Yes. Yellowstone is pretty crowded in the summer, but with a bit of luck and some open minded freedom from expectations, we had a wonderful time. Our trip was full of adventurous campsite-seeking evenings, fellow boondocking crazy’s, lots of thermal features, and one of the best backpacking trips we’ve ever had. Continue reading “But, what about the crowds?”
Well the kids and I just settled in at the East Glacier Amtrak station. Watching some Fantasia 2000. Its 900 pm and we have until 1100 pm to wait to catch our 645 pm train. Excellent. I actually appreciated a bit of that extra time. We got to visit a few more sites, but now that the sun has set I’m ready to hop aboard and snuggle into our Roomette. I guess this way we can sleep in and not rush to
get off in the morning. In fact, we will likely enjoy lunch… Maybe even dinner… On the train between here and Seattle.
Anyway…. Today was nice. Not as crazy amazing and glorious as yesterday but still quite lovely. We slept in, which with the time change means we got up at 730. Watched some TV, packed up the car and checked out of our lovely little cabin. The weather was noticeably cooler with a bit of broken overcast sky. We drove a few miles up the road to the Two Medicine part of the park where we road the 45 boat tour around the lake. The boat driver was funny, told us a bit of history (the little wooden boat was hand built for the park 88 years ago), and then he opened it up to questions. There were many good ones. Then Zoe got into the act and asked when the lake froze could she ice skate on it and do animals fall through the ice and get cut. You could ice skate, he said, if you cross country skied in about 8 rough miles and then braved the 100 mph winds across the lake. “most people don’t” he said. Avi liked the first part of the boat ride and even went out on the bow with me. He got antsy after a bit so I needed to bust out the carrots to keep him seated. The clouds grew and the temp dropped but we braved another short hike to Running Eagle Falls. Avi loved it and ran the whole way- even across the log bridge. It’s not far but was enjoyable and the waterfall is super cool coming through the cliff at the bottom.
After that we were hungry and I wanted to go up to the Many Glacier northern section of the park, so I took the indirect but less winding road to Browning. This is a pretty slow (im being nice) town in the heart of the Blackfoot reservation that is adjacent to the park. There was a Taco Johns drive through which became necessary since both children were asleep. The 40 mile drive from there to Many Glacier was incredible. I thoroughly enjoy the high prairie with the mountains in the background. It is simply gorgeous to me: my favorite landscape. Don’t think the kids would have been as impressed.
They woke as we arrived at Many Glacier just as a torrential downpour began. We ate what was supposed to be a picnic in the car and then the rain stopped! It was wonderful. Cool. Overcast. Moist. So we walked a good bit of the Swiftcurrent trail across from the big old chalet lodge. The kids then just wanted to play in the picnic area. Having checked the train prior I knew we already had two extra hours so it was fun to just chill out. The weather seemed at the verge of raining but didn’t drizzle until we left. The clouds looked like smoke coming from inside the mountain. Zoe picked a bouquet of wildflowers and kindly distributed one to each prairie dog hole. Avi kicked dirt and threw rocks into the holes. Adding to our wildlife count was a big mama deer and two babies that wandered very near to us, plus a bear the size of a penny sighted up the mountain. There were also lots of squirrels and chippys. Many Glacier proved to be the location for animals.
With our days plans in the bag we began our drive back to East Glacier, however, the train schedule now showed 3 hours late so we stopped at the visitor center in St Mary again to watch the video and listen to more of the animal sounds. As a bonus we got to Skype with Bryan from my phone in the car. Another side trip found us down the most beautiful valley EVAR – Cut Bank . It was open and green, forested along the river and had huge cliffs and mountains rising up around it. Plus, there were horses and cows. Avi loves cows… In a crazy way. He Squeals “cows” at the sight of any! This is mostly on the reservation with a tiny campground and trial access to Glacier. Back in East Glacier town we checked our bags in at the train station … An hour after our train should have left. And then we spent a while looking around the lodge and town before grabbing hotdogs to go from the gas station. The rental car lady dropped us off back at the train station and here we sit…. Waiting. Ugh. Well, a huge thunderstorm started so that is cool. We will be snug in our bunks soon enough. Tomorrow- Seattle.
So this will be a blog filled with words like “amazing” and “spectacular” because Glacier National Park is both amazing and spectacular.
After we woke up in our East Glacier cabin we walked down a block to the Dollar rental car. Well I was shocked out of my gourd to find our rental to be a new 2011 Outback just like our car in Korea! Dark gray though. I put in Avi’s car seat that came with the rental and Zoe’s little booster.. We loaded up and drove north.
The drive to the park entrance at St. Mary is about 31 miles and was already simply gorgeous. The mountains rise up in the west and the rolling plains stretch out to the east. The mountains are just so amazingly huge and dramatic compared to the grassland. We stopped so many times to simply get pictures. At one point there was a crystal lake reflecting the mountain so we stopped for pictures and found wild blueberries! Yum. As we drove Zoe even mentioned how pretty it was and how she was happy I planned this trip. The weather was also so nice and warm. The sky was so deep blue. It was spectacular. And we weren’t even to the park yet.
Once we finally got to the visitor center I was so thrilled to get my passport book stamped. The center focuses on the receding glaciers and Blackfeet Indians. The kids loved listening to the Blackfeet animal stories in the audio displays. I am glad to be seeing the glaciers before they disappear. Our adventure for the day was to drive the Going to the Sun road through the heart of Glacier National Park and then looping south along the wild bear wilderness and lewis and clark national forest. Again the scenery was amazing.
Once in the park we stopped for a hike to go see Baring waterfall and play in the water before we gained too much elevation. The hike was great! It followed the rushing water downstream most of the way and veered through the woods for a little bit before opening out onto a log bridge at the base of the falls. I let Avi and Zoe walk for the first section along the water so they could put their hands in and feel how cold the water was. Avi then rode on my back in the kid carrier – he fought getting in it but then seemed to enjoy himself once he understood what was happening. It was only a half mile hike but very fun. Zoe ran most of the way down! At the falls we got some pictures and then the kids spent a long time throwing in rocks and having a snack. Hiking back up to the car was slower but Zoe didn’t complain. She stopped a couple times for water and we talked about the plants. Avi walked for a ways too and then sat down refusing to budge so I got him on my back again. He was hot and tired I think because he cried about it for a few minutes and then almost slept. As soon as I put him back in the car he was sleeping. Zoe and I enjoyed many of the other pull outs along the road up to the continental divide. The road wasn’t super crowded so we could simply pull out, look over the edge, take a picture and move on.
The highlight for Zoe was her chance to touch snow. This was the thing we had been searching for all day. There were still some huge patches of snow on the mountain but none yet along the road. There is a hike at Logan pass – the high point on the road – out to a viewpoint and a huge field of snow. When we arrived up their I realized why our drive had been so enjoyable and people free. They were all here! It was a crowded mess. The parking lot was full and folks were parked all along the roads. Not for us. Plus Avi was still sleeping so getting him out and into the kid carrier for a crowded hike didn’t sound like fun. Instead we kept along the road and found an awesome snowbank pullout with no one around!!! Zoe loved it and claimed that winter is her favorite season… and how far away is it? She even ate some of the months old snow under the crusty top. Too funny!
After that we continued our drive down the west side of Going to the Sun road. This is where a ton of other people are… Stuck in traffic. There are crews fixing the road so it is a giant back up. We just happened to get the timing right and only waited 5 minutes for the one way to be our direction. As we came out the other side I could see people over there had been waiting the half hour we were warned about in the visitor center. Now both kids were sleeping so I enjoyed the drive down on my own. The west side of Glacier is certainly not as dramatic looking since it is forested. The openness of the plains on the east side afforded us instant views. Over here you are mostly in the forest – a beautiful thing in its own right. You are also along a gorgeous rushing river called McDonald creek. Not a creek. I got out to see it a couple times and Avi woke. So now he and I had fun stopping to see the water at the pull outs. After we exited the park we drove along route 2 back to East Glacier. This drive is also quite pretty through a steep treed valley with the big Middle fork of the flathead river. There were tons of rafting group shuttle buses along here. The river did look super fun to kayak! Eventually Zoe woke so we used one of the boat launch access points as a break place. The kids ran around on the rocks, waded in the calm creek that was joining the river, and played in the sand. Zoe collected some special rocks – that SHE will be carrying in her bag. Avi mostly got to be a complete mess smearing sandy dirt all over the big rocks. We watched the train go by a couple times. That will be our route out tomorrow evening. Hopefully it’s close to on-time as I would like to see the scenery!
Back in the car we rolled into East glacier exhausted. That drive took all day!! Hung out in our cabin a bit before walking across the street to Luna’s for dinner. I had a bison burger. The kids scarfed their food, too. Hungry! Then we played for the evening. There were kid playthings out back at Luna’s and a nice green space in front of our cabin. I sat on our little porch planning tomorrow while they messed around til dark. I’m excited to see more of this park tomorrow. It is incredible!!