American West Adventure – Day 8

7/1/13 This is our first full day at Glacier National Park. We are staying in the Many Glacier area which is full of wildlife, lots of trails, and several lakes including Swiftcurrent, Josephine and Grinnell. We are heading across the Going-To-the-Sun Road, which is 52 miles across to the West side of the park. Elevation as we travel across the mountain will climb and drop, and we will be right up against the mountain side, with ice melting, water splashing, snowball fights across the road while the cars coming east are right on the cliff’s edge throughout the ride. We first headed to St. Mary’s Falls Trail, a 3 mile hike to see waterfalls and cool wildflowers.

Wildflowers along St. Mary's Falls Trail

Wildflowers along St. Mary’s Falls Trail

Brandon telling Sofia which rock to step on to stay dry.  She chose her own path

Brandon telling Sofia which rock to step on to stay dry. She chose her own path

St. Mary's Falls

St. Mary’s Falls

Deep Thoughts w/ Sofia

Deep Thoughts w/ Sofia

Sofia checked out the rock walls and was peering into the crevices to see what was forming naturally in the cracks. Then she was throwing some of the residue into the water. She told me this whole plan which I understand, but she was pretty passionate about it, so…cool.

From Sofia: So I was um…I started to look up close at the big rocks and then I saw these little rocks on the big rocks and in the middle of them. And then I pulled the little rocks out and threw them into a mud puddle on the ground and over the bridge and into the water.

Watching the Falls from the bridge

Brandon watching the Falls from the bridge

I guess I took too long taking some pics of where the falls split into two narrow sections flowing into St. Mary’s River to the North. I turned around and saw the kids lounging and quietly watching the scene. Lounging We went past these Falls a bit and headed up towards Virginia Falls for awhile, but I knew the kids were done climbing this part of the trail. A couple coming back from the further waterfalls tried to help me and said we were only 5 minutes away. Problem was I knew it was another 15 minutes uphill so we turned around and finished up a fun hike. Unfortunately after this photo below the tripod with DSLR attached fell over twice within 5 minutes. First blunder of the day for Dad.

After our hike

After our hike

We wanted to stop at Trail of the Cedars in the Avalanche area but we couldn’t get a parking spot. It’s best to visit this trail before 10:30 or after 3 or 4pm. We’ll hit it on the way back or another day. Onward we went towards the West tunnel. We had to stop for a good 20-30 minutes for some road work on the GTTS Road and Sofia found a good way to pass the time.

From Sofia: We had to stop for traffic for a long time. There was a lot of cars coming by every second. I rolled down my window and I was saying hello to all the people in the cars that passed. Every single one. Even the cars with doggies. So I said, “Hello….Hello….Hello….Hello….Hello….Hello….Hello Mister….Hello….Hello….Hello Doggie….Hello….Hello….Hello….Hello. I said hello over and over again until the traffic was over after a long time. Almost every person waved back or said hello or started laughing at me. It was so much fun and Daddy and Brandon were laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing. I’m tired from telling Daddy this story. Am I done? Cool! Are you going to change the color of our page Daddy? Because it’s white and I like it when it’s red and blue.

After Sofia’s fun, more towards the West side of Glacier, Brandon spotted a Mountain Goat climbing pretty close to our car on the mountainside on a large pack of snow and ice. I saw this in the rearview mirror and you would not believe how the Goat was able to keep his footing on such a steep incline. And it was moving pretty fast. Awesome! We reached Lake McDonald a bit later at the end of Going-To-the-Sun Road. We will be staying here Wednesday night before we start back for Salt Lake City. The turquoise and emerald colors of this lake, along with St. Mary’s and several others and truly breathtaking!

Lake McDonald, at end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, West side of Glacier

Lake McDonald, at end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, West side of Glacier

Time to turn around

Time to turn around

At the Apgar Visitor Center, there were dozens of RVs in the lot. Just across from our spot there was a poodle in the drivers seat of this huge RV and the kids were yelling to it and getting a kick out if the dog looking like he was driving. I got directions to head up towards Bowman and Kintla Lakes that I had read were incredible and worth the trip. We took the outer North Fork Road North (look, it goes South as well, so…). This route takes you out of Glacier for a while and the road is in horrible shape. It is gravel, potholes and lots of dust and rocks kicking up on this bumpy ride. While there are cabins along the way the route is mostly for loggers’ trucks. It was taking quite a long time to reach Bowman and it turns out I missed the Polebridge re-entry into Glacier Park. I probably went an extra 30 minutes or more until I reached an abandoned Customs entrance to Canada. Oops.. 2nd blunder of the day.

Once we figured things out we found Polebridge, re-entered the park and at this point we chose Kintla Lake over Bowman as we wouldn’t have enough time tonight to hang out at both and make it back across the GTTS Road before dark. Kintla Lake was only 15 miles and I figured that would be pretty simple. Remember that rough ride I just told you about on North Fork Road? That was NOTHING! This road had just bigger than a 1 lane ‘road’, if you can call it that, and was the bumpiest ride I’ve ever been on. I didn’t think the truck was going to make it without popping a tire. It took well over 45 minutes and I thought the kids were going to kill me. Somehow Brandon fell asleep, which I don’t know how that was possible since we were on this roller coaster. There was tall grass and sharp turns, which was pretty unnerving as I was just imaging coming around the corner the same time as another vehicle. That only happened once and it was a Chevy Suburban coming down a hill right at us and somehow we both hit the brakes quick and squeezed past each other. It was actually an interesting car ride as well because for a portion of the trip we passed through areas that were burned almost completely by fires about 10 years ago. New trees were already growing, but the damage to nature and property were severe. There were cabins that obviously had been deserted and it looked like a scene from an apocolyptic movie for a bit.

Well, it was worth it. Kintla Lake appeared to be pristine, untouched territory. Everything seemed so natural and peaceful. There were trout and whitefish jumping out of the water all around the kids. There was another family at the lakefront and we hung out with them for a few hours; the kids playing in the water and just talking about Glacier, Yellowstone and more. No talk about the news, sports, work or anything else. It was perfect.

Spending the early evening in Lake Kintla.  Fish were jumping all around Sofia

Spending the early evening in Lake Kintla. Fish were jumping all around Sofia

Someone told me later that evening that Bowman Lake is even more serene and beautiful than Kintla. Oh well, we’ll have to come back to Montana another time!

With my driving mistake, I thought the kids may not be able to enjoy the whole day, but they really are having a blast, only have minor squabbles in the car, bonding a lot with each other (and me), exploring parts of the country none of us have seen before, having a great time boogying to cool fun music in the car (today’s favorites of the kids included Electric Avenue) and making memories we will always be able to share together 🙂

She's staring out at a prairie full of yellow and lavender wildflowers

She’s staring out at a prairie full of yellow and lavender wildflowers

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