The drive from the Teton National Park to Glacier National Park was relatively short, and when we pulled into the KOA I thought I was walking into a scene from a promotional video for camping in the national parks of America. Families were frolicking everywhere, children darted between the cornhole park and the GaGa pit, others happily licking ice cream cones they had picked up from the on-site ice cream store alongside their smiling moms and dads. A pleasant din of whooping and hollering from the crystal blue family friendly pool filled the air.
As soon we unpacked and set up camp, I was immediately drawn to the sound of acoustic guitar and the smell of BBQ coming from the camp café where we picked up an easy first night dinner. And on the way back to Andi, I happily noticed there was also an adult pool with a jacuzzi, (yay!) near the little camp office. The entire site was surrounded by tall trees and a walking trail.
While I worked through the week, Jeremy participated in a two-day personal coaching retreat inside the West entrance of the Park located just 10 minutes away. And when Friday rolled around, his retreat a success, we both happily closed our laptops and immersed ourselves in the beauty that is this part of Montana.
We started late Friday afternoon after a stop at a grocery store and a visit to the salon to get my roots colored. We hit the famed Going To The Sun Road first, a winding 55 mile plus road through the glacial peaks. Since the Road had only been open since July 13th due to snow that had fallen throughout June, we felt grateful to be able to drive through it.
Our first stop along the road was Logan Pass. The pass, which is at the summit, is at an elevation of 6,700 feet and straddles the Continental Divide! From this vantage point we did a small hike through the snow, slipping and sliding to a small peak where the views were breathtaking. After driving to the other side of the Park we hit a grocery store where we cobbled together ‘dinner,’ finally making it back to the West Entrance just before the park gates closed at 10pm!
On Saturday we made breakfast and hiked the Avalanche Lake trail, a 5.9 mile out and back trek to an incredible glacial lake. At the halfway point, we came across a grizzly bear about 30 yards away that meandered off and on the trail as we hiked! The Park warns all hikers to bring Bear Spray and as we were with a small group of hikers, we continued, walking slowly towards the Lake until the Bear disappeared. I have never seen a bear before this close and it made the experience quite an adventure!
Once we arrived at the Lake, we discovered a small patch of uninhabited beach. We sat on a log and ate a snack then put on the swimsuits we had packed and dove head first into the glacial water! The water was so cold I lost my breath for a second and swam back as fast as I could, my arms and legs tingling as I walked out of the water! Saturday afternoon we hit the adult pool and jacuzi, relaxed together, and then cooked an amazing dinner in celebration of finally having groceries again!
On Sunday we decided to venture almost three hours by car to the other, less populated side of the park to the Many Glacier Entrance. While I was concerned it was so far away, this was recommended as a ‘must see’ from a National Geographic Guide Book my daughter, Willow, gave Jeremy for Father’s Day.
On the way, Jeremy managed to find a coffee hut sat in the middle of a mostly dilapidated Indian Reservation. He easily chatted about Cortados with the eager Barista and was delighted with her pour which kept him going until we hit the Park Entrance an hour later! By the time we arrived it was nearly 1:30 pm and as we approached the Park Gate we grimaced at the flashing sign alerting us the Entrance was temporarily closed due to a lack of parking spaces. I think we would have been more disheartened except that as we approached the Park Ranger to discuss options he ran off to, in his words, ‘audibly harass’ a bear that had wondered onto the Park road.
After explaining that unless we had a reservation for one of the parks’ activities, we would have to wait until 5pm, we drove back down a dusty unpaved road two miles to where there we could grab cell service to devise a plan. We called both a boat touring and a horseback trail riding company to see if we could get a coveted reservation that would allow us to get into the park. Unsuccessful, we drove the two miles back to the gate deciding that if it was still closed we would put the paddle board into the lake and simply wait.
But fate was on our side!
As we approached the Park Gate we noticed the rangers had disappeared! Perhaps, we thought, they were off bear wrangling. It didn’t matter though as the coast was clear and we easily drove through, snagging an amazing parking spot! We sat at picnic benches near the trailhead and ate good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to prepare us for the 11 mile out and back loop to the top of Grinnel Glacier.
The highlights of this trek were numerous.
Just a mile into the hike, we saw a Moose 15 feet down the trail happily grazing. The bright blue of Grinnell Lake in the Valley below was mesmerizing as we towered above it as proceeded up the trail. We also saw Lake Josephine, each view more stunning than the next.
As the trail continued, we passed through beautiful alpine meadows with numerous wildflowers, and waterfalls tumbling down the steep slopes of 8851-foot Mt. Grinnell on the right. The presence of snow and ice blocked the trail to its official finish, but despite not being able to climb to the very top, we were able to fully witness the beauty and majesty of Grinnel Glacier. We reveled in the commanding views of the 152-acre glacier, Upper Grinnell Lake, the Garden Wall which is part of the Continental Divide, and the 9553-foot Mount Gould.
On the way down we saw a female moose and two of her babies drinking in Josephine Lake, prompting us to hike to the beach and watch. Finally, completing the hike at 7pm, we were delighted to eat dinner in a little restaurant in the park catering late to hikers. We were tired as we drove back the two and half hours to the KOA, grateful to eat dinner and the weekend of exceptional beauty, adventure and pure joy.
I first fell in love with National Parks in August of 2020 when I visited Yellowstone National Park. And having been in physical therapy at the time to recover from my ski accident, I was unable to hike more than a mile during that visit.
Now, almost two and a half years later, having completely upended my life, as I climbed and navigated through the terrain on this visit, I was so grateful for the simple gift of mobility. Not just of my body, but of my mind too. For its ability to move and change as I learn and grow along the way. I was grateful for the ability to move across the country via Andi, freely traversing the country And, for the ways I have moved the pieces of my life around to discover the beauty of the National Parks which absolutely blows my hair back!