Day Eight – Rewilding

More photos here.

Mike Tyson supposedly once said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” This describes today except that I’ve known this left hook was coming from the early days of planning this trip. In fact, it’s in the itinerary grid as DANGER. More on that after the fun stuff.

Having explored Glacier on foot, horseback and by vehicle, we took a boat cruise on St. Mary Lake this morning. Water placid, sun shining, campers happy. The lake itself is glacially-carved and fed by five current, though radically-diminished glaciers. It’s dark, deep, ultra-cold scary water like many alpine lakes. The boat captain told a story of park service divers exploring the depths a decade ago where they found a vast cave system and 6’ long lake trout of indeterminate age but likely from when the park service thought it a good idea to stock the lake with non-native species back in the 30s.

On one side the scarred hillside from the Reynolds Peak Fire 8 years ago with life of course returning as life does. The other side verdant but dealing with a nasty invasive beetle and worm infestation — the only real cure for which (outside of pesticides which aren’t used because of secondary ecological effects) is, ironically, wildfire. While no one wishes for it, fire can mean life here.

A close (but slow) approach to Wild Goose Island at eye level was a last little high five to Stanley Kubrick and his masterpiece. (Though in truth the love here goes to the The Shining second unit, as this was the part of Kubrick’s life where he never left England.)

Saw a mama moose frolicking in the shallows as her cub watched from shore; chased a waterfall where neither of my charges fell in, though I had video rolling in case; and finally got to see obvious geological evidence of Glacier’s weird overthrust fault tectonics. This was our goodbye to the park, one that I will absolutely return to now that I (sorta) know what I’m doing there.

On one of the motorhome trips from my youth, I distinctly recall breaking down. (Not personally, though I am sure that happened as well, but the rig itself.) I was reminded of this because my mom solved the mystery of why Big Timber was circled on the old “three week trip” map. That’s where our RV died. Why did it die? It ran out of gas! Apparently there were two tanks on that beast and the switch to transfer to the second tank malfunctioned. We had to be towed into Big Timber and (I am told) my mother ran the shop cash register while the sole mechanic tried to fix our RV.

I find it funny that we ran out of gas because my current trip is all about wondering if we have enough juice to make it to the next juice station. This is one aspect of my father’s travels I’d rather not repeat. 

Today was by far the riskiest run of the trip: Glacier National Park to Hot Springs, Montana (halfway to Yellowstone). The challenge is purely due to lack of charging infrastructure. And before you but-gas-power-exists! me recall that gas stations inside national parks are incredibly rare (and non-existent at Glacier — though, interestingly, there are level 2 chargers available at certain lodges inside the park for paying guests). We have been mostly overnight charging from the campground RV power hookups — which is technically not allowed — and we did that again last night, but even with a full battery this particular run is just outside the range I have come to expect. Add in a crossing of the continental divide and a 2000’ downhill net elevation change (plus of course the several thousands pounds of towage) and I have an interesting math problem on my hands. Can it be done? Tune in tomorrow.

Nah, kidding. We made it no problem. Found an online-reservable (!) level 2 charger at a roadside tchotchke shop at the west entrance to Glacier. Pretty sure that will be the only time we will need to slow-charge while on the go. I certainly hope so.

Our campsite tonight courtesy of Harvest Hosts, basically Airbnb for RV’s. “Hosts” are ranches, farms, wineries and the like and usually only allow one RV per night. We’re at a working bison ranch in Hot Springs, Montana called Ring of Horns. No amenities, rudimentary hookups, but after the chaos of national park campgrounds the solitude and sheer novelty of staying on a ranch is delightful. We fed these majestic beasts right when we arrived after they stampeded (behind an electric fence) over to us. Best welcome of the trip.