So the day began with the usual 6 am wake up from the kids. Ate some crappy continental breakfast and played in the pool, and we were off. We did stop at the Faster Bassett, a local coffee place AND brewery. And at 10 am there were plenty of people buying both beer or coffee or both. Temp: 75 degrees (yeah, you’re jealous). Headed up 3 hours to St. Mary, which is at the Eastern edge of Glacier National Park. We passed through Shelby, which looked big enough to have a McDonald’s but only had a Pizza Hut (what the heck?). Then onto Cut Bank, which had as advertised on the billboard “The Last McDonald’s before Glacier”. Their advertised “rest stop” was the local park’s restroom. Noah refused to get out of the car to use the bathroom when he couldn’t play at the park. Sure enough, 30 minutes later he was peeing on the side of the road (sorry, Blackfeet Indian reservation). We went through Browning, where the only gas station had 40 cars at it and a line stretching down the highway. Incidentally, their high school mascot (this was a reservation, by the way) – was the Indians! So apparently they weren’t forced to change it in a wave of political correctness because they ARE Indians. Sarah actually knew someone who lived there for years and worked at the hospital – rough country up there. But GORGEOUS. We headed up to St. Mary, a town consisting of bars, cafes, and a few hotels and campgrounds, checked in. temperature? 62 degrees. We got the light coats out. Floored when we saw we had a balcony that is 50 feet from a rushing rocky river and the mountains are close enough for Sarah to obsessively watch through binoculars for signs of grizzlies (more on that later).
We drove up to Many Glacier, which is a pretty scenic road filled with wildlife and apparently cars filled with people from WI, MN, Missouri (go figure), and California. We saw cows (yeah, never seen those before), and when driving along, Sarah saw something yellowish brownish in the field and said it was a “sheep with horns”. Closer inspection revealed a grizzly bear. Whoops. We drove on and Matt saw two black bears, and Sarah saw what she deemed “a mountain lion” until binoculars revealed a wolf. Very exciting. The mountains are gorgeous and yes, as we type this, visible snow close to us. The lakes are stunning. Supposedly this is like the alpine lakes of the Swiss Alps, which we have never seen so we wouldn’t know. Matt took lots of photos, and Sarah spent time utilizing the binoculars to scan the mountainsides for grizzlies (she’s a bit paranoid). Found 1.5 more. The 0.5 is because Matt couldn’t find the bear to confirm the sighting despite Sarah’s patient instructions OVER AND OVER.
Anyway, drove back, and got supper from a local diner just down the road. We ordered take-out, and then Matt went and waited outside the place for it (because if you were waiting for a table or take-out, you had to wait outside and they would come and get you). And they do have mosquitoes here. Had a couple grilled cheeses and a locally-raised bison burger and was told by everyone leaving that you had to get pie. So we’ll be back for pie (at least Matt and Noah will be). We ate supper in the room with the kids running wild around, so then Braden threw it up out of excitement. The kids are in bed and we are watching a bratty 10 year old heave rocks into our pretty river. No grizzlies nearby to scare him off. Matt is drinking Ninkasi Brewing Company Triceratops Double IPA and Sarah is drinking a Fat Tire something or other. These beat the other choices including Rolling Rock in cans (huh?) or Bud Light with Lime. Yeah, we’re really roughing it, right?
Braden was up first around 6:00 am, but with a bribe of a granola bar was okay being in his his pack-and-play crib to watch a little Bubble Guppies (and Noah who was now up was playing Angry Birds) while Matt and Sarah slept for just a LITTLE longer. While resting Matt heard some rustling and looked up to see Braden, out of his pack-and-play rooting through one of the bags looking for more food. He somehow silently managed to escape, and neither he nor Noah is telling us how…
After eating some bananas and some granola bars (we really should invest in the granola bar company), we loaded up all our hiking gear and drove up to the Swiftwood Motor Lodge parking lot in the northeast corner of the park for a hike to Ptarmigan Falls (in the “Many Glacier” part of the park) a 5.6 mile round-trip hike. After a potty break and a lot of shuffling around to get all the right gear ready and on us and the kids (including the two cans of bear spray) we started off into the woods with Braden on Sarah’s back and Noah on Matt’s back. The first part of the hike was a steep ascent and then the trail ascended slowly up across the side of a mountain with meadows on both sides and some spectacular views of the river and mountains around us. The ranger people told us to make a lot of noise (no problem for Sarah) and recommended calling out and making whooping sounds, esp going around corners, so you didn’t “surprise” any grizzlies. Also, Sarah spent all of last night up late reading stories of bear attacks on Wikipedia. So the ranger said to do it every 5 minutes, so Sarah made whooping sounds about every 10 seconds. We did startle several other hikers, so you know the sounds were working.
Unfortunately, half way to the falls Noah’s butt started to hurt, so that required a stop and a re-adjustment, as well as bribes of ice cream if he could make it the rest of the way. Braden was nodding off as we hiked. We were about 2 miles in when we met two hikers coming the other way who told us there had been a bear walking down the trail towards us about an hour ago and asked if we had seen it. No, no we had not…
We rounded the corner on the mountain and the trail was flatter, and there were more small waterfalls running over the trail and down the mountain. Finally we started downhill through some trees, and could hear the roaring falls (thank god). We stopped, got Noah out the pack and had some trail mix and water. We were right next to the falls, so Braden got to eat his banana chips in the backpack. We finished and then hiked a little further to the trail junction, turned around and started back. Hiking further would have gotten us to Iceberg Lake, but there are still snow bridges there (we pretended to know what those were but have no clue) and gosh darn, we forgot the ice axes at home. So no hiking there. A little over halfway back, Noah again complained that his “butt hurt” and really wanted to get out so he got out and hiked, although we threw out an idle threat that the ice cream store might be closed if we went too slow, but no one really believed it. He hiked the rest of the way down all by himself, including the steep part at the beginning of the trail. Matt tried a few times to get Noah back in the pack because of the trickiness of some of the trail and that bear that was around, but Sarah pointed out that he was keeping the same pace as us AND not complaining anymore. We then quickly walked over to the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge gift shop and got ice cream and sat in the car eating it while the kids watched BusyTown mysteries in the car. Of note: half the motor lodge store consisted of various alcoholic beverages (the other half was ice cream), and they had a rack of Daily’s! (Look it up if you don’t know what it is – a Durst family tradition).
Exhausted and sore, we drove back to the hotel and everyone rested before we went out to the river next to the hotel to throw some rocks in. We foolishly tried to then take the kids to one of the restaurants in the hotel, but after they flipped out in the lobby we got take-out and back to the hotel room for a calming evening of eating and Bubble Guppies (Matt and Sarah ate at the coffee table on one side of the room, and the kids ate sandwiches and watched Bubble Guppies on the other) before a very early bedtime for all. Braden’s pack and play has been moved away from everything he could have used to pull himself out and it is surrounded by pillows – will see tomorrow if this worked. Tomorrow, we’re driving to Whitefish via the Going to the Sun Road…