October 2, 2010

First Glimpse of Glacier National Park

The tourist season in northern Montana came to an end a few weeks before we arrived. While this didn't come as a surprise, it did create a few logistical challenges as we headed into Glacier National Park. Most of the services were closed for the season, and what we had hoped would be one of the highlights, the Going to the Sun highway, was closed for construction. Thus, we had to get creative. We started our adventure on the western side of Logan Pass and drove as far as the road was open, which allowed us a first impression of the rugged peaks, glacial lakes, and roaring rivers. With a bit of hiking we were able to get away from the road, but being a Saturday with sunny skies and mild temperatures, there were plenty of "local" Montanans out for a hike as well. We packed a picnic lunch and headed up into the mountains along a well trodden path.

Being stuck in a deep valley in thick forest limited our views, but we tramped onward and upward until our stomachs finally could hold out no longer and we found a couple logs to serve as a picnic table. We still couldn't see much, but through the trees we could just see the steep canyon slopes above us and hear the sounds of the river below.

Soon the valley opened up and Avalanche Lake came into view. Above rocky peaks with a few lasting snowfields towered above us. Melting snow fed into a number of waterfalls that crashed down into streams flowing into the alpine lake. Our kids ran out onto the muddy shore toward the water looking for rocks to throw, and dirt to dig. We spent the afternoon chasing the boys out of the water trying not to let their shoes get to wet or muddy for the hike back to the car. Something about mud, water and boys... While we enjoyed the sunshine and views, they continued their play using their imagination.

The hike back was all down hill, so even FrĂȘney managed to walk a ways, actually it was more of a challenge to get him to let us carry him. As we approached the bottom of the canyon we had hiked up, we detoured off onto a boardwalk to look back up at the gorge the river had carved out. The afternoon sun filtered through the conifers, giving enough light to let the clear glacial water glow in a silty green aura. Two brothers, tired from a long hike, strolled hand in hand down the walkway content and hungry.

As the sun set, Mariann made dinner while us boys went bck down to the river to skip a few more rocks and build small boats out of bark and leaves. And as darkness engulfed us, we packed up and searched for a place to park our ECamper and rest for the night.