The Hidden Moose Lodge had a plethora of books for you to browse through. I picked up a book on camping spots and no lie, the first page I turned to was for camping at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.
I wasn’t planning on stopping at Glacier at this point in my Montana adventure, but when I saw the view, I packed up and headed out.
The only winter camping in the park is Apgar Village, on the West side, and St. Mary on the East. Lake McDonald is located nearest the West entrance. The actual campground was not open, but you could set up your gear in the picnic/day use area, which was right on the Lake.
The book was right; this was a magnificent view. As I walked back to my camping site, I spotted a deer. Yea, you won’t startle me tonight!
The only drawback I found with visiting Glacier at this time of year is, there are not many hiking trails open. Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to bicyclist and hikers only, no vehicles. Again, I wished I had brought my bike. Stores are closed, restaurants are closed, even the Visitor Center was only open on select days. The bright side, it wasn’t crowded.
One hiking trail that was open was the Apgar Lookout and was to offer incredible views of Lake McDonald and the surrounding mountains. As I arrived at the trailhead, I was the only person there. No worries, I am a lone hiker. The Park Ranger warned about the grizzly bears, and that they came out of hibernation three weeks earlier. No problem! I had my bear spray and had actually read the directions! The Park Ranger also said to make noise on the trail, listen to music, sing, whatever, just make noise. (OK, now we’re getting serious.) In the event I am spotted by a grizzly, I would need to make myself appear large. What?!? Throw your arms above your head and yell at the bear. Like I’m going to scare a grizzly! Okay, got it!
Around mile two I spot an animal track. Yup! You guessed it, a grizzly. How did I know it was a grizzly? By how far the claw marks were away from the pad imprints. I turned Amazon Music on nice and loud. Half a mile later a man is running down the mountain towards me. I move over, let him by, and then continue on. A few steps later I thought, “Was he just running, or running away from something?!?” He didn’t yell, “GRIZZLY!!!!!!” So, I continued.
Less than a 1/4 of a mile from the top, I find myself on the North side of the mountain, in the snow with a nice layer of ice on top. I take a dozen or so steps, slipping, and losing my balance, even with trekking poles. There was nothing on my right to keep me from tumbling all the way to the bottom. I am by myself… A 1/4 of a mile from the top, a 1/4 of a mile from the majestic view I so diligently hiked up an 1835 elevation gain in 3.3 miles to see and photograph, (it was a picture perfect day,) I turned around and made my descent.
My remaining hiking adventures were kept to lower elevations. I did hike a few miles up Going-to-the-Sun Road, as bicyclist whizzed by, but never completed the whole thing. The road doesn’t open up to vehicles until sometime in June.
After a week of being surrounded by the amazing beauty that Glacier National Park has to offer, I left, only to return a few days later when my friends from Switzerland, who I met in The Grand Tetons, showed up. Another camper, Walt, who is a native Montanan, and a super cool guy, took us to the back side of Glacier which few people venture to, and we DID see a black bear.
I need a good 3 more months to soak in all that Glacier has to offer, and I am looking forward to getting back in those mountains!