2014 Great Circle Tour travel blog

Deer grazing along Going-to-the-Sun Highway this morning

Panorama visible this morning on Lake McDonald

Early morning at Lake McDonald with the Apgar Mountains reflected in the...

Lodge at the Apgar Visitors Area of Glacier NP

Looking northeast on Lake McDonald

Dimples from fish feeding ripple the water

Reflection of Stanton Mountain in the lake

Summit of Stanton Mountain

The Little Matterhorn

Molly waiting for the summer

Metal Chicken at the Whiskey Barn

A lonely sign in Montana

A checker spot butterfly, I think

Avalanche area near Goat Lick

Mountain goat at Goat Lick

BNSF railroad bridge

Middle Fork of the Flathead River

Izaak Walton Inn

Inside of the Izaak Walton Inn

Lunch at the Inn - Elk Burger & Buffalo Burger

BNSF engines at the Walton switch yard

A marmot

Smoke in the sky over the RV park - not sure what...


I got up early this morning, just before dawn, and headed over to Lake McDonald in Glacier to try to get some calm conditions on the lake. Usually early in the morning the water is smooth enough to get great reflections. I wasn’t disappointed this morning. The conditions were perfect. I got a zillion pictures, but I won’t bore you with all of them. I’m sure you will agree that the area around Lake McDonald is beautiful. I’m sorry weren’t able to get further into the park. We’ll have to return during the summer.

Since I didn’t eat breakfast before I went out, I decided to stop at the Glacier Grill & Pizza for breakfast. We ate there last night and it was pretty good, besides it was the only place open that was reasonably close. I ordered the Stack – 2 eggs, 2 sausages, and 2 pancakes the size of dinner plates. I swore that I wouldn’t eat the rest of the day. I got back to Winnie by 1000 just in time to wake up Sue.

Yesterday when we were in the park, a guy mentioned to me that there was a place on US 2 where you could see mountain goats. After a short nap, we headed off to Goat Lick to see if we could see any goats. Based on the description I got from the guy, it was a little hard to locate the place even though it was supposed to be on US 2 just past Essex. We got to Essex and couldn’t find the place he described. We took a side road to see if it might be along this road. It wasn’t, but we drove by the Izaak Walton Inn, a hotel built in 1939 as a place for employees of the Great Northern Railroad (the predecessor of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe twice removed). We thought it would be a nice place to stop for a snack (no lunch for me after that giant breakfast), but I wanted to find the mountain goat first. We drove back to US 2 and decided to go a little further east. Sure enough we finally found Goat Lick. I left Sue in the car and walked back up the road like the guy told me and there he was, a big billy mountain goat perched on the rocks along the side of the hill. I took a few pictures and decided I needed my 400mm lens so I walked back to the car to get it. Walking up and down hill at 4,000 ft wears me out so I decided to drive the car back up the road rather than walk. When I first left the car there was one other one parked at the pull-off, when I got back there were about 5 or 6 others searching for the mountain goats. I told them where he was and quickly jumped in the car to beat them up the hill so I could get a parking place. The others followed us up the hill and in talking with them, 4 of them were from West Chester, PA, not too far from where we live. The more we travel the more we find out it is a small world. I was able to get some great pictures of the mountain goat. He eventually moved down the hill and was only about 50 yards from me, although there was a ravine that had seen an avalanche separating us. He eventually moved under the highway bridge for some reason.

Once I got my fill of pictures of the goat, we drove back to the Izaak Walton Inn, also known as the “Half Way Inn”. It got the name back when it was originally built because there was supposed to be an entrance to Glacier National Park built nearby. Essex, where the Inn is located, is half-way between East Glacier and West Glacier, the 2 entrances to the park. WWII interrupted the plans and by the end of the war the plans changed. There are Amtrak stations at both East and West Glacier, but the train also stops at the Izaak Walton Inn. The Empire Builder still runs from Chicago to Seattle. It supposed to be the most beautiful run along the Amtrak system. Back in the 80’s I actually took the Empire Builder from Chicago to Minneapolis.

The Inn is still in use and has added cabins, cabooses, and an old diesel engine to the accommodations in the hotel. The cabooses are a little pricey, $189-239/night with a 2 night minimum), but would be neat to stay in some time. The hotel is self is still vintage 30’s-40’s resort décor with a lot of railroad themed decorations from the Great Northern. As I said above we were going to get a snack and a drink, but I saw they had elk burgers on the menu and I decided I needed to try one. Sue got a bison burger. We tried the beer on the menu, Kokanee, a light Canadian lager, and I had Wheatfish, a local German-style wheat beer, brewed by the house brewery. All were good. Sue had a huckleberry cobbler for dessert. Huckleberries are a local favorite. I had huckleberry vinaigrette dressing twice and huckleberry syrup on my pancakes this morning.

We headed back to Winnie after lunch. When we got close, we noted a lot of smoke in the air. It appeared to be coming from somewhere across the highway from the RV park. I’m not sure what it was, but it stopped after about an hour or two. Tomorrow we’ll pack up and move east along US 2. I need to get some sleep so I’m done for tonight.

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