We woke up early, got on the road, and continued north up I-15 to US-2. The drive was nice, flat, and easy drive. We took MT 464 which was hilly, but not too bad. I saw a Google car for the first time. In the middle of nowhere Montana… there was a Google car. The weather had fairly low, dark clouds rolling from the west. I anticipated a picturesque drive west towards the Rockies but with the low clouds, I couldn’t even really see the Rockies. Space was available and we were able to check into Saint Mary’s Campground a day early.
My plan was to spend the night at the St. Mary KOA campground and then move to the Glacier National Park’s St. Mary campground the following day. Learning my lesson in Yellowstone I came to the realization that instead of campsite hopping, it was best to get set and maximize time exploring rather than setting up and tearing down a campsite.
We arrived at Glacier’s St. Mary campground. A difference from Badlands and Yellowstone National Parks is that at Glacier, rangers run the campground check-in kiosk. I explained that I had reservations starting the following day and was wondering if that campsite was available for tonight? Yes it was – good news.
The campground was nice, although our site did not have much of a view.
After getting the trailer set, we drove to the St. Mary Visitors Center and finally broke out our National Park Passports. I was not really sure where I had packed them and had not used them during my previous visits to Badlands and Yellowstone. What we were to discover was that (generally speaking) every national park visitors center has a passport stamping station. The purpose of the passport is to kind of “collect” national parks. Some visitors centers have only a date cancellation stamp and others have both the date cancellation stamp and another special stamp. It is also possible to purchase “stamps” that can be affixed the passport book above the cancellation stamps. To be honest, I still don’t fully understand how these picture “stamps” are supposed to be used.
At the visitors center we were able to get Junior Ranger Books for the girls. It seems like every national park does their Junior Ranger Program a bit differently. At Yellowstone you had to purchase the Junior Ranger activity book. At Glacier, they were free. In Yosemite, books can be purchased or you can use a copy from the activity newspaper that you get when you enter the park.
We had lunch in the town of St. Mary and tried Huckleberries for the first time (Huckleberry pie).
On our return to the campground we learned that Going-To-The-Sun Road was closed and was not going to open until Friday. There was road work taking place in between the entrance to the park and the campground which was the reason given for the road closure. I was not anticipating this. My lesson learned here is to be better connected with park news. All the parks do a good job of posting information concerning the status of roads, campgrounds, and anything else – but if I don’t look at it I wouldn’t know.
My plan for exploring Glacier was based on having access to the Going-To-The-Sun Road. I hadn’t planned on going up to Many Glacier, thinking that it was too far away and maybe wasn’t really worth visiting.