Thursday, August 01, 2013

Summer Vacation Part Two - Glacier National Park

The meat of the trip was three days in Glacier National Park.  Have you ever been to Glacier?  If not, stop right now and plan a trip to Glacier for your next vacation .  It is one of the most magnificent places in the world.  We took tons of pictures and they don’t capture 1/100th of how breathtaking and awesome it all is in person.  Seriously, get yourself there- you won’t be disappointed. 

We spent the first two nights ‘camping’ at a KOA outside the park.  I tend to think poorly of KOA campgrounds (the one in Salt Lake is basically a homeless encampment) and I’d admittedly never stayed at one before, but the West Glacier KOA is awesome.  It was clean, comfortable; it has a pool and playground that the kids loved.  We stayed in a cabin that had electricity and a heater and beds, but a fire ring to cook on and roast marshmallows on at night and was just the right amount of ‘camp’ for us.

The first day in Glacier we drove into west side of the park and hiked, rented a boat and cruised around Lake McDonald, saw the Apgar visitor’s center and rode the bus up the Going to-the-Sun Road and hiked to Hidden Lake from Logan Pass.  (One of our new favorite places)

Day two we drove over to the east side and saw St. Mary Lake, drove into the Many Glacier valley and hiked around Swiftcurrent Lake.  Every other group of hikers we passed (including Jack Hanna) had bear spray on their belts (we didn't) and we started to get nervous, but didn't run into any bears.

We spent that night at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, a cool old motel in the northeast part of the park.  We were originally going to spend that last night in Waterton, Canada- but I put off applying to renew our passports too long and a hiccup with the copy of the marriage certificate we sent and our unwillingness to pay hundreds of dollars the week before for rush service to correct it meant that Canada will have to wait until next year.

The next morning we went on a guided ‘big boat’ (as Wes kept calling it) tour of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, which was a cool way to see the park.  When you go, take one of these tours, they have them on most of the lakes in the park.

We saw a lot of wildlife on the trip-  bison in Grand Teton and elk in Yellowstone.  On our Hidden Lake hike, we saw bighorn sheep across the meadow and several mountain goats.  Goats and bighorn sheep were basically all over the place, often just roaming around the parking lots at the hotels and visitor’s centers.  We also saw deer and more elk around the park, rabbits, ground squirrels eating picnic scraps, chipmunks, etc., but no bears.  By the last day of the trip, we were starting to get bummed that we hadn't seen any.  We went to a ranger talk and were told we'd just missed one.  On the boat tour, some other people said they saw some bears up on the mountain.  We couldn't spot them, but took a picture of the hillside and figured maybe we could zoom in and find them later on the computer.  Then, on the way out of the park, we saw a grizzly about 25 yards off of the side of the road. We did the rational thing and all jumped out of the van to get a closer look.  We caused a small traffic jam, but it was worth it and the kids were excited to add a real wild bear to the list of animals we’d seen on the trip.  Then we saw another one a few miles down the road.  It was a great way to end our time in the park.

One of my favorite things on the trip was a pair of binoculars that my Grandpa Nash gave me when I was a boy.  I threw them in at the last minute before we left and I’m so glad I did.  The kids loved using them to scope out animals and landmarks.

The cabin:

Cooking out:

Making breakfast:

Skipping rocks on Lake McDonald:


Avalanche creek on the Trail of the Cedars hike:

Avalanche gorge waterfall:

View from halfway up the Going-to-the-Sun Road:

Scoping out some wildlife:

Bighorn sheep:

Hidden Lake trail:

Mountain Goat:

Above Logan Pass:

Hidden Lake:

A nanny goat and her kid blocking the trail:

At the top of the Hidden Lake trail:

Goat on a snowfield:


Heaven's peak:


St. Mary Lake:

Wild Goose Island:

Ignore the sign:

Swiftcurrent Motel:

Boat Tour:

Many Glacier Hotel:

 Edy on the boat:

 Grinell Glacier across Lake Josephine:

Looking for bears on the boat:


We spent one night in Helena, MT on the way home.  This is the state capitol:

And the cathedral:

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