We’ve arrived and what a great start to our trip!
After two and a half days of driving through spectacular country we are happily ensconced in our condo in lovely Columbia Falls, Montana. I was not prepared for how utterly beautiful our entire drive would be. Our route began with a night in Flagstaff, AZ and from there we headed for Midway, UT (about half an hour outside of Salt Lake) to visit with our friends Rachel and Bob and their three wonderful kids. Our final day of driving took us from Utah through Idaho (stunning!) and finally on to Montana. The drive, while very long was so breathtaking that we barely did anything but spend the time oohing and aahing.
Yesterday was our first full day in the area, and since it was raining we decided to navigate over to Glacier National Park (about a 20 minute drive), check out the visitor center, buy our park pass and get a sense of the best way to approach hiking in the park. Some of the park is still closed to vehicle traffic because of last week’s snow storm and avalanche! We expect that by the time we leave Glacier most or all of what we want to see will be open. During this initial visit we caught glimpses of the lakes and snow-capped mountains but couldn’t truly appreciate them because of fog and rain.
Avalanche Lake Hike
Today, we decided to begin our hiking at the Avalanche Lake Trail, a 4.5 mile hike that is one of the most popular on the west side of the park. After seeing the potential log-jam of traffic, both to enter and park near the trailhead, we arrived before 8am. Good move. It was chilly but quiet and it didn’t take long before we understood why this trail is so popular.
The hike starts out in a cedar forest and immediately the rushing water comes into view:
Actually David took some video on his phone which really gives you the idea of the power of the water but I can’t figure out yet how to import the video into this post. Before we leave I will though!
On our hike out to Avalanche Lake we were, for the most part, alone out there so we were particularly careful to make lots of noise to keep the bears away. For us that included singing (David did a particularly excellent rendition of American Pie), clapping and stating (loudly) “BLIND TURN” whenever we couldn’t see well in front of us. Lest you think that our concern about the bears was in any way unfounded or exaggerated, we received this along with our pass to the park:
Luckily for us, keeping a conversation going for the duration of the hike wasn’t particularly difficult.
In the initial stages of this hike amid the cedars and pine trees I couldn’t help but wonder when that Glacier magic was going to kick in. After all, to this point the area reminded me of the Poconos. And then this came into view:
Wow! Definitely not on the east coast anymore. And I was happy about that.
So was David.
After about 2 miles of this gorgeousness (and the accompanying singing and clapping) we reached Avalanche Lake. It was still pretty overcast at this point, and initially the highlight appeared to be the lake with the spectacular falls coming down the mountain in the background:
We walked along the perimeter of the lake (those waterproof hiking boots came in handy!) in absolute awe. We saw this guy fly fishing and I had to get a shot because it reminded me of the wonderful movie “And a River Runs Through It”.
After a few minutes though the sun came out a bit and the true magnificence of this place was on full display:
Check out the color of that water. And how about this way…
This photo definitely has a future in a frame somewhere in my house!
There are makeshift benches around the perimeter of the lake. Here am I enjoying this amazing scenery:
As we started our return to the trailhead, the blue of the water was still visible through the trees:
By this time the crowds were starting to arrive so there was plenty of noise on the trail. We enjoyed hiking back without the stress of making our presence known to the bears. As we were driving back to the park entrance we could finally see some of the beautiful views that had been hidden behind the fog:
It’s hard to believe that anything can beat this day but according to folks who know Glacier well, the amazing is just beginning!
As we drove back to the condo, hungry and looking forward to lunch we stopped here:
Apparently huckleberries are grown around here and pies, jams and other goodies made with huckleberries are local favorites. We bought this and each had a little for dessert.
Yum! And now it’s definitely time for a nap…