The Mighty Rocky Mountains; Montana, Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies!

As I noted in last week’s feature, we’re on a journey of exploration: California to Nova Scotia, Canada, via the Trans-Canada Highway and a return through the USA’s East Coast, Midwest and historic Rt. 66.  We will log about 9,000 miles in 69 days, towing a tiny Scotty teardrop travel trailer.  We will camp about 2/3s of the time, and stay with family, new friends or at motels the balance.

Susan and our Scotty teardrop settle in for three days in Glacier National Park's Apgar Campground.

We caught the small-trailer bug about 12 years ago, after spotting tiny and larger classic travel trailers in campgrounds. Spouse Susan and I had reached the age when tent camping was “too rough”, we liked the idea of a trailer already “packed and ready to go”, is light and can be towed with four-cylinder car, allowing 26 MPG.  And Susan fears bears in campgrounds – so the hard-sided teardrop solves that worry.

In our second week on the road it’s our chance to explore the Montana and Canadian Rocky Mountains and their summer majesty. We depart Spokane, WA, headed east into Idaho, past gorgeous Coeur d’Alene Lake, the Silver Mountain Ski Area (with long tram right beside Interstate 90), and stop just beyond at old Wallace, ID, an historic, quaint downtown tracing its origins to the Idaho silver-mining boom.

Shortly after, we turn north off I-90 at St. Regis, Montana, and head up to the Flathead Lake region, then Kalispell and Whitefish, and east into Glacier National Park. The mighty Rocky Mountains stand tall to the east, like stalwart sentinels extending north into Canada.

Lake McDonald, looking east from Apgar Village.

If you arrive to find Glacier in-park campgrounds sold out as we did, double back a mile from West Glacier to privately owned Glacier Campground– with 190 nice campsites, in-forest setting, nicely maintained and reasonably priced.

The next day at 8 AM we head into Glacier’s Apgar Campground – you can see by the tags on the  200+ campsite posts when the current residents depart – and quickly find several empty sites. We’re here for the next three days.

The next day, we follow Going to the Sun Highway, up McDonald Creek and the most lovely 16 mile drive with jaw-dropping sheer cliffs off the right-hand side. It takes a half-hour to find a parking spot in Logan Pass parking lot – we should have arrived much earlier than noon! Better idea; take the free tram from Apgar or Lake McDonald Lodge and save the drive and hassle.

Hidden Lake is about a 3 mile hike from Glacier Park's Logan Pass, offering stunning views.

It’s a lovely, sunny day (with clouds only on the far horizons). We choose the hike to Hidden Lake; the trail climbs about 500 vertical feet and then descends to the lake. At the overlook, we eight Mountain goats bask in the sunshine, trail-side. Below, Hidden Lake glistens, with snow-capped Gunsight Mountain rising in distance. On the return trip we see several more goats, just off the trail. Jackson, Blackfoot and Pumpelly Glaciers look to have receded from our last summer visit, two years ago.

Another fun hike the next day, a steep several miles up, is to scenic Avalanche Lake, closer to our campground, with time for early coffee and time to admire historic Lake McDonald Lodge and its towering four-story lobby decked out with stuffed animal heads. Our final day in Glacier allows us time to explore the Apgar Village area, at the west end of Lake McDonald, and we enjoy a huckleberry ice-cream cone as we watch visitors test their paddleboard skills on the lovely high-mountain lake.

Mountain goats take their leisure, just 30 feet off the Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park.

After our Glacier Park stay, we head up Montana Hwy. 93, through Eureka, MT where a huge annual quilting fare is taking place. We cross the border into Canada at Roosville, BC. Our first stop, just 20 miles north of the border, is Baynes Lake and the home of Affordable Travel Club members Dave and Nancy Marchant.

Affordable Travel Club members (affordabletravelclub.net) offer other members an overnight stay and breakfast for a $20 gratuity, a wonderful deal. David and Nancy, noting no nearby restaurants, provide a full steak dinner, and a morning breakfast complete with strawberry crepes – they may be the top meals of our nine-week journey!

With the bargain come hosts anxious to share insight about their home and region. David, a 50 year-vet of the Canadian National Ski Patrol (I have 34 years with the US’s National Ski Patrol) gives us a tour of nearby Koocanusa Lake, the Kootenai River dammed just above Libby, MT, which backs up well into Canada – hence, the name.

We leave the Marchants with deep thanks, an extra $10 gratuity and a bottle of Lodi zinfandel wine.

Elk River is framed by the Canadian Rockies just west of Fernie, British Columbia.

Our next stop is Fernie, in British Columbia’s Elk River Valley, with a lovely historic downtown framing a view of Fernie Alpine Ski Resort just west of town. It’s one of six towns in the Elk River Valley, home to five huge open-pit coal mines. Canada’s towering Rockies seem to frame every view, in any direction.

Historic downtown Fernie, BC, frames the nearby Fernie Alpine Ski Resort just west of town.

At Sparwood, further up the Valley, we find the world’s largest truck, used by Teck Industries in one of those five coal mines. The Titan-33, 23 feet tall, 67 feet long and 25 feet wide, carries a 350 ton pay-load of rock or coal, dwarfing a 6 foot tall photographer in the picture I took.

We continue east to Canada’s continental divide, cross Crowsnest Pass at 4500 feet, and find a nearby campground.

The Titan 33, world's largest truck, is on display in Sparwood, BC. It was used in nearby open-pit coal mines.

That night, a crashing thunder and lightning storm welcomes us to Alberta. It’s on to the Canada Great Plains, our home for the next six days. Follow our journey in next week’s Record, and on my blog!
For more information: for Glacier National Park, nps.gov/glac, for Fernie, BC and the Elk River Valley, tourismfernie.com.

Contact Tim Viall at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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