A ray of sun filters through the trees and directly hit the tent; it is still quite cold and deciding to get out of the sleeping bag, so warm and comfy, is everything but simple. But so many things are awaiting for us today and in sminutes we are out, an extra layers of clothes already on.
Yes, it does not seem so but we are high in the mountains and even if it is hot during the day,nights and mornings are chilly.
We pack all our stuff, a pretty nice morning routine by now and in minutes we are ready to leave. First stop in Polebridge, for a thousand-calories breakfast – they have some really delicious cakes and sweets.
Tummies fulland ready to go, we decide to head straight towards Logan Pass, the last town which is possible to reach on the Going-To-The-Sun-Road, which is closed due to the fire from there onwards. They told us to leave early morning, if we want to avoid the line which is forming every day in later and so do we.
The route, the well-known Going-To-The-Sun-Road, joins the two sides of the Glacier National Park, passing through Logan Pass, a high altitude mountain pass on the cliff among two valleys, with a really amazing view. The speed is really slow, both for the really windy and steep road and for the danger of animal crossing, and also because one is enraptured from the stunning landscape.
At first we drive along the endless Lago McDonald, then we begin the pretty steep drive which leads to The Loop, a really steep switchback from where the stunning view over the valley begins. In other words, there is not a second of pause, we continue watching around and we are just speechless.
With no more words, we silently drive up to Logan Pass, where we find already quite a few tourists. A quick tour of the Visitor Center and some questions to the ranger after, we know that there is a nice hike starting right behind the building, which follows the long boardwalk up and then down to the Hidden Lake, but this is a whole different story which we will tell you about another time, and which starts watching the majestick peak in front of us.
The hike doesn’t take too long, the right time to make us fall in love with this place. Sadly, the route had being closed from here on to the East side due to the wild fire and we cannot go any longer, buut this is not a big deal and we already know we would have to drive all around the park to reach the other side, so we hit the road again. Just a turn after, we pull over after a ranger crosses our road on the other side and get out of the car with a rifle in his hands. We get out to try and understand what is happening and a group of people explain that a bear, probably a grizzlyl is getting too close to the road. But don’t freak out, the rifle is just to scare it away.
We leave again, this time for good, and enjoy the road turn after turn. But still, not to the beginning of the road. We decide, in fact, to stop for a short hike to the Avalanche Lake, a really busy hike but warmly advised from the ranger at the Visitor Center.
We park and get into the deep forest and we already know, just after a few steps, that this will be a really peculiar place. We walk deep into the woods, the path is easy and wide and even if it there is a lot of people, it is not too crowded.
We enjoy the scent of the wood and the trees and the pine needles rain, pull-off from the strong wind, which mirror the few golden rays of sun which can get through the thick branches high up. It is an incredible show, we stop every few steps, mostly once we get closer to the long serie of waterfalls in the little canyon beside the trail.
In less than one hour and despite the many stops, we reach the lake shore. Even if it is pretty full of tourists, there is so much space for everybody and it does not feel too crowded. We sit on the logs in the water, bewitched by the sound of the flowing water and the colours surrounding us and we enjoy a quick snack.
Once we cheer our friends the squirrels, always there in these forests, and who really appreciate the apple chip we accidentally drop, we start to get back, hiking again near the wood-giant dressed in green musk.
Once at the parking lot, our day is still long to be ended. There are still a couple hundreds kilometers to drive out of the park, round it and get to St. Mary, on the opposite side of the park.
We start to drive, at first going up again on the mountains and then, once the way down has begun, watching towards endless golden fields in front of us. Yep, that’s Montana: the last high peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the nothing but flat, deserted prairies.
We drive a lot, fascinated but the sudden landscape change, from the mountains to the prairies and mountains again. In some places it is enough to turn around to radically change the view, both the front and the rear stunning: behind us, the high snowy peaks and in front of us, endless, flat and almost deserted prairies.
The nth landscape change bring us close to the mountains again and in the distance we spot a white smoke, so we know we are almost arrived. Once we leave the prairies, we get near St. Mary and the wild fire greets us: a thick layer of white smoke blurs the sun, giving place to a surreal atmosphere and in a hour or so, a sunset on fire – the sun rays get reflected by the smoke which give them a reddish, amazing shade.
Once we get over the first speechless moments, we get straight to the St. Mary Campground to find a place for the night. We are quite lucky and, as we were told, we can easily find a campsite even if it is late afternoon. We pitch the tent taking our time, the sun has just begun its final descent and we decide to stick to yesterday’s menu for the dinner: Asian BBQ Rice and Noodle.
After dinner, we go to wash the dishes and discover a really interesting thing: this night as every clear night, an astronomer ranger will have a public talk on the night sky and the stars, in the parking lot here near. What for a better reason to stay with our nose up, since there should be shooting stars tonight.
Once we get to the parking lot, we discover the talk is pretty serious, a proper Astronomy 101 lesson, with a real telescope to discover the colour of the stars and magnify the moon. Attilio use the long talk to shoot some really amazing pictures to the moon, which is red for the smoke we can clearly see on the opposite hill and behind it, while I can just stare at the stars and the constellations.
We are also able to spot the ISS, the International Space Station, which we discover is crossing the sky over our heads every three hours or so, silent and hardly spotted from our untrained eyes.
Then, the wild fire gets particularly intense and while the ISS is crossing the sky, we have nothing more to ask and we can just try and fix all the stunning moments in our memories.
We miss the Northern Lights – it would have really been too much! – due to an unfortunate coincidence and we get back to our tent, where dreams full of stars and constellations are waiting for us. Tomorrow it will be another really long and full day, it is better to rest well.