I was going to let the photos do most of the talking this time around, as Glacier National Park is the most picturesque place we’ve visited on this trip, but my connection in Canada is slooooow (I’ve been attempting to upload pictures to this post for 4 days!), Keeping up with this blog is going to be difficult while in Canada, as we’ll be going farther off-grid. Bummer.
So I’ll jump into the good stuff – On our way to Glacier, we hydroplaned on a slick road – holy adrenaline rush! Skating across the road in a 38 foot motorcoach with a toad is totally different than skidding in a car; Raj even asked, “What’s happening here?” We slid left and then right and it probably only lasted 8 seconds, but it was terrifying! I thought we were going to tip – luckily, we weren’t going all that fast and there was no wind, so Raj was able to gain control again. We pulled over immediately to catch our breath and check the rig and Jeep (which were fine), and the car behind us gave us a thumbs up, presumably for not rolling, but maybe just for getting out their way. Anyway, huge props to Raj for keeping his cool and pumping those brakes! Ironically, as we walked around until our legs stopped shaking, we looked back down the road and there was a “slippery road” sign for the traffic going the other direction, but there hadn’t been for us. Awesome!
The rest of our drive to Glacier was crazy too even though you cannot take a large RV on the Going to the Sun Road through the middle of the Park. We had to drive around the south end by 35+ miles. Part of the road was insane (bumpy, switchbacks, narrow) and all we could wonder, was how bad “the other road” must be if this was our preferred route!
When we arrived at the KOA on the East side of Glacier NP, it was raining, but we decided to go for a drive through a nearby area called Many Glaciers. Even in the rain we could tell it was beautiful and got very excited for when the weather would clear. As I walked the dogs about 9:30, the rain had stopped, the lingering sunset was turning clouds pink, and I could start to see what awaited us.
We left just after 9am to drive the Going to the Sun road. Our plan was to drive all the way across, get a bite to eat and then stop on the way back and do an easy hike before relieving the dogs and letting the kids nap. The drive was spectacular: sapphire blue lakes, rugged peaks, spotted glaciers, and switchbacks galore! As we left the weather was fair, blue skies, and about 62 degrees with a high of 70 predicted – perfection! As we climbed the pass, it cooled considerably. We crossed over the top and rounded a turn and we both gasped as we took in the view of a massive valley with a thick white cloud floating below! We pulled over to take photos and Nina aptly exclaimed, “Mommy, it looks like the sky fell down!”
The drive down the other side was spooky and intense as I handled switchbacks in the dense cloud cover with low visibility. Eventually we made it under the cloud and that was a treat too, but the temperature was much cooler, about 52 degrees, so we started to wonder if hiking was a good idea with the kids because we hadn’t packed clothes for cold temps (Mommy fail #1). We turned into a lookout point so we could all stretch and all enjoyed climbing rocks and gazing at the gorgeous clear blue and green waters. As we got back to the Jeep we realized the cloud above was about gone and the sun beating down was warming us nicely – yay! We decided if we got lucky and found parking at either of the trailheads we were interested in, we’d go ahead and stop on the way down, and sure enough, we snagged the last spot at Avalanche Lake, a relatively easy, short hike of about 1.9 miles uphill to the lake (500ft elevation gain). Now, when carrying 40 pounds of baby and pack/gear, an easy hike gets rather challenging, but we did just fine. The views were great as we climbed– it starts off along a waterfall and then gets more forested – it felt like the pacific northwest with green moss growing everywhere – and then it ended at Avalanche lake, which is peaceful and has lovely peaks as a backdrop. Of course, the return was quite nice – 2 miles downhill is way faster than 2 up, but it had also gotten rather crowded. The biggest problem we had on the hike was that I totally forgot snacks, and we hiked right through lunch (yeah, mommy fail #2!), but the kids held up and I didn’t even realize I was hungry until we got back to the Jeep.
We finished our drive across the pass and found a village restaurant, got food to-go (though it took half and hour), and drove while we shared BLTs, fish n chips and a burger! The food was surprisingly excellent and we devoured it – then Nina fell asleep and we crossed the path again and enjoyed seeing the views without the cloud cover. The poor dogs were cooped up for 7 hours!
For my birthday the following day, I wanted to get up and hike the Highline Trail, an 11.5 mile trek over hanging cliffs with views of deep valleys and dramatic peaks. We were nervous about the distance with the kids but the reviews were so good, we figured we would try and do at least half, even if we chose to head back at some point; it sounded as if it were one of the hikes that is about the journey and not the destination. But, we had a hellish night with London again, the kind where he wakes up and stays awake ready to party and so we wrestled him in bed for hours. So when my alarm went off, I quickly hit snooze, and by the time we all got up and going, our hopes of completing the hike vanished. Though I still hoped to try get a couple miles accomplished, I chose to be flexible and go out to brunch instead of rushing off to hike and we were enjoying brunch outside until Nina started to complain her tummy hurt; 2 trips to the bathroom later I realized that we should head back to the RV and evaluate if she was well enough to go hiking. It was frustrating to have only made it an hour from camp, but it was one of those times where the kids came first. Luckily Nina improved quickly, but unfortunately, nap time was approaching fast, and after our rough night, skipping it wasn’t a good idea, nor was having grumpy, sleepy kids on a hike, so I decided again to postpone my own birthday wishes and let the kids sleep.
In the end, it was after 3pm before we really headed out and our Highline Trail hopes officially evaporated in favor of heading to another area of the park and a lighter hike. A ranger recommended a loop called Swiftcurrent Nature Trail over the short and steep Apikuni Falls trail, so we headed off with the kids into a lush area bordering a beautiful lake, which led up to another moderate hike I had considered. When we came upon the trailhead for Grinnell Lake, I really wanted to go, but after considering the time, and Raj’s expression of concern, we stuck to our easy hike, but I was disappointed. Another 10 minutes later, and our hike nearly over, we came across yet another sign to access that trail, and this time I requested we try, with the caveat that if we started to tire, we could turn back early. About half an hour later, we passed a hiker/fisherman who warned us he had just seen a large male grizzly cross the creek near him and he was leaving the area! Uh, yeah, good plan! For a few minutes we thought we would push on, but soon found ourselves too tense and turned back. The hiking gods were just not with us all day long.
We finished off what had become a 4 mile hike with the stunning views at the Many Glacier Hotel and headed into Babb for my birthday dinner. Raj had looked up reviews and decided on the Supper Club. From outside, the Supper Club looked like a dive bar but stepping in it was quite nice. Unfortunately, it was a terrible dining experience from everything from the service (horrible, no personality, 30 minutes for attention, 30 minutes for cocktails, etc) to their lack of availability of half the menu (only a couple cheap bottles of wine despite extensive list, no Filet, no Salmon, no Crab, etc) to London’s crazy energy (well, if you’ve met London, you know what that means). Poor Raj kept saying “we’ll have a redo, I’m so sorry” but it was actually quite funny and made for a more memorable time than just a lovely, no incident dinner. They also didn’t have key lime pie (my fave) which was the main reason Raj had chosen the place, so we took a slice of cheesecake to go and got back to the dogs. By the time we got the kids in bed, the day had taken its toll and I regretfully told Raj that I’d prefer to save my nice bottle of Amarone for another night; I couldn’t even stay up for the chance to see the Northern Lights (yet in the end, it rained most of the night so the view probably wasn’t all that).
Overall, the beauty of Glacier National Park stunned us; we fear the National Parks we still plan to visit may not be able to compete. We would have liked to stay a few extra days and complete more hikes as there were still glaciers, lakes, and endless peaks to see. Ironically, I read that there was a fire the day after we left and that its severity had closed the Going to the Sun road and several hikes! Then I started getting calls to make sure we were safe! I guess our timing was good after all, but I’m hoping the fire is contained with minimal damage to the wildlife and that all the heroic firefighters stay safe.
St. Mary KOA/East Glacier : nice views, quiet area. Very large. Decent playground for kids, large dog walk area that is probably meant to be leashed, as it wasn’t fully fenced, but we let our dogs run there. Convenient to East Glacier and Many Glaciers areas. Some sites have average space and others are piled on top of each other; some staff members are rude. Upside is, Glacier National Park is so spectacular you won’t spend that much time at camp.