Braden actually waited until 7:00 to get up this morning, so we all got to sleep in a little before we got started with packing and loading up for Whitefish. After several stops for doughnut holes and coffee, we were on Going to the Sun road. It started off pretty level with a beautiful view of St. Mary Lake (13 miles long and 289 feet deep) as we curved around. We parked at Sun Point, shortly onto the road and got ready for another hike to some waterfalls. Remember those people from Pittsburgh we met in North Dakota? Yeah, they were at the same parking area. Despite the claim in the guidebook that the trailhead was well-marked, we managed to wander around Sun Point for a while, climbing up and down a lookout point (Sun Point, actually) on some steep rocks before looking at the map again and figuring out the right trail. The trail hugged the side of St. Mary Lake, going up and then down to Baring Falls, which was a beautiful waterfall and river crossed by a narrow bridge of two large logs next to each other and a railing. We stopped for a little to look before continuing on and finding a dock sticking out in the lake. We’re not sure what the dock was for, or if people were allowed on it, but the view from the far end in the lake was amazing, and the water was crystal clear. We continued on up again, climbing to a few lookout points around the lake, before again starting a slow decent down to St. Mary Falls. Lots of people were gathered there. Braden was well asleep. People LOVED seeing B and Noah riding in the packs – the universal joke was that someday they would carry us on a hike in packs. Looking forward to that day.
BTW, 5 miles of hiking here is SO not equal to 5 miles in Wisconsin. We knew that (having done mountain hiking before), but man, kicks your butt! And your feet. Matt has multiple blisters. Sarah won’t survive the trip with all 10…er, 9 toenails intact.
Sarah forgot how much she missed hearing the wind blowing on the snow and through the valleys between mountains. There is no other sound like it. We hiked back, with Noah out of the pack for a while (butt issues again). We met some people on the trail right before Baring Falls who excitedly told us that there was a ranger at the falls who had rounded everyone up because there was a grizzly there. FAN-tastic. Weirdly, the guy had a gun (Matt thought a .44 – had a scope on it). Although we had been careful to make noise and had our bear spray and all, the hooting sounds we made picked up quite a bit after that. We saw no bear and no scat and no bear signs, so who knows. We liked to walk behind people so if there was a grizzly on the trail, someone else would surprise it and take the mauling, but that wasn’t possible. Mostly because Sarah was hiking FASTER than you ever thought possible. Got back with no sightings. By then the parking lot was a big party – some people from WI came over and introduced themselves and asked where we were from – turns out they are from Wild Rose! The guy goes shopping at Fleet Farm all the time, which he called “the Farmer’s Mall”.
Continued on up the Going to the Sun Road – absolutely stunning scenery. No way to do it justice in words. And although Sarah is terrified of heights, really wasn’t bad. Waterfalls everywhere (of course, probably the glaciers melting away, but still pretty!). We stopped at Logan’s Pass at the top, where all visitors were required to make a snowball and throw it at other people. Even if you live somewhere (ahem, WI) where you have snow 9 months a year. Some people had sleds. It reminded us of March in Wisconsin with some slush – a lot of the trails were still closed due to heavy snowpack. Sarah purchased two books about Grizzly attacks at the visitor center, thus continuing her obsession with it. Matt met some people from Richland Center in the parking lot. We love running into WI people – so friendly!
Drove down the west side of the road, which continued to be gorgeous. No bear sighting though Sarah was frantically scanning with the binoculars. Noah ate 34 donut holes and played Angry Birds until he drained the phone batteries, and Braden watched Bubble Guppies until there were images of the Guppies burned into the little DVD screen in the car. We didn’t do any further hiking as it was getting late – we drove into Whitefish, which was about 45 minutes out of the park, and realized we had made a HIDEOUS MISTAKE.
We thought we’d be staying in a little mountain town in some kind of rustic yet nice (Read, swimming pool with wood accents) lodge. OH MAN, were we wrong. The signs for “Sotheby real estate” and “organic dry cleaning” and the “gluten/soy/nut/dairy free bakery” (no thanks) quickly informed us we were in a ski resort – lake resort town full of California transplants. Their car wash takes credit cards! They have 52 restaurants and only 6000 people! You can rent a yacht cruiser with a captain! OH GOOD GOD the humanity. We had gotten a Internet deal on this lodge, and we pull in and it is VALET parking (complimentary). We had just hiked and then driven like 60 miles. Our car is covered in dead bugs and is filthy on the inside (littered with abandoned wrappers, half eaten donut holes, spit out pacifiers, diapers which were carefully wrapped up and stowed away to be thrown away when we got to the hotel…..). Sarah said “Holy sh** this is fancy”. Well, Matt checked in, we all walked through the lobby with Noah repeating what Sarah had said loudly. The room is nice, we have a balcony (partial lake view, full mountain view, full dumpster view), the kids are happy. We got room service. Matt had to sneak our bags in bit by bit because of the discriminating crowd in the lobby. We didn’t want to look totally ghetto. Which we are. Time to turn in….Matt is reading the second book of the Hunger Games and Sarah read 100 pages of a Grizzly attack book.
REST DAY….Woke up, hit up a donut place called Powza Baking Company (because all the leftover donut holes in the car had melted and Noah was demanding donuts, and damn, they sounded good). GREAT donuts! This town may be snob central but they have great dining choices (and this bakery used plenty of gluten, dairy, and nuts). Of course, we will do takeout because our children would make a scene anywhere (case in point: “sh** – this place is fancy!”). We got coffee at Cowgirl Coffee Company on our way back. Apparently rich people sleep in because we were driving around at 9:30 and there was almost no one around downtown. Of course, today is the big annual Arts Festival (ugh, Montana cowboy art and some stuffed elk heads anyone?) and everyone is sleeping in! The tragedy! We better rent out cabin cruiser and captain QUICK to motor down in the lake to the festival. Get the butler in here to arrange that!
ANYWAY, hit the swanky pool with people sunning themselves (they had a hot tub with a waterfall and a Tiki bar (I wish I was kidding, come on people, this is Montana)) and we spent 30 minutes in the water until our children turned blue and the shivering was uncontrollable. It was only slightly colder than Lake Superior in May. We wondered why no one was in the pool besides some kids who were in for about 5 minutes. Wimps.
Children napped while Matt went to find someplace to clean our car out and do some laundry. While doing laundry, Matt met someone there who thought he was a 25 year old member of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe (Matt has also been mistaken for being Hawaiian in Hawaii and Italian at the Olive Garden). Matt came back with food from Buffalo Cafe, which serves burgers and sandwiches but no buffalo.
We then made the snap decision regarding the next leg of the trip: hiking at Yellowstone and commuting there from Bozeman daily (an hour) wouldn’t be well received by the kids – so we shortened that stay to 1 night and made reservation for 3 nights in Rapid City, SD instead following that. Sarah has fun (vague) memories of vacationing there 20 years ago, and we’re sure it hasn’t changed. Lots of things the kids can do. And she really doesn’t want to hike more and lose toenails. Plus they had a waterslide park there that she was NOT allowed to go to because of lightning 20 years ago (so her parents said at the time) and she is still BITTER and she will go there this time. Take that!
After canceling and making new reservations (and musing how weird it was that so many hotels had vacancies in Rapid City given what an AWESOME destination it is) we drove around town aimlessly laughing at other tourists (like the lost people looking at a guidebook on the side of the road: WI license plates – they were probably looking for the organic dry cleaners) and found a playground with kids. Only some of the slides burned our children. After that we hit up DQ for the kids and we got prime rib from room service. No drinks – too expensive. We bought OUR wine at the gas station (attached to the laundromat). For the record, Matt cleaned out the car (sort of) but we were still too embarrassed to use valet parking.
After the prior lazy day, got up and on the road back to Glacier. We stopped first in Apgar, the western entrance to the park, and it was super crowded – there was a lady there barking at her family – “there are tons of people here – we need to get in the car and get going NOW!”. We were interested in one possible hiking site, Avalanche Lake and the Trail of Cedars, as we had heard it could get crowded but was awesome (tip #1: always hike in Glacier where there are other people – the bear will get THEM first – remember?). Anyway, the parking for the trails was hideous and didn’t look promising for later in the day. We drove to Lake McDonald lodge for a boat tour/ride. It was only a 1 hour voyage around the lake (not a 3 hour tour – we brought the equipment to make a shell radio just in case anyway). Lake McDonald is 12 or 13 miles long, 389 feet deep, and gorgeous as well. The boat ride was in a wooden boat that was rumored to be the original ark, and looked like it. OK, actually it was built in 1930, and had at least been painted once or twice since then. The tour guide was pretty good and we enjoyed the views. Noah played Angry Birds and occasionally looked up. Braden tries his hardest to fight sleep, run all over the boat, and jump in the water for about 20 minutes until we gave in and let him watch Bubble Guppies with the sound off on the phone so the other 7 passengers wouldn’t gang up on us and throw us overboard. No wildlife sightings.
We then drove to check out the trailheads for the hikes again, which were PACKED with cars. Clearly, the west side of Glacier is the “popular side” and full of yuppies with California plates and you know those annoying people who sit by a car that looks like it is going to leave the lot so they can take the spot, backing up traffic? Yeah, those people were all there too. The east side of Glacier, while a little “rough around the edges” but had way more good hikes, was so much less congested (tip #2: if we go back we will stay over there and not in annoying California person land).
So we decided to eat our PBJs and go from west to east on the Going to the Sun Road instead (having done east to west the other day). Slightly more scary this time as Sarah was sitting 2 feet from a sheer cliff drop. She spent most of her time telling Matt to drive over the middle line and let the inside car deal with it, and she also leaned over away from the cliff onto Matt as if that would help the car not fall off the cliff. Noah kept helpfully pointing out the river on the floor of the valley several thousand feet below them and demanding everyone look at it. Braden slept oblivious to all.
There was a traffic jam when a bunch of mountain goats wandered onto the road. They had a baby goat too – pretty cute! We also witnessed a family (we suspect to be from New Jersey based on their accents – think “Desperate Housewives of NJ”) having a meltdown on the road, with a mother yelling from the back of the minivan “I just want some peace and quiet and to be left alone” and a teenage son in the road yelling “I was in the back the whole time!” and the dad yelling something too. It was sobering to realize that would be us in the next 1-2 days. It was also hideously embarrassing because there was a traffic jam from the mountain goats so we had pulled up right next to them and couldn’t obviously roll up our windows (and lock our doors) so we had to listen to the whole thing and avoid eye contact (Noah made no such effort and stared) – we didn’t want to be rude or anything (tip #3: Midwesterners are overall polite compared with coast people. NOTE: Illinois is exempt from this tip). We went all the way back up to Logan Pass, used the restrooms, threw some snowballs at each other, and drove back down. We think we passed the lady from Jersey walking ALONG the road but aren’t sure. Drove back down, took some pictures, met a lady from Florida who USED to be from WI and has a sister in law in Delavan who said it was 108 deg there yest. I love Wisconsinites! We are so boring we talk about the weather of a place somewhere else where our relatives live.
Drove back (note desired trailheads still packed with cars and people from California with their Gucci bags and designer flip flops wandering around parking lot), got dinner from the “Naked Noodle” (aka just like Noodles with a fancier name because we are in fancytown and a Subway-like bar where you could pick your toppings for your pasta – Mac & Cheese & Lettuce? They also gave us chopsticks for the Mac and Cheese) and went back to hotel and children continued to destroy hotel furnishings. Watched excellent movie Semi-Pro because it was on and seemed to be acceptable for the kids with a sporty theme and Will Ferrell (Matt said getting “The Hunger Games” on pay per view was not appropriate viewing for kids….he might be onto something). Waiting for kids to fall asleep and watching Ocean’s 13….