I woke up pretty excited on the last day of my solo road trip since Glacier National Park is the very reason I came here in the first place. I had seen many photos online, so I had a little bit of an expectation of what I would see. The day promised to be beautiful; a few clouds with a very small chance of sprinkles in the afternoon, and more clear skies. I was scheduled for a 7-hour tour with Red Bus Tours at 1:30 PM in an accessible van. I decided to head to the visitor center a bit early to look around before my tour.
When I arrived at the visitor center, my bus driver was already there. Red Bus Tours added two accessible vans to their fleet a couple of years ago, and I expected to have at least 10 other people on the bus with me. But this was going to be a private tour! The lady from the company said that even if there’s only one person booked for a tour, they still go. I couldn’t wait! Except I had to wait for a few minutes. I checked the weather, and while it was going to be cool at upper altitudes, I expected to be inside a climate controlled bus. Well, the accessible van had huge windows made of clear tarps that were all rolled up. I ended up having to go inside the visitor center and buy a long sleeved shirt and thick sweatshirt in the gift shop since all of my layers and jackets were back in the hotel room. Oh, well! New souvenirs.
Soon we were on our way. Glacier National Park is relatively big, but there’s one main road that traverses the center of the park called Going to the Sun Road. Some parts of this road start closing as early as the middle of September due to snowfall, which is why I scheduled my trip for the end of August. But one of the biggest surprises of this park was our first stop, which was a 1 mile loop through, wait for it… A rain forest. Rod, my tour guide, was very very knowledgeable about the different plants and animals throughout the park, so I got an amazing education on Cedars, Hemlock, in Cottonwood, which are the three main trees growing in the park. In this area, there was so much canopy and plenty of running water. It was very damp, and there were mosses and mushrooms everywhere. It was the last thing I expected in a national park with the word glacier in its title.
After spending a considerable amount of time in this area, we got back on the road, which got loopy very quickly. We started going up in altitude and the wind started getting chilly. But the views… I can’t say enough about how awe-inspiring the views are. I became familiar with the effects of glaciers on land as they move through terrain and scoop out valleys while I was in Alaska. Most of the road has a sheer drop on the right side, so it’s easy to see the U-shaped valleys and the impact of glacier movement in the park. However, the glaciers in this park are relatively small, even though there are 25 of them. We were able to get a glimpse of one in the distance.
Halfway through the tour, we stopped at a little restaurant where I was able to have lunch. Much to my delight, when I came out of the restaurant to reboard the van, the clouds had disappeared and the sun was out! This made for much better pictures on the return trip. Wanting to enjoy the ride, I had to ask Rod to lower the window tarps so I could experience some warmth. Although if I wanted to take any pictures after this point, I knew I was going to have some plastic in between the view and my camera phone, it was well worth it for some comfort!
After I got back to my hotel room, I went straight to bed since I had to wake up at 4 AM for a very early flight home. I can’t tell you how huge my sense of accomplishment was. This was a physically difficult trip; much more so than my canyonlands trip last November. I was extremely fortunate that I had someone to help me put my scooter in my car all but two times this entire trip; however, those two times were very anxiety inducing and difficult. I’m sorry to say that this will be my last solo road trip, but I’ve pretty much knocked off all the bucket list road trip items. There are still some places in the United States I want to see, but I should be able to do them with either an accessible tour company or just by being based out of one city.