Glacier National Park: Rail History and Natural Wonders, Montana,
July 11-18, 2019, narrated by Frank Ackerman, Black Sheep Adventures
Map

Frank Ackerman gave us expert narration, and his wife Jo capably assisted him. Many thanks to our tour director, Ben Sander. He kept everything rolling smoothly—no mean feat! All of the M.I.T. Alumni were great traveling companions. Douglas, our bus driver, did an outstanding job.


Hampton Inn, Great Falls, Montana, Thursday, July 11

Thanks to my wife Jacque and our daughter Beatrix for taking me to the airport!

My flight from Phoenix to Denver was full. Only middle seats were left and I got one of them. The fellow at the window seat kept the shade closed most of the time.

The flight from Denver to Great Falls was on an Embraer RJ145, just the thing to go to Montana. It’s a smaller and older plane with three seats per row. The plane was noisy. It bucked and heaved when we hit air turbulence.

At the Great Falls airport, other alumni recognized me and one of them called for a shuttle to the hotel. There were so many of us that they had to make two trips.

My room at the Hampton Inn is quiet and comfortable.

Hampton
Hampton Inn, Great Falls, Montana.

Best Western Plus Great Northern Inn, Havre, Montana, Friday, July 12

We gathered in the lobby for the two-hour drive to Havre. There were miles of container cars on the track beside the highway, many of them articulated (sharing a truck between sections).

At the Montana State University-Northern Diesel Technology Center we heard a talk about their 2-year and 4-year programs. Lucrative job offers for all the graduates!

After lunch we toured the the yard and shop at BNSF. Two railroaders guided us, telling us many things we didn’t know about running a railroad. The first one gave us safety vests. They had many diesel locomotives in the shop for maintenance or repair.

Afterwards we walked to Best Western, then listened to Frank’s presentation, gave introductions, and had dinner at the Duck Inn. Best steak I ever tasted!

lobby
Alumni gather in the lobby for the trip to Havre.


inside
Montana State University-Northern Diesel Technology Center.
talk
“Our graduates get multiple job offers.”
small
“We only require a small sample.”
jars
“These all grow native in Montana.”
engine
“Each student has to completely disassemble an engine, put it back together, and get the same performance.”
Cat
“We don’t do just Cats.”
marine
Marine diesel.


Hill
Jimmy Hill, who built the Great Northern railroad.
vests
M.I.T. alumni in their safety vests.
knuckle
What if you had a problem with a knuckle coupler?
tower
This tower can communicate for miles.
4170
No. 4170 is ready for action.
grain
Farmers Grain Exchange.
alumni
Alumni going to tour the diesel locomotive repair shop.
Santa Fe
Some BNSF locomotives still have Santa Fe markings.
mirror
M.I.T. alumni learn some of the fine points of railroading.
diesel
Many diesel locomotives in for service.

Glacier Park Lodge, Montana, Saturday, July 13

Fort Assiniboine was built in 1879 to put down a Sioux uprising, which never happened. When the fort was decommissioned, people came out and took bricks to build other things. So very few of the original buildings are still standing. We got a guided tour of what remains.

Havre Underground is a great tour! After a fire destroyed much of Havre, the downtown businesses moved underground. The basements are all connected, from the brothel to the dentist to the Chinese laundry which later became an opium den, plus many more businesses. Havre is a small town, but it sure has a big underground!

Then we went to the Buffalo Jump archeological site. Before they had horses, the Indians used to stampede buffaloes off a cliff like this one. I’d read about an atlatl, but saw one for the first time. With it you can throw a spear farther than you can shoot an arrow.

After lunch we saw a steam locomotive. No. 2584 was the first to have 80-inch drive wheels, and other innovations which Frank explained. Then we had a choice of the bus or the train to get to Glacier National Park. The Empire Builder was late, but I took it. The days are long.

My room at the Glacier Park Lodge is rustic, with a wood floor. Everything seems to be working so far. The lodge was built in 1913.

wagon
I’ll fix your wagon.
trail
You can take the Old Forts Trail.
Jack
Black Jack Pershing was at Fort Assiniboine.
flag
A flag with 38 stars flew over Fort Assiniboine.
talk
“This is the way it was.”
alumni
You all come in and look around.
cell
They brought in a jail cell from Havre.
mortar
Original construction at Fort Assiniboine.


dentist
Where you wouldn’t want to be when your tooth hurts.
brothel
Places in the underground brothel were numbered.
horses
But how could you get horses down here?
blacksmith
Underground blacksmith.
alumni
Are you sure this is on the up and up?
mimeograph
Mimeograph machine and typewriter.
Ted
Ted, underground.
drugs
Get your prescriptions here.
laundry
Chinese laundry became an opium den.
Burma
You can’t buy Burma Shave any more.
death
Mortuary candles and related items.
fire
Fire engine is now a museum piece, above ground.


cliffs
Lots of fossils in those cliffs across the river.
steps
Plenty of stairs, down and up.
bone
Buffalo who survived the fall were killed here.
atlatl
Here’s how you throw a spear with an atlatl.


2584
Delivered to the Great Northern in 1930, No, 2584 had 80-inch drive wheels and other innovations.
train
Here comes our train.  Better late than never.
coach
The Empire Builder rolls across Montana.

Glacier Park Lodge, Montana, Sunday, July 14

Running Eagle Falls was awesome, and near the trailhead. We hiked the short trail and met plenty of people there.

Then we went to the South Shore Trail at Two Medicine Lake. The Trail goes on for miles and miles and changes its name several times. Ben said to be back by 11, so I turned around at 10:30. There was no one in sight when I turned around. Made it back by 11, but still no one from our group in sight. Oh, well.

The highlight of the day was a cruise on Two Medicine Lake. Our guide told us all about the mountains, history (much of it involving the Blackfeet nation), and wildlife of the area.

Then we had lunch and went back to the Glacier Park Lodge. I took a nap. Before dinner we heard a talk from Frank Ackerman about the lodges in Glacier National Park, and watched a video.

snow
We can see snow up there!
Wildflowers were abundant:
yellow white
pink lavendar
creek
We cross this creek on a bridge.
view
Running Eagle Falls.
Ted
Ted at the falls.


store
Two Medicine Lake is a popular spot.  Good thing we got there early.
dock
The boat dock.
woods
The South Shore Trail is a pleasant walk through the forest.
crack
This one cracked instead of uprooting.
moss
Moss likes a diagonal limb.


boat
There’s our boat, the Sinopah.
mountain
The mountain has a cross-hatch pattern.
view
There’s a trail that goes beside the lake.
view
Heaven is this way.
view
The colors of the mountains are amazing.

St. Mary Lodge, Montana, Monday, July 15

We began by going to the Many Glacier Hotel and taking a boat tour of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The lakes are separated by a trail that goes up and over a hill, so we rode two on different boats. Popular!

Then we got a tour of the hotel, which was falling apart but has been renovated, Swiss style. The ranger who gave the tour was a lady who used to work at the hotel.

In the afternoon we hiked to several lakes in the Many Glaciers area. I settled for the nearest lake, but only saw two ducks there. Frank Ackerman followed me and then went on to the next lake. His wife Jo met me on the trail going back.

Then we went on to the St. Mary Lodge. I had bison strogonoff for dinner!
My room at the St. Mary Lodge is quiet and comfortable.

canoe
Swiftcurrent Lake is a favorite for canoeing.
boat
The Chief Two Guns—That’s our boat!
glacier
The Salamander Glacier and its 1000' waterfall.
shelter
So folks who went hiking won’t have to wait in the rain.
trail
The trail over the hill is well traveled.
Plenty of wildflowers:
medly white
rock
Shoreline rocks record changes in the water level.
mountain
Light and dark stripes on the mountain.
clouds
Smoke signals?
snow
Snow and dirt make an odd combination.


alumni
This hotel has been renovated, I tell you.
alumni
The spiral staircases have been replaced.
lanterns
The original lanterns have been replaced with replicas.


shore
The shore of the first lake is popular.  A trail goes right beside it.
roots
Erosion beside the lake has exposed tree roots.
tree
The twisted tree is a landmark.
white
Field of Dreams (bear grass).
bridge
We cross the creek on a sturdy bridge.
Some wildflowers were blooming:
red pink

St. Mary Lodge, Montana, Tuesday, July 16

Going-to-the-Sun Road doesn’t go all the way to the Sun. It goes up to Logan Pass and the Continental Divide, then down on the other side. We rode red buses, made by White Motors in the 1930s and then renovated by Ford. Several national parks still use them, but Glacier has the most.

On the way out I sat in the rumble seat beside Diana. The wheel well was in the way, and the rear door doesn’t open as far as the other doors. It was so uncomfortable getting in and out that I took a different seat on the way back.

The weather was partly cloudy. Clouds covered the highest peaks, but when we stopped for lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge the sun was shining. On the way back it rained. Kayla, our jammer (driver), had to stop and put the top on the bus. At Logan Pass it started to clear up, so Kayla removed the top. It was sunny the rest of the way.

I walked from the St. Mary Visitors Center to the lodge.

view
Can you see the mountains through the trees?
bus
“Gopher Stop” so we can stand up and take pictures.
yellow
Bright flowers at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
view
Bear grass isn’t really grass.  Bears use it for toilet paper.
water
Many waterfalls.
bus
The red buses were built by White Motors, renovated by Ford.
creek
McDonald Creek draws a lot of photographers.
Ben
Ben moves down for a close-up.
view
Rain on the way back.
sky
The sky began to clear at Logan Pass.
visitors
Lots of people at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
flowers
Wildflowers along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, Montana, Wednesday, July 17

Got up early and took sunrise pictures from my balcony at the St. Mary Inn.

After breakfast I walked to the ranger station. A lot of government business there. Wildflowers were blooming.

We took the charter bus to Browning, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, to visit the US Department of the Interior’s Museum of the Plains Indian. No photography is allowed there. The best exhibit is a wall map that shows Indian migrations by language group. No mention of the Kiowa-Apaches or other small tribes.

Then we had lunch at the Glacier Park Lodge. Later we stopped by the railroad tracks for a hike to the lake. I went, but it started sprinkling.

Essex, Montana, is a railroad town. My cramped room at the Izaak Walton Inn faces the tracks. It’s on the third floor with no elevator. Good exercise.

Sunrise from my balcony at the St. Mary Inn:
sun
clouds

Wildflowers along the road:
medly
medly
white

stream
Time, like an ever-flowing stream.

Mesa, Arizona, Thursday, July 18

Got up early for a morning walk and saw two freight trains pass each other.

After breakfast we left for the Great Falls airport. But we were one person short, due to an inaccurate count, so we had to go back. Still got to the airport in plenty of time.

I had a window seat on the flight from Great Falls to Denver. The sky had scattered high clouds, casting their shadows on the ground in matching shapes.

My flight from Denver to Phoenix was full. Got a middle seat, but it’s night so who cares?

Thanks to my wife Jacque and our daughter Clara for meeting me at the airport and driving me home! Didn’t get in until after midnight.

brick
We drove by the Museum of the Plains Indians.
plane
Our Embraer RJ145 at the Great Falls airport.

 Arizona Hike Pictures updated July 19, 2019