Posts Tagged With: Glacier National Park

Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 11: the East Side of Glacier

Wednesday, June 11: our last big day of kayaking and hiking in Glacier

After two days on the west side of the park, we were ready to spend our last full day in Glacier on the east side. Since the Going-t0-the-Sun Road wasn’t yet open, this meant that we had to drive around the outside of the park. On our way, we stopped for breakfast at the Izaak Walton Inn. I had delicious huckleberry pancakes (if you couldn’t already tell, I really embraced the huckleberry). Someday, I would love to go back to the inn and stay in one of their cabins, which were created out of old rail cars.

Izaak Walton Inn

a rail car cabin at Izaak Walton Inn

When we reached the east side of Glacier, we unloaded our kayaks on Swiftcurrent Lake. This lake was much smaller than Kintla, and to my relief there was barely a light breeze in the air. Many Glacier Hotel sits right on the lake, and view was phenomenal. We enjoyed a nice, easy kayak trip across the lake to the small channel connecting to Josephine Lake. It being early spring, the water through the channel was rushing prettily steady and too strong to paddle against. We attempted the most bone-chillingly cold portage (and this from someone who’s done the Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan during a Chicago winter), but ultimately decided that the water was too high and we’d have to skip kayaking Josephine.

kayaking Swiftcurrent Lake near Many Glacier Hotel

kayaking near Many Glacier Hotel

Swiftcurrent Lake

Swiftcurrent Lake

We took the short trail to Josephine to gaze at the stunning, crystal clear water, so calm it perfectly mirrored the mountains surrounding it. Then we followed the Grinnell Glacier trail, climbing steadily up the mountain. As we got higher, I thought back to a ranger’s words of warning on walking the glacier trail while there was still snow and ice present: “Just be smart. If you fall, you’ll get a concussion and keep sliding ’til you’re dead.” I have a pretty bad fear of heights, but kept going with Kurt’s encouragement. Mountain goats are definitely not my spirit animal; I’ll stick with my original Buzzfeed quiz result of “dog wearing sunglasses.” As we hiked, we spotted mountain goats high up on the steep ledges above us. Down below, I alerted Kurt to a grizzly sow in the valley with two cubs tailing behind her. (The two best things I did before this trip were chop off my hair and get LASIK eye surgery).

Lower Grinnell Lake

Lower Grinnell Lake

As we approached the view of Salamander Glacier and Lower Grinnell Lake, we came across a sign warning of ice on the trail. A couple approached from behind the sign and told us we could still go another couple hundred yards. I silently cursed them, as I was ready to get back to a lower, less deadly elevation. Kurt, however, wanted to keep going for a bit more, so I reluctantly followed. We carefully maneuvered around a giant snow boulder blocking the trail, my heart beating like crazy. After reaching a spectacular view of Lower Grinnell Lake and snapping dozens of photos, we finally turned around and headed back down the mountain.

passing the snow boulder

passing the snow boulder

snow hazard sign

snow hazard sign

We took a leisurely paddle back across Swiftcurrent, enjoying snacks in our kayaks. As we floated mid-lake, we heard a group of about twenty tween girls taking the “sing while hiking” advice to heart, belting out “Let It Go” from Frozen at the top of their lungs. “I think they’ve scattered every bear in the park,” I said to Kurt. They were just beginning to follow it up  One Direction’s “Beautiful” as they finally, mercifully disappeared into the woods and out of our range of hearing.

After stowing the kayaks back up on the roof rack, we said a wistful goodbye to Glacier. We grabbed dinner and huckleberry margaritas at Two Sisters, then began the long drive back to the cabin. On the way, we made a few more sightseeing stops: the Continental Divide marker and Goat Lick. At the latter, along the highway, a plentiful amount of mountain goats grazed while the young ones frolicked on the rocky ledges. We all gasped as a young goat lost its balance and tumbled, but luckily it safely recovered. It made me way too anxious; I could never be a mountain goat mother.

goats!

goats!

We reached our cabin during the last of the light, and began to pack up our things in preparation for the following day’s departure.

 

Wildlife sightings: mountain goats, grizzly bear with two cubs

 

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Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 10: Beer for my Horses

Tuesday, June 10: horseback riding in Glacier

We had our first “relaxing day” in a while, meaning that we didn’t have to wake up until 8 am. We had breakfast in the cabin and then drove back into Glacier for a 2-hour horseback trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters. I had been looking forward to this activity for some time, and my excitement grew as we approached the ranch with horses saddled up and lined up along the log fence. We had our quick safety demo and selected helmets, then went to pet the horses while our wranglers prepared. Kurt was assigned the biggest horse on the ranch, named Bonanza, and I was given a chestnut called Chuck. We ended up with a private trail ride, just us and our two wranglers. As we took the meandering path through the woods, I spotted a black bear about 150 yards away. Our wranglers assured us that the horses were used to encountering wildlife on the trail; it only fazes the humans. My Fitbit counted my horse’s steps as my own, as I learned when it suddenly buzzed that I had reached my goal at only 11 am that day.

Chuck and Bonanza

Chuck and Bonanza

After our 2-hour ride was finished, we dismounted onto newly wobbly legs. We tipped our wranglers, pet our horses goodbye, and then went to check out Apgar Village. In the gift shop, we admired the handcrafted pottery. “I like all this stuff,” said Kurt. “Does that mean I’m getting old?” We purchased souvenir t-shirts, stickers, and an elk antler chew toy for the dog.

Mmm, beer...

Mmm, beer…

Flathead Lake Brewing Co.

Flathead Lake Brewing Co.

A day of relaxing means that it was time to finally visit the area breweries. We headed to Big Fork and had lunch and a few pints at Flathead Lake Brewing Co. Afterwards, we continued our pub crawl across the street to the Raven. They didn’t brew their own beer (despite the misleading sign that said “Brew Pub & Grill”) but they made up for it with an amazing view of Flathead Lake.  We sat outside until the ominous sight of storm clouds rolled in, and hightailed it out of there as the staff began to quickly shutter the beer garden.

us at The Raven

us at The Raven

We made our last stop in Whitefish, checking out the Great Northern Brewing Co., home of my new favorite Wild Huckleberry Wheat. At the bar, we were able to watch part of the Spurs/Heat playoff game. It was strange to watch TV and feel looped back into civilization after our previous day of wilderness adventure. Finally, we headed back to the cabin and enjoyed some leftover rhubarb pie from the fridge before calling it a night.

Wildlife sightings: black bear

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Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 9: Kintla Lake

Monday, June 9: kayaking, hiking, and glacier spotting

One of our guidebooks perfectly summed up Upper Kintla Lake with the line “It’s a place you have to get to on purpose.” Once again, our alarm went off at 6 am. We took North Fork Road, which is unpaved, gravelly, and full of potholes (when we told locals where we planned to go, they always immediately followed up with the question “Do you have 4-wheel drive?”). On our way, we stopped in the small town of Polebridge to get coffee. Polebridge has no electricity and uses solar power or generators in their mercantile store and bar.

We made our bumpy way up the 40 miles of North Fork to reach Kintla Lake. The campground was open, but we only saw two other people there. Otherwise, it was just us (and about a million mosquitos). No motorized boats are allowed on Kintla, so the lake was completely calm. We immediately unloaded our kayaks and got onto the clear, inviting water.

Kintla Lake

Kintla Lake

Kintla Lake is about 5 miles across. On our way out, the wind was at our backs, making the trip relaxing and peaceful. We drank in the gorgeous scenery and bright sunshine. It was a perfect, beautiful day of 70 degrees. As we reached the end of the lake, we spotted the campground.

crossing the lake

crossing the lake

As Kurt secured the kayaks, we noticed a young mule deer grazing nearby. He saw us but didn’t startle. We continued about our business, getting out our daypacks and lunch, and he continued to hang around, keeping a safe distance while watching us curiously. I felt calmer with the deer nearby, thinking that that must mean there weren’t any bears around. Glacier has the highest concentration of grizzlies in the lower 48 states, a thought that was constantly on the back of my mind.

our deer friend

our deer friend

After our lunch, we said goodbye to our deer friend and started a hike towards a view of the Kintla Glacier. After a while I got tired of constantly shouting “Bear! Bear!” and began to sing any song that came to mind. By the time we reached a meadow clearing with an amazing view of the glacier, I had run through most of the pop divas (Britney, Miley, Katy, Madonna). The mountain range behind us was the last on U.S. soil; beyond them lay Canada. We took pictures and drank in the gorgeous setting before making our return trip. I worked my way through 80’s rock and Disney soundtracks. Kurt politely did not complain about my terrible singing voice, but did say “I didn’t know you knew all of those songs.”

Kintla Glacier

Kintla Glacier

mountain man

mountain man

We knew that the return kayak trip straight into the headwind was going to be rough, but once we got back onto the water, we realized the true extent on how much more difficult it would be. The wind whipped between the mountain ranges and straight over the lake, creating small whitecaps. We attempted to hug the shoreline for calmer waters, but unfortunately it didn’t make as much of a difference as we had hoped. Kurt said that at one point he turned to look at me, I was padding as hard as I possibly could and I was still drifting backwards. If I paused for a second, the wind would spin my kayak to the side and it was a strenuous battle to get straightened back out. “Are we halfway there?” I called out to Kurt at one point. “We’re not even a quarter of the way there yet!” he shouted over the howling wind. With no rangers or other boaters in sight to save us, we had no choice but to put our heads down and paddle through it. My shoulders burned from exertion.

blue waters

blue waters

When we could finally see the other side of the lake again, the clouds above the mountain range grew ominously dark. I could see gray sheets of rain pouring in the distance. We were in a race with the wind, and we were at a distinct disadvantage. I ignored the burning in my muscles and continued to push through it, with renewed hope as the shoreline grew closer. Finally, we could see the boat launch. “We made it!” Kurt shouted in celebration. The rain was held at bay by the mountain range, and we reached land exhausted but dry.

We loaded the kayaks onto the roof rack and chowed down on snacks, then started the long journey back on North Fork Road. I was gazing out the window, enjoying the scenery, when suddenly a mountain lion wandered across the road. “Whoa!!” Kurt and I both shouted in unison. The mountain lion looked at us then bounded up the hill in three easy leaps. We fumbled for cameras but the moment was too quick. Seeing a big cat in the wild felt otherworldly; it felt like something had escaped from the zoo. “It’s like Jumanji!” I said.

We stopped at the bar in Polebridge for a few cold beers out of their cooler and a delicious bowl of chili. The bartender was a friendly guy originally from the East Coast. We talked about the area and how it was not for the faint of heart; he said that you had to be pretty adventurous and self-sufficient to go as far as we did. Getting AAA service out there could be a whole-day event. We enjoyed our conversation with the locals and the welcoming, rustic ambiance of the bar.

Polebridge

Polebridge

As the bar closed up, we settled our tab with cash (no electricity = no credit cards) and finished the drive back to the cabin. Along the road, we saw a baby moose spot our car and run back into the woods, his little knobby knees kicking adorably. Deer frolicked in the meadows along the road as the dusk settled in. We finally reached the cabin after our longest day yet, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing; everything about it was pretty perfect.

 

Wildlife sightings: snakes, mountain lion, moose calf, deer

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Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 8: Arriving at Glacier

Sunday, June 8: our first full day in Montana

We began our morning with breakfast at Cat Eye Cafe, and highly enjoyed their cat-themed decor and delicious food. Then it was time to say goodbye to Bozeman and we got started on the long drive to Glacier. After a stop in Columbia Falls for groceries and Whitefish for lunch, we reached the cabin we were renting for our stay in northern Montana. The cabin was part of an original homestead, completely refurbished to make for a charming vacation home.

diamond doll in Glacier

diamond doll in Glacier

After settling in, we drove into Glacier National Park to get an early peek of where we’d be spending the most of our next several days. We stopped at McDonald Lodge to enjoy the view and visit the gift shop. Like we would discover in most of northern Montana, the shop was full of huckleberry-flavored treats.

us at Lake McDonald

us at Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge

Since we were visiting early in the season, the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road wasn’t fully open yet. It would take several more weeks for crew to finish clearing the snow from the higher passes. We drove the 16 miles that was open, up to Avalanche Lake.

scenic view along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

scenic view along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

On our way out of the park, we stopped to get information on boating permits for our two kayaks and talked to a friendly ranger about the various lakes within the park that would be good for kayaking. He confirmed that our choice of Upper Kintla Lake would be a good one, and we became even more excited for our first full day in the park.

We headed back to the cabin where Kurt grilled up a delicious meal of salmon and corn on the cob, paired with some local beers including the Great Northern Brewery’s Wild Huckleberry Wheat. The sky stayed light until 10:30 pm, as we were far north and near the western edge of the Mountain time zone. Our first night in our little cabin was cozy and peaceful.

our perfect little honeymoon cabin

our perfect little honeymoon cabin

 

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Honeymoon Road Trip

Kurt and I just returned from our honeymoon roadtrip to South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. Neither of us had been to the Great Plains states before, and it was also the first time for both of us to visit Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.  Here is a photo of our route. Over the next few weeks, I will  post a day-by-day account along with photos, wildlife sightings, and more.

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