Glacier/Yellowstone in September - Fiberglass RV
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Old 11-17-2016, 12:44 PM   #1
Name: Wayne
Trailer: Prospective RV'er
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Glacier/Yellowstone in September

On Aug 30th I flew out to Great Falls. The next day I drove up to Glacier N.P., hoping to camp at the Many Glacier campground. I have been camping at Many Glacier for a number of years and like it, as it is more remote. I got there about 0930, to find it full. Apparently some spaces in Many Glacier are by reservation, and some are first come/first serve. It is a popular campground due to the abundance of wildlife in the area. People often use binocs and telescopes to glass the slopes of surrounding mountains for bears, goats, and sheep. I went back up to the St. Mary campground and was told I could stay there for a single night, but it was mainly reservations, too. So I went west on Going-to-the-sun road and spent 7 nights at the Rising Sun campground, taking my meals at the Two Dogs Flats grill by the campground or at Johnson's Café in St. Mary.

The first night I was awakened by a thunderstorm that came through. It became more interesting when a large tree blew down on the other side of the road during the was LOUD! Just before dark I had heard a strange bird, that had a very strange call...I called it the 'velociraptor bird', because for some reason it sounded very harsh and shrill and threatening and would have made a perfect sound effect for a Jurassic movie. I never did find out what kind of bird it was.

This year I was in a Big Agnes Big House 4 tent instead of my Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault. I am getting older and am getting tired of getting dressed laying down, so I went with the Big Agnes. I took a pad inside and put a folding chair on it to sit on when I got dressed, and the tent was tall enough to allow me to stand in it. The first several days were beautiful, and one day I drove over to Apgar Village on the east side of the park, got out a folding chair, and just sat on the shore of Lake McDonald for a few hours just enjoying the view and being where I was.

After a few days the weather turned unpleasant, with overcast, occasional rain, and colder. The Two Dogs Flats grill had my preferred breakfast of biscuits and gravy and taters, which always made for a pleasant start to the day after a chilly night. I was sleeping in an old U.S. Navy rectangular down sleeping bag I got at a garage sale decades ago. It worked well, but is starting to get old and hemorrhaged feathers as the trip wore on. This was probably it's last trip.

On Sept 6th I broke camp and drove down to Yellowstone, where I had made reservations at the Madison campground. I always stay at that campground, as I prefer it. When I arrived, campfires were not allowed due to the fire situation in the park. (After a few days, the fire ban was lifted.) Several pull-offs between Madison and West Yellowstone were blocked off for firefighters and their equipment. Smoke was usually visible somewhere between Madison and West Yellowstone, where I would eat breakfast at the Running Bear pancake house. The Wild West Pizzeria was a source of good evening meals and had some interesting murals on their walls. A camp for firefighters was located on the outskirts of West Yellowstone, and on a least one day smoke filled the town in the early morning.

I took a day trip and went down to Grand Tetons, wanting to visit Jenny Lake, where I had camped the first year I had gone West on vacation in 1998. It was a hot mess. They are building a new visitor center there (the Park Service thinks EVERY place has to have a visitor center, it seems), so there was construction, congestion, and cars parked along the roadway everywhere near Jenny Lake. I drove through the campground, earning me a dirty look from a ranger at the entrance. I also visited Moose, which didn't seem as I remembered it, either. I considered visiting Jackson Hole, but by now was dismayed at all the changes, although the Tetons themselves still impressed, as they always do. I headed back north. Near the north gate, I saw thick, heavy black smoke coming from a reverse slope that I couldn't see. A little further on, I saw a couple of pull-offs with fire personnel present, apparently visually monitoring the fire situation. I had stopped at Big Thumb on the way to Tetons and snapped a few pics.

I got back to Madison and went on into West Yellowstone for dinner. On the way back to camp, when I stopped at the west entrance, the ranger asked if I was going to go to the Tetons or Jackson Hole. I told her I just came back from there. She said I was lucky to get out, as they had just closed and evacuated the north entrance to Yellowstone due to the fire I had seen.

The next day, on Monday, I went to West Yellowstone for breakfast, then headed to the Old Faithful complex to get some stuff to bring home. After turning south at Madison, it started raining. Then the rain started looking weird, then I realized it had started snowing! It wound up snowing all day, finally ending before sunset. That night it was very cold.

Yellowstone was much colder than Glacier had been, as I was told by a ranger that it is at a higher elevation. One morning driving into West Yellowstone for breakfast the car thermometer registered 23 degrees in one pocket of cold air on the road. The day after it snowed I broke camp and returned to Great Falls, to get my tent dried out and cleaned and my box of camping gear shipped back home.

Next year I turn 60 and am planning a cruise to Alaska with my brother, his wife, and my niece, so I won't be returning to Montana until 2018. When I plan for that trip, I will be sure to make reservations for Many Glacier, as you often see bears in that area of the park. One caveat, the road from Babb to Many Glacier is not very good
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Old 11-17-2016, 07:03 PM   #2
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It's interesting when you have to head north to warmer weather! Glad you had an enjoyable trip, and sorry you didn't find a space at Many Glacier.
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Old 11-17-2016, 07:15 PM   #3
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Thanks for the detailed report. We're hoping to make our first trip to Glacier next year.

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Old 11-17-2016, 08:57 PM   #4
Name: Wayne
Trailer: Prospective RV'er
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Originally Posted by Al & Cindy K View Post
Thanks for the detailed report. We're hoping to make our first trip to Glacier next year.

If there's anything I can do to help, lemme know. If you stay on the east side of the park, Johnson's café is highly recommended. You can go online and view the various webcams around Glacier, which is fun to do to watch the snow come and go. Timing is an issue in Glacier if you go in September, as after the first snowfall amenities on the east side of Glacier tend to shut down shortly thereafter. On my first trip out West in late May-early June of 1998, it snowed one day when I was trying to get from Flaming Gorge to Tetons, so just be mindful that it can snow late into spring or early into fall out there, so be prepared. Also, note what I said about more and more of the campgrounds going to a reservation system, so check the ones where you want to stay and make reservations well in advance, esp if near holidays. Also, depending on what kind of trailer you have and how big it is, note that there are limitations on how big a trailer you can take over the Going-to-the-sun road. If yours is too big, you can always loop around the south end of the park. If you want to see bears, September is a good month, as the bears are moving around a lot feeding putting on weight in anticipation of hibernation. Make sure you take cameras and binocs. Cameras with telephoto capabilities would be very useful.
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Old 11-18-2016, 06:54 AM   #5
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Great report. We passed through Glacier a week earlier. Stayed at Two Medicine. The park service provides a vacancy history chart on it's web site. Two Medicine filled later than the others. We passed through Teton and Yellowstone on our way home the same time you were there. The road between the two parks had just reopened. Things were still smoking on both sides of the road. Year earlier you couldn't see the Tetons because of the smoke.
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