One last quick trip into the Park. An elk is bugling, but out of sight, so we turn off the road behind a large truck to scan the meadows of Two Dog Flats. Two bull elk are far back in the trees, one stepping quickly toward the road. He seems agitated by something - we can't figure it out. Tim glances toward the truck and notices a man standing behind the tailgate using an elk call, which is illegal in a national park. Both elk are clearly very confused and disturbed and it makes me very angry. I'm ready to give the vehicle plate number and identification to a ranger, but at this hour the ranger station is still closed.
   We drive past Two Medicine and East Glacier on our way to Great Falls, 89 winding past forest and mountains. Cows and horses scatter on the highway. Route 2 joins Route 15 at Shelby, a long, straight drive through ranch land and past wind farms. The windmills add a futuristic, eerie look to the landscape. The mountains of the Rocky Mountain Front stay with us all the way to Great Falls, shadows in the west.
    We just got a taste of Glacier. Although all our hikes led us through breathtaking scenery, we didn't make it to "The Belly" (the backcountry), or Two Medicine, or enter the Canadian side of the Park. Glacier seemed less busy than Yellowstone in many ways, but there was a lot of traffic on the hiking trails. There were no bear jams or bison jams and we rarely saw rangers "managing" wildlife. The towns on the edges of the Park are small and most motels are closed by the middle of October. No Cooke Cities or West Yellowstones here, which contributes to a feeling of true wilderness. A good part of the Park is Blackfoot Reservation land, adding mystery and spirituality as well as history. (There are trails in Two Medicine where hikers must obtain a tribal permit to hike).
    Though we didn't see as much wildlife as in Yellowstone, Glacier is a gateway to Canada and just a part of a great wildlife corridor to the Yukon. The Park has a healthy population of bears, both black bears and grizzlies, and at least two or three wolf packs, rarely seen. Those packs, who inhabit the wooded areas and back country on the west side of the Park, migrated from Canada on their own - a success story in itself. As in Yellowstone, wildlife in Glacier is more visible during early morning and evening, but little is seen from the road here. There is so much more to explore. As we hike the trails we know the bears and elk and wolves are out there.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2009