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Glacier National Park, post season


John E Davies
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GNP-Visitors.jpg.7df516be06014bf4d9df7fc1aaa74ce5.jpg

 

Glacier NP has problems handling all the visitors due to the short season, curtailed federal budget, and limited facilities. There are WAY too many people for the available parking, and Going To The Sun Road is dangerous enough without a bunch of clueless flatlanders in rental cars or too-wide dually pickup trucks with extended mirrors.

 

In July 2019 Glacier had more visitors than Yellowstone.

 

The chart above is interesting, Visitation was low until the 1930s. There was a small train stop, a rough dirt wagon track and tents at Two Medicine for visitors. In 1913 the Great Northern RR started upgrading the facilities at East Glacier, adding a huge hotel next to the station, a better road and small hotel at Two Medicine. They advertised and started bringing in increasingly large numbers of tourists before the effect of the 1930s recession hit, big time. Here is the inside of the great lodge (not my photo);

 

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Well into the Great Depression tourism was down and a forest fire broke out at Two Medicine, the employees heroically defended the small building, and then drove back to the train station and reported to headquarters that it was saved ... Who responded back "Why?" Things probably looked bleak to them at that time. The Going To The Sun Road had opened in 1933 and the south entrance became increasingly less popular. ...

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going-to-the-Sun_Road

 

The big dip in the early 1940s is due to WW2; the railroads were carrying materiel and troops rather than tourists, who had no extra cash anyway.

 

Our last visit here was in 1979, on the tail end of a big 5000- mile trip of exploration, which culminated in our moving to Seattle from Nashville TN. When we first went over Going To The Sun Road, the mountains were completely socked in by dense clouds. All we saw was the lower scree slopes. I don't recall any problems with an excessive number of visitors.... Forty years later, we got to see them naked and in their full glory. (The mountains, not the visitors.) ;)

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

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It is smart to check the park website as often as possible, the campgrounds fill up fast;

 

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Two Medicine Campground and vicinity:

 

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The lighting changes dramatically minute by minute, and the mountains are either shadowed or lit up brightly. It is really hard to get good pics due to the variations....

 

 

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Browning area. Looking west at the Park at sunrise:

 

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Does anyone know what those strange linear clouds are called? We have never seen anything like them before.

 

Afternoon squall moving across the prairie:

 

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John Davies

 

Spokane WA

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Going To The Sun area:

 

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The big red buses are cool. They have a soft top and the tourists pop up all together like meerkats when there is a photo stop. (Not my picture):

 

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John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 

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Flathead Lake State Park, West Unit looking east at the Park:

http://stateparks.mt.gov/west-shore/

EDIT 04/20/20: I misnamed this park and have corrected the description.

 

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The water is crystalline clear. There are no sites at water level, you have to hike down.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

Edited by John E Davies
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I have driven the Going to the Sun Road a half a dozen times and since Krunch doesn’t usually drive while on vacation, I have never really gotten to enjoy the scenery. So a couple of years back, we stayed in some cabins in St. Mary on Hwy 89 and the Red Buses were parked across the street each night and the drivers would wash them at the end of the day.  After a couple of days of watching the bus wash, we decided to take a bus ride and it was the best GTTSR drive ever.  I was Mister Prairie Dog, popping up and taking pictures or a look through the binoculars.  I really enjoyed it and of course Krunch said it was ok, as she had seen it all on the previous 6 drives.

 

Mike

 

 

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Thanks for the excellent posting and the info on Glacier. We plan to go there next year about the same time.

What dates range did this trip cover? I'm trying to figure out how late into September this trip can be executed.

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Thanks for the excellent posting and the info on Glacier. We plan to go there next year about the same time.

What dates range did this trip cover? I’m trying to figure out how late into September this trip can be executed.

We were there from Sep 12 thru 16. This year some of the smaller campgrounds went Primitive on the 17th. Some smaller operations like the less popular convenience stores and tours closed after Labor Day and most Park operations go completely off season on the 23rd. Our trip was complicated by the unexpected (but publicized)  ten day closure of Going To The Sun Rd. It is crazy busy all the time, there is simply less stuff you can do and fewer open spots off season. The hoards of hikers come in at the crack of dawn and race up the mountain to park at the Pass, a local official called it the Indy 500. It is very unfortunate for a visitor who just wants to stop for a short time.

 

The road construction on GTTS and on US 89 is ongoing, so expect issues next year at least.

 

A reservation at a West Glacier commercial RV park would be prudent, if you cannot get one of the rare reservable spots, until you can locate a free spot inside the Park. Only a few Glacier campgrounds offer them, and in general most are unsuitable for a larger Ollie. As I mentioned before.... St Mary would be the best choice to the east, and the spots are larger there. But you can’t see anything ;( Apgar in the west is big too, but no reservations at all and only trees to look at from your folding chairs. Some CGs are tent only. Some you cannot tow a trailer to... it is a tough place to plan for a visit.

 

https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm

 

GTTS is not open until around July, depending on the snow. It takes them a couple of months to clear it. There is up to 80 feet at Logan Pass...

 

You must allow at least three days in case it is cloudy, to see the high mountains. I feel sorry for the one day visitors on tour buses when it is dumping rain....

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

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I can’t emphasize enough that the weather in this part of the country can turn on you in a day or two. Maria Pass - US 2, the main route east/ west - may get four feet out of this storm. East Glacier has received 21 inches already. Sure, much of it may melt over the next week, but if your TV and trailer is way back in the boonies, say buried under a drift on a remote forest road at 6000 feet, they could easily be stranded there until next June. With the lack of communications you really need a satellite communicator that can receive weather forecasts for unusual situations like this.

 

The Rangers and Sheriffs deputies would hopefully drive back on snowmobiles to check for folks in distress, but they wouldn’t dig out your truck and trailer....at most they would give you a ride out. It might take them a week or more, and that time would also depend on how many downed trees they would have to remove...

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/29/us/september-snow-rockies-sunday-wxc/index.html

 

The snow is dumping earlier in Eastern WA than it has since 1923.....

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 

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Two Medicine campground from the Park webcam:

 

FB68B5D7-64F6-45A5-842A-8C642A897C99.thumb.jpeg.155238e76564f58ee2ec80b168629c98.jpeg

 

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/30/765694898/up-to-4-feet-of-snow-montana-hit-by-unprecedented-winter-storm

 

Wow, what a difference two weeks makes....

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

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I know that many of the folks out in the mountain west know what they are doing with snowy weather. However, this storm is one for the record books - and even people that are "used to it" just may be caught off guard. That along with visitors that are not as experienced could combine for some real bad situations. Please be careful out there!

Bill

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you for taking the time.
I always thought this is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Muppy

 

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On 9/30/2019 at 11:39 AM, John E Davies said:

Two Medicine campground from the Park webcam:

 

FB68B5D7-64F6-45A5-842A-8C642A897C99.thumb.jpeg.155238e76564f58ee2ec80b168629c98.jpeg

 

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/30/765694898/up-to-4-feet-of-snow-montana-hit-by-unprecedented-winter-storm

 

Wow, what a difference two weeks makes....

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

John,

Where to start?? Thank you - no that is insufficient by a long shot. I must say Joy and I have done a fair amount or research, but nothing we have found to date will hold a candle to what you have provided. The detailed descriptions, photos charts, advice and the list goes on all with important information we need to absorb. Based on your response to my question I can visualize an unintended Oliver rally at Glacier. Pretty amazing! 

I'll go back to my original insufficient statement - Thank You. It is a good thing we are adhering to the stay at home  request which provides much needed time to plan for this special trip.

Take care John and stay safe.

J & J

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  • 4 months later...

Bumping an old thread. This is a reminder that in the northern high plains and the Colorado Plateau you MUST be prepared for winter weather, even as early as Labor Day.

This is happening while the SW is broiling (121 degrees in LA County.)

Sep 6 - Going to the Sun Rd in Glacier Np closed due to winter weather conditions near the Pass, opened a day later.

Early snow to the Rockies: ... One of the Earliest Snowstorms on Record to Blanket Front Range of Rockies With September Snow, Including Denver

As I type at 11:00 AM it is just above freezing in Browning, near East Glacier. Brrr....

John Davies

Spokane WA (63 degrees and falling)

Edited by John E Davies
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Thank you again for all the detailed information.  Makes me sad that we had to cancel our Glacier trip back in July (without an Ollie.)  Good reminder that September plans for any year could be upended.

 

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Wow, this thread is everything we are buying an Oliver for. We will take delivery next May and hope to spend a year gaining enough experience to tackle a 2022 summer trip to MT, WY, ID. (I’ll bug you all about the details of that itinerary later.) I feel very privileged to have access to such expertise. Thanks to everyone here who so selflessly offers their wisdom and guidance. 
 

Quick question: how many hours a day of travel do you consider a reasonable and sustainable number? We are hoping to blast through the Midwest and plains so that we can get to big sky country, but want to be realistic about budgeting that time. We are fairly hardy road warriors and did the Hohenwald to MD route 11 hours straight through, though it’s undoubtedly less stressful in a small car than in a truck with a trailer. I realize that everyone will have their own answer but hoping for a survey. 

TIA!

Dave

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27 minutes ago, MarylandDave said:

Quick question: how many hours a day of travel do you consider a reasonable and sustainable number? We are hoping to blast through the Midwest and plains so that we can get to big sky country, but want to be realistic about budgeting that time. We are fairly hardy road warriors and did the Hohenwald to MD route 11 hours straight through, though it’s undoubtedly less stressful in a small car than in a truck with a trailer. I realize that everyone will have their own answer but hoping for a survey. 

Thanks for the kind words. How about you start a new thread with a POLL so we can vote and comment on your question...?

I personally am OK with six to eight hrs, but that is on secondary two lane highways. I usually avoid freeways. A whole lot depends on terrain and weather. Twisty north Idaho highways for example, will beat you up, big time.

John Davies

Spokane WA

Edited by John E Davies
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On 9/7/2020 at 10:52 AM, John E Davies said:

Bumping an old thread. This is a reminder that in the northern high plains and the Colorado Plateau you MUST be prepared for winter weather, even as early as Labor Day.

This is happening while the SW is broiling (121 degrees in LA County.)

Sep 6 - Going to the Sun Rd in Glacier Np closed due to winter weather conditions near the Pass, opened a day later.

Early snow to the Rockies: ... One of the Earliest Snowstorms on Record to Blanket Front Range of Rockies With September Snow, Including Denver

As I type at 11:00 AM it is just above freezing in Browning, near East Glacier. Brrr....

John Davies

Spokane WA (63 degrees and falling)

Or as late as May and June; Northern Arizona as well. 

In 2019, we took our very first RV road trip to the SW.  We left Oregon Mid-May.  Planned to head East on I-80 then south the N. Rim Grand Canyon (which was scheduled to open mid-May), then on to Sedona and finally back north to Valley of Fire SP near Las Vegas.  We began our trip without reservations - good thing.  A snow storm moved into the higher elevations of Nevada and into northern Arizona (the same storm that cancelled hundreds of flights at the Denver airport).  We reversed our route and headed south,  to miss the storm. visiting Valley of Fire, then on to Sedona, which wasn't ideal since it was then the week prior to Labor Day (we were detained in Reno due to a breakdown on our camper van).  We were lucky and found a one night vacancy at a private campground, Lo Lo Mai Springs, just outside Cottonwood.  We intended to scout around for boondocking spots around Sedona but got lucky and the Lo Lo Mai owners found us a site for the weekend.  A caution: do not expect to explore the town of Sedona on Labor Day weekend; what a mess.  The town is all roundabouts and streets were congested with RVs and pedestrians.  We drove through, then went on to explore less busy sites in the area.  After seeing some great Native American ruins, the Copper Museum in Cottonwood, and biking the red rock trails, we decided to drive to Payson (where we spent the night at a USFS campground) and then up to bike along the Mongollon Rim - another amazing place.

Since the storm had passed, we headed north; explored Winslow, AZ;  camped at  Homolovi Ruins SP, hiked the Walnut Canyon, then spent a couple of nights camped at Lee's Ferry (along the Colorado River).  By now, the road to the North Rim had opened, though it did snow on the way in.  After a day at the Grand Canyon, we started home with stops at City of Rocks and Three Mile Crossing, both in Idaho.  It was a memorable trip; we saw some amazing landscapes and geological sites. 

A couple of weeks later, my husband left home on his motorcycle (tent camping on the way) to visit a navy buddy just west of Oklahoma City.  He was forced to get a motel room at Gunnison, CO when, on the first day of Summer, another snowstorm dipped south dropping over 2" of snow on Monarch Pass.   

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4 hours ago, MarylandDave said:

Quick question: how many hours a day of travel do you consider a reasonable and sustainable number?

We shoot for 300 miles a day.  That gives us time in the morning for some coffee and gets us to our next location in time for a glass of wine before we fire up the grill.  We’re retired, so we try to make the journey interesting and relaxing.

We have covered more miles, a few times many more.  When we go to Durango to visit our son and family we drive to Roswell, NM about half of the 900+ miles and finish the next day.  Same on return trip.  There just isn’t decent place to stop between San Antonio and Durango except for the very small Red Barn RV Park in Roswell.

Once, while camping on the Missouri River in Leavenworth, KS we were jolted out of sleep at 2am by emergency personnel and told to evacuate immediately.  The river was cresting and a few hours after we left the campground was under water.  We headed south on I-35 and had fierce storms the whole trip to include tornado warnings all around OKC with several touching down.  We stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Waco after almost 700 miles and finished the trip home in the morning.  Our Ollie tracked like a champ through high winds and driving rain.  No leaks either!  Mike

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