Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Red Bus Tour at Glacier National Park

Yesterday was Red Bus day for us when we took a tour of the same name at Glacier. Our tour was 32 miles on Going to the Sun Road from Apgar Visitors Center to the Logan Pass Visitor Center near the Continental Divide.

The Red Bus fleet consists of thirty three 17-seat (18 counting the driver) motor cars. The buses and their drivers started taking visitors on tours via Going to the Sun Road -- the only road that completely bisects the park -- since that road opened in 1933.

The buses have both gasoline and propane engines and feature canvas roofs that roll back, giving riders a clear view. They were built in the 1930s and refurbished in the early 2000's.

Grand finale of the tour:  We finally saw a bear. This guy was a small black bear (actually brown in color) sitting along the side of the road, happily stripping leaves off a shrub. We also saw a mountain goat. Jim said the tour was a heck of a lot better than driving (the road has steep drop offs on one side, rock overhangs on the other and plenty of twisty curves) plus you get great stories all along the way.
The new Apgar Visitor Center opened this spring. We got on the tour bus at the far end of this building.
Our Red Bus as seen from the inside before the roll back canvas roof came off.  That's tour guide Norm at the left starting to raise the roof, so to speak.
With the top off, Norm gives us a few instructions before we leave (the two main ones were "don't stand up while I'm driving" and "I'll shut the doors myself, thank you very much."  Norm was a great tour guide.  When he's not working at Glacier, where he's spent 8 summers, he lives in Columbus, Ohio.  So he noticed the Ohio State hoodie Bev was wearing.
Our tour bus group, as seen in the bus's rear view mirror.  You can see me to the left taking the photo, and Jim to my left.  You know it's cold when Jim has a windbreaker and a hoodie pulled up over his baseball cap.
Several times Norm pulled the bus over and we could stand up and look out the top of the bus.  We also made three stops where we got out of the bus; one of those stops was the Logan Pass Visitor Center near the Continental Divide.  That's also where our tour headed back.  If we'd kept going, the road would take us another 18 miles to St. Mary's Visitor Center on the east side of Glacier.
Jim on tour stop.
Tour guide Norm is the one with the tie. Per Norm, Glacier has 23 active Glaciers but because our climate is getting warmer it's anticipated they will all disappear within ten years.
Norm said it had been foggy the last ten days, but it was beautiful if a little chilly. 
More pretty scenery on the tour. Vehicles longer than 21 feet are not allowed on Going the Sun Road.  However, tour guide Norm told a story of seeing a big Class A being driven by a guy who Norm said had eyeballs "the the size of softballs."  The RV driver eventually got stuck, a ranger had to drive the rig out, and Mr. RV driver got a $1,000 fine.
After the tour we took Cooper on a short walk via a gravel road that leads to Polebridge and Bowman Lake, where we kayaked last year.  This shot shows the remnants of a 2003 wildfire.  Burned trees are still standing; the small trees sprouted shortly thereafter.  

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