Best Scenery in America – Day 105

Best Scenery in America

Day 105 – July 14, 2003 – Monday

Glacier National Park is absolutely breathtaking. Bozzie Jane and I vote it Best Scenery in America so far. It’s hard to imagine that we will find a place that’s any prettier…but we know better than to say that at this point as we continue to find a variety of things that we feel are EVEN better than something great that passed before.

The western entrance to the Glacier National Park at West Glacier is not far from Kalispell, Montana where we spent the night. There are a lot of tourist trap-like places between Kalispell and West Glacier. Columbia Falls (a town with no falls), Hungry Horse (great name), Martin City, Coram, and then West Glacier are the towns between Kalispell and the National Park.

The Hampton Inn was very nice in Kalispell, and we loved the Huckleberry Pie at Bojangles Diner, but there didn’t appear to be any sights to see in Kalispell. We read about a nice mansion there, but we never saw a sign, so we missed it.

Hungry Horse has a dam, and the town advertises itself as the “friendliest dam town in the west.” As we did a few days ago in Coulee City, the town that advertises itself as “the friendliest town in the west,” we stopped to check out the friendliness factor. No one bowled us over, but the young lady who served my Huckleberry Milkshake (lunch) at The Huckleberry Patch Restaurant was extremely efficient. We would like to invite everyone who lives in the Northwest to come down south to meet truly friendly people.

Hungry Horse must be the huckleberry patch capital of the world as there were huckleberry stands and shops throughout the little town. The House of Mystery is probably fun — on the eastern edge of Hungry Horse, but Boz wasn’t feeling her best this morning, so we didn’t go in.

The scenery became more and more beautiful as we drove from Kalispell through the Park to Logan Pass at the top of the Rocky Mountains midway along the “Road to the Sun” drive that is THE drive to take through Glacier National Park. Montana is an especially beautiful state!

We were able to use my shiny, new National Park Annual Pass at Glacier National Park, so it didn’t cost $10 to get in. The Park Ranger at the entrance did not look like or act like an actor and was not the least bit friendly. She remained beadless.

If you are 62 years of age or older, U.S. citizens can purchase a Golden Age Passport for $10, which is a lifetime pass to the national parks. Gee, I can’t wait to be 62.

The “Road to the Sun” is a wonderful drive. Spectacular scenery. Lakes, streams, waterfalls, bridges, trees, spectacular colors, and the stars of the show — glaciers. The road is two-lane, and the guardrails are limited. It is a scary drive as you get high up in the Rockies. Boz was on the outside of the mountains during the scary part of the drive, and with us at least, being in that position is much scarier than when you are in control as the driver. I would say the drive through Glacier National Park is not for the faint of heart…people who are not good at driving cars, should stay away from there. People who’ve had anything to drink should stay away from there. People taking Benadryl should stay away from there. People afraid of heights should stay away from there.

Logan Pass is at an elevation of 6,680 feet, and it marks the Continental Divide. This was the sixth and last time we would cross the Continental Divide on the trip.

We got some pretty good photos of Glacier National Park, but as we’ve written many times before, there is no way to appreciate sights like these from photos or video. The experience is 360-degrees, and the colors are simply more vibrant than our camera can capture.

Glacier National Park is known for tours in gorgeous bright red antique tour buses. Wayne, the driver of a red bus, told us that the buses were the original buses used for the park. In the 1930’s, the White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio designed and manufactured a style of bus that would become one of the primary modes of transportation throughout National Parks. The buses survived in Glacier because of the famous “Going to Sun Road,” built in 1933. Prior to the road’s opening, the only access to Glacier’s high country was still by horseback. As soon as the road opened, it was acclaimed for its beautiful scenery and daring engineering. Many people feared the breathtaking drop along the road, and found it hard to sightsee while driving; thus, the red buses became one of the most popular modes of transportation to the park’s high country. In the fall of 1999, old age, metal fatigue, and reliability concerns finally stopped the historic “Reds.” Ford Motor Company donated $7 million to have them totally refurbished. So the buses were brand spanking new, bright red with black, and they have wood paneling inside — just gorgeous. And of course, they have the open top where you can not only look out the sides, but you can look up and see the beautiful blue skies and white clouds in Glacier National Park.

In terms of National Parks, I rank Glacier National Park #1, Big Bend #2, and the Grand Canyon #3.

As we came down the mountains from the Park, we reached Browning, the tribal headquarters of the Blackfeet. We saw the Rocky Mountains in our rearview mirror, but nothing but flat plains for as far as the eye could see ahead and on either side of the car. We understood there is nothing but plains all the way through Montana to the Dakotas.

We saw horses running in the wild near St. Mary, Montana. Beautiful horses.

At the city limits of Rudyard, the sign proclaimed the town to be the home of “596 nice people and 1 old sore head.”

I stopped to photograph two lonely trees in central Montana. In this part of the state, you can often look as far as the eye can see with nary a tree in sight.

We drove through about 20 small towns on Highway 2 between the National Park and Havre, Montana — our resting place for the night. Two towns offered special attractions — Cut Bank and Kremlin. Cut Bank is known to many of us as it is often the coldest spot in the nation every winter. It was 80-degrees when we were there today. The World’s Tallest Penguin is in Cut Bank — 27-feet tall made from 10,000 pounds of concrete. Kremlin is special in name. We decided to turn off the highway into the town, and we never saw a single solitary person. We did, however, see an “array” of grain silos just outside of town…or perhaps they were flying saucers.

We met Pam, Mike, and Patty when we stopped to hike down to a lake for some photos in Glacier National Park. We then met some folks from Georgia — Nancy, Jamie, and Mott — and their dog Sport. We also met Myron and Lynda; they were celebrating their 41st anniversary. We met Woody, driver of one of the gorgeous red National Park tour buses, and then we met two brothers, Jason and David. We made Kinder’s acquaintance tonight at dinner.

We managed to stop by and get the last room at the Best Western in Havre — after calling for several days to hear there were no vacancies.

We drove around town looking for a place to eat, but about all we found were small casino/bars. Then we spotted Rod’s Drive-In. A strange layout, but several cars lined up to get food. We pulled in. The specialty was the Uglyburger. We had two, and they were very good. Kinder took our money. She was wearing a T-shirt that said “I got Ugly at Rod’s Drive-In.”

Random Comments:

One more day in Montana. Then we just touch the edge of Wyoming (sorry Wyoming) as we head to South Dakota for two days — Deadwood, Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, the Chief Crazy Horse Sculpture, Wall Drug, and then a number of stops in North Dakota.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Hungry Horse Montana — Glacier National Park — Cut Bank Montana — Kremlin Montana — Rod’s Drive-In