Glacier National Park: Many Glacier and Lamarca

After our morning hike at Hidden Lake on Friday, August 3, we spent the afternoon running errands in anticipation of “Prosecco Hour,” which is that hour when you drink Prosecco in your campsite. But when running errands is as scenic as going to the Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park, you certainly don’t mind.

We exited the Park at St. Mary and stopped for gas in town. I took a moment to run into the gift shop in search of a small stuffed Mountain Goat. Now that we’d seen some actual Mountain Goats, I wanted to get one to represent Glacier in our collection (one stuffed animal per Park representing a species we’d seen in the Park). At Logan Pass Visitor Center, all of the stuffed animals had been really big. Unfortunately, that was also the case at the gift shop.

We climbed back into the Expedition, and I drove us through the rolling foothills near lower Saint Mary Lake. All the land east of the mountains comprised the Blackfeet Reservation.

At Babb, we turned and headed toward the Park’s Many Glacier entrance, far to the northeast. We reentered the Park along the shores of Lake Sherburne, which is a reservoir impounded along Sherburne Creek.

Many Glacier Entrance Station

Trails north of the road were closed because of a high level of Grizzly Bear activity, including sows with cubs.

Mount Wilbur

We turned into the small developed area of Many Glacier and immediately found a parking spot along the road to the main Many Glacier Hotel parking area.

We were surrounded by dramatic country on the opposite side of the Garden Wall from the previous day’s adventures on the Highline.

Canada Goldenrod

Dan oriented us to the landscape, pointing out the Garden Wall and other features. While we were standing there near the parking area, a man let us know that there was a Grizzly over to the north on the slopes of Altyn Peak.

Altyn Peak

It was far enough away that I didn’t try for a photo. That was two Grizzlies so far.

Grinnell Point, Swiftcurrent Lake, and Many Glacier Hotel

We turned back to the path to the hotel and came upon a pretty neat sign situated above an iconic view where thousands of people would see it each year.

Many Glacier Hotel

Many Glacier Hotel, which opened in 1915, is the pinnacle of the Great Northern Railway’s efforts at convincing rich Easterners that Glacier National Park comprised the “American Alps.” Certainly the Many Glacier area bolstered the railway’s case. It was part of a larger “See America First” movement in the early decades of the twentieth century that attempted to boost tourism in the United States as opposed to Europe. World War I helped the effort, as did such luxury facilities as Many Glacier Hotel.

Many Glacier Hotel’s restored double-helix staircase

The hotel is lovely and odd, particularly since the staff still maintain the Alps thing by wearing lederhosen to match the Swiss chalet vibe. It’s all a bit much, particularly to a native Michigander with fond childhood memories of the faux Bavarian schtick of Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Many Glacier Hotel

Is it any more odd than the rustic lodge aesthetic of other National Park structures imported from the colonial-era Appalachians? I’d argue yes. That at least is more homegrown. This feels more like an early attempt at Disneyland.

Many Glacier Hotel. Image: Sean M. Santos

Or at least Disneyland with truly legit scenery.

Swiftcurrent Lake. Image: Sean M. Santos

Many Glacier is absolutely spectacular.

We were there on a mission to get boat tickets, which can only be gotten two days in advance. There was availability for Sunday morning, Angela’s birthday, so we snatched them up, ensuring that we would close our time in Glacier with the Grinnell Glacier Trail hike.

Mount Wilbur

Mount Grinnell and Mount Wilbur

Mount Gould and the Angel Wing above Swiftcurrent Lake

Mount Grinnell and Grinnell Point

Image: Sean M. Santos

Cliff Swallow and Many Glacier Hotel

Back in the hotel, I haunted the gift shop looking for a little Mountain Goat, and was again disappointed not to find one. They only had big ones.

Then Angela walked over holding a little Mountain Goat! I had walked right past a basket of them on the floor. I was embarrassingly excited and immediately purchased him.

After grabbing some snacks, we had another look around the hotel, including the dining room.

Many Glacier Hotel

Many Glacier Hotel lobby. Image: Sean M. Santos

Many Glacier Hotel dining room

Many Glacier Hotel dining room

Sean and I said we would not mind staying at the hotel someday. It reminded us of the fun we had at Glacier Bay Lodge on our honeymoon.

Many Glacier Hotel

We walked back up the hill, piled into the Expedition, and headed out of Many Glacier. Just as the road narrowed at a point specifically designated “No Parking, No Stopping” the truck in front of us stopped. We didn’t know why, but assumed they saw something. Rangers in an NPS vehicle headed the opposite direction waved for them to keep moving. After the NPS vehicle passed, the truck’s driver pointed out the window to a spot above us.

Grizzly Bear sow and cubs. Image: Angela Hayes

A Grizzly Bear sow and her two first-year cubs were making their way along the ridge right above us! I quickly opened the sunroof so that everyone could see. Angela popped off some shots with my big camera before we were forced to keep going.

Video: Sean M. Santos

As we began to leave, the sow kicked a small boulder off the ridge and it bounced and crashed down onto the road behind us.

We returned to St. Mary, passing a slew of tandem bike riders along the highway from Babb.

We stopped for groceries for dinner and for the Prosecco for Prosecco Hour. The supermarket had two options for sparkling wine: Cook’s Champagne and Lamarca Prosecco. Lamarca Prosecco it would be!

Saint Mary Entrance

(If the photo above, from the St. Mary entrance, is any indication, a lot of people have no idea how tall their vehicles are.)

It wasn’t even a quarter after three when we got back to our campsite, so we had plenty of time to chill the Prosecco and relax. Sean convinced me to take advantage of the free shower facilities (I’d never taken a shower in a campground before), and he and Dan and I walked over there. It felt pretty luxurious.

On the way back, we regarded a campsite near ours that looked well-nigh abandoned, what with the destroyed canopy and no one around. But the tag said that the people who had it were still there. It had been like this for days.

Buck Moth caterpillar

As we settled into our relaxing late afternoon, Dan took up a sisyphean task: preventing a huge caterpillar from getting accidentally stepped on by crossing our campsite. Each time it came crawling by, he picked it up and put it back in the safety of the shrubs. And then it came crawling out again. Finally, he put it in the shrubs on the other side of the campsite, and it seemed content.

Well done, Dan!

Prosecco Hour began.

And Angela gave herself a crafty challenge.

She used the metal cap and wire from the Lamarca Prosecco bottle to create a little radio collar for the stuffed Mountain Goat.


With this very cleverly made bling, the little Mountain Goat had a name, Lamarca.

Nicely done, Ang.

Sean’s contribution to Prosecco Hour was to make quesadilla apps. Yum!

Image: Angela Hayes

Good job, Sean!

Later, we had a touch of trouble getting that evening’s fire started. Above is a photo of Sean Santos using a mini-fan to give the fire air.

We did get it started, though, and soon our corn-on-the-cob was cooking.

There’s Barbara with the lighter fluid.

Good thinking, Barbara!

While we waited for dinner, Dan performed for us on his melodica.

Later, while we roasted polish sausages, Angela broke out her tin whistle, and we jammed out to the themes from Titanic and Lord of the Rings.

Image: Angela Hayes

And thus ended a silly and memorable day in the the National Parks.

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