I’ve been a bit delayed in finishing this part of our holiday write-up, so my apologies.
The following morning, we set off north again heading for Essex, MT. It was a pleasant drive and we meandered our way north, stopping at various interesting places and small towns. I love small town North America and it is even better in the west. The weather was good, with a deep blue sky and not a cloud to be seen. It was hot too. Our destination was the small town of Essex, which was where we would be staying for the next few days. There is nothing much in Essex except the hotel, a few houses, lots of trees and a rail-yard – perfect!
The Issac Walton Inn was originally built by the Great Northern Railway as a hotel for people arriving at Glacier National Park. It was meant to be a grand entrance for the soon to be built southern entrance to the park. Sadly, the war came along and the southern entrance was never built, but the hotel is still a lovely place to stay, overlooking the railroad, with sitting on the porch watching the trains go by being a favorite pass time. They also have a collection of cabooses that have been turned into hotel rooms and we were able to stay in some.
After a good nights rest, we set off for Glacier Park.
The first day we went horseback riding up in the mountains. It was spectacular and a great way to see the scenery. I didn’t get many pictures (not safe to ride and photograph at the same time, but here Diane and I are with our horses for the day, Firestone and Pepper. For Mrs Mud’s information, these are Belgian Half Draft crosses, big sturdy, hardy horses with a very gentle temperament.
It turned quite cold whilst we were out and so we stopped in at the lake MacDonald Lodge for a hot tea afterwards. After heading home, it was early to bed as the cold and altitude had made us extremely sleepy.
Driving home, we saw the most beautiful sunsets over the mountains. As we drove, we passed through several small towns and Native American reservations. This is a real eye opener, as the poverty is abject. There is a real disconnect as you have this magnificent scenery, wide open ranges and tourist areas located hard up against areas of dreadful poverty and substance living. We were quite quiet on the way home contemplating how this can be in this day and age. It does make one think.
The following day we drove over the continental divide on the “Going to the Sun Road”.
This is a steep mountainous road and crosses Lolo Pass at about 7200 feet altitude. At the pass we went hiking up to Hidden Lake, and passing a herd of mountain goats on the way, and some hairy marmots, which are like large gophers about 20 inches long. The goats were wary of us, but the marmots couldn’t have cared less and waddled right up to us. The weather did the typical mountain thing, varying between rain, bright sunshine and snow / sleet, all in the course of an hour. It was a pleasant walk, but I was feeling the altitude a little, the higher we went.
Cold, but happy, we headed back to the car and descended the other side of the pass. This was real mountain roading and fortunately I have driven in the mountains before, so know how to do it. However, even I found it steep and twisty and it was plainly obvious that many others hadn’t a clue about how to descend long steep hills. There was a pungent smell of hot brake hanging about the road from other cars riding their brakes. The better way is to lock the transmission into low gear (most North American cars are automatics) to restrict the speed and just use the brakes occasionally to adjust speed when necessary. It is also a good idea to pull off occasionally to allow brakes and transmissions to cool. (Pulling off also has the added advantage in that you can lose the idiots who think it is fun to ride my tail all the way down). Unfortunately, as I was driving, we have no photo’s of this part of the trip. Note to those who are thinking of doing this trip – it is better to go east to west, as that way you are mainly against the mountainside and not the edge of the abyss! And no, in many parts, there is NO safety barrier…
After a gentle ride home, it was early to bed again.
The final day was a gentle hike to Avalanche Lake. This time we started from the west side and headed to the trail head. On the way we saw a couple of young moose playing in the river.
Moose are the biggest deer in North America and have a reputation for being dangerous. But really, that is only because they have extremely poor eyesight and will run at the first sight of danger. being so big and basically blind, they tend to run through things rather than around them. But it has been show that it is perfectly possible to tame them and train them to work.
The hike to Avalanche lake took about 2 hrs each way, through the trees. There was plenty of wildlife around, but my camera had flat batteries. However, the destination was spectacular and Diane managed to get this panorama with her phone.
At the far end, we could see the waterfall, which was the outflow from Hidden Lake, which had been our destination of the previous day.
Tired and contented, we made our way back to the car and headed for the hotel. As it was our last night, we had dinner in the hotel and very nice it was too. A nice steak, and a great desert, whilst watching the trains go by. Being off season, it was very quiet and we had the place to ourselves.
The following morning, it was an early start and a long drive (500+ miles) back to Bozeman for the flight home. No pictures but I did spot two series land rovers (both 88’s). Sad to leave, but we know that we will return here again. It is very different from the Yellowstone which we are familiar with and well worth the visit.