Saturday, October 15, 2016

Glacier National Park, Part Two

In Glacier National Park, Part One--click here to read that post--I showed you the "Many Glacier" section of the park, located on the north eastern end, and not connected to the rest of the park by the "Going-to-the-Sun Road."  We had overcast stormy weather that first day of our visit, but when we started out for the park early on our second day, a short drive from the Belton Chalet located in West Glacier, Montana, we happily had beautiful weather!

When we entered Glacier National Park from the western entrance we were immediately greeted by a dense forest on each side of the road.

Whenever we visit a national park, we make it a point to visit one of the visitors centers to gather information.  We were surprised when a ranger in the Apgar Visitor Center told us in conversation when she found out we were visiting from Denver that she considered the Trail Ridge Road, in Rocky Mountain Park, one of the most stupendous and dangerous drives she ever did in a national park. That increased our confidence that we would be able to drive the Going To the Sun Road in Glacier without any worry or difficulty.

If you click on the photo above to enlarge it, you can see a map of Glacier National Park, and the area where the Going-to-the-Sun Road travels.

We passed the beginnings of Lake McDonald. Lake McDonald is the direct result of glacial carving. At ten miles long and nearly 500 feet deep and is the largest lake in the park.

We stopped for a visit to the beautiful and rustic Lake McDonald Lodge.  Notice one of the iconic red buses that offer narrated tours of the park if you do not wish to drive. There is a fleet of 33 vintage buses dating back to 1930, considered to be the oldest touring fleet of vehicles anywhere in the world!

There was much to look at and admire in the Lake McDonald Lodge.  Constructed in 1913-14, the lodge is the largest lodging facility on the lake and was built to resemble a rustic hunting lodge with Swiss influenced architecture.

When you pass through the lodge to the rear exit you see McDonald Creek that runs beside it...

....that empties into Lake McDonald.

It was serene and peaceful in the early morning hour we visited.

There were colorful rocks and pebbles along Lake McDonald shore.

 Soon a lone fisher woman came to try her luck at catching trout. 

Back on the road, we were again surrounded by the deep coniferous forest.

When we saw a parking area for the Trail of the Cedars trail we stopped so that we could enjoy these magnificent trees!  If you click on the collage above to enlarge it, you can read that many of these trees are hundreds of years old and see the trail map. This trail is a flat easy one mile trail that most people can navigate with ease and is wheelchair accessible.

I love forests, and was excited to begin our walk here.

Immediately I could see the forest floor was green and lush with ferns....

....and mosses.

As my husband and I walked along the trail we stopped often to admire the many unusual and mysterious looking features in this ancient forest.

Moss, lichens, burls, ferns, berries, and plants around every corner!

The Lake McDonald Valley is situated on the eastern edge of the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest, and so it marks the extreme eastern limits for western hemlocks and red cedars. The trees can grow to one hundred feet in height and many are over 500 years old!

There was a crystal clear waterfall at Avalanche Gorge along the trail.

My husband climbed up to the top area of the falls to take this photo.

All along the trail were placards describing the different varieties of tress that were in the forest. Please click on each photo to enlarge them to read the descriptions.

There were quite a few downed trees in some areas, as the result of severe winter storms.

The Avalanche Lake Trail head can be accessed in this area but regretfully we decided we would take this trail on another day, as we were anxious to return to our drive through the park. Each time we tried to find parking at the Trail of the Cedar Parking lot on the days of our visits afterward, we could not find one parking spot so we never did return to this trail. Glacier national park broke records this summer for the number of people visiting it, so parking in many areas along Going-to-the-Sun Road was more difficult to find.

We continued on the Trail of Cedars as it lead off the boardwalk and onto a dirt trail...

...and eventually back to the road and parking lot.

We could see glimpses of glaciers on mountain tops in the distance and were excited to get back in our car to drive towards them....

...and more amazing scenery!

Come back next post and I'll continue our drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in part three of Glacier National Park!

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