We had a leisurely mid-morning departure from the St Regis Campground, emptying the black and gray water tanks (much easier than on a boat) and topping off the propane. The drive towards Glacier took us along the beautiful Flathead river, across huge expanses of prairie land and then along the West side of Flathead lake before arriving at Emery Bay campground , down 5 miles of washboard forest road to the Hungry Horse reservoir.
The site was just fine, and we noticed that there was a big brown box between our site and the next one. The sign on it said it was a bear box for food storage – more on this later.
The smoke has made it into Montana, and we were in it all day. I went down to the campground’s boat launch to look at the reservoir and it looked like a foggy day on the water. I only saw one boat, and that one was getting hauled out at the ramp.
We had a nice dinner of hot dogs and corn cooked over the fire pit, and finished it off with s’mores (again). We cleaned up, closed everything up, and crawled into bed for the night. I thought about moving our snack box (a sealed plastic bin containing snacks in sealed containers) to the the bear box, but decided not to, instead locking it in the outside storage compartment of the camper. In the middle of the night, I awoke to the feeling of the camper getting pushed from side to side, heard some scraping sounds and realized that a bear was trying to get to our box of snacks. Oops. I guess that’s why the sites had bear boxes. After a few minutes, it stopped, so I thought “that wasn’t such a big deal”, and went back to sleep. Sleep did not last long, as the bear returned several times over the course of the night. I worried that it would rip the cover off the storage compartment, but it eventually gave up. When I got up in the morning, the cover was still in place, and unlike me, none the worse for the wear.
We drove up to Glacier National Park early this morning, but it was completely socked in with smoke. We stopped at the Lake McDonald lodge and make a pancake breakfast in the parking lot.
After breakfast we walked down to the lake, but it was clear that it was not safe to hike (AQI > 180), and there was so much smoke that there was no sightseeing to be done. We called an audible and decided to head South a day early, hoping to get out of the worst of the smoke and take a chunk out of the long drive to Yellowstone NP. We were able to find a spot at a KOA in Butte Montana, which is in a less bucolic setting, but has no bear boxes. The smoke is still visible down here, but the air quality readings are in the moderate range (AQI mid 70s), much lower than up North.
Tomorrow we head on toward Yellowstone, an easy 180 mile drive from here. Our fuel economy over the last two fill ups has gone down a bit to 8.5-9.5 mpg. Climbing mountain passes on state highways and forest roads accounts for the decline, and it is good to know that we have about 450-500 miles of range between fill ups. We’ve spotted a few more license plates in campgrounds and the Glacier parking lots, and need to update our map. We won’t have any connectivity in Yellowstone (or Grand Teton??), so it will likely be a few days before the next update.