We decided early on that this would be a recon trip of sorts. We knew it was Yellowstonish huge, and wanted to really get a feel for the whole park instead of just seeing one area on a single backpacking trip. We did no research before we went, had no reservations (besides the car) and planned on winging the whole trip. We packed in and saw as much as we could - and Chad's already planning our return trip!
Friday - Depart Vegas 3:40 pm. Arrive Kalispell 7 pm. Pick up rental. So excited that we headed straight for Glacier... oohed and ahhed over spectacular scenery on the sunset drive to the park. Looked out over McDonald Lake as the sun finally set - ate dinner inside the park at West Glacier - broasted chicken at Eddie's Cafe. So glad we shared a meal because it was HUGE (4 pieces of chicken!) and not really that good. Drive back to Kalispell for a Wal-Mart run to pick up groceries and firewood. Debate whether or not to stay at a campground in the park - opt instead to follow a Forest Service sign and crash camp on the side of a dirt road, just up the hill from Hungry Horse dam. So excited to be in Montana!
Saturday - Awake earlier than expected, around 7:30 am. Pack up camp and head into West Glacier. Stamp our books in the Apgar Visitor Center and head east, stopping at Lake McDonald Lodge. Wait out the sun a little bit and then head up toward Avalanche Lake for a pretty hike. Unbelievable how much water is everywhere!!! These desert rats were definitely impressed. After our hike, we did the quick Trail of the Cedars, and then hit the road again - ready for the renowned and much anticipated Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Amazing views - our pictures won't even come close to doing it justice. We just couldn't believe how BIG everything was! On our drive, Chad had our one and only bear sighting (whew!). A mama bear and her cub were climbing the mountain away from us. My less-than-stellar vision didn't catch anything. Continuing through the mountains to Logan Pass and the continental divide. Then the drive down the east side, which we agreed wasn't nearly as spectacular. A quick stop at the St. Mary Visitor Center to watch a short film, Walk in the Clouds, narrated by our good friend, Bob.
Into town to set up camp at the St. Mary KOA. We pitched our tent and put on our swimmers for a quick dip in the hot tub before dinner. Back to camp to stoke the fire and eat some delicious campfire dinner... and then into town for desert of pie and hot chocolate to stay warm at the cutest little cafe.
Sunday - Again, up earlier than we'd expected. And way earlier than anyone else at the KOA! To the showers while they were still empty. A quick breakfast and we packed up the car again and headed out. Drive up to Many Glacier Lodge and Visitor Center. Mill around a bit, again waiting for the sun to come out before we had any real desire to hike. Beautiful hike around 3 more lakes (more water!) and up to more falls (!!!). Our only moose spotting of the trip just as we made our way back to the car! Sample some huckleberry soft ice cream... mmmm, love that huckleberry!
Pack up and head away from Many Glacier (my personal favorite part of the park). And on to Canada! I was scolded by the Canadian Border Guard (I wasn't paying enough attention) and our firewood was confiscated (they take Elms Disease very seriously). Spent the afternoon wandering through Waterton, visting little shops and waterfalls throughout the picturesque little town. Head back to the US (it's good to be home) and back across the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the western side of the park. Dinner at the delicious Heaven's Peak (more huckleberry - this time in the form of a glaze on chicken). Beautiful lodge in a perfect location. Decide to crash camp again, but last minute, we turned into a private campground (with showers - bonus!). To bed late and not wanting to think we only have one day left!
Monday - Chad slept in a little, and I definitely slept in. Lazy morning with showers and then back to West Glacier to check out the Glacier Historical Institute. Last look at Lake McDonald and then up to check out the town of Whitefish. Gorgeous resort-type town with lots of restaurants. Walked around and finally settled on Amazing Crepes for a late lunch. To Whitefish Lake to relax and enjoy being warm. One last huckleberry ice cream cone, and we headed back to the airport to wait two hours for our flight to depart.
disclaimer- I fully realize this is way too detailed for most people to enjoy. Feel free to skip this entire post! More pictures will come - probably too many of those, too!