Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Very Favorite Part of Glacier NP

The Many Glacier section of the park is definitely my very favorite. Driving in along Lake Sherburne is just a beautiful preview.

The Many Glacier Hotel is 98 years old, and you can see why it was at one time known as "The Gem of the West." Looks like Switzerland to me!

Where else can you get a view from the balcony like this?

I'm going to go on a double boat ride here - no, not these boats...

They say these mountain walls are so thin from being carved by glaciers that you can see the sun shine through holes at sunset.

And we're off! Another naturalist's commentary - she was really good.

We're approaching the dock on Swiftcurrent Lake, in the lower right corner here.

After a short walk, we get on the second boat on Lake Josephine.

This boat brings us closer and closer to the wilderness.

We can now see Salamander Glacier.

And some waterfalls.

And - WHOA - some BEARS!

The boat drops us off at the far end of Lake Josephine. I chose to do the not-strenuous 1-mile hike to Grinnell Lake.

On the way there's a "Load Limit - One Hiker at a Time" bridge.

The trail continues down the creek.

Uh-oh -- I hope that's not what I think it is...

Ah... There it is - Grinnell Lake.

On the way back I did a little detour to Hidden Falls.

And then back to the boat dock to wait for our boat.

You can also hike up to Grinnell Glacier from the boat dock. I did that in 2010 - post here.

By the way, if this photo looks familiar to any Escapee members, it's because it was on page 20 in their latest magazine.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Moving on to Glacier National Park

I've left the WINs for a while to revisit one of my very favorite places - the east side of Glacier National Park. I was fortunate to get a reservation for St. Mary Campground inside the park. It used to be easy to park here, but now with the reservation system, it is very difficult and always full.

The views from the campground are great in every direction.

Almost immediately, I saw some wildlife. This fox walked right by my door.

There were all kinds of campers in the campground. I've never seen a jeep like this before.

St. Mary Lake is 10 miles long, but this view of Wild Goose Island is a popular shot. It's even better if there is no wind and you get a reflection of the mountains in the water.

I had never been to the Two Medicine section of the park, so the first day I arranged to go on the boat ride on Two Medicine Lake.

All of the boat rides in the park come with a very interesting park naturalist's commentary.

Some of the departures include a ranger led hike, where you go on a hike and come back on the next boat. I had meant to go to Twin Falls, but unfortunately it started to rain by the time we got there. So I guess now I have an excuse to come back!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Great Falls

Lewis and Clark passed through here in June 1805. The previous winter, the Indians had told them about a waterfall on the Missouri River, and that it would require a day's portage. But Lewis discovered that there were actually 5 waterfalls!

This is the first falls he came to that day - the Great Falls. They have since been dammed, but the original falls are preserved.

Two of the other falls have been dammed the same way, one has been buried, and one, Crooked Falls, (shown here) is in its original state.

Instead of a short portage, the 5 falls required a very difficult 18-mile portage, They built wheels and axles for the canoes, but it required 8 difficult trips across rugged hilly terrain to move all the canoes and supplies.

Great Falls has a really nice Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Inside, from the first floor to the second, is a full-size model of the portage. It was very exact, even including some prickly-pear cactus that tore through the men's moccasins.

Great Falls is also home to the world's shortest river, the Roe River. Actually there is some funny controversy regarding this claim, so much so that The Guinness Book of World Records no longer lists a shortest river. To read the whole (short) story, click here.

The river flows from the Giant Spring into the Missouri River, where there were lots of pelicans fishing.

I think he caught something!

Down the hatch!

I also saw this mama bird feeding a large insect to one of her two little ones who had left the nest. Anyone know what kind of bird this is?

Just stuff that thing in there!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Gems of Helena

The first gem is Montana's beautiful capitol building. It looks vaguely familiar, but we'll get to that in a minute.

I really liked this - instead of a metal detector at the door, they had this simple sign.

We had a great tour, with a terrific guide, in the light green shirt.

But wait a minute - the dome is beautiful, but it looks a lot like the one in Pierre, SD. Turns out that after Montana spent quite a bit of money for the design for the capitol, South Dakota turned around and bought the same plans for $15!

So there are many similarities. The Grand Staircase with the "barrel vault" ceiling, and a painting at the end. Here the painting is "Driving the Golden Spike." It shows Ulysses S. Grant driving the spike that completed the Northern Pacific's Transcontinental line.

Here's another view from across the Rotunda. The statues are of Mike and Maureen Mansfield. Sen. Mike Mansfield was one of Montana's best-known politicians. He agreed to the statue before he died only if his wife was included.

Montana also has the faux marble columns called "Scagliola." However, while South Dakota had them to save money, Montana has them to accomodate electrical wiring. Montana was the very first state to have electricity in their capitol, and they are very proud of that fact.

The ceiling of the Old Supreme Court Chamber is very similar to the House Chamber in SD. It features a beautiful stained glass skylight surrounded by paintings of famous moments in Montana history.

The most famous thing in the Montana capitol is this 25' by 12' Charles M. Russell painting in the House Chamber. It shows Lewis and Clark (in the upper right hand corner) meeting the Salish Indians at Ross' hole on September 4, 1805. This is where they got the horses to get them across the Rockies before winter came.

Notice that Lewis & Clark are not the prime focus of the painting. That upset some people at first, but people now realize that it was very clever.

Russell painted the mural in his tiny log cabin in Great Falls, and had to raise the roof to fit it in.

But here's the funny part-- Every person and animal in the painting is focused on Lewis and Clark except this wolf-dog in the foreground. He looks like he's about to bite the head off the Speaker of the House. Turns out Russell did not like the Speaker, but later they made up and became good friends.

The second gem of Helena is the Cathedral of St. Helena.

It is certainly one of the most beautiful churches in the country.

Completed in 1924, the highlight is the 59 huge stained glass windows.

Made in Munich, Germany, 37 of the windows tell the story of Christianity, from the fall of Adam and Eve to the Church in the early 20th century.

The one of Columbus seemed somehow out of place, but I guess I can understand it.

Most were fashioned after medieval art work representing biblical scenes.

The detail painted on each piece of glass is truly incredible.