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John E Davies

Glacier National Park, post season

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We spent four days there in mid September, the trailing end of the busy season.

 

I don’t know much about the West Glacier part, we rushed through it on our way home. There are tons of activities if you like go-carts, zip lines and trinkets. It is just like Gatlinburg TN without Dolly Land. If you are headed east, it’s a great place to stock up on supplies and do laundry since things will get VERY bare in that direction.

 

US 2 over Marias Pass is an easy, pretty drive along the Flathead River. There is a rest stop at the top with an OK view of the south end of the Park. Also a NFS campground (Summit, 12 sites) which is spread out but has minimal sun and no views. Elevation is right at a mile up so it may be windy and chilly. Once you start descending the east slope the dense trees go away and the terrain opens up. There is much less rainfall there.

 

The Burlington Northern main line follows US 2 for many miles, be aware of this when camping and try to pick a spot a mile or two north or south and well away from any crossings. It is very busy hauling freight and coal. Amtrak has two stops, one in West Glacier and one in East Glacier. The East Glacier stop is a short walk from the huge, cool old hotel, so it is busy with visitors, many from other countries. There are mouldering 1930s cottages and tourist shops along the park road road for a mile or so, but nothing really worth a visit.

 

There is gas outside ALL the entrances on this side, but prices will be 30 to 40 cents higher. Browning is the only “big” town (with 1026 souls). The Blackfeet Reservation dominates the entire area. Be very aware of their laws about firearms. If you have any, they must be empty and secured completely out of reach. NO concealed or open carry! Browning itself has cheap gas, a grocery store, post office and a few odd shops, and a museum, but other than despair nothing is present. It is known to be a rough town and you probably wouldn’t want to go bar-hopping there. Expect a lot of visible poverty and a few street beggars. The Museum of the Plains Indians is interesting if you like that sort of stuff. I found myself bored silly, but Jac liked it a lot. The Cenex north of town has a prominent sign posted "No Sticky-Fingers Allowed", with a long list of Blackfeet folks who were banned. The names were astonishing but I didn’t feel it would be OK to take a picture…. https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-indian-names/blackfoot-names.htm ...

 

Two Medicine is a wonderful place, we spent four nights there. It is right under the craggy peaks and the boat launch/ day use area is a good spot for time lapse video of glorious sunrises. It can be ferociously windy and camping is limited now, but if you can snag a spot it would be better than St Mary. There were no generators allowed in that section in season, but they may have relaxed that rule when it went Primitive. Running Eagle Falls and Nature Trail is a delight, with short and easy access from the entry road. The camp store is closed this time of year. Bears are around, the rangers had to chase a sow and her two cubs from the campground by firing a rifle several times. Even when walking park roads you each need to ALWAYS  carry bear spray and keep your heads swiveling! Narrow brushy trails are nerve wracking, keep talking or clap your hands loudly to alert any big predators to your presence. You can buy spray in the Apgar and St Mary gift shops.

 

US 89 is the main RV route north from Browning to St Mary and Going to the Sun Road. At Kiowa Junction there is major MAJOR construction and the entire highway should be avoided They are ripping out the hillsides and rerouting and recontouring the road bed. Expect 30 minute delays, pilot cars and one way traffic. It is NOT a place to take a trailer. It might be OK on a dry day without the Ollie.

 

MT 49 goes from East Glacier to Kiowa. The south part is fine as far as the turnoff to Two Medicine. Further north it is Not Recommended For Trailers. It is fun in a truck - the roadbed is heaved, repaired, potholed, washed out and extremely undulating.

 

To get from East Glacier up to St Mary, go into Browning, gas up at the big Cenex a mile north of town, and take MT 464 as a 70 mph bypass. It is straight and smooth with some great views of the Park mountains from the higher hills. Watch out for free range horses on the reservation, especially just north of Browning. You may see them grazing on the shoulder! The Blackfeet love horses but some owners don’t care if they lose one to a collision…

 

St Mary park entrance is busy with tour and shuttle buses. There is adequate RV parking. Since the GTTS road closed for construction on the west side of Logan Pass (September 16), it may be worse. It’s now the only way to access the high country near the Pass.If you want to hike up there, take the shuttle and don’t even think about parking your truck up there. There are several short hikes to viewing areas along the road that are worth visiting. Sunrift Gorge is gorgeous. Parking lower down should not be a problem.

 

St Mary Campground is just OK, it has plenty of room for an Ollie and adequate sun exposure, but it has no views. One section is prone to flooding. It may be posted Hard Sided Campers Only due to problem bears. This is the best choice to stay on the east side of the Park, unless you luck out and find an open spot that is large enough in one of the other smaller campgrounds. I suggest that you stay here two nights. Explore the second day and keep an eye out fo rougher camping options that would be closer to the scenery. You can always claim a spot and leave a small tent or chairs there, and go get your Ollie that day to shift it.

 

Many Glacier is drop dead beautiful, but crazy busy with back-country hikers. It allows low elevation access to a bunch of spectacular trails.The road in is very nasty, potholed and uneven. It is a disgrace for a national park. Parking will be very tough around the trailhead and hotel. You can go past that turnoff and find a spot along the road and walk back.The hotel has a nice affordable restaurant with stellar views out the back windows. The campground there is very tight and heavily treed and not a good spot for an Ollie. Plus it will probably be full of hikers and their tents.

 

Waterton Lakes National Park - we did not go there since we could not do a Canadian border crossing, but it would be an excellent day visit. It’s about 30 minutes north of the Many Glacier entrance on a very twisty road.

 

RV camping outside the Park - practically none. The Blackfeet do not seem to care to exploit tourist dollars. Most of the small towns outside The Res have an RV camp of some sort. Choteau to the south is a neat, prosperous town (it’s the county seat) with a nice little city campground and a $5 dump/ potable water station.

 

Cell signal is spotty at best, you will be able to connect at the entrances and in the bigger towns, but forget about it completely once you are inside the Park. The campground hosts post weather reports in the busy season, that may not be an option this time of year. On a hike you should always carry enough clothes for unexpected rain or cold, and carry basic survival stuff in case you get stranded. A satellite communicator like an inReach provides great peace of mind and a limited degree of two-way communication. A big handgun is OK in the Park if you are legal in MT to carry one, but it is a crime to actually fire it inside there. It cannot be carried inside any Federal facility like a visitor center, so if you are using the shuttle system it probably has to stay at the trailer….

 

I am still working on organizing pics, I will post some later.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

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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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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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We were at Glacier the week of 8 September. We got a site at Two Medicine at around noon. Amazing views.

 

 

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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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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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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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


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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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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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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West side of Lake Kalispell, (Lake Kalispell State Park, West Unit) looking east at the Park:

 

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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

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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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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Mike and Krunch   Lutz, FL   LEII #193 “the dog house”

 

 

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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.


2019 Elite II (Hull 505 - Galway Girl - August 7, 2019 Delivery) 
Tow Vehicle: 2018 F150 EcoBoost, King Ranch, FX4, MaxTow Package, 10 Speed, 3.55 Rear Axle
GVWR 7,000#, Payload Sticker 1557#, Truck GCWR=18,100# ,Tow capacity: 12,200#

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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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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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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

 

 


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Two Medicine campground from the Park webcam:

 

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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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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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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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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Wow, John what a wonderful post. The photos are terrific and the information is very helpful. We're hoping to get out west next year and really want to go to Glacier. I put this in my bookmarks.

 

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