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Montana’s Glacier Country

Backbone of the World

Native Americans originally referred to Glacier National Park as the backbone of the world, and it is easy to see why at St. Mary’s Visitors Center. The center’s sizable relief map of the park’s peaks shows a line of jagged rock mountains that clearly resemble a backbone.

The center reveals the park’s geological and human history with exhibits and a 15-minute video. The video touches on the park’s flourishing black and grizzly bear population, achieved through careful conservation methods.

Outside the center, my group climbed into the iconic red buses for a Red Jammer Tour of the park. The buses normally take guests along the beloved Going to the Sun Road, but the bus took an alternate route around the park because a late June snow made the steep Going to the Sun Road impassable.

The alternate route still featured plenty of snowy mountain views, as well as wildflowers and intriguing information from Benny, our red-jammer driver.

“These are the original doors that were used when the jammers were first built in the 20s,” said Benny. “They are made of solid oak. This is bus 86. If you were to try and fit these doors on bus 87, they wouldn’t fit. The doors were custom made for each car.”

Benny rounded hairpin turns with ease as I looked down at the valleys and lakes straight below. With the alpine beauty all around, Benny shared stories of characters from the area such as Slippery Bill, a gambler with a supposed treasure hidden somewhere in the nearby woods.

The red jammer stopped at the historic lodges along the way, including the final stop at Lake McDonald Lodge for lunch and some peaceful reflections by the clear lake waters.

After exiting the park, we made our final stop at Coeur d’Alene. The formerly French town featured a plethora of local shops and restaurants, as well as a short hike that followed the town’s pristine lake coastline.

During my hike, I reflected on all the natural wonders at Glacier National Park and the surrounding region. I breathed in one more deep gulp of mountain air to savor my final communion with nature before heading home.


Western Leisure Tours