Saturday, August 20, 2011

Does a Bear SH** in the Woods?

Where do I start? This was one of the best tours we have had in our travels. To get to ride in a 1930's original national park vehicle in style, elegance and comfort while being driven all over the park, seeing six glaciers, seeing all kinds of bighorn sheep and mountain goats in their natural environment, was a very special treat even if we did have to pay for it! When you go, you never know where the wildlife is and when and if you will see it. This is a mountainous national park, so wildlife is much harder to spot here. We got very very lucky and hit the jackpot! All kinds of wildlife! (That's part II)
Us at the Bus
You can buy different packages according to your desires as to how much time you want to spend riding around the park. You can go for an all day trip, which runs about 95.00 (can't find my brochure with the prices), with a stop for lunch on your own, you can go for half day trips, you can go for a five hour tour at dusk, which is what we chose. We chose the dusk tour (55.00)  because with all the construction and delays on the one and only road going through the park, (Going to the Sun Road) we thought towards the end of the day, traffic will simmer down, construction crews will be calling it a day, and the overlooks would not be as crowded. We also thought we  might increase our chances of seeing wildlife around dusk. It was a good decision! The overlooks were empty, there were NO construction delays and the wildlife came out in full force--just about everything except bears! And some of the people on our bus DID see a black bear in the woods on our way back to the parking lot, but we missed it.

Our guide, Norm, who was battling a cold, battled through it and was able to do the tour despite his cold....He entertained us with a tremendous amount of interesting information, all kinds of geological stuff, interesting facts, and special points of interest that were personal to his own heart. We really appreciated that.
Our driver's  favorite overlook
He told us a couple of stories--one was about an older guy who took a 40 foot motor home with car in tow PAST several signs coming into the park and on various roads that "NO VEHICLES OVER 20 FEET IN LENGTH ON THIS ROAD-NO TOW VEHICLES" heading out on Going to the Sun Road. I guess he also missed the "OVERSIZED VEHICLE TURNAROUD " lane sign around the Avalanche Creek area. He got stuck up near Logan's Pass, about half of the way through the Going to the Sun Road--the one and only road thru the park. He was not able to negotiate a sharp curve, and they had to close down both sides of the road, turn car traffic around back down the mountain on both sides, and a ranger had to drive the guy's  motorhome the rest of the way through the pass to the other side, because the old guy was so shook at getting stuck on the road, he couldn't drive another inch! They fined him 1,000 dollars because of the whole mess he caused. You should see the overhanging rocks that threaten to come caving down on your windshield as you drive this road. And not only that, but the road narrows to one lane in several places. (This reminds me of Nick's Blog post just a couple of days ago about all of us doing dumb things while traveling in our motorhomes.) I think this one takes the cake!
Jackson Glacier
Norm, our driver, also shared all kinds of cool stuff about the there are only 25 glaciers left out of 150 some that were here in the 1800's. A sheet of snow ice has to be 25 acres in size and MOVING to be considered a glacier. The glaciers are barely moving here in the park, about a half to one inch a day, but they are melting quickly. Most information we've read says they will be completely gone by 2020 or 2030. We felt lucky that we saw SIX today, although most of them just looked like snow packs on the mountains. The one hike, Grinnell Glacier, is closed indefinitely...that one you can see the Grinnell Glacier up close, I guess, but it's closed due to a bear attacking a hiker.

Speaking of bears, Norm told us the "bear bells" that they sell at tourist places really don't work. The best advice he gave us and what rangers tell you, is to make plenty of noise on the trails. Clap your hands frequently, sing, talk loudly, or repeat, "HEY, BEAR!" loudly. (I don't like that one, sounds like you are asking him to come see you!)  Don't run from a bear, as that triggers a pursuit response from the bear. We ran into some hikers as we did a little walking around the other day, and a mother was whispering to her kids, "Isn't this beautiful?" giving them the respect nature, tread softly, leave no trace behind speech, but in bear country, that's exactly the WRONG thing to do. Bears are all over the park--both grizzlies and black bear. And it's not as simple as black bears are black. Bears can be all different colors even if they are black bears. Black bears can be brown, and grizzlies can be black. Grizzlies have smushed in muzzles and a muscled hump on their neck/back area. They are so strong a swipe of a paw can break the neck of a MOOSE. Yikes!  Norm said the best prevention is to make noise when hiking, hike in groups, don't hike after dark, and watch for BIG fresh bear scat, tree scrapes and carry bear spray. (It's like pepper spray).....(See? There is relevance to my blog title today in reference to bear poop!) Oh! and one more thing--Bears possess keen smell and hearing..dogs and pets are prohibited from being on the trails because they are prone to conflict with bears. Just one more bear fact (just the bare facts, ma'am!) Yuck, yuck! There are 400 grizzlies and about 1,000 black bears in the park. Sparky says how in the world do they know that when it's so heavily mountainous and forested??? They can't track them very well in helicopters or planes...Hm-m-m-m, well, we'll just have trust in the park rangers' info and be careful!

There are about 36 red buses in service here, and the history behind them is wonderful, Norm shared that, too--how they stripped them down to the bare wooden frame, refitted them with upholstery fabric, redid the engines completely (they have some kind of truck V-8 engine in them now) so that they can use hybrid fuels or propane. The red buses used to be used in other national parks as well, but now, Glacier is the only one that has the red ones. I guess there are some of the same White Company buses in Yellowstone and they are-----YELLOW! Surprise! But don't you just love the front ends of these buses?
 So cool! Eldy and I rode in the way back after hearing several women say they get car sick easily, and we were really surprised at how comfortable they were riding in the very back. Not at all like a school bus! The suspension system on these is really great!

We learned a lot about the Going to the Sun Road, the construction of it, how unique it is, (cantilevered (?) into the side of the mountain instead of having umpteen switchbacks plowing through the architecturally unique it is, and how historically unique Glacier National Park is. The park has several important worldwide awards. The road itself is going through a major reconstruction for many years to come as mountain settling and upheavals have changed the structure of the road over the years since it was completed in the 1930's. It has great historical significance, so the reconstruction is planned to preserve it the way it was when it was first built.

They rebuilt this portion of the overpass by hanging over the edge in bosun's baskets held by rope in order to do the masonry work! Very dangerous work!
Bird Woman Falls
One of many, many waterfalls we saw on Going to the Sun Road....there were many rivers of water running down the sides of the rocks right beside the road. You could stick your hand out the window and get a good handful of water and spray as you went by. One carload of girls stopped their car on the extremely narrow shoulder and got a free car wash! The windshield wipers were clearing their windows of the dust and their compact car was getting a good rinse off! They were laughing as we went by because we were laughing at them and admiring their ingenuity. Too quick to get a photo, darn it! (Norm is not allowed to stop in the middle of the road unless a car in front of him stops, nor can you stand up through the roof unless he's stopped also.)
Last man standing, that's my Eldo!

Tomorrow, its a zoo! With all the animals we saw on the Red Bus tour, that is! You'll see what we mean. Part II tomorrow...hope to see you then, back at the pass, Logan's Pass.


  1. Good post. Someplace we WILL be going. Probably 2013.

  2. what a fabulous and unique tour... and in such a breathtaking place!

  3. I'm not usually a big fan of 'organized' tours but this one looks super cool. Love the retro bus & love your pics!

  4. Very informative post. I love good tours like that.

  5. Well you have definitely talked me into the Red Bus Tour. Great pictures and commentary.

    We didn't see any yellow buses in Yellowstone with open roofs but they were for sure there and have several different tours as well. Very hard to sort through since they are all different lengths, prices and starting points. Check it out before you go so you know where you want to pick it up since the points are very far apart.

  6. Howdy y'all,

    Thanks, for the tour and the savings of the price.. You sure take wonderful pics, almost as good as Al's.. We may be able to go there next year and do the 'lookouts'..

    Enjoy going with you..

    Smooth roads & clear skies !!!