Reflections on a first trip to Montana

How any travel-loving U.S. citizen gets to be as old as the Rockies without visiting Montana is a mystery in itself, but I recently found myself exploring the wilds of Glacier National Park for the very first time. While there were a few bumps along the way, the overall experience was an exciting and eye-opening adventure.

Be forewarned, Glacier is one of those places that is tough to get to—seemingly no matter where you start from—but this remoteness is also what provides the park with its unspoiled setting and ‘away-from-it-all’ feel. TVs, computers and even cell-phone reception don’t even seem to exist yet in these parts, so if you’re planning on a working vacation via your laptop or iPad you might want to think again.

A quick anecdote illustrates just how removed my group’s lodging (Many Glacier Lodge) turned out to be from the rest of America. Upon arriving at the park’s western entrance, we were all excited to be nearing our destination after a 10-hour drive from Seattle. “How far to the Many Glacier Lodge?” one of us asked a ranger anxiously upon park entry.

“Hmmm,” he thoughtfully responded. “From here it’s about, well, three hours probably. But you’ll enjoy it, it’s a lovely drive.”

Frankly, it would have been lovelier without the 10-hour drive that preceded it, but even so he was right. By the time we arrived at the famous old lodge, I’d seen a mountain goat and a grizzly bear in the wild, brand-new experiences. Not to mention spotting countless wildflowers, waterfalls and towering peaks still covered in snow from the previous winter. If there were a world record for ‘photo-ops’ per mile, Glacier very well might hold the title.

Other highlights during the visit were simply the lodge itself, a classic Western style edifice nestled against a mountainside lake; a one-man multi-media/musical presentation on Lewis & Clark that was absolutely stirring, presented on the lower floor of the lodge; and a fun and funky restaurant known as Two Sisters (near Babb) that served us our best (and most affordable meals) of the trip.

Spotting a massive bull moose on the last full day of the visit was another great moment, and standing within 20 feet of one of these creatures it really hits you just how large and potentially menacing they are…especially when compared to my only previous encounters with the species— watching ‘Bullwinkle’ cartoons as a young child!

Oh, and one last recommendation to anyone making the journey is to make sure and take the boat jaunt offered at Many Glacier Lodge. These short outings provide a different vista of the surroundings, with some compelling info on glaciers, wildlife and local history provided by your captain.

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