Glacier National Park: Part 3

Noah’s and I spent our third day in Glacier on an all-day, ranger-led hike to Piegan Pass. The hike started at 10am, and the trailhead was along the Going to the Sun Road at Siyeh Bend. We got up early to do the drive and make sure we were at the trailhead with plenty of time to get a parking spot. It turned out that parking wasn’t an issue that morning because it was cold, windy, and rainy. While we were waiting for the ranger to come, we stayed in the car to try to get some last-minute warmth. At one point, we even wondered if was too cold for the hike (it was supposed to take about 6 hours!). In the end, we decided to stick it out. It was definitely a good choice! The hike was amazing and, although I was freezing when we finished, the weather wasn’t really that bad until we made it up to the pass. PLUS, we came upon some huckleberry bushes!

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Fun fact: huckleberries have never been successfully cultivated, so you can only pick them in the wild!

The hike itself crossed through several different landscapes. There were forested areas:

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Flower fields (check out how foggy it is!):

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And it became more and more rocky with snow-capped peaks in the (nearer) distance as we approached the pass:

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When we were in the forest/flower fields things were a bit wet but we were all smiles:

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About 3 hours later after we had been exposed to the frigid winds/snow (yes, snow!) past the tree line, we were still smiling but were a little worse for wear. 🙂

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By the time we made it back down the peak and to the car, the rain wasn’t as heavy but it was still quite foggy. Vision on the road was pretty scary!

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Fortunately, Noah was able to build a fire back at the campsite to warm us up (note: the pic below is just the beginning stages 🙂 ):

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The next morning, our fourth day, was our last day in Glacier. We were only planning to spend a few hours in the park in the morning before driving to Ennis, MT for the wedding of two friends. Noah suggested we do the Avalanche Lake Trail for our last Glacier adventure, and the hike worked out perfectly. The hike was an out-and-back 4-mile trail, and it took us about 2.5 hours – perfect for a quick hike on our way out of the park! At the beginning of the hike we followed along a small stream:

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and were completely surrounded by HUGE trees:

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BONUS: more huckleberries!!

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While we were hiking towards the lake, there was still a bit of fog covering the mountains, so we hoped the view would clear before too long:

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After a little more than an hour of hiking, we made it to Avalanche Lake. Holy cow, it was gorgeous:

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Fortunately, the clouds were just disappearing as we headed back towards the trailhead:

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At the end of the hike there was a short loop called Trail of the Cedars. Trail of the Cedars followed a boardwalk that crossed over the water a few times:

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Noah and I learned from a ranger that the unique appearance of the water at Glacier is a result of rock flour. Rock flour is – just like it sounds – the fine flour that is made when rocks scrape against one another (i.e., what is formed at Glacier as the glaciers move). The rock flour gives the water a bright turquoise-ish tint and also makes it very transparent. When the water is shallow and the color is less intense, it almost looks like the rocks are right at the surface!

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After the hike it was time to say our goodbyes to Glacier and start the 5-6 hour drive to Ennis. Goodbye, Glacier!

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I can’t complain about the drive though – the views from the road were still pretty spectacular:

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Eventually, we saw a sign for Ennis!

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Pretty much as soon as we got to Ennis it was time to celebrate:

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The wedding celebrations went by in a blur – so many hugs, smiles, laughs, (happy) tears! Before we knew it, we had ranched:

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We had decorated:

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We had rehearsal dinner-ed:

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And the last dance was danced:

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It was definitely a happy/wonderful/moving weekend that I won’t forget. ❤

And that concludes our Montana vacation – what a trip!

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Glacier National Park: Part 2

On our second full day in Glacier, Noah and I woke up bright and early in order to snag one of the first-come-first-serve camping spots at the Apgar Campground. Noah and I rented camping gear from Glacier Outdoor Center, so we got up extra early to pick up the supplies before driving to the campground. We rolled into the campground at about 7:45am and immediately started to drive around, searching for a spot.

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After a few minutes of looking, we realized that it would probably be easiest to just ask people if they were leaving that morning. Before too long, we found a group that said they were leaving in a few minutes and we could pull into their spot and wait.

SUCCESS! We immediately pulled our car in and started filling out the tag to reserve the spot:

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The campsite was plenty comfortable – there were bathrooms with running water, toilets, and toilet paper (yay!). Plus they had these nifty bear-safe trash cans:

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We didn’t dally long at the campsite because we wanted to get moving on Going to the Sun Road(GTTSR) – one of Glacier’s most prominent attractions. GTTSR is a 50-mile stretch of narrow road that winds across the whole of Glacier National Park, featuring stunning sights and a number of pull-offs/attractions to stop at.

Here’s a fabulous view characteristic of the sights from the road:

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AND, we saw several bikers along the road – that is seriously ambitious!

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The road itself it pretty nerve-wracking to drive, and Noah and I had to take turns at the wheel so we both had time to look around outside the window. The drop off was way too serious to look around while driving:

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Heading from West Glacier, we made it to Logan Pass – the highest point on the road – in under two hours. At Logan Pass there are several hiking trailheads as well as a visitors center. The Logan Pass parking lot gets full quite early (we were told as early as 9:00am!), so when we arrived around 9:45am we had to drive around for a bit waiting for a spot to open up. Noah and I were planning to join a ranger-led hike starting at 10:30, so we hoped something would be free soon!

Full lot:

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Fortunately, it didn’t take too long before we were in the right place at the right time and found a spot, and wee joined with about 12 others to hike the Highline Trail.

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In its entirely, the Highline Trail is a 15-mile point-to-point hike. The full distance seemed a bit ambitious for Noah and I – especially considering we were hoping to continue our drive along the GTTSR afterwards – so we were excited to do an out-and-back 6-mile walk with a ranger.

The hike itself started with us walking through some low greenery and then along a rocky mountainside:

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Almost immediately on the trail we ran into two mountain goats!

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From the beginning, the views were great:

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About a mile into the hike, we came upon the Garden Wall – an iconic part of the trail that’s totally covered in greenery:

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Every so often, the ranger would stop and tell us interesting bits of information about the landscape, the geology of the area, and our general surroundings. For example, he pointed out the variation in the rocks around us, indicating the different degrees to which the rocks were oxidized:

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And, the informational stops also gave us a chance to take advantage of some great photo ops!

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Check out this waterfall!

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We also caught sight of several ground squirrels – quite common throughout the park:

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Once we made our turn-around on the hike and headed back towards Logan Pass, we ran into yet another mountain goat!

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Logan Pass is on the Continental Divide, so when we made it back to the base area we snapped a pic with the Continental Divide sign:

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And then explored the base area for a little bit, enjoying the views:

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Eventually, we headed back to our car and passed on our coveted Logan Pass parking spot to some excited folks waiting. After driving for a bit longer, we knew we were getting towards the end of the GTTSR when we started catching glimpses of St. Mary Lake:

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Finally, we made it to the St. Mary Visitor Center, the final stop at the other end of the Sun Road!

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We briefly looked around the exhibits at the St. Mary Visitor Center – mainly about the Native American Tribes that used to live at the park and continue to see the area as their homeland. Before long we started heading back to the West Glacier side of the park, stopping by the Glacier Park Lodge. The Glacier Park Lodge was built in 1913 and is maintained as a historic site (and actual guesthouse!). The decor maintains an old-timey, Western feel:

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And we found this ancient artifact… 😉

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We also checked out one of the Red Buses – a historic icon of Glacier – outside the Lodge:

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The Red Buses were introduced in the 1930s as a transportation method for touring groups at the park, and they continue to be used as a way for visitors to be guided around the park.

We couldn’t spend too much time on our way back because we wanted to get back to our campsite with plenty of daylight left for setting up the tent. Once back at the other side of the camp and our campsite, Noah made speedy work of setting up the tent:

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Way to go, Noah!

Our tent was beautifully positioned underneath the trees. 🙂

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After having everything set up for the night, Noah and I were ready for a delicious dinner. We went to Russell’s Fireside Dining Room at the Lake McDonald Lodge (about a 30-minute drive from our campsite) and had an absolutely delicious, amazing, relaxing dinner.

All you really need to know:

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Yes, that is huckleberry pie with huckleberry ice cream that Noah and I shared for dessert. When in Montana, right?!

If you missed my first Glacier post, check it out here, and be on the lookout for a third post coming soon!

 

It’s a Jungle Out There

I like my blow-dryer just as much as the next gal, but lately I have heard the call of the beckoning wild. Hiking, biking, camping, backpacking, fording through rivers…yep, it all sounds fun. Maybe I will just quit real life to spend some time adventuring in nature.

There’s one problem though. I don’t actually have much experience with even soft-core adventuring, so a more serious trip might be a bit ambitious for a first-time outing. Luckily, there are some nice camping opportunities around the Twin Cities, and I had the opportunity to test the waters with one night out in the wild.

We decided to go to Wild River State Park for one night. Wild River State Park is about an hour north of Minneapolis, and there’s a nice campground that offers several drive in sites. We loaded up the car Saturday afternoon and headed out!

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When we got to the state park, we checked in and were given our campsite number.

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Before going to our site, we picked up some firewood at a random house not far outside of the state park.

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Campsite upon arrival:

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We set to work setting up our tent and sleeping bags:

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Just the basics:

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After walking around and looking at the other set-ups, it became apparent that we had only the bare essentials. After surveying the land, it was time to make a fire! Good thing Noah was a master fire-starter, since I wouldn’t have really known the first place to start. He set up small pieces of wood in a log cabin formation and used some birchwood bark to help set it ablaze:

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Once the fire got rolling, we roasted the wienies:

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Perfect camping dinner. 🙂

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The tent was comfortable, but there certainly wasn’t any extra room, and we left some of the rain fly unzipped to let in some fresh air:

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Other times when I’ve slept outside, I remember waking up really early due to the chirping and sunlight. I slept really soundly this time though and didn’t wake up until a bit after nine. We Noah immediately set to work on another fire to heat water for morning oatmeal.

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After breakfast, we stopped by the St. Croix River and then headed home.

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Camping trip success! I had a great time and can’t wait to go again. This ‘intro trip’ made me even more excited to look into other outdoor adventures.

What are your favorite types of outdoor activities?