Posted in Wild West
Tagged family travel, walking, Travel and Tourism, photography, summer vacation, montana, national parks, Glacier National Park, avalanche Lake, Going to the Sun, Many Glaciers
We can see Glacier National Park from out rental cabin but after a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon, it is time to actually go in. Twelve miles back down our dirt road is a lesser known, unattended entrance to the park, Camas Road. It was so nice to be able to get into the park without waiting in line.
Our first stop was at the Apgar Visitor Center. Clare and Sean signed up for the Junior Ranger Program and we got the park paper with a listing of Ranger Programs and available hikes. Going to the Sun Road is the most famous attraction at Glacier. It is an amazingly scenic road that crosses the center of the park, winding along rivers and climbing mountains. Unfortunately, the road was still closed due to avalanche activity and snow at Logan Pass. Did I mention that this was JULY 2nd?!?
It was a beautiful day so we found a parking place (easier said than done) near the Lake McDonald boat dock at Apgar Village. We unpacked our picnic lunch and found a large log to serve as our table/bench. The kids were less than excited about the prospect of yet another sandwich (day 11 in a row) but I had fixed a little bit of a surprise for them…chicken salad, cheese, lettuce and flour tortillas for wraps. Happy kids enjoyed their lunch with an amazing view!
It was sunny and warm so off came the shoes and feet went in the water. The water may have looked inviting but it was cold. I guess that makes sense since the lake was being fed by snow melt from the surrounding mountains. We met a couple who had recently moved from Massachusetts to the area near Glacier. We had fun chatting with them and then the kids helped them launch their oversized, motorized canoe.
We attended a ranger talk about the bears that live in the park. This was our second ranger presentation (we went to one in Grand Tetons earlier) about bears but despite the rangers’ assurances that there were large numbers of bears we had yet to see one.
The western National Parks are known for their grand old lodges. We didn’t stay in any of these (not exactly budget and family friendly) but I certainly wanted to see one. We drove a few miles up the road to the other end of the lake and went into Lake McDonald Lodge. Wow! It was massive, gorgeous and beyond impressive. Maybe, sometime when the kids are grown, I will get to stay in one of these masterpieces. In the meanwhile, I got a cookbook of recipes from the lodges to keep me dreaming…and cooking!
Water, mountains and trees. After leaving the desert-looking part of Idaho, those three words can describe most of the scenery.
Some of the water is in large lakes, some in small streams and other is in rapidly flowing rivers. We managed to find most of that in one day. I chose Libby, Montana as our next stopping point. It wasn’t going to be too far of a drive from Sandpoint, Idaho and quite frankly…. I am sick and tired of riding in a car!
We made our way through some twist, turny, up and down roads (with speed limits posted at 70 mph) to the Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge and Falls. The Kootenai River is a pretty river and the water was flowing quite high and fast due the snow melt in the mountains.
The original bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps but had been upgraded….otherwise I would have been too chicken to cross.
My kids have no fear of heights….or much of anything….so they head right across. I have, shall we say, a healthy respect for things out of my control. I take my time and hold on but the view is spectacular!!
We then hike up to the falls and are rewarded with a great view and a cool mist!
Another drive and we end up at the Libby Dam. Libby Dam was constructed by and is run by the US Army Corps of Engineers as a hydro-electric plant. The sight as we head up their road is beyond impressive. The sheer size is breathtaking.
There are free guided tours that take you across the top of the dam and inside the facility. I would love to be able to show you pictures but cameras (or any electronic devices) are not allowed due to security concerns. You will have to believe when I say the views from the top and bottom are jaw-dropping.
The dam created Lake Koocanusa behind it. It is 90+ miles long and is in both the USA and Canada. The Army Corps of Engineers provides a great boating, swimming and picnic areas right near the dam that are available for the public to use. We found a nice picnic table and cooked our spaghetti dinner on the Coleman cookstove.
Great day. Plus…..none of these activities cost any money!!!
It would be nice to have clear, sunny days every day for the 16 days that we are on vacation but even Miss Super-Organized couldn’t convince Mother Nature to schedule that. Don’t know why she isn’t listening to me?
We woke to the pleasant sound of light rain on our roof. (Makes me glad for a roof and not a tent!) What sounds so peaceful and rhythmic in bed isn’t so nice when you have to pack the car and figure out what to do on a rainy day.
If you are visiting a National Park the quick and easy answer is to find a Visitor/Ranger Station. We packed up and went to the Coulter Bay Ranger Station. The kids had already completed their Junior Ranger booklets so they were sworn in by the ranger who had given the bear presentation the night before. He made them promise to protect the parks, care for wildlife and do their homework. I like that ranger!!!
Swearing in ceremony in Grand Tetons
Another ranger was giving a short talk about highlight on a driving tour of Grand Teton’s so we attended that which ended about the same time as the rain.
We started our drive south to the park’s exit in Jackson, Wyoming. We didn’t get too far when we saw this beautiful view of the mountains. The mountains soared above the clouds. Picture time!
We continued a little further and found a nice picnic area along Cottonwood Creek. Dave broke out the cookstove for lunch. Hamburgers and a fresh pot of coffee for me. The kids had fun exploring the creek.
Back on the road. The scenery is wonderful but the storm clouds are threatening as we approach the Moose Visitor Center. Dave and I actually have completed our Junior Ranger requirements so we earn our special patches….and are thankful that the ranger doesn’t make us be sworn in! We spend a little time in this amazing visitor center. The displays are fantastic but the storm seems to be blowing in fast. I have to get a picture of the kids with a moose in Moose….and then we run (literally) from the rain.
I wanted to see the “most photographed barn in America” so we drove to Mormon Row. We found the barn but it was hard to see it, let alone the breathtaking mountain behind it, in the rain. This pink house stood out a little better. It is one of the surviving houses from a once vibrant Mormon community. I put on my rain coat for a quick picture and then dashed back to the car.
Time to leave Wyoming for Idaho. I grew up around large cabbage farms, dairy barns and other farming in the eastern USA but Idaho potato and barley farms were a shock to me. Irrigation everywhere!
We arrived safely in Pocatello where we spent a great night getting to know Dave’s cousin Jay and his wife, Kris. Family is family even after 40 years.