Little did I know at the time, that the man with the handle bar mustache and bear suit was well known around Glacier National Park. His name is Joe Kendall and he’s a farmer from Illinois who fell in love with Glacier National Park 59 years ago.
It was May of 2005 and our first time visiting East Glacier. The weather was down right nippy, and it was a thrill to be experiencing Montana and the area that we had begun to call home.
Nothing was open and we had the place to ourselves until Mr. Kendall drove up with a bus full of Japanese tourists. They departed into the misty air for Running Eagle Falls. As he stood there waiting for their return, we had a chat with him and he volunteered to pose for some memorable photos. Now 5 years later, we meet again. Only this time, Joe Kendall is a face I recognized in a magazine article about Glacier National Park and the iconic red tour buses.
Mr. Kendall is now 81 years old. As Glacier National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary, he will mark his 12th year as a tour bus driver on the winding Going to the Sun Road. According to a Montana Senior News article, he first came to Glacier with his brother where he washed dishes at Lake McDonald Lodge. He returned for a second season and worked as a bus boy at the lodge. In the article, Mr. Kendall is quoted as saying,
“After work, I hiked and explored. Like many others, I fell in love with these mountains. They are special and get into your system, and you don’t want to leave them.”
Life went on for Joe Kendall. He married his high school sweetheart and they raised five kids. It wasn’t until 1997 and facing retirement that he and his wife of 55 years returned to Glacier to work for the summers. He loves his job as tour bus driver and when his passengers don’t see a grizzly bear, that’s when he dons his suit…just for the fun of it. He has many fans and is so popular that a pizza parlor in the park has been named Jammer Joe’s. When questioned, by Beth Judy for AAA Traveler’s Companion, which is a don’t miss vista in the park, he said,
“Coming around Looking Glass Pass toward Kiowa Junction, you see all the way to the Sweet Grass Hills. The view into McDonald Valley from the Highline Trail, by Logan Pass, isn’t bad either.”
I, too, have fallen in love with these mountains. Each year, I wait in anticipation of the opening of the Going to the Sun Road. No matter how many times I visit Glacier National Park, I never tire of its awesome beauty.
Next post, I’ll tell you more about the red jammers.
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“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks “~ John Muir