By 8:30 the next morning we had grabbed cups of coffee and muffins, sandwich meat and buns, and were all four headed north towards the entrance to Glacier National Park.
It was the third week in June and locals had already told us on a couple of occasions that typically Glacier was not open for another a week or two.
Even after all this time living in the west, I am still not used to how brutal winter can be in mountain regions and just how short summers can be.
When we lived in Wyoming I was shocked that Yellowstone still was not open on Memorial Day weekend.
My years of experience in Tennessee told me that the world was deeply embedded in summer by Memorial Day.
I am still not used to summer arriving so late here............
Choteau was 80 miles or so from the entrance to Glacier.
If we had done enough research we would have known that ahead of time.
But we didn't.
If we had done enough research we would have known that the first gate we reached would take us only a short way before it dead-ended and that we would have to turn around, drive further north, and enter through a different gate.
But we didn't.
Regardless, we reached the first entrance to Glacier National Park and stopped briefly at a sign, so that we could record the event.
By mid morning it was very sunny and warm but not hot.
It was a beautiful day for a blitz through some of the park on this all too brief visit..................
Driving just a few miles beyond the sign, we pulled into a huge paved parking area and climbed out of the truck excited at the prospect of being where we all now were.
LC, Chris and Kory wandered towards a trail entrance while I stood for a moment looking out over the mountains.
God it was beautiful here, and I smiled when I saw small patches of snow still laying in the crevices of the mountains.
Yes.............we lived in the west alright................
Walking down the winding and paved trail only a short way, we quickly came to a creek, and I turned to watch Kory happily wade out into the water.
We had no particular agenda to meet, and no real expectations for this trip, other to see whatever we would see in too short of a visit.
Chris had to go back to Calgary the next morning..................
I told the guys that I hoped we would see a grizzly bear and mentioned that I had never seen mountain goats before, and how cool would it be to see some goats on this trip??
Chris smiled at me and then with a straight face told me that he hoped we would run into a rabbit with one white ear chasing a field mouse through the grass.
I smiled at him and the randomness of his hoped-for-sighting. He smiled back at me.
He had a dry sense of humor like his mother did...............
How many winding trails bordered by lush vegetation had I walked in Juneau, that looked exactly like this one?
More than I could count.....................
45 minutes after we passed by the GNP sign we reached a dead-end.
Surprised that the lake was the end of the road we climbed out of the Tahoe and wandered down to the lake.
Automatically squatting down to feel the water I realized that it was absolutely freezing.
Standing up again I looked out beyond the icy cold water.
We were surrounded by mountains.
Surprisingly there were no other people at this place. At this time of year I had assumed that the park would be packed with wall to wall tourists, just as Yellowstone would be, but that was not the case.
I wandered briefly enjoying the silence, and then turned to watch my son do exactly the same thing that I had just done.
He had already reached for a hat to protect his shaved head.
It was no longer warm.
In fact, it was cold.
No matter. I was with LC. I was with Chris. I was with my goofy dog with the unfortunate ears. We were all together in a very beautiful and silent place and it was all good..................
After wandering the area for a few minutes, after enjoying the scenery and easily chatting about nothing-in-particular, we found a huge sign posted, that provided information about the park and (most importantly) a map.
We really WERE done here. And we really WOULD have to drive another 30 minutes to reach the main gate of the park.
Vaguely disappointed, we realized that we had no choice but to drive further.
We had not come this far not to see the park................
Views from overlooks as we got closer to the entrance to the park.
At one point we found this place, and I was immediately in love.
Would anybody notice if we built a tiny little cabin right at the edge of the lake and at the base of the mountain?
Just one tiny little, one room cabin??................
A brief stop for gas and drinks just before heading back into the park..................
There were multiple overlooks scattered throughout the slow, winding, narrow, (barely) two lane road, but this early in the season most of them was closed off and not accessible to the public.Perhaps one out of every 10 overlooks was open, and we stopped at each one along the way..............
As we rounded one bend we realized that traffic had suddenly slowed down to a crawl, and that up ahead of us there were multiple vehicles pulled haphazardly over to the side of the road.
Instantly we knew what that meant.
There was an animal sighting in the area.
As LC slowed the vehicle down, Chris and I scanned the terrain to our right, wondering what all the excitement was about.
And then I saw him.
The grizzly bear was a long way off and slowly waddling through the tall grass.
Rushing to dig out my camera I at the same time watched the bear, acutely aware of the fact that this beautiful guy was going to disappear at any moment.
The picture below is the only picture I got of the bear.
You will have to click on the picture to enlarge it, and then all you will really see is a small brown spot in the grass (center right) between the bushes in the foreground and the start of the tree line in the background.
Hardly a National Geographic quality photo and I hoped that he would reappear in the tall grass so that I could take more pictures, but he never did.
I managed to see him for only a few seconds before he disappeared into the terrain for good...............
A few minutes after the bear sighting we came across an overlook that was surprisingly filled with people.
Pulling off the road and squeezing into a tight parking spot, we again climbed out of the Tahoe.
I smiled as I reached for Kory.
She was bright eyed and excited, and had no idea where we were or what we were doing, but somehow she knew that this whole experience was incredibly cool.
She was having as good a time as her humans were.
As I climbed out of the truck I looked across the road, in awe of the giant rock (above) that towered above the tree line and that silently reached for the sky.
And then I turned towards the overlook and saw this..............