First, sunrise in Shelby, with trains:
There were prairie dogs, too, or something very like them, popping happily up and down in the weeds right under the Best Western sign.
From Shelby, it's about a two-hour drive to St. Mary's, where the Going-To-The-Sun Road through Glacier begins -- first through more golden, rolling prairie lands, where Lewis and Clark passed through in 1806:
Then you leave the prairie and enter sagebrushy grazing land in an Indian reservation, and swing north on narrow, twisting 89 where the land begins to mount into hills, higher hills, and finally small mountains, with impossibly higher mountains more and more visible beyond.
And then you enter the park, driving first along St. Mary's Lake.
By the lake, we ran into the best traffic jam ever: a 15-minute wait for road construction, with views on all sides of glacier-carved mountains, lakes, snowpacks and wildflowers -- and a bossy middle-aged traffic-guard lady who held up her stop sign and scolded the tourists spilling out of our stopped cars to marvel at the views and take pictures. "Now, stay on your own side of the road! There's traffic coming. You can't be wandering all over the place like that." But we did. How could we help it?
The traffic wasn't bad. We didn't have the park to ourselves -- there were always other people around, but it wasn't oppressive. The park's campgrounds were all full, and by the time we reached Logan Pass, the highest point on the road, there were no parking spaces left. But the road was not jammed, there were always places to pull off as you drove along, and often you'd have them to yourself or share them with only a few other people.
Here's Jackson Glacier, the seventh-largest of the 25 remaining glaciers in the park, and (according to the sign) the easiest to see from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Views from overlooks.
A huge waterfall far below us in a massively deep river valley.
We hoped to see bears, but didn't. However, we did see mountain goats! Mother and baby. Dad spotted the mother napping on a rock, and we circled back to take a second look just in time to see the baby emerge, and the two of them wander off with a slightly disgruntled air.
We also saw a pair of eagles, falling in and out of a stand of pines high above us on a rocky slope, tangling somehow in mid-air, clawing at each other and shrieking and tumbling together out of sight. I said, "Mating or fighting?" Dad said, "Yes."
There are waterfalls at every turn, near and far, and rivers in the distance.
We found a private picnic lunch spot, just a few steps away from the road but entirely our own, on the gravelly bank of an icy cold crystalline river. For once in my life, I was wearing the right shoes for the occasion -- Keen sandals made for water or climbing. I waded in over the multicolored rocks: cold! But not too cold, and for the next hour, my feet were pleasantly cool inside the slowly-drying shoes.
Waterfall. Indescribable aquamarine water. We climbed over a guardrail and down over the flat stone-step banks, polished and potholed by generations of water, and sat beside it for a while, just watching and listening.
Now we're in Polson, MT for the night (three nights in a row in Montana!) in the KwaTagNuk Best Western hotel, operated by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The lake's right outside our door. I could get up in the morning, walk a few steps to the gravel beach and have a swim, and I just might. Here's the view from the patio by the hotel bar (which is in the casino, by the way. Of course the hotel has a casino -- every place of business in Montana has a casino -- and this one is divided into two rooms for smokers and nonsmokers, just to make the gambling that much more convenient. Thoughtful, eh?)
One more thing: Polson, Montana has the most amazing hanging plants I have ever seen. I can't imagine how they do it.
We took a walk through town, found a little BBQ joint, and brought sandwiches back with us -- Dad's pulled pork, mine chicken, both delicious. Tomorrow, we're planning another early start. With two days left to travel, we're nine to twelve hours from Olympia, depending which roads we take. A little bit of Idaho, then Washington. See you soon!