Road Trip 23: Butte, MT – Hungry Horse, MT

Butte to Hungry Horse

Today saw a little deviation to the (roughly) planned schedule as we decided at the last minute that, instead of heading west towards Seattle, we would veer up north to near the Canadian border to pay a quick visit to Glacier National Park. By this point we were definitely wishing that we had bought the America the Beautiful $80 annual pass, as two planned national parks had mushroomed into five! We ended up out of pocket by buying the tickets separately, so would recommend buying this if you are doing a US road trip.

We drove through Montana, a state with fewer than a million souls populating its vast and beautiful landscape of mountain and prairie. Montana is one of the few US states that seems to value fast driving (and, fittingly, tops the list of road deaths per 100 million miles driven), and with 80mph speed limits we could race down the deserted roads. No interstates here, hardly any cars, and quite often no people – just a beautiful landscape that seemed to intermittently switch between grassland, forest and plain.

Glacier National Park

We drove Going-to-the-Sun Road, a spectacular drive through the mountains and glaciers – one of the drives that really makes it a joy to be behind the wheel. I’d love to go back and hike in the park (as with everywhere on this trip), but we only had time for a little stroll up Lloyd’s Pass in pursuit of a mother and kid mountain goat pair who were hotfooting it up the slopes.

Sadly the glaciers are fast disappearing due to climate change, and scientists have predicted that by 2030 – or even sooner – there will be none left at all in the park. It’s sad to think that ancient landscapes are vanishing before our eyes: a real reminder of the damage that our lifestyles are causing to the planet. I’m in no position to pontificate, having driven through in a rented car after flying out to the US, but when you see how nature is changing, it does really hit home.

At Last – A Campfire!

We’d left it too late to book camping accommodation within Glacier, but had managed to secure a spot in nearby Hungry Horse, which wins the accolade for possibly the best named town we’ve bedded down in in the States. The campground was lovely, and we decided that for our last night camping we’d finally get the fire going and cook ourselves some burger, sausages (and veggie cheese for Amy) delights. In order to maintain my fire-making credentials, I probably shouldn’t mention the bit when I assumed that the water the campsite had provided to douse the fire was actually turps to help get it started, and then wondered why the fire kept fizzling out. Epically stupid, but we eventually got a good fire going, and enjoyed burgers, sausages, marshmallows and craft beer under the Montana stars..

Highlights: The stunning Going-to-the-Sun Road –  a classic scene drive.

Lowlights: Learning that the glaciers are vanishing; pouring water on a fire…

Up next: The Centre of the Universe

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