Day 5 – Unexpected Outcomes

We set alarms to be up by 6:30 a.m. so we could prepare for our guided tour through Glacier National Park.  We were very excited even though it was still dark and the temperature read 45 degrees. It must be Fall.

After a quick yogurt for breakfast we packed our day bags. Contents: One water bottle; one sweatshirt; one hat; one bug band; one granola bar; two cameras. Only the necessities.

It was a 45 minute drive to the pick up point, but we made it in good time. No one else was on the road. There was still smoke visible (and smell-able) as the dawn pushed back the darkness. All of the sudden, we could see in the sky before us half of a bright orange orb that we knew must be the sun. Only, it appeared to be cut in half as if with pinking shears. “A mountain!” we both exclaimed at once. We realized the other half of the sun was obscured by the slope of a mountain. And, as the day grew lighter and lighter, we could actually make out the outlines of some of the mountains around us. We had seen the sunrise through a gap in the mountains. It felt like waking up in an entirely different world from the one we had been in for the last 3 days.

The park ranger at the entrance to the park checked our pass and wished us a happy “Good morning,” as he handed us a map and waved us through. We drove on to Apgar Village where we had determined our Red Bus Tour of the park would start. There were no other cars in the parking lot. We parked and went to the meeting point. While the General Store’s OPEN sign was lit up, everything else around looked dark and closed. The lodge office, where we had just made the change in our reservations for the tour just the day before yesterday, had a sign explaining they were closed for the season. What? The place almost looked abandoned.

It was starting to feel just a little Twilight Zone-y. Randy got out his phone and made a call. There was only a recording. He checked the Red Bus website and they had a message that all tours had been cancelled from the West side of the park. What? Another call and some waiting before talking to a real person. Yes, indeed, all tours from the West side of the park had been cancelled! Turns out, the Park actually suspended all commercial enterprises because of predictions for increased threat of fires over the weekend. And, the woman who had changed our reservations only moved our name over to today, but had failed to include our contact information, so we never got notified of the cancellation.

Time for plan B. We left Apgar Village and took the road to Camas that led us into the park to the north. A short distance away we stopped the car after crossing a lovely little stream, Fern Creek, and got out. Finally, here was something we could see. A slow flowing gentle creek on one side of the bridge. But on the other, a mirror-glassed water way adorned with an expertly constructed beaver lodge nestled along the shore. To complete the picture were lush evergreens along the banks and in the distance, purple- smoky mountains rose into the haze to complete a scenic backdrop lit by the early morning sun. This may be the best and the only picture we have from this trip to Glacier. For a few minutes we simply stood in awe. It was like we were the only two people in the world. The silence was stunning – and captivating. Then we heard the birds and insects and even the ripple of the water. It was a graced moment.

While more of the landscape was becoming visible, it certainly was not smoke free and we made an executive decision to return to Glacier at another more opportune time. We knew we would be compromising if this was our entire experience of Glacier National Park. On the way out, we stopped by Apgar Visitor Center again to check out the park’s webcams of other park locations. As expected, the cams showed there was still so much  that was obscured by smoke. Assured now we had made the right decision, we left knowing we will be returning sometime in the future.

Before we got to the car, however, we stopped to marvel at the large plants with tiny purple flowers growing everywhere  . . . the very kind of plant I’ve been pulling up from our yard as weeds for years! It’s amazing how in nature there are no weeds – only plants growing and flowering where they are most at home. Walking the immediate grounds we saw a deer lazily munching some breakfast, unconcerned with these out-of-towners who just found out their Red Bus tour had been cancelled. Another graced moment.

We were back at our apartment at Meadow Lake by 11:30 a.m., just in time for a short nap before deciding what else to do for the day. We ended up getting trapped in reading our novels; made a quick salad for dinner; watched the weather channel’s coverage (which we do not get at home) of hurricane Irma; and went out for an evening stroll around the golf course. Even with such unexpected outcomes, the day was lovely. Never undervalue the possibilities of Plan B.