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After seeing a bit of Glacier NP it was time to move on.  I was heading east then south.  Driving south on Hwy 89/287 from East Glacier to my new home located at the Willow Creek Reservoir by Augusta, I was driving through wildfire smoke.  Everywhere I looked I just saw smoky haze. I could only see a vague outline of the Rocky Mountains to the west.  I set up my campsite at the reservoir and hoped for more.  The next morning the skies were clear and I absorbed an expansive view. I was reminded why I go camping.  The scenery was gorgeous.

Early morning view from my campsite. A friend titled it Purple Mountain Majesty.

The scenery, solitude, peace, and nature are all reasons why I venture out. For a few dollars or free I get to enjoy our public land with a million dollar view with nature. That morning was one of those moments that I paused to absorb what the land offers and how special camping can be.  

On the way here from Kalispell I drove Hwy 2 eastward. I didn’t know what treat was waiting for me at the Marias pass.  I drove into an open area and ta-da, I was treated to an incredible view. At that location one gets an expansive view of the Lewis Overthrust with Precambrian Belt rocks (1 to 1.6 billion years old) on top of the younger Cretaceous rocks (about 65 million years old).  What a view! At the rest stop there is a sign that explains what you see.  

Looking north from Hwy 2 at Marias Pass. Only a portion of the view.

My journey to the Willow Creek Reservoir was to be a basecamp for visiting the Sun River Canyon and exploring the geology. I ventured up the canyon and it was wonderful to see, but I left an opportunity to return and explore. When looking at my geology maps, I found I had the wrong maps! And I had an old dog issue that was distracting.  My old dog had become lame which had resulted in a visit to a vet. Although it didn’t seem to be a serious injury, it was a major challenge for me to get him in/out of the trailer and truck. During the day, I kept thinking about maybe ending the trip early and heading for home.  

Sun River Canyon

In the Sun River Canyon, immediately north of the bridge over the Sun River there is a trail that leads east to some pictographs.  It is a very short walk. Although the pictographs are faded and vandalized, I still found them memorable and thought provoking.  Who painted them and why they were painted remains a mystery. I found a paper written about the site.

Look in the middle to see the pictographs.

The Facts:

  • The entire land surrounding Willow Creek Reservoir is available for camping. There is one small Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks campground that is $18/night without a fishing license.  Everywhere else camping is free.
My campsite looking eastward.
  • All Glacier NP accesses from the east side where closed this season.  To reach the access points one must cross Blackfeet tribal land which has been hit hard by the virus.  Perhaps in a future trip I will explore that area.