We probably wouldn’t have returned to the town of East Glacier Park if it hadn’t been for forgetting to pick up our mail as we were driving through on our way up. Since we’re full time RVers, we notify our mail delivery service whenever we want our mail sent to us, General Delivery. We were so intent on getting to our destination, our omission didn’t even occur to us until the following day. As it had turned overcast and rainy, it wasn’t much of an outdoors day anyway, so we headed back down the 33 miles to East Glacier Park.
After picking up our mail, we parked along the main street through East Glacier Park, Highway 2. At the colorful gateway that is the boundary between the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park, we saw the sign we’d missed on the way up. The one advising against rigs as big as ours taking the Highway 49 "shortcut" to St. Mary. Also called Looking Glass Road, it ascends Looking Glass Hill past the Two Medicine area of Glacier Park, before steeply descending down to Kiowa on Highway 89. Though the scenery was great, at 38 feet plus towing our Hyundai, we were WAY too big for this road. Bob was white-knuckling it on the steering wheel, as I was biting my nails next to him. Over 32-feet long rigs/combos should NOT attempt this road.
East Glacier Park is divided into two parts, east of the railroad tracks (Blackfeet Country) and west of the railroad tracks (Glacier National Park). On the Blackfeet side of the aforementioned gateway stands one of four Blackfeet sentries, on horseback with spear held high, created by metal sculptor Jay Laber. Other sentries guard north, east, and south. Interpretive signs tell about Blackfeet history and culture, and the unfortunate confrontation between Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) and a group of Piegan Blackfeet youth, on July 26th, 1806. Two of the young Blackfeet were killed by the Lewis party, who believed they were trying to steal their horses. The Blackfeet version of what transpired differs somewhat.
On the east side of Highway Two you’ll find numerous businesses, colorful even on this dreary gray day. Dancing Bears Inn (motel), log-style Laundromat with showers, Trailhead Saloon, Blue Buffalo Pizza, Old Goat Traders, Two Medicine Grill, and Glacier Park Trading Company. On a sidestreet, Backpackers Inn ($10 per night) and Serrano’s Mexican Food in an East Glacier Park historic 1909 building – renovated of course!
Two Medicine Grill was the place that came close to enticing me inside with its fresh pies… Alas, if only we’d had another day.
Across the highway from all the businesses stands the log and wood-siding 1913-built East Glacier Park Railroad Station. It was built in the same Swiss alpine rustic style as Glacier Park Lodge, west from the station across lawns and gardens. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops here all summer long. Though the station was closed, peering into the windows reveals a well-preserved interior with hardwood floors, wooden benches, and wall displays.
Glacier Park Lodge was and is the first and grandest of the four lodges and nine Swiss-style chalets built here by Great Northern Railway. All four lodges still stand, but only three of the chalets are still in operation: Belton Chalet in West Glacier, and Granite Park and Sperry Chalets, accessible only by trail in Glacier National Park. Glacier Park Lodge opened in 1913. Its cavernous lobby is framed by 40-feet high Douglas fir pillars.
The gardens around the lodge were fading at end-of-season, but riveting in its intensity was another metal sculpture of an Indian with braids and feet flying, across the drive from the entrance. Traditional totem poles and a stiff wooden Indian braced against a log pillar watch the proud dancing metal warrior, tomahawk raised, visage defiant.
Indoors, visitors are gathered around the big blazing fireplace at one end of the lobby. A white mountain goat stands stuffed on a rock inside a glass cage. More cutting-edge metal art outside the bookshop. I wander inside and pick out a couple of books to leaf through in front of the fireplace. Before I sit down though, I look at the displays about the park, hotels, Rocky the mountain goat, and Gladys Johnson’s 1926-27 adventures in the park. But before long, I’m lost in the world of black bears and grizzlies, in Stephen Herrero’s fascinating book about them.
An enjoyable, tasty and relaxing meal at Great Northern Steak and Rib House at the opposite end from my reading fireplace (but with a comparable fireplace of its own) made a great ending to our day at East Glacier Park.