Today, we drove around the south end of Glacier National Park to Many Glacier, and then to Two Medicine. Faith and I kayaked on Swiftcurrent Lake, and hiked to some lakes in the Many Glacier area.
Breakfast - Flitter Bee Buzz-Thru
Just after sunrise, we left our cabin and drove a short distance down US-2 to the Flitter Bee Buzz Thru, a coffee shop in a trailer just off the main road. They specialize in honey-themed drinks, fresh baked pastries, and coffee. We got a handful of pastries for the road, and Faith got a Honey Bee Lotus (espresso with lavender, huckleberry, pink lotus, and a honey drizzle); Dad and I got some coffee as well. Our pastry selection included a couple raspberry muffins and pumpkin streusel muffins, and some banana walnut bread. I would rate these as the best pastries thus far, and honestly maybe some of the best I’ve ever had. The raspberry and pumpkin muffins were incredibly good.
From the Flitter Bee, we drove east on US-2, but instead of turning left to go to West Glacier and the entrance to the Going to the Sun Road, we continued on US-2 towards the Marias Pass and the southeastern part of the park. US-2 skirts around Glacier’s southern boundary, passing through the Blackfeet Nation, and then connecting with the eastern half of the park via US-89.
About thirty minutes later, we pulled into the Salt Lick (aka Goat Lick) Overlook, just past the tiny community of Essex and the Walton Ranger Station. The pullout overlooks the Snowslide Gulch, where there are significant mineral deposits. Goats often come here to lick the rocks, getting the minerals they need to supplement their diets.
There weren’t any goats easily visible, but at the advice of some photographers we met, Faith and I climbed over a railing, scurried up a steep bank, and were able to see three goats on the opposite bank. Two were perched on jutting rocks on a precipice, and another was nestled back in an indention in the rock. Much to our surprise, we heard a noise behind us and saw that Dad had scrambled up there with us…quite an impressive feat. I guess the goats were motivation for him to do some fence-hopping and mountain-climbing.
Silver Staircase // Marias Pass
Next on Highway 2, we stopped at the Silver Staircase waterfall just off the side of the road. It must’ve been past its prime for the season, because there wasn’t much water flowing; it was pretty nonetheless. Soon after, we pulled over at Marias Pass Obelisk, a memorial to both the frontiersmen and homesteaders who were in this area, and President Theodore Roosevelt for his conservation efforts.
Many Glacier Lodge
Passing Lake Sherburne, we began the bumpy gravel road into the Many Glacier/Swiftcurrent area. Soon, we arrived at the picturesque Swiss-chalet-styled Many Glacier Lodge. I really wanted to stay here, but it’s extremely difficult to get reservations. Thankfully, the lodge is open to the public, so we headed inside, visited the gift shop, and marveled at the grandeur of the hotel’s architecture. Swiftcurrent Lake, right behind the lodge, offers a mesmerizing reflection of the surrounding mountains.
Continental Divide Trail
Faith and I spent some time contemplating some recreation options, and finally settled on hiking part of the Continental Divide Trail (think AT, but from Canada to Mexico instead). Dad drove us over to the trailhead at the nearby Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, where we started our hike. For a day hike, most people hike on this trail to Bullhead Lake, but that was a bit too far for our schedule. Instead, we planned to only visit Fishercap Lake, the first of two lakes before Bullhead – this should’ve taken about an hour from our starting point, the Swiftcurrent Trailhead.
Somehow, we missed the turnoff to Fishercap Lake (I mistakenly thought the trail passed alongside the shore), and we ended up hiking all the way to Redrock Lake, which is halfway between Fishercap and Bullhead. We’d made noticeably good time (thus why we didn’t know we had gone too far), so we headed to the far end of the lake to see Redrock Falls. The falls are part of Swiftcurrent Creek’s drop from Bullhead Lake back down to the Many Glacier Lodge.
Several groups we passed on the trail said they’d seen a large bull moose at the lake, but by the time we got there, he was gone. We briefly took in the falls, and then began our hurried journey back toward Swiftcurrent Lodge, so we could meet Mom and Dad in time.
On the way back, we noticed a sign for the Fishercap Lake turnoff. We realized we’d missed it before because a group was blocking the sign while they stopped for water. It was a pretty lake, but not as impressive as Redrock, so I was glad we’d [literally] gone the extra mile (or three).
Eventually, the trail forked, which neither of us remembered. Since the right fork was marked as a “horse trail” (even though we were pretty sure we came that way), we took the path to the left. This turned out to not be our original route (we had indeed been on the horse trail), but it took us back to the same general area. This fork ended instead at the Iceberg-Ptarmigan trailhead at the edge of the campground behind the Motor Inn. Along the way, we passed a beautiful waterfall on Wilbur Creek we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.
Worried that we would repeat our tardiness like on our Highline Trail excursion two days prior, we rushed back to the Motor Inn. Turns out, Mom and Dad misunderstood our return time, and had given us an extra hour anyway. We took the time to browse the gift shop (we’ve learned nearly every shop in the park has different items) and rest a bit. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad finished enjoying the view and Lodge at Many Glacier, and swung over to pick us up.
Reunited, we drove back to Many Glacier Lodge to get some lunch. Like all the national park restaurants, the kitchen here was operating on a limited menu and was take-out only. Faith, Dad, and I ordered bison burgers (with cheddar, crispy onions, and huckleberry barbecue sauce), while Mom got a salad and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Everything was really good, and far exceeded our expectations for hotel food. The view while we ate was especially nice.
Kayaking Swiftcurrent Lake
After lunch, Faith and I rented two kayaks and paddled out on Swiftcurrent Lake. From the lake, we had even better views of the mountains, the lodge, and the water. Mom and Dad watched from the deck of the lodge and spent some more time enjoying the beautiful lodge lobby. Surprisingly, most of the lake was only a few feet deep, with a 50′ channel running through the middle. This excursion was time and money well-spent. I would’ve stayed the rest of the afternoon if time allowed.
As we entered the lower floor of the lodge near the boat docks, I saw an interesting exhibit on glacial recession in the park. The photos [below] show the change in the glaciers’ sizes over the past century.
After looking at the lake and a few more exhibits, we left the Lodge and drove out of the Many Glacier area.
Our afternoon plan involved visiting another section of the park we hadn’t yet visited: the Two Medicine area. This used to be one of the most popular places in the park, since most travelers would arrive at the train station in East Glacier Park Village, just a handful of miles down the road. With the decline of the railroads, the area doesn’t see as much traffic, but still offers great hiking and scenery.
Looking Glass Hill
First, we drove a narrow, winding road through part of the Blackfeet Nation, up and over Looking Glass Hill.
Running Eagle Falls (Trick Falls)
Next, we stopped at Running Eagle Falls, which is also known as “Trick Falls”. It’s called this because it’s actually two waterfalls in one. Two streams meet here, one spewing forth from what appears to be a cave, and another from high above. The higher falls actually takes a sharp dogleg turn, providing the illusion. It was much hotter than in the higher areas of the park, so we saw some almost-ripe huckleberries for the first time along the trail.
Two Medicine Lake
After passing by a reservoir and through some forest, the road ended at Two Medicine Lake. Here, there’s a campground, general store, and boat dock. Everything was closed for the day, so we took a few pictures and made our way back to the main road.
We now had a decision to make: do we go the shorter, boring route back to Hungry Horse via US-2, or do we drive the Going to the Sun Road again? Since it was our last evening in the park, we decided we’d take the scenic route, but that meant finding a quick dinner instead of waiting at one of the sparse restaurants in the area. As we learned yesterday, there’s not much around here, and the waits are long.
We ended up going in a grocery store to maybe find some sandwiches, but they were sold out of almost everything. Their produce/deli counter only had a couple heads of lettuce left. Instead, we went in a gas station next door, and gathered an extremely unhealthy dinner of nuts, candy bars, and beef jerky. Now fully stocked, we were ready to enter the park again at St. Mary.
Going to the Sun Road
Back on the road, we re-drove the Going to the Sun Road, all the way back to the west side of the park, stopping occasionally. Mostly, we rolled the windows down and enjoyed the drive. The weather was perfect, and it was a nice relaxing way to cap off our day. We saw some baby goats close by the road, but didn’t see any more sheep or other wildlife.
Lake McDonald Sunset
As we drove past Lake McDonald, the partially obscured sun beamed rays of light through the clouds onto the water. Even though we’d driven by the lake every night, the scenery has been completely different every time. Depending on the weather and cloud cover, the the look of the area changes drastically. Someday, I’d love to return to see the lake in different seasons.
The Best Things we Saw Today
The best thing I saw today was… “the reflection and view while kayaking on the lake”.
The best thing I ate today was… “the pumpkin streusel muffin and the bison burger”.
The best thing I saw today was… “the goats at the salt lick, and Running Eagle Falls”.
The best thing I ate today was… “the bison burger and my huckleberry white mocha”.
The best thing I saw today was… “watching Isaac and Faith kayak”.
The best thing I ate today was… “the raspberry muffin at breakfast, but the bison burger was a close second”.
The best thing I saw today was… “the baby goat and the view from Many Glacier Lodge”.
The best thing I ate today was… “my salad and sandwich at lunch”.
Sadly, tomorrow will be our last day in Glacier. We’re going to visit the North Fork area of the park, and hopefully visit either Bowman Lake or Kintla Lake.
– Isaac, Faith, Jerry, and Amy