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Badlands and Beyond, Part 8, Glacier Nat’l Park/Banff

June 19, 2018 – We needed to find a place to camp for the next night, so we decided to drive to Many Glacier to see if they had an opening. The drive there was so beautiful and we were able to secure a site at this very well-maintained campground with plenty of trees for shade. Other features that make this campground supreme; a General Store was on the premises, the bathrooms were nice, and there were trails located conveniently close by.

Many Glacier Hotel
Many Glacier campground

We unhitched the trailer, moved it into our campsite, then drove to the Iceberg Lake-Ptarmigan Falls trail head. The weather was what we’d come to expect… overcast and drizzly. When your travels revolve around hiking and exploring the back-country, you cannot let a little moisture in the air tame the adventurous spirit!

Dressing for whatever inclement weather lay ahead, we set off down the trail that would take us 10 miles round trip, through many small streams that we would carefully search for rocks to walk on, and ultimately lead to Iceberg Lake. The trail was a pleasant one with no steep inclines, and my waterproof Teva Ahnu hiking boots kept my feet properly protected while fording the icy cold mountain streams.

As we walked further along the trail, the weather cleared up and became partly sunny. The snow melt was in full progress which made the waterfalls along the way spectacular! The spring wildflowers were vibrantly colored, slowly dancing in the soft breeze. Views from the trail were splendid as we traveled along the side of a mountain, looking down into a lush, green valley.

Bear grass blooming

We saw quite a few marmots and ground squirrels along the trail. Some fellow hikers had spotted a female moose down in the valley and with our Nikon binoculars we were able to watch her graze, cross a river, then lie down for a nap.

As we were walking, we came upon a young couple who had just seen what they identified as a grizzly cub, running down the side of the mountain, cross the trail and disappear into the brush below us. We had a few tense moments as we watched and listened for mom grizzly, but never saw or heard anything, thankfully!!

Iceberg Lake was a stunning scene to behold, cradled between two mountains, curving together and forming a half-bowl. The lake was partially frozen over.

Mountain goats played around just above us as we sat on the scree and enjoyed our trail snacks. Marmots popped their heads up from the rocks and watched our every move. I could’ve sat there forever and taken in that glorious view! The crisp, clean mountain air was so invigorating and energizing, but after several hours of hiking, taking pictures, talking with fellow hikers who were just as enamored with the pristine beauty as we were, we had to turn around and follow the Ptarmigan Trail back to its beginning.

June 20, 2018- Sadly, this was our last day in Glacier. Feeling a little melancholy, but looking forward to the next leg of our journey, we assembled our breakfast of eggs and bacon, orange juice and coffee, on the picnic table within our campsite. Just after sitting down to enjoy our protein-packed meal, sirens erupted in the campground! From a bullhorn mounted atop a park service SUV, we heard the warning, “A bear has been sited in the campground! Do not approach! Clear your area of any food and put coolers inside vehicles!”

Phil and I looked at each other in shocked disbelief for just a moment, then our adrenaline kicked in as we scrambled to get our bear spray and put the food and breakfast dishes away. We heard loud gun shots coming from the other end of the campground and found out a bit later that the rangers were firing “cracker shots”… blanks meant to scare off the bear. The ranger we spoke to told us that after a bear gets an easy meal from within the campground, it will come back year after year and becomes a nuisance and a threat. This was a black bear that may have to be trapped (or worse) and taken to a destination far away from people. Thus, the importance of keeping food and any “smellables” locked away from nosy bears was driven home, for their safety and ours.

Leaving the Many Glacier campground, we stopped to take pictures of the lakes with their reflections of grandeur. Words just cannot describe the majestic beauty of that country! As we motored along the mountain road, a pair of black bears, one cinnamon-colored, was walking just off into the grassy hillside. Then, a few miles further, another cinnamon-colored black bear was walking alone, searching for delectable greens. We watched a bald eagle with sharp talons lowered for the catch, dive down into a lake, but emerged with empty claws. The beauty and wildness of Glacier made us wonder how it could get any better.

Leaving Many Glacier

The long drive to Banff, Canada was made even longer by our out-dated map and limited GPS signal which made it difficult to navigate the unfamiliar highways. We got hopelessly lost in Calgary. I had always thought of Calgary as a small, poke town filled with saloons and stetson- wearing cowboys, but as we soon found out, Calgary is close to the size of Dallas, Texas! To make a long story short, we saw the entire downtown metropolis, each and every ethnic hub of this busy urban center which was surprisingly clean and well-maintained.

City of Calgary (picture borrowed from Pinterest)

Finally, after leaving the “scenic tour” route of bustling, rush-hour traffic, we made our escape and it wasn’t long before we could catch a glimpse of the Canadian Rockies in the distance. As we passed through the town of Banff, we were reminded of the touristy, yet attractive town of Jackson Hole, WY. Very yuppie-like at first glance, but they do have an upscale McDonald’s on the main drag through town. 🙂

The mountains that surround Banff are rugged and majestic, much like the mountains in Glacier but in a class all their own. Our campsite at Johnston Campground was not too far outside of Banff and we were extremely happy with our very large site (#125) which was near the restrooms and a public lodge with kitchen facilities and fireplace.

Banff, Canada

The Canadian’s offer firewood, as much as you want, for $8.80 per day. The stack of nicely split, seasoned wood was conveniently set near our campsite and we had a campfire every night. With the mosquitoes being as big as sparrows, we were thankful for the smoky fires and also for our screened-in room that we placed over the picnic table. The only downside of the campground was that a train ran parallel to it and would pass by every few hours. Luckily, I had read about the train in the reviews of Johnston Campground and had reserved a site that was as far from the tracks as possible.

We were only in our campsite first thing for breakfast and then again for a late dinner followed by “lights out” in the van, so the trains really didn’t have a detrimental affect on our camping experience.

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Join us next week for… hiking in the Canadian Rockies. Lake Louise and our hike to the tea house at the base of a glacier where avalanches were actively breaking loose and crashing below!

Thank you for taking time to read our blog. 😀


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