Wednesday, 13 September 2006, Glacier NP, MT
After our rather surreal border crossing we travelled on to our official entry into the Glacier NP. The road we were driving actually crosses the corner of the park up by the border, but then it goes south on the eastern side of the park, with the first entrance to the park at Many Glacier. We stopped at a very high lookout with a great view of Chief Mountain, after which the US-Canadian border crossing is named, and while there saw our first of the red buses, which take tours around Glacier NP. At first we thought they were merely reproductions, but were later informed that they are the original vehicles, but have been totally refurbished and now run on LPG. I think they are rather cute, and they seem to be everywhere.
You take a right turn at Babb - lovely, helpful lady in the general store - and then 12 miles in the road ends, just past the campground. This particular entry (into the National Park) was a rather pleasant experience compared to the one earlier in the day, as the woman at the Park gate was super friendly and helpful.
On the way to the campground we spotted lots of cars parked near the entrance to Many Glacier Hotel, and people with binoculars. Was it more Bighorn Sheep on hillside - I didn't think so. I immediately thought bears! And sure enough, about 500 m up the slope were a black bear and her two cubs (bear sighting numbers 13, 14, and 15). I could just make them out with the naked eye, but through the binoculars was a lot better. Not exactly by the side of the road, but bear sightings nonetheless! Sorry, no photos this time.
The campground here is quite large but not overly crowded. Unfortunately the weather seems to be taking a turn for the worse, so I'm not sure how much of this place we will really get to see. Driving in we were surrounded by high, bare-faced mountains and also spotted some glaciers. A nice, clear, sunny day and it would certainly have the wow factor as well as good photos. I think we may have to settle for the wow factor and our own memories this time.
Saturday, 16 September 2006, St Mary, MT
Thursday morning we woke to a sprinkling of wet snow on the vegetation and a clear sign of powder on the surrounding mountains. It was also raining on and off. We were slow to get going because of a reluctance to first of all get out of bed and then to leave the warmth of the camper. Finally around 11.00 we were ready to leave and the truck wouldn't start. It had given us a bit of trouble a couple of times before, but did eventually start - this time it just belched large quantities of smelly grey smoke and did nothing more. We gave up and decided we would have to call the AAA.
After a half hour call standing in the rain we finally had a tow truck on the way from Cut Bank, which is about 80 miles away. His estimate was 2 hours to make the journey, which meant about 2.30. We settled into the Ranger Information Station and chatted to people and read a bit. When he finally arrived it took some time to hook up the truck and then we were on our way to Cut Bank - both Juergen and I have trouble remembering the name of this town and variations which have come out of our mouths include Cutback, Cut bush and Cutthroat!
The going was quite slow until we reached Babb as the road into Glacier is not in the best condition, and Jesse proved to be a very careful driver. On the way out of the Park we had bear sighting numbers 16 and 17 across Lake Sherburne, once again alerted by a group of people looking through binoculars. Jesse was driving so slow that I had a good look as we drove past - they were closer than the ones from Wednesday, but still a little far away to see clearly with the naked eye. I am guessing they were another black bear and cub.
The drive through the Montana countryside was more interesting than either of us had expected. It is almost exclusively open ground with very few trees to be seen. It has gently rolling hills in this part, although I understand it becomes flatter the further east one goes. The sense of open space was actually a pleasant experience after so much driving through forests. The rain finally stopped during the journey and we saw some blue sky and even a little sun! Outside the Glacier NP the road passes through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation until the outskirts of Cut Bank. There is one major town on the way called Browning.
Around Browning we finally had some cell phone reception and started to contact garages to find out where to actually take the truck. The first place, a diesel shop, adamantly does not work on pickups, only larger trucks. The Ford place, which was supposed to have two diesel mechanics, had no mechanic available until Tuesday. We tried one ordinary mechanic who was booked solid and might have some time to look at it on Sunday! By the time we had gathered this information, we were on the outskirts of Cut Bank (cell phone had dropped out for some time in between). We had called the AAA again and they had suggested some places in Shelby, 24 miles further, so we started following those up. Finally I got to speak to Ryan at Van Motors in Shelby who said we could drop the truck outside his shop (it was 5.30 by now and most places were closed or closing for the day) and he would get his mechanic to look at it first thing in the morning. We had to pay extra mileage, but finally arrived in Shelby and dropped the truck close to 6.30.
Jesse was from Cut Bank Auto Body and I must say that you couldn't ask for a more helpful or considerate tow truck driver. Nothing in the camper was disturbed after being towed over 100 miles, part of it on very bumpy roads. He made a lot of the calls to find a mechanic for us. He was very friendly and an interesting travelling companion for the journey. And he even dropped us at a motel once the truck was unhooked.
Continuation on > Page 2 > !