My Solo Wanderings of the West

kennyj

Explorer
Kenny,

Spent the last three days enjoying your wanderings. I work for the NPS and have had the pleasure of living and visiting most of the units you passed through. North Rim of the Grand Canyon should not be missed. Plenty of at large camping on the forest. I spent 7 years at Bryce Canyon NP, feel free to contact me if you want insights for that part of Utah.

Safe travels and adventures.
B
In 2013 I was camped just outside Zion and realized I was only 90 minutes from the North Rim. I did get to spent a day there and camped in the forest just to the north. My tentative plan this year is to be in southwest Utah in late October. I've read that fall is pretty spectacular at Zion. I would also probably return to spend more time seeing the North Rim.
I'll pm you when I start to head that way.
 

kennyj

Explorer
I just signed up for this wondrous forum, and have enjoyed reading your journeys in the last few weeks during lunch at work.

Very impressive. Let's see the van's inside remodel too!

Your use of solar power and reading your viewpoints on larger campers/diesels/generators has at least opened my eyes to how annoying that probably is. You seem to have strong opinions on this stuff.

Looking forward to more updates.
Thank you, I'm glad you have enjoyed reading about my travels. The van's interior remodel was actually pretty minor and is even still a work in progress. I will post some more pictures sometime soon.
Lol, I should probably rant less about other people's modes and styles of travel. But you're right, I do have opinions on that stuff. :sombrero:
 

kennyj

Explorer
I finished preparing a huge update with a lot of photos and came into town to upload them. Unfortunately, the free wifi at this visitor center refuses to upload even one photo so I will have to find a different hotspot and try again, hopefully tomorrow.

Thanks for following along!
 

upndown

Adventurer
Any time is spectacular at Zion! But you're right especially in the Fall. I try to schedule a couple fishing trips after Labor Day, fishing the mountain lakes on Beaver and Boulder mtns. The Aspen stands, fall colors and wildlife are just breath taking! No crowds and the trout fishing ain't bad either, especially for a Sonoran Desert guy. :)

I've been following along and look forward to every new post knowing I'll see something beautiful or interesting! Thanks kennyj and Safe travels.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Any time is spectacular at Zion! But you're right especially in the Fall. I try to schedule a couple fishing trips after Labor Day, fishing the mountain lakes on Beaver and Boulder mtns. The Aspen stands, fall colors and wildlife are just breath taking! No crowds and the trout fishing ain't bad either, especially for a Sonoran Desert guy. :)

I've been following along and look forward to every new post knowing I'll see something beautiful or interesting! Thanks kennyj and Safe travels.
Thanks for following, upndown. My last visit to Zion was too short, I'm looking forward to going back, especially in the fall.
 

kennyj

Explorer
After a busy “town-day” in Bozeman and a weird night “camping” at Walmart, I continued on to Helena. Along the headwaters of the Missouri River and Canyon Ferry Lake I noticed several of these habitats mounted way high up on something like a utility pole. Later I looked online and being near the water I believe they must be Montana Osprey, if that’s not correct I would love to hear.




I remember school quizzes on the state capitols and Montana was always a tough one; the capitol of Montana is… Helena!




From Helena I chose from two possible routes to Glacier National Park; I took the one I thought would be more scenic, 12 to 141 to 200 to 83. Driving up 83 I could have guessed I was in the piney woods of northern Wisconsin, until I started to see snowy mountain ranges.




When I reached Swan Lake I decided to stop for the night; I would make the short drive to Glacier in the morning when I knew campsites would be available. I headed up a switchbacked forest road for a few miles where I found a clearing to park for the night.


 

kennyj

Explorer
The next morning I arrived at Glacier. I was pretty excited. I had always wanted to visit the park and I was finally there, and I could take plenty of time seeing the sights.




I got a campsite at Apgar campground. The day was kind of cold and drizzly so I didn’t go far; I checked out the park visitor center and Apgar Village and rode along Lake McDonald to check out the other nearby campgrounds. Sprague Creek with no RVs or travel trailers is a popular one and fills up first thing in the morning. However, I found it was quite small with crowded campsites. The sites at Apgar were much more spacious and I actually found it pleasantly quiet, so I paid up for a few more days.




The next morning promised perfect weather for the day so I headed out to ride the Going to the Sun Road. The road is one of the highlights of Glacier and its open season is short. Snow continues to fall as late as June and early as September, and many years the road isn’t cleared of snow until mid-July. The road connects the east and west sides of the park and is the only road all the way through the park. I had decided I would just ride up the west side to Logan Pass, about 35 miles each way. I thought i would ride the east side of the road later, when I had moved to the St. Mary side of the park.

McDonald Lake is the largest and deepest of the glacial lakes in the park. Apgar is at the southern end of Lake McDonald and the road follows the lakeshore along its length.




At the north end of the lake is the giant lodge that was built to accommodate visitors after Glacier was established as a National Park.




McDonald Creek has its beginnings high up the glacial valley; the road follows along the creek until beginning the climb out of the valley.




The Going to the Sun Road was a monumental construction project for the 1920s and 30s and designers tried to blend it in with the mountains, with retaining walls and support structures built from natural stone.




Nearing Logan Pass, looking back at the long ascent section of the road.


 

kennyj

Explorer
There is a visitor center and many hiking trails at the top. There were a lot of motorcycles on the road and thankfully they provide motorcycle parking islands in the packed parking lot. I parked my little 225 in with a Gold Wing and a group of 4 big BMWs.




Some views from walking around the trails at Logan Pass:










Driving back down the road, the view at one of the many pullouts:




Looking north to the interior mountains of the park, with McDonald Creek in the valley. The road down is just visible on the left side of the picture.




Looking west, where the road follows McDonald Creek down the valley on its way to Lake McDonald.




Finally, back at Apgar Village after the day’s ride.

 

kennyj

Explorer
There are so many hiking trails in Glacier, and the popular ones are pretty crowded with day hikers. I went for a less popular trail. I rode a little ways up the Inside North Fork Road for the hike to Howe Lake. I was the only one parked at the trailhead.




It was a gorgeous walk with great views.




And a beautiful lake at the end of the trail. I actually continued on the trail to Upper Howe Lake but the trail was heavily overgrown and the views were not great.




I was lucky to have this butterfly pose for me.




Later, after the hike, I rode out to check out another trailhead and crossed this interesting curved wooden bridge.




Nearby was the Flathead River that forms the boundary of the park on the west and much of the south side.



 

kennyj

Explorer
After a few days at Apgar I headed up along the west side of Glacier and the North Fork area to the campground at Kintla Lake. The drive was rough with a lot of unpaved, washboarded road.




On the way is the little settlement of Polebridge. The store was a busy place with coffee and fresh bakery treats.




At the Polebridge entrance station, the ranger said Kintla was another 14 miles and would take an hour to drive; he was not exaggerating, the road was rough and slow going. The last few miles were one lane of dirt winding through thick forest; meeting an oncoming vehicle was pretty exciting.




At the end of the road was Kintla Lake. When I arrived there I thought it might just be one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.




The campground is just one small loop with 10 or 12 sites and it’s right by the lake. There’s a little “beach” area with a few tables and this view. Those mountain peaks just in the background are actually in Canada.




This fellow is the resident ranger at Kintla Lake and lives in a nearby cabin at the primitive ranger station. He spent quite some time talking to me and answering questions about the area and its history; he told me he’d been at that station since 1991, I also found out that he is only 95 years old. Also, I believe he was the owner of the Westy Vanagon seen in the photo.




No motorized boats are allowed on Kintla Lake. I watched this guy out on a paddle-board working a fly-line. Kayakers can paddle to a backcountry campground at the other end of the lake.


 

kennyj

Explorer
I spent the afternoon hiking the trail along the north shore of the lake.




Like many of the lakes in Glacier, this one is long and narrow and deep, the valley and lake carved by a glacier.




After my hike I was sitting reading at the table when a couple walking nearby warned me that there was a bear in my camp. I looked up to see him not 20 feet from me on the other side of this low fence. By the time I got my camera the bear was moving along the fence toward the woods. The couple said they saw the bear come over the footbridge across the creek and find himself at the edge of the campground.




Late in the day, kayakers return from a day of paddling. Next time I go to Kintla, I will go with a kayak.




At the end of the day, campers take chairs down to the lake just to sit and watch the twilight across the mountain tops.



 

kennyj

Explorer
Moving back down the North Fork, I passed the Polebridge ranger station; this is looking back at the only bridge across the Flathead River into the national park from the North Fork area. Across the river is the settled area around Polebridge and the Flathead National Forest.




I continued down the Inside North Fork Road to Quartz Creek campground, one of the “primitive” camps in the National Park and only 6 sites. It was very quiet there.




I took the bike for the ride up to Bowman Lake. Bowman is much like Kintla but with a larger campground and many more day users it was a pretty busy area.




I walked for a while on the lakeshore trail.




Later, back at Quartz campground, a ranger came by and informed me that earlier in the day a fire had started on the east side of the park and was growing rapidly. There was no immediate danger to the west side of the park, but he advised to check with a ranger station before traveling to other parts of the park.
 

kennyj

Explorer
By the next morning it was reported that the fire had grown to over 2,000 acres. The fire was on the north shore of St. Mary’s Lake and the campgrounds and lodging in the St. Mary and Rising Sun area had all been evacuated as well as closing the Going to the Sun Road. Many people had to leave their vehicles on the road as the fire spread rapidly and across the road, evacuating in park service shuttles.
That day I was planning to move over to the east side of the park, but I decided to wait and watch the fire updates to see what developed. That morning I had been hearing helicopters passing over; going south from Polebridge I saw this, I guessed they were ferrying Forest Service firefighters over the mountains to the fire site.




I drove up a National Forest access road and headed up the mountains to find someplace to camp.




I found a road off of a road off of a road that usually assures that you won’t see anyone.




My campsite was just a small clearing at the side of this road.




I stayed there for two nights, then decided I needed a town day to buy food, do laundry, clean the van, and catch up on internet and fire news. I went south to Columbia Falls and got everything done, later I went up another Forest road a few miles north of town.




I found this turnout with a sweeping vista of the valley and town below. Reports of the fire were that while it had grown to more than 3,000 acres the fire remained isolated along St. Mary lake, other areas on the east side of the park were not affected. I decided that the next morning I would head east.


 
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