Sunday, September 6, 2009

Glacier National Park Adventure; Day 2

Where do we start? Glacier is possibly the most awesome mountain scenery that we have ever seen. We can’t wait to come back, maybe in the late spring while there is still some snow around in places. The weather wasn’t perfect -cloudy, overcast and drippy at times, but that didn’t hamper us from enjoying our day. The photographs do not even begin to describe the beauty that we experienced. It MUST be seen IN PERSON! We would recommend putting it on your “bucket list”.

We entered the park from West Glacier and traveled around Lake McDonald. There are so many lakes in this park, but the 2 largest lakes are truly huge (which is hard for Tonya to admit, you know being from Texas and all). Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park. It is approximately 10 miles long, over a mile wide and 472 feet deep.

After leaving Lake McDonald we continued our adventure up “Going to the Sun Road”, which is very appropriately named. This scenic drive is the gem of the park (in our opinion). Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only road through the park. It was completed in 1932 going over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. A fleet of 1930s red tour buses "jammers", were rebuilt in 2001 to run on propane, offer tours on the road. We found it surprising that up to 80 feet of snow can accumulate on top of Logan Pass in the winter. It is quite narrow and winding especially west of Logan Pass. Prior to the construction of this road, it would take the earliest visitors 3-4 days to cross the park.

After winding our way over Logan Pass we headed eastbound toward St. Mary Lake. This lake is the second largest lake in Glacier and is located on the east side of the park. The Going-to-the-Sun road parallels the lake along it's north shore. Here, the great plains end and the Rocky Mountains begin in an

abrupt 5,000 ft. altitude change with Little Chief Mountain above the west end of the lake. It has a surface area of 3,923 acres, is 9.9 miles long & almost 300 ft. deep. During the winter, the lake often is frozen completely over with ice up to four feet thick.

It was a great day, one to behold and definitely on our “gotta do again” list.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Glacier National Park Adventure, Day 1

We began our adventure last night leaving as soon as Bill was able to get home and change. Tonya had the truck pretty much packed and ready to go, but she still needed his help to finish things up. We pulled out of the drive about 5:30. We knew that we wanted to get as far as Spokane on Friday so we had fixed ourselves a sack lunch so we could eat in the truck as we drove. We made it to Spokane just as planned.

Knowing we had several “points of interest” stops planned for today we opted for a “grab and go” selection. After weighing our options we chose the 5 star restaurants that sit under those golden arches.

While driving thru Idaho (which takes about all of an hour) we stopped at some odd, some sad and some interesting places along the way… after all isn’t’ that the best part of a road trip? The areas around Kellogg and Wallace there were several places where we were able to stop and investigate! The Sunshine Mine Memorial is one of those things that just make you pause and think just how precious life is and how quick everything can change. The May 2, 1972 Sunshine Mine disaster was the worst mining disaster in current history. A fire began carbon monoxide, heat smoke & gas swept through the mine. 83 miners were successfully evacuated while 91 died. This memorial to those miners is a 12 ft tall statue of a miner raising his drill. It is surrounded by plaques listing the names of the miners involved in the accident. Standing there and reading their names one could not help but wonder if they had suffered, what the impact was on their families and knowing that everyone in this small town was touched in some way and life for the most part will never be the same for them.

The town of Wallace, Idaho is like an official icon for small town America. Wallace is known for the fact that every downtown building is on the National Register of Historic Places and has long been famous as the "Silver Capital of the World". While we were there we also learned that it has a very low crime rate; due mainly to the fact that very little was illegal. While there we toured the Oasis Bordello Museum (yes that is correct, we took our Mother to a whore house!). The Museum is housed in a former brothel which was still in business as recently as 1988. The final ladies left in a hurry, leaving the upper rooms with their possessions as though they were going to come back.

Rumor has it that the FBI was coming to town so left with the intent of coming back, but for some reason they never did. A local resident bought the building in 1993, opening the doors once again as a reminder of Wallace's gaudy past. This was a fun and educational stop.

Our next stop was called Elmer’s fountain. We had noticed this fountain when we came thru here a few weeks ago. It’s very noticeable from I-90. At that time Bill offered to turn around but Tonya told him we’d catch it next time. This is really one of those “weird” roadside attractions that used to be so popular along Route 66 back in the 1960’s. The fountain is made from old mining machinery parts and fed from a lake that is above in the mountains. It looks like at one time there were several of the fountains however only one remains today. It was interesting, it was quirky. Something to see for those that enjoy (us) these type of roadside attractions!

We made our way into Montana (remember, the drive across the panhandle of Idaho takes only about an hour!) driving thru some beautiful mountain country. We realized that we really enjoy this state… hmmm wonder if there is an eBay listing out there for a small vacation place???

As we drove the mountain roads we went past Flathead Lake. WHOA! This lake is huge and just gorgeous! The lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River and is 28 miles long and up to 15 miles wide.

We made it to Kalispell this afternoon. It has been a good day…. We love road trips and haven’t been able to take many lately. We are enjoying ourselves and look forward to tomorrow, Glacier National Park.