Days 49 and 50: Glacier chillin
We stayed in Glacier for three nights. The hiker/biker site at Sprague Creek was so inviting and the lake so wonderful, I saw fit to stay in that vicinity the entire time. While most people have told me where to go hiking and things that I couldn’t miss in Glacier, I don’t feel bad about my choice to sleep and swim and read my book all within a mile of my campsite. Firstly, national parks are not actually very dog friendly. Ru is not allowed on any trails in the park and we don’t have a safe place to put him while we go. He would have had to be tied up in the campsite alone (which is against the rules too) and in my mind he would have escaped to go look for us if we were gone for multiple hours. Then he would have made a great snack for a hungry bear, wandering around by himself. So I stayed put to protect the ru. Secondly, I was so tired. We haven’t had a proper do nothing rest day since that rain day in the redwoods. SO in conclusion I didn’t do much, Joey on the other hand, well you’ll see.
The first full day we hung out together. We slept in as much as we could manage. That was no small feat in a crowded national park campsite. Everyone there was eager to get their fill of the sights, sounds, and hopefully inhabitants of Glacier. By 9 am most everyone had set out for the day and the campsite was populated by joey and me (the other bikers left early that morning), and the prowling newcomers looking for open spots after the daily exits. We decided that a walk up to Lake McDonald Lodge was in order. We hadn’t brought much food into the park and were hoping to buy our supplies at the grocery store designated on the map. We had done this in other national parks (Crater Lake and Yellowstone) and while we expected high prices and limited selection but thought we would manage. Oh man were we disappointed. We arrived in the lodge area after a quick half mile walk with ru. The lodge itself is beautiful. The facade, white washed and German in style, on the front was not so impressive so we went around to the back. Ornate carving over the dozens of Windows looked down onto terraced landscaped platforms leading to a dock and a pebbly beach. We walk ru all around and down to the water. Then we took turns standing with the dog so the other could look inside. The lodg inside is cozy but very big. Like a log cabin stretched into a grand hotel. The ceilings over the lobby stretched high above and the second floor her a gallery hall that looked down into it all. Furniture with rich red woven or leather upholstery over a frame made of native branches and deep chestnut wood tables clustered around an enormous fire place. I was most impressed by that fire place. It was a good ten feet tall and at least as wide with carvings on the big blocks of blonde stone. The antler chandelier overhead stretch d to the pitched rafters and gave the whole place an air of grandeur I have seldom seen surpassed anywhere without cell service. I liked being in that room, and not just b cause of the smell of the breakfast buffet wafting from the dining room. But I digress….
Joey and I walked down past the rental cabins to the camp store. The sign out front promised groceries and camp essentials but when I walked in I saw that this was more a gift shop than anything else. The food selection was abysmal. Nothing of any nutritional value made the cut.
Things they did have
-two whole shelf units of chips
-12 kinds of ramen/cupanoodle
-all the beer
-a can of corn that costs $3
Things they didn’t have
-any kind of actual substantial food
-anything that would provide nutrients to the active people who come to Glacier to get out there and see their national treasures
I was very disappointed but also very hungry. I spent $10 to get us two muffins and a bag of corn nuts for breakfast (I love a good corn snack in the morning). Many of the National Parks have turned over their hospitality services over to private companies. Glacier is now run by Xanterra resort experiences and these city folk do not understand what it takes too keep a person alive in the wilderness. And quite frankly, fuck that classist bullshit. If there is no way to make your own food in a national park, a lot of people won’t go. The only alternatives are the park run restaurants. In Glacier there is a moderately priced alternative to the lodge dining room, but in many places there is not. The lodge dining room is out of our price range by a healthy margin leaving us few alternatives but to cough up $20 for a pizza. If you advertise grocery on your sign you need to provide actual groceries that will sustain a human being. Blarg end of rant we were so sad.
The rest of the day was spent reading my book alternately by the lake and in the comfy chair provided by the camp host. The lack of selection at the camp store had another unintended consequence, we ran out of dog food. Our camp host mentioned she might run to town the next day and would be happy to pick us up something if we needed it, so I flagged her down on her rounds of the campground and explained our predicament. She said she had something for us and her husband returned with a half used bag of organic, grain free, salmon and sweet potatoes dog food. This is the good stuff my friends, the stuff we always meant to feed ru. The call of the road is often answered with $4 bags of western family brand kibble and so ru munched this gourmet dog chow with gusto usually reserved for hot dogs. Happy dog, happy life. I am so thankful that the universe solved that problem for us.
For dinner that night we bit the bullet and went to Jammer Joe’s pizza. We ordered a Large Santa Fe (roasted corn, black beans, onions, peppers, cheese all over a southwest ranch sauce oh gawd) and chowed down at a picnic table out front. Ru was tied to the leg and as we inhaled the pie he alternately whined after fun looking children and the dozens of Prairie dog/ground squirrels that made their burrows in the yard. We returned to the campsite, with some surprisingly reasonably priced beers from the camp store and went to bed early. Joey had a big day coming.
Around 4:00 am Joey woke up and began preparing to ride to the top of Logan Pass. This is a Apex of the Park and the high point of Going to the Sun Rd. The Northern Tier ACA bike route goes over the top of it from the east, but since we came up from the south we didn’t have the honor of crossing the Divide there. Oh yes, it’s also the continental divide. I thought this was a stroke of luck and relished the opportunity to skip a gnarly hill. But the call of the gnar was much too strong for young Eugene and so he decided to sacrifice a rest day to the sun god. He was out the door and on his way by 4:30, just when it was beginning to get light. At the time I thought nothing of his alpine start but honestly zipping through protected bear habitat in the semi darkness alone is pretty foolish. We both agree that in hindsight, maybe not the best idea. But he sang very loudly at the encroaching wilderness about how bears are nothing compared to a semi buzzing you at 6 inches going 60 mph. That intimidated the Bears into hiding and he escaped unscathed.
I woke around 7:30 after falling back asleep with Ru stretched out in Joey’s place in the tent. I took ru down to the lake and he poked around the shore, wading in to his little baby dog knees but no further. The first night we arrived he ran into the water in a fit of excitement, realized he was swimming, panicked and returned to shore. I spent the better part of our time on the shore trying to rial him into a similar state but I couldn’t get him to even get his belly wet. I clipped his leash to a root and stripped down for a morning swim. There was no one around and this was the closest I would get to a shower since Missoula so I took the chance. I swam out about 50 feet and looked up into the notch between the mountains to the north. The road cut was visible and I liked to think I was waving at Joey from my aquatic repose. In fact, I probably did. After he returned, joey told me he was on the top by 8:30. Not knowing that at the time, I figured it was just a nice gesture.
After my swim (the first of many that day) I took Ru back to the campsite for some dog breakfast. I tidied the site and locked things down for the day ahead. I left joey a note on a torn out page of my journal, packed a sweater, my book, sunscreen, a water bottle and my wallet into my day pack and went over to the lodge for some human breakfast with Ru in tow. I again paid way too much for a way too mediocre muffin and then took Ru over to the lodge for a little dog photo shoot. I was not the only one taking pictures of him to be sure, we should start charging. After I satiated my need to document every inch of this dog’s life I wandered back around to the lawn behind the lodge. A couple of large trucks with the REI logo were setting up a “member appreciation village”. Joey and I are REI members and used said membership to buy almost all the gear for this trip. Our dividend will probably be more than my tax return this year. I went right up and proclaimed my status as a part of the in crowd and set to working my way through the booths. Ru was tied to a trailer hitch near their water bowl/dog station and getting all the attention he needed so I went about my business. I got a leather key chain and stamped AJR into it with the hammer they handed me, built my own sunglasses (green and orange so rad) and got a siiick Glacier park Iron on patch with a goat on it. After I collected all my goodies I looked up to see Joey coming toward me from across the parking lot.
He had successfully beaten all the other bikers to the top of the pass! Also he showed me photos of what I was missing. Going to the Sun Rd is 20 feet across with multi hundred foot cliffs down on one side and up on the other. The road hugs the side of the mountain face and nothing but a small brick wall (way below my center of gravity oh gawd) to keep you from plunging into the abyss. The views were spectacular but I determined we had both made the right choice for our personality types. We meandered around the REI booths again, looking at the many maps and gadgets they had on display and then headed slowly back to camp. We made pancakes for lunch (the cheapest full meal on sale at that sham they call a camp store). Then it was time for a nap for Ru and for Joey. When we arrived, ru marched right back into the tent and went to sleep. Joey marched right to his pannier, took out his hammock and marched down to the lake for a shoreline nap. I didn’t see him again for 3 1/2 hours. He needed it. I read my book, cleaned the dishes, did some secret wilderness laundry in the creek across the street from the campsite and generally made myself ready for tomorrow’s departure. I also took stock of what we had for dinner. Another helpful biker had left a can of diced tomatoes in the bear box and we had half a package of pasta. To complete the sauce I decided to use the rest of our bag of carrots. 2lb bags of whole carrots are our saving grace. We eat them as snacks, as meal supplements, add them to dinners with no veggies and generally plop them into whatever we have to eat. Also they never cost more than $2. PURE GOLD
Joey eventually wandered back up from his nap and then we all wandered down together. The next couple hours passed us by at the lakes edge, swimming and playing with the half submerged Ru. We made our dinner and it turned out better than we ever could have hoped. It was actually delicious. The secret was the mustard packet I swiped from the cafe at the lodge. After dinner we cruised on our bikes up to McDonald falls at the north end of the lake past the lodge. It was nice to have the place to ourselves and honestly it was pretty freakin romantic. When we returned we climbed back into the tent and went to sleep, ready to get back on the road. Rest days accomplished.