Fleeing the Glacier National Park Fire

On our quest to visit all of the major US national parks, we set off last Saturday for Glacier National Park in Montana. Little did we know that more than 4,000 acres of forest would burn in the coming days. More about that later.

Bozeman, Montana

Our trip started in Colorado, and after a full day of driving, we landed in Bozeman, Montana, a funky little hip town. As we always do, we looked for a local brewery or pub. We found Montana Ale Works, a cool watering hole that offered up good eats and local brew.

Montana Ale Works

Montana Ale Works

Montana Ale Works

Montana Ale Works

Montana Ranch

Our second day took us to an 80-acre Montana ranch to visit some early retiree friends, Bob and Robin Charlton, whom we met in 2011 after an article was written about them on the Yahoo finance site. Our first face-to-face meeting with Bob and Robin was just after we retired (2012).

We happened to be in Maine at the same time and met up at Arcadia National Park and shared a lobster dinner. Since then, we’ve kept in touch via email and visited them in Boulder early this summer.

As luck would happen, they were house sitting for friends who had a beautiful ranch in Montana. They graciously asked us if we could stop by and visit with them on our way to Glacier National Park.

Beautiful Montana Ranch

Beautiful Montana Ranch

The cabin was custom designed by their friends and is incredibly well done.

Custom designed cabin

Custom designed cabin

The cabin has beautiful mountain views, complete with horses.

Beautiful Montana views

Beautiful Montana views

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Friendly Horses

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Beautiful Blue Eyes

We spent our afternoon kicking back a few brews, chatting about retired life and enjoying each other’s company.

Hanging with Bob and Robin

Hanging with Bob and Robin

Bob wrote a book called “How to Retire Early”, it’s a great book — I’ve purchased copies for our boys. Bob and Robin are about to embark on 2 full years of traveling — they chronicle their travels on their website (www.WhereWeBe.com).

Flathead Cherries

After spending a full day and night with the Charltons, it was time to head towards Glacier National Park. We kept hearing about “Flathead Cherries“. On the way to Glacier, we saw Flathead Lake and found out that there were lots of cherry groves around the lake.

Flat Head Lake

Flathead Lake

We stopped by a local cherry stand and purchased some. I’ve never eaten a cherry so sweet and juicy. If you are ever in the neighborhood, you have to try them!

Flathead Cherries

Flathead Cherries

Glacier National Park

Once we arrived to Glacier National Park, we entered the west entrance on the “Going to the Sun” road.  Our first stop was at Lake McDonald and dipped my toes into the cool and clear glacier waters.

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald

As we made our way up to Logan pass, we stopped to take in several waterfalls. Although I missed getting a picture of it, a huge brown bear crossed the road about 50 yards behind our car during one of our stops.

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Waterfalls of Glacier National Park

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Waterfalls of Glacier National Park

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Waterfalls of Glacier National Park

Hidden Lake Hike at Logan Pass

Our goal for the day was to hike to Hidden Lake. The 3.5 mile hike is not terribly difficult but offers some incredible views of mountain vistas, wildlife, waterfalls and ends at Hidden Lake.

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Views during our hike

As we were hiking up to Hidden Lake, a mountain goat came within about 5 feet of us. He could really care less about us, he was just moseying down the mountain without a care in the world.

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The reward for making this hike was Hidden Lake, a beautiful lake at the base of a mountain.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

On our return trip, we saw the same mountain goat eating vegetation along the way. How cool is to see wildlife in their natural habitat?

Natural habitat

Natural habitat

We finished our day by driving the rest of Going to the Sun road. Pictures hardly do it justice.

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

St. Mary Lake Tour and Hike

On the second day of our trip, we took a boat tour of St. Mary Lake, at the east end of the park. You take a 30 minute boat ride to a ranger guided hike that takes you up to St. Mary Falls.

St. Mary Lake Boat Tour

St. Mary Lake Boat Tour

St. Mary Lake Boat Tour

St. Mary Lake Boat Tour

The boat ride was surreal, a slow ride over 300 foot glacial water. The captain explained the biology and ecology of the glaciers and the ranger gave us insight into the forest and wildlife.

Boat tour of St. Mary Lake

Boat tour of St. Mary Lake

Boat tour of St. Mary Lake

Boat tour of St. Mary Lake

Ranger Lead Hike

Ranger Lead Hike

The 2.5 hour hike wasn’t too strenuous, only about 300 feet of elevation change and it culminated in views of the silky St. Mary Falls. On our way back, we spotted a moose at the end of the St. Mary Lake.

St. Mary Falls

St. Mary Falls

St. Mary Falls

St. Mary Falls

Glacier National Park Fire

During our boat tour, the captain mentioned that the St. Mary Lake forest area had not had a major fire in about 100 years. We finished up our time at the park around 3 p.m. on July 21. Later that night, we saw on TV where a fire broke out at Glacier National Park, exactly in the spot where we had just hiked to St. Mary Lake and only about 30 minutes after we had left.

As of July 23, it has already burned over 4,000 acres and is still not contained. We also heard that they evacuated the restaurant and lodge that where we ate just before leaving the park.

Glacier National Park Fire (not my photo)

Glacier National Park Fire (not my photo)

We were incredibly fortunate to have viewed St. Mary Lake in it’s pristine grandeur. Our friends (Bob and Robin) were planning to camp there for a couple of weeks and I spoke them today, they were re-evaluating their plans because a lot of the park has been evacuated.

About the Millers

Steve and Lynn Miller retired early and now enjoy traveling and embracing new hobbies. In their spare time, they develop mobile apps. You can learn more here:

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11 thoughts on “Fleeing the Glacier National Park Fire

  1. elise

    Your pictures are stunning and I just added Glacier to my must do list next summer. Amazing. I’m glad you were able to get out before the fire was started, and hopefully it didn’t do too much damage to such a beautiful place.

    Reply
  2. our next life

    Beautiful trip! And what good timing you had, getting out before the fire! We live in wildfire country, and we think about it every single day. Even when it’s what happens in an area, it’s still stressful to think about! Glad you made it out safely.

    Reply
  3. rcharlto

    Hi Steve & Lynn, so glad you could visit with us on your way to Glacier! We had such a fun time getting to see you again. St. Mary Campground was a bust for us (closed due to the fire), but thankfully we were able to camp in the Many Glacier area of the park, which is completely untouched by the fire. Not even a whiff of smoke, just some of the most gorgeous mountains we’ve ever seen. Saw a momma grizzly and her two cubs cross the path we were hiking at Grinnell Glacier! Camped for three nights at Many Glacier Campground, then stayed at a historic cabin for two nights at Many Glacier due to a last-minute cancellation. Missed Going-to-the-Sun Road this trip due to the fire, but we hear it’s opening tomorrow from the west side up to Logan Pass. We’re in Canada now and visiting Waterton tomorrow, so we’ll have to catch Going-to-the-Sun Road on our next visit. The fire is still an issue in the St. Mary valley on the east side, but much of the rest of Glacier is fine, thank goodness. Look forward to our next chance to reconnect in person!

    Reply
  4. Mrs. FI

    What a lovely post featuring great Montana sites! We just ate at Ale Works on Saturday after attending a football game in Bozeman. The Bison Patty Melt is to die for. Glad you enjoyed your time and that you escaped the fires!

    Reply

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