Monday, August 10, 2009

Presidential Glacier ...

The big news around southwest Montana today is that President Obama is headed for Bozeman this Friday, apparently en route to a tour of Yellowstone National Park. I'm of course of the opinion that he and his family will be missing out big time by not instead going to Glacier ... which is a far superior place.

Only one sitting American president has ever had the good taste to visit Glacier: Franklin D. Roosevelt, back in 1934. He and his family traveled over the Going-to-the-Sun Road in an open touring car, and then the president gave a national radio address from in front of the fireplace at Two Medicine Chalet. He said, "Today, for the first time in my life, I have seen Glacier National Park. Perhaps I can best express to you my thrill and delight by saying that I wish every American, old and young, could have been with me today. The great mountains, the glaciers, the lakes and the trees make me long to stay here for all the rest of the summer."

Last week, a caravan of vintage vehicles commemorated the 75th anniversary of Roosevelt's visit, retracing his Going-to-the-Sun journey. One of FDR's great-granddaughters was along as a passenger. They skipped the fireside chat, though ...


  1. Mark, is he going there for fun, or fact finding? Aren't some folks wanting to drill or mine or something?

  2. Not exactly sure, yet ... from what I've heard, he's going to host one of his Town Hall health-care meetings here in Bozeman, which I'm sure the far-right will try to disrupt. The Yellowstone thing might just be a vacation for him and his family.

    I haven't heard much about recent mining threats to the immediate Yellowstone area, although that's a big deal up by Glacier. There, the Canadians have been making noises for years about opening up some big mines just north of the Park,. Ugh.

  3. I'm curious, what is it, in your opinion, that makes Glacier "a far superior place" to Yellowstone? I'm always fascinated by the fact that Montanans often either love one or the other park, Glacier or Yellowstone. I lean heavily toward Yellowstone myself, and I've been trying to figure out precisely why. Is it geography? The "character" of the park? A personal history with the place? Or something else entirely?

  4. Heh ... that's of course a topic that engenders a lot of discussion in Montana, and in some circles could even get heated before too long. I could write pages and pages on the topic, myself ... having worked at Glacier back in college and now having lived near Yellowstone for the last quarter-century. But I'll stick to a paragraph or two, just with my opinion, and with the free admission that the thoughts of others are just as valid to them.

    For me, Yellowstone is actually something of a disappointment these days, and I've gone there less and less in recent years. It has the reputation as being the "crown jewel" park, because it was by some standards the first and was for a long time the largest ... but there are at least a half-dozen other parks that I like more. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is truly magnificent, and the thermal features undoubtedly intriguing ... but the geysers and such don't draw me back. Beyond that, much of the park landscape is attractive, but it certainly isn't any more interesting than that in the surrounding National Forests, and sometimes less so. Most longer hikes there involve hours spent hiking through lodgepole pine forests. And to get to the trailheads, or see the auto-accessible sites, you have to contend with crowds of some of the most ridiculously-stupid tourists I've ever seen -- people who are there because, after all, Yellowstone is simply THE park to see.

    Glacier, on the other hand, has a million vistas -- all different, both broad and intimate -- that you simply can't find anywhere else. The Sun Road is full of stupid tourists, too, but for me it's far easier to serene places there ... even by car. I did a two-hour drive up in Glacier's North Fork country a couple weekends ago, and I think I met only two other cars. And there was a backdrop of lakes and rivers and mountains that Yellowstone can't hope to match. There are fewer people when I go hiking there, and the vistas are broader and more ever-hanging. And the surrounding area is even less touristy.

    Actually, that's the one word I'd use to sum it up: Yellowstone is for tourists. Glacier is a place to experience the northern Rockies.

    (As I said, of course ... your mileage may vary, and that's fine. :-)

  5. I agree (Glacier...). In fact, I always tell people...that the REAL Paradise in Montana is Flathead Lake and the park...

    (course...maybe I do that to steer them away from Bozeman...and Bridger Canyon!!! My little paradise!!! I drive that cut through the Bridgers...and I am in a different world. My old friend -Jake Mast, now deceased- bought his property in the late thirties and didn't have enough money left to haul his cattle to the new spread. So...he took them overland from White Sulphur to the ranch. Real "cattle drive."

    Pat Lueck

  6. Yep. Of course I'm living down here in the world of Yellowstone Park fans, but I think overall when the vast majority of Montanans hear the phrase, "the park," they're thinking about Glacier.

    And as for steering them away from Bozeman, well ... it's probably too late. But you don't have to get very far away from the Gallatin Valley to find unspoiled Montana. Get a little ways past Bridger Bowl, and all is right with the world again. :)