By Robert Lucke
This year in particular, Glacier National Park lends itself easily to various winter activities for the recreationalist. Not only that, but all are made even more enjoyable for most all the time in early January, Glacier is a land without people. West side or east side, visiting the park is an experience of isolation.
1999 in particular has been a year more easy than most to get around in the park, particularly on the east side where temperatures have been in the 40s and even 50s. Those temperatures have made snow conditions short and warm temperatures surely are conductive to walking, mountain biking or skiing into beautiful east side locations.
One of the most enjoyable of all treks this time of year is to head from Babb into Many Glacier. With warm temperatures the highway in is bare most of the way and is very conductive to biking. Closer to Many Glacier campground folks quit their bikes and ski the rest of the way to Swift Current Lake. Most interesting when at the hotel is its resemblance to the hotel in Stephen King's book titled "The Shining." It is a place abandoned by everything but wind and snow and the imaginations of those viewing this place of splendid isolation.
It's a good place for some of the best wintering. Snow drifts get so huge that one year a mountain sheep plunged to its death in the hotel lobby by falling through one of the roof skylights. That sheep is stuffed and guards the lobby to this day.
Winter photos of Swift Current, Lake Josephine and Swift Current Falls are well worth the trek into Many Glaciers.
That same sort of a trek can be made in an almost equally beautiful spot just north of East Glacier. Even though the road is closed for the winter heading into Two Medicine, a bike ride and ski adventure is absolutely beautiful. There are winter waterfalls to visit, four lakes in he area and mountains towering over the area which are some of the most beautiful on the east side of the continental divide.
There is some lodging this time of year in St. Mary and East Glacier, and some food and a minimum of restaurants so go prepared on the west side or the east side of Glacier. Not only that, but do check with Glacier rangers for the latest conditions before heading there. Conditions can change quickly as different fronts roll in and out of the area.
Glacier National park's west side has a part of the Going-To-The-Sun-Road open all year long and even though conditions are normally more mild on that side of the mountains, there will normally be more snow. Hence, not much mountain biking on the west side of Glacier this time of year.
But with Going-To-The-Sun open to the head of Lake McDonald all winter, many parties opt to pack up and ski all the way to Avalanche Lake for a winter weekend tenting adventure. Recreationists who do that say that is one of the most beautiful of all times to see the cedar forests and high mountains that part of Glacier is famous for.
Ski trips on the west side of Lake McDonald are beautiful too this time of year and if on the west side of Glacier, don't overlook the North Fork for some of the most isolated and beautiful of all Glacier scenery.
Warm weather on both sides of Glacier have made for unstable snow conditions so caution is advised. And any back country treks cannot be made without checking at Park Headquarters close to West Glacier.
For further information and updated park conditions on both sides of the continental divide, call park headquarters at (406) 888-7800.