Two Bears and Counting.
24.08.2014 - 24.08.2014
Day Two: Two Bears and Counting.
We woke up to a misty morning at the Lake McDonald campground.
It was a chilly morning so we warmed up with coffee and cocoa by the fire while I whipped up some peanut butter and banana waffles.
Our plan was to spend the day getting from the west side of the park to the east side of the park. We thought we’d stop somewhere in between and do a light hike to get us warmed up for the big hikes that would start the following day.
First, we had to hike 2.5 miles back to the car. As we walked, we took in the landscape around us. The Robert Fire of 2003 came during the biggest fire season in Glacier National Park’s history. Due to a combination of draught, high winds, lightning strikes, and human carelessness, 136,000 acres burned that summer. The Robert Fire alone burned almost 60,000 acres.
Despite the fact that this area had been severely burned only 10 years before, there was beauty everywhere. Life was coming back. A sea of charred, black trees was filled in with endless wildflowers, green grasses, and fresh new saplings.
When we reached the car, we shoved our overstuffed backpacks into our overstuffed SUV and made the short drive to the Avalanche Lake Trailhead.
Avalanche Lake is a short, but incredibly scenic, hike. It seemed like a perfect warm-up to get our legs ready for something more challenging.
The trail begins with a pleasant stroll through the Trail of the Cedars, an easy, level loop through cedar giants.
Rather than looping back to the parking lot, we opted to head up the short, but steep, climb toward Avalanche Lake. After the initial climb, the trail was fairly easy. The entire hike was about 5 miles and only gained 500 feet in elevation.
The views, however, were outstanding. The trail took us through an old growth cedar and hemlock forest.
Avalanche Gorge, a fiercely rushing cascade of ice blue glacial water running through red rock worn smooth by time and force, offered amazing views on our left.
Eventually, the trail peeled away from the creek and the deafening crash of the rushing water faded, leaving only the sound of our feet on soft pine needles and the small twitter of distant birds. We were walking through a deep, dark quiet forest. Sunlight filtered through the cedar grove, casting dapples of brightness on the mossy ground, looking like a plush velvet carpet through a fairytale forest.
I was lost in my own, dreamy thoughts, picturing elves hiding behind these wooden giants or imagining fairies, light as air, flitting through the dappled sunlight.
It’s amazing how one word, spoken calmly and quietly, can change everything so quickly.
“BEAR. AHEAD. BIG GRIZZLY BEAR CROSSED THE TRAIL RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU,” the people hiking toward us said.
My pucker factor instantly went from a 0 to a 12 on a 10 point scale.
Fairies be damned. I spent the rest of the hike looking for bears.
We never saw the bear and eventually reached the clearing that meant we had reached Avalanche Lake.
The trail dead-ended into the shores of Avalanche Lake. The lake was surrounded on three sides by towering peaks with streaming waterfalls that formed a bowl shape. The lake sat below them like a mirror.
We took some time to simply sit and take in the peace of the place before hiking back to the car.
The parking lot sat next to a nice picnic area with tables along the edge of the creek, so we decided to eat lunch picnic style before driving to St. Mary on the east end of the park.
I made pork burritos with black bean and corn salsa. It’s amazing what you can cook out of the back of an SUV.
It was about 3:00 when we reached the St. Mary Lodge. We got checked in an grabbed some showers and some naps. We’d only been in Montana for a little over 24 hours and we had already hiked 10 miles. Not used to so much activity, our bodies needed a break!
Matt and I grabbed some cocktails at St. Mary’s lounge while we waited for John and Teresa to get ready for dinner.
Our favorite restaurant on the east side, the Park Café, had seen a change of ownership since our last visit and the reviews were not favorable. We decided to try something new: Two Sisters.
As we walked from the car to the door, we saw a big grizzly bear running across the field next door. Two bears in one day? I hoped this wasn't an omen.
Two Sisters was funky. Two Sisters was fun. Two Sisters was purple.
We all ordered cocktails. Here they are. I am going to let you guess which person belongs to which drink.
If you guessed mine was the girly pink one, you were wrong.
It takes a real man to drink a pink martini in Montana.
I ordered the famous “Red Burger,” aptly named for the spicy Creole sauce that was slathered on top of the giant burger topped with cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and onions.
John and Teresa both got the “Open Faced Chili Burger.” All I could say was, “Thank goodness you two aren’t sleeping in a tent tonight.” They could have blown that tent into the stratosphere.
Seriously, that was enough beans to fuel the next launch of the space shuttle. And after burritos for lunch. I didn’t even want to ride in the car with them the next day.
There is one rule in Montana that always stands: No matter how much you eat for dinner, there is always room for PIE!
As we lay in our rooms at the St. Mary lodge that night, I’m pretty sure I could hear John and Teresa’s beans in the next room.
"Beans, beans, good for your heart....."