St Mary, Montana

It’s the beginning of our second week of travel and today was the first time we didn’t have clear skies. In Columbia Falls yesterday, the temperature was in the high 90s before afternoon thunderstorms dropped some light rain. Today the storms have been building all day.

We made the drive around the south flank of Glacier Park and got to St Mary in the early afternoon, and that’s even stopping at the goat lick and lunch (it’s not the name of a restaurant, they’re different places). We had to move so we could see Glacier’s east side. As I wrote earlier, the Going to the Sun Road is still covered in snow.

Goats at the salt lick
Mountain goats migrate from the high cliffs down to a salt deposit along the Flathead River.

The goat lick is kind of cool. There is a turn out near the south-west corner of the park where you can see mountain goats if you’re lucky. They come down from the high mountains to a spot above a fork of the Flathead River where there are salt deposits. The last time Anne and I stopped, there were about a dozen, but there were only three today. Since they’re on the other side of the river, they’re over a mile away in the shot I made with my telephoto lens.

Storm over St Mary Lake
Afternoon thunderstorms create a dark mood in Glacier National Park.

After setting up camp, we piled in the car and drove up the east side of the Going to the Sun Road. That’s when the thunderstorms really developed. As moist air moves in from the west, the Rockies wring a lot of that water out before moving out to the dry prairie. With thunder echoing off of the mountains while rain and hail bounced off of Fritz, the park was showing off a different face.

Two mountain peaks in rain clouds
Behind a grove of burnt evergreens, two Glacier peaks are obscured by rain clouds.

We’re going to stay here for another day then move across the border to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. It’s part of the Glacier Eco system and is called the International Peace Park. Besides, Fred and I have to see if we can catch something that moves.


And so the adventure begins. The Alaska Journey

The gang poses for a portrait.
The gang takes a pack break to pose in front of the caravan. From left to right: Anne, Jim, Sally, Fred holding Gus and Deb.

Hold on to your hats, folks, because after a year of planning and packing, our road trip to Alaska and back to Arizona is finally kicking off tomorrow morning. We’ll be hitting the road from Congress, driving through Prescott, Verde Valley, and Flagstaff, and then spending the night in Kanab, Utah. I don’t know about you, but I won’t feel like I’m out of town until we’re on the other side of the San Francisco Peaks.

We’ve spent the last month getting our vehicles ready, but there’s always something else to pack. This morning, we had to make an emergency run to get longer chains because, of course, the hitch needed replacing. The pile of stuff in the dining room is smaller now, but I can’t shake this feeling that we’ve forgotten something… something important. But hey, at some point, you just have to get in the car and go. We’ll figure out what we forgot when it’s too late to turn back.

Our route will generally follow the I-15 corridor until we get to Montana, then we’ll cross the Continental Divide and head into Canada on the east side of the Rockies. From there, we’ll drive through the Canadian Rockies up to the Yukon Territory, and eventually reach Fairbanks.

We’ll make a loop through Alaska, hitting up Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula before making our way back to Tok. And then, we’ll finally start the journey home. We plan to take a more scenic route on the way back, traveling along or near the coast until mid-California. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves – who knows what kind of trouble we’ll run into along the way.

I’ll be posting updates from our journey, but it would take something pretty catastrophic to stop me from doing so (knock on wood). But hey, if something does happen, at least it’ll make for a good story, right? See you on the road!