Friday, September 16, 2016

Glacier National Park

The FSSP Camera Club train travelers.

Well, we made it to Glacier National Park and we all lived to talk about it, even John Plut. There were three people not pictured because they chose to drive out, Christa Rittberg and Mary & Dan Dreher.  I think many of us were envying them by the time we arrived at East Glacier.  But there is the option of 21 hours of being on a train or 2-3 days of driving.

The train heads west from St. Paul at 10:20pm.  Even though we had been up all day most of us were unable to fall asleep except for Mary McKay.  I need to find out her secret.  The ride was usually smooth and I was surprised by how quiet our car was but, alas, little sleep for me.  When the sun finally came up we were in the North Dakota prairie.  I thought the prairie with the morning light quite beautiful.  Couldn't help but hum about the "amber waves of grain".
Amber waves of grain

By the time we arrived at East Glacier most of us were operating on 36 hours of very little sleep and were wishing we still had the energy of a 21 year old again.  As you can see some of us had a hard time keeping your heads up.

Charisse and Arthur trying to stay awake.

One good thing about the lack of sleep is that most of us got a excellent rest the first night we were there.  The next day some of us took the Red Bus tour while the others did a self-driving tour.

The first day most of the group were taking the Red Bus tour.  Ruth, Leon, Arthur, Mary, Doug and I were on bus 104.  I almost wasn't on it, so I have to give a big shout out and THANK YOU to Ruth Kosek.  I got in the bus and the seat are benches with doors on only on side of the bus. I immediately felt my chest tighten and started to push Ruth out because I couldn't stay in the confining area for another minute let alone an entire day.  Ruth went and asked the driver if I could have the empty seat in the front with the driver and he said yes. So, thank you again Ruth.  I would have missed one of my favorite days ever if you hadn't thought to ask. 

Ben - the driver of 104

I also want to thank Ben (if you liked the tour) /Jake (if you didn't like it).  I can only refer to him as Ben.  He's a brave man to drive The Road To The Sun everyday with a bus load of people. He told us that he very rarely encountered a bear on his ride but we would know when one was around.  BEAR JAM!
Bear Jam

So we got lucky.  We arrived towards the end of the sighting.  I couldn't believe how many people got out the their cars.  They must of all thought they could run faster than at least one other person. We could 'bearly' see it but we did so we could say we saw one.  All of a sudden people started running for their cars and no, the bear was not coming towards them, the ranger was.  When I saw the jam I thought we would be there for an hour but it cleared out very fast once they were told to leave.

Bovine - letting us now who is the boss on this road!

The park's eastern border is with the Blackfeet Nation reservation.  They have an open range policy so there are bovine wandering on the road.  They were more of a driving danger than bear, deer etc. This is an issue even among the members of the Blackfeet tribe.  Many feel they should not be allowed to traverse the roads.  

The next day Leon, Ruth, Doug and I rented a van.  When we went to pick it up they wanted to know if we wanted a $30,000 Caravan or $60,000 Ford Expedition.  We took the Expedition.  Very nice ride.  

We decided to go to another part of the park, Many Glacier.  

Many Glacier

When we stopped to take this photo Doug and I were the first out of the car.  I see something black down near the lake shore thinking it is a bovine. It wasn't. I quietly get Doug's attention as a bear starts to look at us.  Leon is getting out of the car, walks over see's the bear and shouts "BEAR!!!!"  It stands on his hind legs, checks us out and runs away from us!  No photos but we got to see one fairly close.  Needless to say we got back in the car rather quickly.

Our first two days were beautiful weather-wise, partly sunny and near 68 degrees.  Our last day had a high in the 40's and SNOW!  We had scheduled a ride with Sun Tours which is a tour with the Native American perspective.  

Canadian border - Welcome to Blackfeet Nation

Meri was our driver and guide for the day and since it was snowing and we had already been on The Road to the Sun she gave us a very special tour.  Browning is the largest city on the reservation and near where Meri grew up.  She showed us cliffs that were used for "buffalo jumps", the site of an old BIA school that her grandparents attended and told many tales and histories of the tribe.  I was surprised at how similar the traditions are to the Dakota/Ojibwa native traditions with sun dances and sweat lodges.  Another good tour and on more comfortable coaches.

This is a panorama - the lodge wasn't as big as this makes it look.

Every evening we met in the lobby of the lodge to compare sightings, stories and photos.  The entire trip was a fun and learning experience.

The ride home was much better since we started  9:30 in the morning and more people were able to sleep.  The party was over.  At one point when a number of people were in the lounge car playing cards I was sitting by myself reading Louise Erdrich's The Plague of Doves.  As I was sitting there enjoying being alone for a while, looking at the Montana prairie, I read this passage.  

To run is to revel in a pretend freedom.  I spring along slowly, matching my breathing to my stride, passing the usual fence lines, and thinking. Running is like riding on a train after a while, a motion that allows thoughts to drop down clear from a place in your mind that surprises you.
As many of you can guess, I do not run but it is true of a peaceful hypnotizing ride on a train.