Saturday, July 17, 2010

Northern Exposure

Tom, cooling his - heels at Rising Sun
Traveling Highway 2 across North Dakota and Eastern Montana didn’t leave us with a “boy, we should do this again!” feeling. Certainly there were interesting stops and scenery but for the most part, not a lot of RV park options.
Much of our route included numerous sites and references to Lewis and Clark’s epic journey. We never knew there were so many state parks named after the explorers. We spent a night at a Lewis & Clark State Park near Williston, ND. There was an unremarkable stay at the Cottonwood Inn & Suites RV Park in Glasgow, MT and a VERY unremarkable overnight at the Havre RV Park in Havre, MT, where we felt like we were parked on a residential street…complete with all the noise.
It wasn’t until we reached the Canyon RV Campground & Cabins in Hungry Horse, MT where we parked for a week to explore Glacier National Park that our sightseeing kicked into high gear. We also were in the area to try and pin down getting a new awning through Pierce RV Supercenter, a KZ dealer, in nearby Kalispell. We’d been in contact with Pierce since leaving Minot.
We had hoped to have a new awning replaced at Pierce RV but replacement part numbers could not be resolved until the service department saw our trailer first hand. Working with their service manager we eventually nailed down all replacement awning part numbers, but, the ETA for the parts – with the 4th of July weekend looming – would be ten days to two weeks. Maybe longer. As with Minot, that would take too long. However, they were also able to inspect the roof patch and found a small spot needing sealing which they repaired at no charge.
Winter - on our terms
Switching gears we concentrated on seeing Glacier National Park. Fortunately the day after we arrived the seasonally affected Going-to-the-Sun-Road had just opened. The 50-mile road, completed in 1933, is narrow, steep and winding.  In 1983 it was designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark, placed on the National Historic Register, and in 1996 was designated a National Historic Monument; the only road in the U.S. with all three designations.
It is also the subject of a multi-year reconstruction project with traffic delays. While we experienced delays, none were exceptionally long. Besides, stopped on the road in sections where no pull-offs existed, gave us more opportunities to view the scenery.
Lake McDonald
Over the course of our weeklong stay we managed to see much of what the park had to offer. Our drive over Going-to-the-Sun-Road took us to the town of St. Mary on the western border of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Fewer than fifty people live in St. Mary but as the eastern terminus of Going-to-the-Sun-Road its “population” swells with summer tourists. A must stop for a meal in St. Mary: The Park Café. Specially the pies! Another enjoyable meal – breakfast - at Lake McDonald Lodge on Lake McDonald.
As we were situated near the West Glacier park entrance, most of our forays into Glacier NP occurred through there. We learned quickly that if we wanted to avoid the crush to get into the park to get to the gate by 7:30. The same held true for hiking various trails – most parking areas were jammed by late morning. Thank goodness of our Golden Age Pass!
Avalanche Creek (top) Avalanche Lake (bottom)
We managed hikes to Avalanche Lake, Sprague Creek, John’s Lake, Fish Creek Campground, Huckleberry Mt. and a walk-about in Apgar, a village on the south end of Lake McDonald. One day was spent driving to the small village of Polebridge and on to Kintla Lake. The latter reached on a narrow, winding, gravel road – a dusty gravel road – that put us in close proximity to the Flathead River, a National Wild and Scenic River. A stop in Polebridge was a must – this is where the Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery is found. Frommer’s review of the mercantile stated: “There is a bakery with great baked goods.” That, friends, is an understatement! Polebridge is a happening place filled with backpackers and rafters.
Other local tidbits outside the park: Breakfast spot in Kalispell: Nickel Charlie’s. Need a great car/truck wash for a very good price? The Blue Cow Carwash (can’t miss it).
By the time we left Canyon RV Campground & Cabins in Hungry Horse we were armed with awning part numbers and the name of another KZ dealer, Apache RV in Portland (given to us by the regional KZ rep who we bumped into at Pierce). In the meantime, our travel west continued. Next stop: Idaho. More photos from Glacier NP

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