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Stupid Tourists? You Decide.

Posted by on September 12, 2009

From Bonners Ferry, Idaho, we made our way to Glacier National Park. As no parks in Glacier have hookups and with three people who have a lot of gadgets to plug in and who use a lot of water, we had to settle on a privately-owned RV park. We ended up pulling in very late to San-Suz-Ed RV park after reading decent reviews and learning it had a better wireless internet connection than another nearby RV park. Despite our waking her up, the kind owner assigned us a spot.

Waffles with Raspberry, Huckleberry, and Rhubarb Toppings.  Yum.

Waffles with Raspberry, Huckleberry, and Rhubarb Toppings. Yum.

The following morning, Chris got to work.   Hong went to eat a delicious breakfast at the resort’s kitchen. (The resort is also a bed and breakfast and the owner makes homemade Belgian waffles every morning. It’s a good thing we were not there for too many days or I would not fit into the Airstream.) And, I cleaned up the trailer a bit and then started reading about the park’s hiking trails. Once Chris finished work that day, we set off to drive the Going to the Sun Road, the road that took eleven years to build and is the only road that runs right through the park. It offers stunning views and potential wildlife encounters. I was totally excited.

A mountain goat at Logan Pass

A mountain goat at Logan Pass

In the first part of our drive, there were a number of cars pulled over, people with cameras, and traffic was backed up quite a bit.  I knew it had to be wildlife.  But, what?  We learned that it was a bear.  Seeing the ten other people out of their cars, I briefly joined them and Chris followed.  The bear was at a reasonable distance.  Further, the bear was lying down and I didn’t feel we were threatening her nor was she threatening us.  Those were my reasons for briefly stepping out of my car to get a really small glimpse of the bear.  Was it the smartest thing I have ever done?  No.  Do I encourage people to get out of their cars to view wildlife?  No.  Would I do it again?  I can’t answer that.

We continued on the spectacular road and made our way up to Logan Pass, the point of the continental divide. Having just caught a glimpse of a mountain goat, we chose to hike a trail that we thought would provide views of the goats. And, boy, did we have views! We hiked along the trail and stopped to snap pictures of a mountain goat that was off in the distance. A couple hiking in the opposite direction informed us of a group of bighorn sheep just down the trail. So, obviously, off we went in search for better photo opportunities.

A Bighorn Sheep on the move

A Bighorn Sheep on the move

When we arrived at that particular spot, there was another couple on the trail taking pictures from a reasonable distance. We joined them and Chris, the photographer, did his thing. It was amazing. There was a group of bighorn sheep and one lonely mountain goat paying no attention to the nearby passing cars or the annoying tourists, such as us, standing in a field snapping pictures.

The other couple left and so it was just the three of us on the trail with the wildlife. Suddenly, the animals moved towards us in a non-threatening manner. We were still on a trail but rather than turn around and walk away to give these animals their land and space…oh no, we decided to stay and continue to snap pictures.   These animals were much closer than the 25 yards noted in the Park’s brochures they handed us upon our entrance.  And, as noted by these brochures, animal attacks are usually the result of stupid tourists.  So, I ask…were we stupid tourists that night?  And, which act was more risky: Observing the bear or our close encounter with the bighorn sheep and mountain goat?  I know that sheep and goat are not exactly scary animals, but they are wildlife.  What do you think?

Hong and one of his many poses at Logan Pass

Hong and one of his many poses at Logan Pass

The animals walked right by us. I froze both in awe and fear. They seemed perfectly fine with our presence but one never knows.  These sheep had much bigger horns than my Lake Minnewanka sheep and I imagine they are not afraid to use them. They continued on in search for more food and probably quieter surroundings. We continued to snap pictures and tried to not make any sudden movements, with the exception of Hong doing some necessary poses as instructed by Chris. An awesome moment…er…not Hong’s poses…just the animals walking by us.

Along the trail at Logan Pass

Along the trail at Logan Pass

We headed back to the car, taking note of another trail that we would be sure to do later in the week and then made the long and winding drive back down to West Glacier with views of the sun setting over the park. Along the way, bighorn sheep crowded the road, munching on some dirt, and paying no attention to the cars at all. The scenery along the road is simply incredible. Just when I thought the views could not possibly get any better than Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Glacier National Park goes and proves me wrong!  (No offense Moraine Lake, you continue to be  beautiful…)

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