There’s no smoke without wildfire

Katie:

As Al Dente is too full-figured to make it past the east entrance of Glacier National Park, we go for the west entrance, as it’s in the direction we need to be heading anyway. We manage to get into a campsite, and have the additional bonus of being able to leave the camper behind and take advantage of the free shuttle service, which runs all over the park.

As we’re waiting for the arrival of the first shuttle, we get chatting to an older couple. They have been coming to Glacier for the past two decades or so, and delightedly tell us that they are still discovering new areas and trails that they haven’t seen before. We say that we’ve just arrived here from Yellowstone and are looking forward to seeing how they differ. The woman talks about how, when she was younger and her family visited Yellowstone, everyone used to feed the bears. Instead of bison blocking the traffic on the roads, it would be bears. She recalls that on one occasion, a bear reared up against the passenger side window, and the claw marks were embedded there for evermore. The bear was looking for food, and she laughs as she tells of how her mother threw a tiny cracker out of the window for it. The bear watched it fly past its head with disdain, whilst her father yelled “Don’t start being stingy with food now, woman! Throw the whole damn box at it!”

Much as this lady loves Yellowstone, for her and her husband, Glacier is the ultimate, and I have to say I agree. I had been dubious, because the wildlife was so fantastic at Yellowstone, how could it possibly be surpassed. However, one shuttle bus ride along the famous Going-to-the-sun road, and I’m convinced. It is absolutely stunning. We twist and turn along the narrow road, higher and higher into the mountains, and look down to see waterfalls and meadows spreading out below us. Looking up, there are mountains and glaciers for as far as the eye can see. So you go to Yellowstone for the wildlife, and Glacier for the scenery. We didn’t even try to take many photos through the darkened bus windows, so have a look here.

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We make it up to Logan’s Pass and hike past the parking lot towards a ‘hidden lake’. We pass people gasping for air going the other way, and they helpfully inform us that it’s definitely not as fun on the way back up.

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We hike down the steep trail along the cliff side, towards the lake at the bottom.

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There are very few people here, making it even more beautiful and serene. You would never know that there’s a hub of tourist activity just over the cliff.

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That evening, we take a walk down to the lake near our campsite.

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There are people paddle-boarding, and there’s a woman in a canoe, with her dog swimming alongside in his little life-jacket. She keeps throwing rocks for him, and it’s hilarious watching him trying to dive down to get them, like a duck going bottom up, but being repeatedly thwarted by the life-jacket as it hinders his furiously paddling paws. In the end he gives up, and clambers into the canoe, sitting at the front like a masthead.

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On the hillside opposite, we see billowing smoke, and occasional flames from a wildfire on one of the mountains not far off.

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On the other side of the lake is a mountain strewn with spiky, white tree stumps, that look like cactus spines adorning the hillside. This is the result of a wildfire a few years ago, and the mountain looks naked compared to the one opposite, which is covered in pine trees.

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We come back to the lake later that night, where a few people have come to sit on the little pebble beach to look at the stars. The sky is clear, and the stars are incredible. The only time I have seen them better was on a trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile. We lie down on the beach, looking up at the Milky Way. The wildfire is still raging on the mountainside opposite, looking a bit like a volcano erupting.

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Apparently this fire has been going for a number of weeks already, having started from a bolt of lightening, and will probably continue until the first snow. It’s being kept in check by officials and firefighters, but they won’t do anything drastic unless it gets closer to any of the lodges and endangers human life. A comforting thought, as we head back to sleep in a camper made largely of wood…


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