Monday, September 15, 2008

So I never got back to the Glacier story . . .

Because that's so last month. In the future, I will finish writing about a trip as soon as possible after returning home, because eventually I start losing interest and it becomes less pleasure and more work.

So, briefly . . .

There is no regular transportation between the West Glacier Amtrak station and the entrance to the park. Wtf??? All the literature and websites make it sound like Glacier Park, Inc., the commercial shuttle, does this run. But when I called to make reservations, they told me they only run between their own properties. And they really had no suggestions. When I asked, "What do people do?!?" he was all, "Well . . . usually they rent a car." So FYI: if you don't have a car and for any reason cannot hike the 4 miles from the station to the park, it'll cost you $46 for a private transportation company to carry you. And of course, another $46 to get you back.

We found the free park shuttle to be brilliant. Buses ran frequently and we never had a problem with them being full to capacity. (I do understand, though, that it's a different story when the park is packed with visitors. We were there the week before Labor Day and it had apparently cleared out quite a bit.) The shuttle runs the length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects the park from west to east (or east to west . . .) and it stops at all the trailheads and visitor centers. We, of course, always had waaaaay more stuff than the other passengers, but everyone was helpful and never cranky with us. I was surprised how many people drive in, park somewhere, and then take the shuttle to get around the park.

A caveat: If you go without a car, have some extra funds available in case of the unexpected. Although we had 2 gorgeous sunny days, it started raining our second night there and kept it up for the next 3 days. This caused us 2 problems: Logan Pass, where the Sun Road goes over the Continental Divide, was closed through a day and night due to the weather, leaving us stuck on the east side of the park. People who had cars could drive around the park, or explore the surroundings, or just go home, but we didn't have these options. Plus, the borrowed tent (not my tent) was about as waterproof as a fort made of old sheets. (There's a long, funny story there involving efforts to salvage a little dryness via a large number of cheap tube tents and emergency blankets, but I'll not go into that here.) We ended up staying in a motel room our last night there, which was only made possible because the intended guest was stuck on the west side of the park.

Had the pass not re-opened in time, our options would have been to pay dearly for ground transportation all the way around the southern perimeter of the park to West Glacier, or pay slightly less dearly to take ground transportation to East Glacier and pick up the train there. Fortunately, the pass opened and this wasn't necessary.

We wanted to go on a trail ride in Many Glacier, which I bet would have been fantastic, but it was raining and blowing too hard. We ended up going on a ride in Apgar, which I found to be pretty tame. (There's a long, not really very funny story here about how people in Montana are unable to give clear directions to anywhere, and how this complicated our effort to get to the corral on foot, but again, I'll not go into that. Suffice it to say it involved a lot of power walking, sharp words, passive-aggressivity, sweating, the kindness of strangers, a borrowed cell phone and a scooter.)

One of these days, I'll tell you about getting chased by that grizzly . . .

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