Early Sunday morning, we packed up camp in the Tetons and headed north with our first venue being Yellowstone. Last time we were here was last September and the cold temps and snow limited our viewing abilities, and pretty much rendered our viewing of the famous Old Faithful to a bunch of steam. This time the weather was much better, so we hung around Yellowstone long enough to catch an eruption and snap some wildlife pics.
After working our way through Yellowstone, we headed north through Montana. The closer we got to Glacier, the worse the smoke in the sky became. The wild fires were burning all over Montana, but namely south and west of the park. Once we got into the park, it was evident that the smoky haze would be a big factor.
We drove Going to the Sun Road, which is the only way to get from the west side of Glacier to the east side...by car at least. The good news was that the close up objects were quite clear, and pretty amazing. I don't know what the reason is, but the water is a brilliant turquoise - teal color that is amazing.
At the top of Going to the Sun Road is the visitor center, where not only tourists, but mountain goats and big horn sheep frequent. We hung out with the locals for a bit, snapped some pics and then settled in to the campground for night 2 in our tent.
After getting back towards Lake McDonald, we were cruising the road that runs along the river when we saw a famous local. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the big black guy moving across the river, right at dusk, and immediately started yelling to Jill to pull over. We watched as the big, healthy bear snacked on some vegetation and made his way down the river bed.
So once getting back to the campsite, we had a big decision to make. Our back country plans were upside down. Upon arriving, both the trips I was considering were booked solid. I was a bit distraught, and somewhat dismayed at how many things had booked up between Friday night and now. The ranger was very aloof and not real forthcoming with any help, which is far from the normal very helpful attitude we've found in park rangers.
Just about the time I was going to give up hope and just take some other random route, we found a bit of an option albeit a hard one. We could do the trip we planned that would cover the area between Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake, but in the opposite direction as planned. Now big deal right? Well not exactly...
To to this route from east to west is 24 miles with about 4000 feet of elevation gain. To do this route in the opposite direction means 6000 feet of climbing, including a brutal 4000 foot climbing effort on Day 1. 4k of climbing with back country packs weighing between 30 and 40lbs made this a daunting option considering Day 2 would include getting up and over 2 mountain passes.
A big decision to be made, so we'll sleep on that and pick a path early the next morning....