Saturday, July 13, 2019

Adventure 14/50 : Glacier National Park and the Red Bus Tour

** Hey readers -- I'm catching up with a bunch of "adventures" over the next couple of weeks. We've been so busy doing things, I haven't made the time to do much writing. So enjoy these stories of our adventures in May and June. **

In June we headed east for a few days to visit Glacier National Park with Tony and Sue. After one looooooooong day of driving ... with a stop for huckleberry shakes, of course...

... we arrived in West Glacier, Montana, at the KOA and our deluxe Kamping Kabin.

our beloved Lodge 12

The Kabin had a small bunkbed alcove, a full bath, a kitchenette and a queen bed in the main room, and a private "patio" area complete with barbecue, picnic table, and fire pit. And we didn't even have one of the super fancy Kabins!

our private "patio" area
We spent the evening settling in -- and recovering from the drive. The next morning was one of the highlights of our trip -- our Red Bus Tour!

The red buses are part of the history of Glacier National Park. They were developed to take visitors -- many of whom arrived by train in the early days -- through the park. Other parks had them too, and each park had a signature color. Yellowstone's were, you guessed it, yellow. But while other parks may still have a couple of buses, Glacier has nearly all of the buses that were made for their park: 33 in the fleet.

Each bus holds 17 passengers -- 4 across on 4 rows of seats, plus a passenger seat up front. They're cozy, but beautiful and comfy -- AND someone else does the driving!

Our visit to Glacier was too early in the season go to on one of the looooong tours -- the Going to the Sun Road wasn't fully open yet. But we chose the one tour operating from the West side early in the season: the Huckleberry Mountain Tour.

We thought we would be going to the Huckleberry Mountain Nature Trail, and then along the lake out to the Sacred Dancing Cascade -- but we were in luck, and the road was open a bit farther along, so we walked the Trail of the Cedars instead.

We were picked up from the KOA -- convenient! -- and headed out with the covers on. We drove the short way to the park, where we pulled over and rolled back the canvas cover. Our driver was friendly and chatty, though most of his patter had to do with the fires that sweep through the park with increasing regularity.

We drove partway up the road to the North Fork first:

We had some nice views, but didn't leave the bus.

Then we turned around and drove into Apgar, where we got out and admired the lake.

I still can barely believe how clear the water was.

Pam had told us before we headed out there that the lake is famous for its multicolored pebbles, and they did not disappoint:

After a little while we piled back into the bus, and drove out along the Going to the Sun Road. It was a Sunday morning so traffic was pretty heavy -- again I was really glad that I wasn't driving!

We got to the Avalanche Campground -- where the Going to the Sun Road was closed to cars -- and then slowly circled for a while to find a spot to park. See, the road was open past Avalanche for bikes, and hundreds of people were taking advantage of the day and the closed-to-cars scenic road.

We eventually squeezed the bus into a spot -- wondering a little why as a special concession in the park, there isn't a reserved spot for the red buses -- and then were turned loose to explore a bit. Slight error here -- we weren't told when to be back, just that we "couldn't possibly get lost" -- so the 4 of us and another couple went off along the Trail of Cedars and were gone for oh, 45 minutes.

But it was worth it -- we walked over a bridge crossing a rushing waterfall:

And then walked through an ancient grove of cedars on a beautiful raised boardwalk:

Before recrossing the river lower down:

on another handsome bridge:

Finally we made it back around, found our patient, chipper driver (and perhaps less patient fellow travelers), and headed back. 

As we made our way back toward the lake, we stopped in a little pullout. Our driver said that this pullout was larger than it used to be, so there was nearly always parking... especially since the park moved the sign for "Sacred Dancing Cascade" to the next pullout down the road. Now, none of us knew what's what. Maybe we saw what used to be the Sacred Dancing Cascade, maybe we didn't. But we did see a really beautiful waterfall. 

our group on one of the viewing platforms

We all piled back in the bus for the ride back to the campground. I think we all enjoyed our Red Bus Tour adventure, but it would have been even better if we had been able to go farther up the Going to the Sun Road. As it was, there wasn't all that much for us to see. Still, a really nice day out (and did I mention I enjoyed not driving???).

Postscript: In the afternoon Wil and I returned to the park and took a nice little hike on the Rocky Point Trail. 

We saw some "bear-country" signs, but were ready with our bear spray that we absolutely did not want to have to use. 

Sign #1:

Sign #2:

and, well, Sign #3:

Yep, that's bear poop. 

But the trail was lovely, climbing up through forest around the far side of Lake McDonald:

and the payoff was really gorgeous:

Luckily, the largest critter we saw was this guy:

A great first day in Glacier!


  1. Ooooh, I love Glacier, and its been sooo long! We last were there in 1994 when Girl #1 was a baby, she was our bear alert, gigglling and laughing in her hiking backpack, and those chipmunks were so cheeky, one came up and took a chocolate chip cookie right out of her hand, which of course meant more giggles. Your photos brought back some lovely memories Sunny!

    1. Thanks Kathy! We had somehow never been. I do wish we could have gone later in the year, or spent more time in the park -- next time!