Going-to-the-sun Road & Glacier National Park, Montana

We left Canada and its magnificent mountains behind and headed to the mountains of Montana. Following Hwy 2 south toward Babb, MT, we passed the UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of the museum of Blackfoot Indian culture, Head-smashed-in, in Buffalo Jump, CA, and made a mental note to come back and visit one day. Once again, we thought we’d seen the best of the mountain views, but were pleasantly surprised to take in the beauty of Montana’s best: Glacier National Park and Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Crossing back into the U.S. through Piegan Border Station, into Blackfoot Indian territory, we received a proper welcome by a gliding bald eagle. The road meandered revealing the many rocky summits of the Glacier mountain range, promising yet another amazing visiting experience. We slowed down to allow cow herds to cross, marveling at the skill of the herder and his dog. We took in the beauty of the state and thought to ourselves: this is truly God-given land.

From our campsite base at Sundance Campground and RV Park, we loaded up the pups and drove Jane up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. At times scared to look down the abrupt edge, we crept up the mountain stopping to admire Bird Woman Falls and the Weeping Wall. We fought the crowds at Logan Pass, and when our quest for a parking spot proved unsuccessful, we continued our drive, but not before photographing a couple of big horn sheep.

We headed on toward St. Mary Lake, and stopped by the Napi Indian historic site. Chatting with a locally born and raised guide, I found out about the important figure whose statue dominated the site. Napi, known as Old Man, is a paramount figure of the Blackfoot tribe. Frequently portrayed as a trickster, he is also known as a well-intentioned demigod. Along with his wife Kipitaki (Old Woman), he is responsible for forming the Blackfeet world, frequently helping or teaching his people important lessons.

On our way out the park, even if not locally made, I made sure to support the Native American artists and bought some Cedar Mesa pottery (from Utah) from the local Snowgoose Grille and Gift Shop, while learning about the symbolism of turtles.

St. Mary Lake mirrored the rocky peaks in its deep blue water, and we paused for a while to take in the view.

For a perfect end of the day, we were greeted by a sweet white foal and his (extended) family.

Our second trip up the mountain awarded us with a brief visit at Logan Pass (without a parking spot in sight, David and I took turns circling the parking lot, giving one another time to explore a little). We headed back to the campground, and made an inspired stop at a beautiful clear blue swimming hole.

No trip is complete without sampling some good local food! We stopped by the West Village and kicked around the local stores, sampling bison burgers, local beer, and ice cream.

We left the park heading to Missoula and stopped to purchase some delicious cherries from a roadside vendor around Flathead Lake. The lake must be a highly-desirable summer destination, with quaint cottages by the water for easy fishing and boating access, and abundant orchards providing sweet cherries, peaches, and more.

We didn’t know what to expect of Missoula – but had an idea in our heads from having read the book A River Runs Through It and seen the movie – which was actually filmed farther out in central Montana. The town wasn’t really like what we had expected but we felt welcome at the Square Dance Center and Campground in Lolo, MT. We were lucky to be dancers and find a spot as the Jerry Junck workshop was going on. We even stopped by the dance hall to check it out for a while, and socialized with our sweet neighbors.

Montana was nothing short of absolutely gorgeous and we vowed to return for more. We were told not to miss the eastern side of the Bitterroot Mountains, which is not only beautiful but located in the “Banana Belt,” meaning it has a moderate year-round climate.

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