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Thursday, June 30th
Rise & Shine: Sleep in! (until 8)
No hiking today. The weather is markedly cooler—in the 50s—and we're not complaining! Lots of layers kept us comfortable all day. Clouds moved quickly through the skies, one after another. White, then gray, then white, then gray again. Bits of blue peeked through. Rain came and went. The wind, as well.
We headed straight to Polebridge on the West side of the park, and the famed bakery everyone kept raving about. The 30 minute+ drive was much different than the East side of the park. New growth pushed through a charred wilderness, damaged by a fire in 2003. Clouds continued to travel through the blue skies, headed for the peaks and beyond. This side of the park was especially isolated and free of most tourists and traffic. The roads were narrow and winding gravel paths. So in other words, slow going. But the view of the mountains continued to be astounding.
Polebridge was all everyone said. Remote, authentic, and delicious! There was a small, red, wooden general store and bakery, standing in the middle of vast green fields. A few other small, rustic buildings completed the scene. Making a note to come back for lunch, we pressed on.
The road entered the park at a helpful ranger station, then made its way up to two lakes. We opted for Bowman Lake, 30 winding miles up the road. A glacial river came into view on our right. And on our left, a green, lush wonderland of new pines, aspens, and wildflowers bloomed in every color. They were all thriving among the black skeletons of former forest giants. Wes pulled over to photograph the layered landscape—all the stages of death and growth. The faraway thick pines, closer burned forest, and determined small and verdant new trees. Aspen leaves shimmered in the sunlight, giving in to the cool, blustery air. Pink, white, and yellow blossoms dotted the intensely bright green grasses, tall and wild. The only words to describe the ridiculous scene would be utterly lovely.
Finally reaching Bowman Lake, we were greeted with yet another stunning panorama of a glacial lake, flanked by pines, encircled by snow-capped peaks. Wes set up his gear and began a time-lapse, as I chatted with two pontoon boaters. A dad and his daughter had been out all morning, fishing with little luck. They lived in the nearby town of Hungry Horse. I tried to imagine growing up in Montana, taking weekend trips into Glacier National Park. Would it remain a novelty? Or would I crave a city life? I sensed that this girl knew what she had. :) Not to mention that she was quite skilled with that Pontoon boat!
Time lapse in the bag, we headed back in clouds threatening rain, and wound our way back to Polebridge. We had the most AMAZING huckleberry turnovers and hot sandwiches for lunch. We ate on rugged picnic tables in the dancing wind, watching the gray sky move in. As the rain began to fall, we climbed back in the car, heading for the next stop: Goat Lick.
Now, Goat Lick sounds odd, but is exactly what the name implies: A natural salt lick in the side of a sheer cliff, where mountain goats come to, well, lick. There is a wide and expansive gulch and river between viewers and the goats, so it was a good thing Wes had a mega zoom lens (which he has a fancier name for, of course). Two mother goats, each with a single sweet baby moved deftly along the sheer wall. And that was our closest encounter with Montana wildlife, aside from the chipmunks and occasional spooked marmot.
With rain on the horizon, we headed back to our room a little early, ready to pack up for a next-day-departure. It was an end to a truly memorable, unique much needed vacation. The next day we'd be returning to Ontario, Oregon to scoop up our babies and get ready for the 4th of July! Thank you, Glacier National Park. For all of it.