The Best of Glacier

JoAnne and I have been back from our vacation for almost a month already.  We’ve been extending the fun by enjoying all the pictures we took.   Love this digital age where you can take hundreds without paying a mint for film and developing; just click away, dump them onto the laptop each evening and go back out and fill the camera again.  In just a little over two weeks, JoAnne and I took about 1000 pictures.   So JoAnne has made up one slide show, a shorter one, and also a file of shots she wants to use for her painting hobby.   In addition to my blog galleries, I’ve chosen one for the desktop of each of my computers.

Needless to say, there are lots that have not surfaced here and won’t.  However, I thought you might like to see just a few more– a “Best of Glacier” selection.    I’ll try not to repeat shots form Logan pass or the animal article.  Glacier National Park was really the highpoint of our trip.  I was glad we traveled there last; I think it is best to save the highpoint (pardon the pun) until last.

A Unique American Vehicle

 One of the fascinating sidelights of our visit to Glacier National Park was the ubiquitous red tour bus.   Since I was driving my own rented vehicle, I did not actually get to ride one, but we usually saw them parked with us at various points of interest.   One’s first impression when you see them is, “How do they dare run an antique vehicle up these mountains?”   Then you discover that they have been refurbished beautifully.   Even the interior work is excellent.  Ford Motor Company did the remodeling job.  They add a unique element to the park that somehow complements in time frame and style the grand lodges of the park which were completed in the early twentieth century.     This link is about riding in them.

They have become a cultural icon in themselves in the park.   The drivers are called “jammers” from the old days when the vehicles had manual transmissions rather than the automatics of today.   Even a local root beer is named for the buses.  I drank a bottled of it and peeled the label off for a souvenir.  

A modeling company (The Open Top Bus Company) has produced an O scale model of the 1936 White Tour bus # 706.  (White is the name of the company that made them, not the color.)  Being an O gauge railroad buff on the side, of course, I had to have one.   This link details the history of the vehicles. 

The animals

Everyone wants to see the animals when they go west, and we were no exception.      One warning, you never know when you will see them.   It might be in a park and it might not.    One of our most exceptional sightings on this trip happened along the journey.  We were just a little ways out of a small town cruising along in Idaho when we saw some cars parked by the side of the road and people looking at something—usually a good sign for travelers looking for animals.  When we went by, we saw why.   On the far side of the pond filled with water lilies were a mother moose and her calf contentedly munching.       I turned around and we went back and took their picture.   On another rural road we passed a fenced in herd of buffalo.    Other times the animals were more where you would expect, like the grizzlies in Glacier National Park.   The pictures below start with the smaller animals.

Mountain Pass Hiking (written Aug 23)

I may be a little sore tomorrow, but what an exhilarating feeling.   It was too cold for JoAnne up at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.  The wind was blowing hard and the stormy gray sky was spitting occasional rain, snow or hail as clouds tumbled over the backbone of the continent, as the Native Americans call it.   I had on a warm Henley, a flannel shirt and a wind breaker and I could still feel the chill.   JoAnne stayed behind at the center while I pressed ahead up the stepped walk over the Alpine tundra, 1.5 miles, mostly up the mountain, then over the Continental Divide, to the overlook to Hidden Lake.  The flowers were blooming everywhere.  Near the top, picas were abundant.    Just as we neared the overlook, a young teen girl behind me screamed/squealed as only girls that age can, “A goat!”     There it was– a momma goat ahead of us and in the middle of the walkway with an offspring close behind.  What a treat.   She was nearly pure white with those little curved black horns.  All the hikers were so distracted by the goats that the view hardly got the attention it deserved.   And it deserved attention!  The beautiful boomerang shaped lake lay below us, surrounded by mountains on every side except in one small corner. In that corner was an endless vista facing west.    One of the surrounding mountains was a tall pointed one named after an Indian leader called “Bear Hat.”  Little picas were running around everywhere, rating a poor third to the goats and the scenery.  On the way back I also spied a tundra-loving white-crowned sparrow and a marmot.    The hike was rigorous for me.  I could feel the altitude and had to stop a couple times during the ascent.   Between the cold wind, the occasional hail and the long climb, I was tempted to turn back.   But I am so glad I did not.   The hike was a great climax to the trip, both literally and emotionally.  

Whenever we accomplish something difficult that requires pushing through difficulties, we can relate to the climbing metaphor.  The difficulty tempts one to turn back.  The obstacles must be faced with courage, determination and savvy.   There is often pain in the process.   But the view from the top is worth it all. The feeling of accomplishment is thrilling.   And whether we realize it or not, we are better prepared for future challenges.  This kind of thinking is often applied in Scripture to help us with life’s challenges too.  “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12 TNIV).   Or consider the thought in Hebrews as the author explains the example of Christ.   “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2 NIV).

The deepest blue

Crater Lake was a surprise to both JoAnne and I.   Even though we had seen pictures, what we experienced surpassed our expectations in so many ways.  

  1. We did not realize that it was located at the top of a mountain.  By the time we reached the lake, the landscape stretched downward for miles in all directions.  We later learned that Crater Lake was formed by the collapse of a huge mountain in the Cascade chain, Mt. Mazama, which was originally taller than Mt. Rainer, the tallest today. 
  2. We did not realize that one of the most rigorous hikes we would take on our vacation would be from the rim down to the boat ride on Crater Lake and back to the car.   All the sides of the lake are still precipitous cliffs.   The boat ride is located at one of the most “hikeable” spots.   But the trail down takes a half hour and contains multiple switchbacks.
  3. We were surprised by a hot day, even at the high altitudes.    By the time we reached the boat, the captain assured us that the ride was “air-conditioned.”    He was referring to the refreshing breeze off the cool water created by the movement of the power boat.  JoAnne was missing her sun hat which she had left behind in anticipation of the breeze.
  4. The variety of the formations of rock surrounding the lake was more than we expected.   One formation looked like a castle perched on the mountainside.     Another is called the “phantom ship.”   It is an island created from a very old lava upflow.    Some spots contained interesting geological formations.  One had misty waterfalls tumbling into the clear lake.    Then there is Wizard island, the extinct volcano on one side.
  5. The shear immensity of the lake was a real shock.   Our mental picture was of a body of water a mile or so across.   What we encountered was gem of a lake six miles across.   Then the guides tell you that this lake perched at the top of the world is the 7th deepest in the world at about 1900 feet deep.   The facts are staggering.  
  6. The height of the cliffs surrounding the lake was unexpected too.   In some places the mountains rose a couple thousand feet above the lake.   Everywhere, they were too steep for climbing without technical equipment.  We were told the lake only filled about half the pit created when the mountain collapsed.
  7. Most of all, we were amazed at the color.  The deep blue of the lake is inspiring, shocking, intriguing, almost haunting.  It was the bluest lake we had ever seen.  We learned why when we learned that Crater Lake is the clearest lake in the whole world.   That fact combined with its depth results in its mind-boggling jewel blue.  


We have always wanted to see the redwoods of California.    We learned that there are two kinds of oversized trees in CA, redwoods in northern CA, the tallest trees in the world and sequoias in southern CA, which are much bigger around than redwoods, but not quite as tall.   We would be seeing redwoods, not sequoias.     We also learned that formerly hundreds of thousands of acres of northern CA were forested with redwoods, but lumbering demand over the years has reduced the acreage greatly to maybe a tenth of that.   So now there is a complex of state and national parks in northern CA to protect some of the biggest and oldest groves   []. 

We hiked in Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park and drove through several others.  I remember, one time recently we asked Keely what he thought was different about the west.   She replied, “Everything is bigger.”   Now that we are traveling here, we agree heartily, and the redwoods are a perfect illustration.   In the East, we admire a mature towering grove of hemlock or Adirondack pine.   But those would be like children standing beside these towering redwoods.  Both the height and width are in another league to us Easterners.   I remember seeing three people standing fingertip to fingertip in front of one trunk and the tree was wider that all three together.   

We were especially impressed with the quiet in the redwood forest.   We are so used to noise that quiet impresses us greatly.    Another interesting feature is the fern-covered forest floor.   There is very little undergrowth, bit am abundance of ferns.  We also noticed that neighboring redwoods seem to grow together and merge into one tree more than most trees do.  So one would occasionally observe complex structures where multiple trunks had grown together or crossed each other.   

It was in the redwoods that JoAnne first introduced what was to become the theme song for our trip, it just seemed so appropriate.   “How great is our God, sing with me how great is our God… and all will see, how great, how great is our God.”

Mt. St. Helens

Friday, on the way to Staters, we turned up into the Cascades to visit Mt. St. Helens.   Again, our time was limited by our schedule, so we chose just two of the four or five visitor centers.  We stopped at the first one you encounter and the one sponsored by Weyerhauser Lumber company.    Both were excellent choices.   The first had an excellent display area and a moving informational film about the eruption.    The second, inside the original blast zone, was a good observation point for Mt. St. Helens and the valley below, including our first glimpse of Roosevelt elk through the telescope and showed the impact on the forest.  It also helped one understand the area logging industry which is everywhere in evidence.    The valley below, 30 years later, still very much bears the marks of the devastating gray ash water and log flood that rushed down it in 1980.

Hurricane Ridge

Olympic National Park; a place of many different ecosystems, of tremendous variation in elevation, and fantastic beauty.    We almost decided to head straight South but are so glad we opted to turn Northeast via ferry and car first and visit this jewel among the National Parks.   Our time was limited; though I think one always feels that way when in National Parks.   So we just drove straight up to Hurricane Ridge.   We were blessed with an outstanding day.   Views were phenomenal, as you can see.

Adventure is fast paced

What a whirlwind pace we are setting.  Tonight we are in Bend, OR.   We have visited three national parks so far (Olympic, Redwoods, and Crater Lake), as well as Mt. St. Helens which isn’t one yet.   We also toured the lava beds of Belknap crater and Proxy Falls; and I fished for trout on the McKenzie River.    But with so much going on and lots of driving in between– over 1000 miles so far, there has not been much time to blog.   And besides, we have only been able to get a true working WI-FI connection two or three nights so far anyway.  

Tonight, I did fix the resize problem I had with the new camera so I will now be set to write more and make more picture galleries.   I redid the Seattle gallery to test it and it now has five pictures that work instead of the one that took forever.  We have taken hundreds of pictures so far.