Sunday, October 28, 2007

10/28/07 Glacier National Park

(Click on the slideshow to see the pictures full size at Picasa Web Albums. Sarah also has a web album for Glacier National Park.)

We arrived at our campsite near West Glacier after a short but beautiful drive. The San Suz Ed RV Park was completely empty except for the owners of the park. Instead of parking in the Campground area, we were directed to a spot behind the main house with insulated plumbing and easy access. The kindly owner won over both children with her homemade cinnamon rolls.

We were asked to stay inside the RV if we heard any loud banging noises in the early morning hours made by the local bear snacking from the trash cans. I assured the owner that when you travel with two teenagers, you never get up early anyway!

Mel sent us a indoor/outdoor thermometer that we hooked up for the first time. As we watched the temperature dip below freezing, I followed cold weather protocol of disconnecting the fresh water and sewer hoses so they wouldn't freeze, used water from our 100 gallon tank and kept a close eye on the levels of our black and grey water tanks. We didn't have to encouraged to keep the RV warm to keep the three tanks from freezing, the floors were ice cold and we wore socks and shoes whenever we were awake.

The heaters kept the inside of the RV around 65 degrees even when the temperature outside dipped below 20 degrees. I will say that Sarah and my low-voltage electric blankets were very cozy!

The town of West Glacier was completely shut down. You couldn't even buy a cup of coffee. We were directed to a restaurant in Columbia Falls fifteen miles away called "The Back Room of the Nite Owl." Truth in advertising: you walk through the Nite Owl restaurant to the Back Room finding a completely separate restaurant. It was our kind of place. Plastic red and white table cloths, a roll of paper towels on each table, and platters full of BBQ, beans, little red potatoes, and frybread! The kids taught me to play a card game called "Cheat" and we laughed ourselves silly.

We spent three days enjoying Glacier National Park. Unfortunately, the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, thought to be one of the world's most spectacular highways which bisects the center of the park, was closed for repairs. Besides missing out on the magnificent views from the mountain peaks overlooking the Continental Divide, there was no easy way to see the Eastern side of the park which housed the Native American exhibits.

We enjoyed glacier-created Lake McDonald. The water of the lake becomes so glassy that it is a perfect mirror to the surrounding mountains. Because the lakes are always colder than 50 degrees, they grow very little plankton, which makes them especially clear. The bed of the lake is filled with beautiful smooth stones that enchanted us for several hours. We tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to skim rocks and Sarah created artwork.

Most of the trees on the mountains surrounding the Lake had already lost their leaves, but the Tamarack Trees which were a beautiful gold. We began seeing these trees in Canada. It is quite a surprise to see pines change colors and then lose their needles.

The McDonald Falls were a treat. Sarah took some great video footage, but the files are too large to post.

The second day Dave and I left Sarah at the RV to do one of John Muir's favorite hikes up the Trail of the Cedars, through Avalanche Gorge to Avalanche Lake. We took enough snacks to keep us on the move for several days and clothing, hats and glove appropriate for a blizzard. Avalanche Gorge with its sculpted walls and foaming whitewater was so beautiful that we almost called off the hike and went back to get Sarah.

We kept on and were rewarded with the sight of Avalanche Lake surrounded by jagged alpine peaks with frozen waterfalls. We saw mountain goats on the jagged peaks, but they were too far away to get a good picture. We had lost the warmth of the sun earlier in the hike and we stopped briefly to have a snack and a drink before we briskly hiked back wanting to get back to the car before dusk. The pace Dave set was quick and energetic and we were feeling euphoric from the exercise and the natural beauty when we got back to the car.

Avalanche Gorge was so beautiful that I got up early the next morning and took Sarah on a "surprise" outing. It was 25 degrees out and the windows of the car were icy -- Sarah had never seen that before and she took pictures while I cleared off the ice with hot water. She took some dramatic pictures of Lake McDonald at dawn and enjoyed the walk through the old-growth cedars to Avalanche Gorge. (Don't ever call it a hike -- Sarah only goes for walks!) It was a magical time together for the two of us.

1 comment:

Robert said...

I'm jealous. Glacier Natl Park looks and sounds beautiful. I'll be there's some great mtn biking just along the trails you described.