Day 5, Friday, July 20, 2018
On my last day in Glacier I got up early and left the campground about 7:30 am. I was going to be driving up the Going to the Sun Road one more time and exiting out the east entrance of the park.
Since I had already seen some of the sights along the west side of the park, I just drove until I got over to the east side. I stopped at some of the viewpoints and did a short hike from there. On that hike, the trail ended up narrowing sharply and going through quite a bit of tall shrubbery and I was completely alone; I got a bit nervous that this might be prime bear habitat so I ended up turning around. I did find a beautiful creek coming through a gorge near there though and took some photos.
I passed by St. Mary Lake and stopped to take in the view and take some photos. St. Mary Lake is the second largest lake in the park, at 9.9 miles long and 300 feet deep. It has a small island, Wild Goose Island in the lake. There are boat tours of this lake too, and it would be fun to go on one someday! Interesting, the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was shot at St. Mary Lake. In case you want to refresh your memory, here it is. The views are stunning.
On the east side of the park I stopped at the Visitor’s Center for my stamp and to check out the exhibits on the Blackfeet tribe’s use of the park’s land as part of their traditional homeland; they call the area the Backbone of the World. The park and the Blackfeet have a partnership now that allows the tribe to continue to use the land.
Also on the east side of the park is a 1913 Ranger Station; it was used as a ranger station until the 1930s, when it became ranger housing. They restored it in 1976. The site also contains a barn that was originally built in 1926, and was later moved to this location. There are a few hikes that depart from the Ranger Station through the grasslands on the east side of the park.
Upon leaving the park, I stopped to visit the Blackfeet Memorial, a memorial consisting of metal tipis constructed by the tribe. There are signs at the viewpoint explaining where the Blackfeet traditional lands once extended to, as well as information about their culture, way of life, origin stories, and Blackfeet names of the mountains visible from the viewpoint. This area was burned by fire in 2006; the Red Eagle fire consumed over 34,000 acres within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park. It was an interesting stop!
The rest of the day was spent on a long, meandering drive through rural Montana towards Philipsburg. I had about a half a tank of gas, and told myself that I would get gas when I next saw a gas station. I had enough for about 30 more miles by the time I finally saw a gas station! This is big country, my friends, and a lot of it is very sparsely populated. Get gas when you have a chance!
I rolled into Deer Lodge, Montana that evening for two nights at the Indian Creek RV Park. They welcomed tents, but they weren’t really well set up for them – $45 for 2 nights. They parked me in the middle of a grassy lawn, and I felt a little bit like I was living in a fishbowl, surrounded by all the RVs! I was the only tent camper there. They didn’t have any picnic tables set out, just a small gazebo on the lawn, which I ended up setting up my cook stove in – you do what you have to do. For dinner, I had rice, polenta and turkey sausage – yummy! That night was the first night I set up my tent; it would have been awkward to sleep in my car because it was just parked on the road alongside the grassy area. I learned that even though it was hot during the day, it got really cold at night!