and a bit drizzly during most the ride, so no pretty skies in my pictures of Big Sky country. But it certainly was a lovely drive and I am glad I braved it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lake McDonald Lodge - Glacier National Park

After two delightful nights at Lake Louise, we took the long trek (about 7 hours drive) from Banff down across the border into Montana and into Glacier National Park. Our first night was spent at Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the historic lodges in the park. We stayed in a cabin that was just down the walk from the main lodge.

Now I have stayed at many of the National Park Lodges over recent years. And I know that there are costly maintenance issues involved in the upkeep of buildings from the early 1900s. And I realize that they are advertised as having "historical features as a charming and quaint departure from everyday conveniences". But the fact that the decor in the cabins has not been updated since the early 70s really isn't all that charming. It was disappointing that such beautiful locations with lodges that look so wonderful on the exterior and have such incredible lobbies, just look so sad and tired and shabby when you go into the rooms. (I'm not asking for flat screen tvs and whirlpool tubs, but just something that looks fresh and cute.) Yes, I know you are paying for the location, but the price of the rooms is not like Motel 6, so I wish the rooms looked a bit better. Enough said.

Alright, the main lodge is very cool in the lobby. Timber inside with levels with lots of stuffed animals. (Ok, the animals got to be a bit creepy.) The hanging lights with the Native American paintings were exceptionally cool!

Outside is a dock on the lake with a lovely view into the mountains. The back of the inn has lots of benches where you can sit and relax and enjoy the view. So that is how I spent my evening, reading and looking at this. Yes, THIS is not shabby at all!

Monday, August 9, 2010

High Tea - Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

The culinary highlight of our trip was having high tea at the Chateau Lake Louise. Tea is held in the lounge next to the big windows that look out over the lake and glacier. We made reservations in the morning, and even though the lounge was very busy when we arrived, they had a perfect table reserved for us right in front of the window.

It was pouring rain when we arrived....

But eventually it cleared

and we enjoyed a lovely view.

The Fairmont has their own band of tea and there was at least a dozen varieties to choose between. I selected a flowery jasmine tea.

Tea begins with fresh fruit in a light flowery syrup. I liked the way the fruit was cut into tiny pieces - it made for an interesting blend of flavors in one bite.

Then this huge tiered tray arrives. The scones were good, but I've had better. But everything else was exceptional!

The sandwiches included bruchetta and a roasted vegetable sandwich. Both delicious!

Three desserts - I especially loved this flourless orange cake!

A perfect relaxing afternoon!


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