Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goat Lick, Huckleberry Patch, Hungry Horse Reservoir

We both wanted a bit easier day today than yesterdays long day and drive.  So we took it easy during the morning, and around 11 am we took off for Goat Lick.

Goat Lick is in the very southern portion of the park boundaries, although it is along highway 2 and this portion of the park requires no entrance fee.  In this area, highway 2 is inside the park for only a few miles...if you did not see the Glacier National Park sign, you would never know it.

Goat Lick is an area where there is an exposed riverbank where mountain goats and other animals come to lick the mineral-laden cliffs.  The information from the park service website says, "Glacier National Park goats travel as far as four miles to get to the Goat Lick, while others from more widely dispersed areas in the Flathead National Forest travel several times that distance. April through August are the most concentrated use periods..."

So, do you think we say any goats?  Well, yes and no.  We parked in the lot.  I walked a short distance down the path to be sure the GoGo could make it, went back and got Marcia and the dogs and the camera.  We took the very short walk down to the Goat Lick Observatory, and started looking.  Thinking that I might have seen something, and seeing that the area which is exposed was a bit further than I had expected, I went back to get the Binoculars.  When I got back, Marcia was all excited, telling me that she had seen a mama and a baby and that they were "up there..."  As I got the binoculars out and started looking, she says, "They are going into the woods....", and they were gone.

No picture, but we did have a sighting.  Others started coming down, and Marcia and I told them about her sighting when they asked, but after 30 minutes, still no more goats.  We decided to go back to the car and eat.
At least we both had a good view to enjoy for our PB&J lunch.  After lunch we tired again, leaving Skruffy and Bubba in the car...but still no goats.  The many people who came and went while we ate did not seem to see any goats either.  Below is AN EXAMPLE of what Marcia saw, AGAIN, THIS IS NOT OUR PICTURE, IT IS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.

On the way to, and on the way back from Goat Lick, we did see some nice things along the way.  Just before Goat Lick is the town of Essex, Montana. 

The Essex Hotel is above...in pretty good shape for its age of around 70 years old.
 And these two train pieces are proudly displayed right by the Hotel, and we saw another caboose in the community which looked like it was being used as a house!

The Flathead River, along with various streams entering into it, pretty much run along side the road.  We did see many rafters enjoying the sunny, warm day of 82 degrees with around 30 percent humidity.  Oh, how I miss the heat and humidity of the south....NOT!  (As I write this at just past 10 pm mountain time, it is hotter in my old hometown in Arkansas right now than it was where I am in the heat of the day....and the humidity there is near 80 percent, it is in the mid-60's with just over 40 percent humidity right now where I am....yea, I hear you all saying "rub it in Dave!")  Here are a few pictures of our 35 mile each way drive.

On our way back, I decided that I wanted to drive the extra 5 miles or so into the park to get a picture which we missed on Sunday due to the huge crowds near the visitor's center.  I wanted to get a good picture of Lake McDonald and the mountains in the distance.

This time I thought I would include the names of the mountains...there are some distance mountains which are hard to see which have names too...but this will do.  We then went back to the motor home for awhile.

For dinner we decided to go to the Huckleberry Patch.  Neither of us have tried Huckleberries yet, and we figured we could catch a light meal, and share a piece of the pie.

The Huckleberry is the state fruit of Montana, and the bears thrive on them.  They grow wild in the mountains, especially in the wilderness areas where the bears use them as a staple in their diet.  For humans, the Huckleberries are picked out in the wild, although there are farms which have patches of Huckleberries....but even these are for the most part wild.  Research shows that it takes nearly 15 years from the planting of a Huckleberry plant before one can get a good harvest off of it.  They look like Blueberries, although some are more reddish in color, and they taste different than a Blueberry.

At the  Huckleberry Patch and Alpine Grill I ordered the Buffalo Burger, and Marcia had the BBQ sandwich.  They were both good.  We did share a nice big slice of Huckleberry Pie, with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream, and it was good.  Sweeter than Blueberries, and tarter than Blueberries too.  A different taste than Blueberries, and to me, as good as Blueberries.

After dinner I decided that we should try some dusk big game hunting...with the camera of course.  So we went down West Side Reservoir Road from Highway 2.  Quickly we came upon Lion Lake, and that was a must get picture.
We continued down the road and soon came to Hungry Horse Dam, where I quickly took this picture as we crossed over the dam.
 By the looks of the map below, the lake is nearly 50 miles long.  We could have gone all the way around it, but I did not want to be back in this area at night.  Thank goodness that it is still dusk at 9:30, and we got home while it was still dusk.

 Above is a picture of the dam that we just crossed.  Below is the results of a fire which looks like it took place around 10 years ago based on the undergrowth.

 A few times we saw nests up in the dead trees.  Although it is hard to see in the picture, the bird is just to the right of the nest and down a bit two trees over.  We could not tell what type of bird it was, but there are Osprey and Bald Eagles in the area, but we did not see any white on either of the two birds we saw near nests.
 The sun was just right on the mountains to the east of the lake.
 And nearly the exact time that I had told Marcia that we would turn around, there was a deer.  The one and only deer we saw all night....she was a beauty.
Tomorrow we plan to get up early and head through Glacier again hoping to see some wildlife along the way, and beat the traffic and crowds.  On the other side we will go north and re-enter the park and head to the "Many Glacier" area.  We don't have our passport cards yet...one of the things we did not get done before Marcia had her hip surgery....so Canada will have to wait until our next visit.  And I am sure there will be a next visit sometime in the future.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Glacier National Park - Going to the Sun Road

Today the plan was to go from the west entrance to the east entrance along the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, and that is what we did.  It is hard to find the words for that which we saw.  Even though they are working along the road near the summit just before Logan's Pass, the wait that we experienced was totally forgotten due to the views we had, the pictures we were able to take because there was not any pullouts there, so as we stopped, we could snap our lives away, and for the people we ran into, including the former provost of the University of Pacific, which is located in Stockton California, about 30 miles south of my native hometown of Sacramento.

Since words cannot tell the story, I will let the pictures we took tell it...with little commentary.

 You can't go far down the road before you start seeing the mountains...

And Lake McDonald runs along the first portion of the trip along the left side (remember, we are heading eastwardly)

 ...and McDonald Creek takes over when the Lake disappears.
 Yes, every mountain peak has a name...but I am not going to even try to identify them...
 ...we just enjoyed the view, and enjoyed the view, and enjoyed the view.

There was a tunnel or two, and many pullouts, however some pullouts were being worked on due to the road construction.

 At times the road got narrow...real narrow in a few places
 ..and many little waterfalls and streams ran under, and at times over, the road.

 But those views just kept coming...

 We saw many waterfalls, and many little streams....
 ...and like I said, some of them were up close and personal with the road and the cars.

 And did I mention how....
 ....the views just kept coming and coming?
 We did hit the major construction area which had us stop twice for perhaps up to 20 minutes.

 But we did not have to worry about oncoming traffic once we did start going....

 ....and the views just kept coming and coming and.....
We finally made it to Logan's Pass, where there was a rest area, a large crowd, and thank goodness, an ada parking place right at the bathrooms.....and just 1/4 mile further down the road, we found our place to eat.
But we had to deal with the views again as we ate from our car...
 ...we even have a make-shift table to make our PB&J sandwiches on...
 ....and we had to deal with our own little crowd in the back, one of whom (Skruffy, of course) has to try and stick her nose into it to try and get a free snack.
And, of course, there is that view again.....the one out the front (above) and the one out the back (below).
Now the summit is about 2/3rds of the way from the west entrance to the east entrance.  So we still had some more of those views to put up with....
And those views....hey, wait a minute, who invited Skruffy in on the action?  Well, like we have done before, the little girl has to get in on the action now and then....
 But those views....
 ....they did not stop.

 And as we got close to the east entrance, we came upon Saint Mary Lake.
The bad part now...we had to turn around and see it all going the other way!  (tears, tears, cry, cry, cry!)

This time the parking lot was not as busy at Logan's Pass, so I decided to try and see if I could find some of the famed Mountain Goats that are around the pass.
 "Where are the Goats?" I asked..."Take that pathway to that mountain, you are bound to see them...
A very young girl assures me, as I walk along, that she saw 6 goats with her mom..."just go to the snowy area", she says.   But I am over half way to the mountain, alone because there is no way the GoGo could go up the many stairs, and I ask someone else.  "Have you seen the goats?"  "No," she says, "although this little girl said that her and her mom...."   Well, you don't need to go any further...and I definitely wasn't going any further...I sat and rested and got the above and below shot.   
Just as I was getting ready to go, I see a ranger walk by, he stops and looks behind me.  I turn, and what do I see?  Not a goat, not a deer, not an elk, not a bear....but it was a Marmot.  The ranger tells someone, "Yep, that little guy comes out 3-4 time each day...."  The arrow, in the picture below, shows the "big game" picture of the day....
Another thing I heard was that a Grizzly Bear was on the loose about 2 miles further.  They had closed the pathway about a mile away due to "hazardous conditions".  Yep, I guess a Grizzly makes it a hazardous condition.

Needless to say, we really enjoyed our drive....the scenery is fantastic, and we plan to drive it again later in the week, but leaving much early...perhaps around 6 am.

I do want to leave you with three panoramic picture views that I spliced together....

And if you think we enjoyed the day.....well, Bubba below says it all....
 FINALLY!  They let me out of that small car and I am back on grass again!