Glacier National Park (Many Glacier), MT to Glacier National Park (St. Mary), MT

22.1 mi / 12.0 mph / 564 ft. climbing
Home: St. Mary hiker/biker campsite

It was finally time to say goodbye to the Many Glacier valley and return to the center fork of the east-side Glacier trident. Since it was a short ride, and we had no epic hike to start this morning, we were able to check out at 10:30am to extract the most out of our $240 motel room.

Our bikes parked for one last time outside the Swiftcurrent Motel office/general store/restaurant, where in our 5 nights we likely recorded at least 20 credit card charges across all three divisions (on the other side of the garbage cans they also have a bike repair station! A bit surprising since this isn’t exactly a major bike route).

As we approached the park entrance (er, exit) station, we saw a moose step out onto the road ahead, and then it wasn’t just one, but a mother with her baby! That means we not only checked “moose” off of our bingo card, we also got the bonus points for completing the “adult male/adult female/baby” trifecta! Unfortunately there was a van on the road ahead of us weaving and stopping that kept me from getting a photo, but seeing them with our eyes was better against the morning backlight anyway (and better that the van stopped than running them over, I suppose!)

The 2.5-mile section of gravel was even tougher on the way out than it had been on the way in (the south side of the road just had fewer flat-ish/smooth-ish sections than the north side had, and the passing vehicles were kicking up more dust today), but Rett showed off her skills by covering the distance without letting the deep rocks or sand drag her down to a stop even a single time. Later on we heard from someone who had been in Many Glacier at another time, who said they could see dust clouds rising from miles away, so apparently we had it pretty good overall.

Riding out of Many Glacier, on the aptly-name Swiftcurrent River, for which so much in Many Glacier is also named.
Riding US-89 outside the park, returning to the monumental mountains of the St. Mary valley.

We decided to bust it back to the St. Mary campground without stopping in “town” first to be able to claim the best spot at the hiker/biker site (and because we were overdue for lunch), and found ourselves to be the first arrivals.

I think it’s the only camping place we’ve ever returned after having been there before. So it was interesting to compare the differences. Most-notable were the flies, which hadn’t been here eight days ago. Not terrible, but at least mildly-annoying, and if we hadn’t been here before, our hypothetical Google Review would have said “St. Mary Campground, has a bunch of flies!”. But we now have the rare ability to distinguish the different effects of time-vs.-place, and the more-accurate review wouldn’t state anything negative about St. Mary the place, and instead say “Glacier National Park, more flies in the second week of July than the end of June!” I was excited to see that the styrofoam cooler I had brought over to the hiker/biker bear box was still there, and even if no one else had been making use of it, I at least did for a second time!

Rather than messing with the showers and potential lines this time (now two loops away from us), we walked two sites over to the path and pedestrian bridge across the St. Mary River that takes you to the visitor center. A little side-path led down to a nice spot under the bridge for a good river-bath.

Lamby helping me with some journal-writing at the St. Mary hiker/biker site (© Rett)

I made a grocery run back to the out-of-park St. Mary store, and found it to be newly-organized and maybe under-new-ownership (making for a much more surprising 8-day change than the flies!) Still insanely overpriced, except for the underpriced fresh local organic produce, yay!

When I came back, a through-hiker joined us at the site, but he was unusually uncommunicative. At first I thought he was just exhausted and needed some food and a moment to catch his breath, but even when all settled he turned in almost immediately under his tarp shelter before 7pm. Around our bedtime, a 2nd through-hiker turned up, and he was quite the opposite, asking us if we needed anything from the store that he was about to walk the 2-mile round-trip to. Geez, no, if anything we should be asking you, but thanks! Then when we both got up to pee at 4am (bladder-induced, not critter-induced this time), I noticed a 3rd hiker who had simply laid down in their sleeping bag (or maybe a bivy sack) on the gravel next to the picnic table.

So compared to the mixed-gender, mixed-mode (hikers and bikers) bonding experience of our last stay here, the vibe this time couldn’t have been more different. Nothing bad about it, but remarkable that the only story I can write is about the contrast, rather than the experience itself. It’s of course obvious that the humans you share a space with can have an enormous effect on your impressions of a space, but somehow having the opportunity to have it proven to us was eye-opening.



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