Going wild in Glacier National Park
A visit to Glacier National Park in Montana.
Seattle Times staff photographer
If you go
Glacier National Park
Get more information at the park’s website, nps.gov/glac
Accommodations are available in and near the park; book well ahead. The park website has links.
Portions of the scenic mountain road close annually because of heavy snow (and road maintenance). The last day to drive the complete 50-mile route this year is Sept. 22. nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/goingtothesunroad.htm
David Beery owns 389 hats and travels with a different one for each day of a trip.
On this day, he’s wearing a rubber king cobra hat he’s named “Hissy.”
He’s seated on the back porch of Lake McDonald Lodge, reading a novel. The expansive lake is just beyond, framed by spectacular glacier-carved peaks.
This is Glacier National Park in Montana, established 103 years ago. Lake McDonald is one of its most popular spots.
Running alongside the lake, then climbing steeply through the Rocky Mountain peaks, is the Going-To-The-Sun Road. The 50-mile drive features both historic landmarks and historic civil engineering — and scenery.
Best to enjoy the ride in a park shuttle or one of the renovated Red Buses driven by “jammers,” the name given to drivers decades ago when the vehicles had manual transmissions and the gears could be heard “jamming” on the hairpin turns up and down the mountains.
The buses, with their sliding tops, allow 17 travelers to pop up at numerous stops to take photos or simply stare in awe. Knowledgeable drivers narrate the history, geology, flora and fauna of the park. The buses also stop at the visitor center atop the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet.
Built by the White Motor Co. of Cleveland in the 1930s the Red Buses are as much a symbol of Glacier National Park as the glaciers (which are, however, melting fast in recent years).
The park is a juxtaposition of the wild and the developed. There are more than 1,100 species of plants, 200 species of birds, almost 60 varieties of mammals and 24 different kinds of fish. There are boat rides and rentals, horseback rides, easy and steep hiking trails and crowded gift shops that sell bear spray and bells. This is bear country, and you want them to hear you coming; it’s best not to surprise a bear.
Meanwhile, back on the porch at Lake McDonald Lodge, it’s quiet. Beery, of Columbus, Ohio, is deeper into his reading. He looks out from under his king cobra hat and advises, “Enjoy. Don’t take life too seriously.”
Alan Berner: firstname.lastname@example.org