Our fifth and final day at Glacier NP began with clear sunny skies and very little smoke in the air. We kind of wanted to drive back up the Going-to-the-Sun road so we could enjoy the views on a clear day, but in the end decided to stick to our original plan and explore the far western edge of the park. Before we went out exploring we had our usual routine with Tim working in the morning and Phin and I going to the lake.
Apgar campground is right on the edge of Lake McDonald so it was just a short walk over to the water. I swear this dog had some sort of internal water radar. When we reached the exit to the campground road, before we could even see the water, he began pulling on his leash like mad trying to get there as soon as possible. How does he know? After about 20 minutes of stick fetching and rock throwing I managed to drag him back to our site.
Mid-afternoon we took off for what was supposed to be a short drive and long hike. Except that we missed the turn onto Inside North Fork Rd. and ended up with such a long drive that we only had time for a short hike. No big deal though. The drive was fantastic with amazing views and a fun curvy dirt road with not a single other car in sight.
We drove up North Fork Rd. which begins on the very western edge of the park, traveling through acres and acres of forest that burned in the wildfires of 2003. We kept trying to imagine what the area must have looked like before the fire. One thing is for sure, the view of the mountains was not the same. In fact, in some spots it would have been nonexisitant. It’s amazing how fire shapes the landscape.
North Fork Rd. took us outside of the park and through private land, much of which was ranch land.
At the top of the road before we turned back into the park we drove through the tiny hamlet of Polebridge. Not a true town, but more of a stopover for hikers, or a destination for those seeking to get away from it all. Polebridge’s main claim to fame is the Polebridge Mercantile, a combination store, gas station, post office, bakery and office for a few rental cabins. Only a mile from the northwest entrance to Glacier, Polebridge is a common stopover for backcountry hikers.
After passing back into the park we turned south and began the almost 30 mile drive down Inner North Fork Rd. This road was a skinny, one way, windy dirt road that traveled through forests and over rivers. At first we were puzzled by the fact that is was so skinny, but after driving for about 15 miles and not seeing a single other car we realized there was no need for a wider road because hardy anyone drives this way.
This area of the forest was a bit more grown in so there were no views of the large mountains to the east, but we still enjoyed driving through the young forest.
We were really hoping to spot a bear, but no luck. We did see a small wolf as he scampered across the road and into the meadow.
Since our drive ended up being about 40 miles and 2 hours longer than we anticipated, by the time we reached our intended hike it was almost 5:00 and too late in the day for a long hike. So we drove on until we reached the northern edge of Lake McDonald where we took a short hike on the nature trail through the forest and to the water’s edge.
It was a wonderful last day in the park. We’ll be back for sure. There’s so much to explore here that you can’t possibly see it all in a mere five days. For now though we continue our journey west where we will spend the long holiday weekend at a beer, wine & music festival at Schweitzer ski resort in northern Idaho.