Let the journey begin.
23.08.2014 - 23.08.2014
Ahhhh….Montana. Home of big skies and bigger mountains. The state of open roads, endless valleys, and a river running through it. A place where the soup of the day is whiskey and there are more plaid flannel shirts than a 1991 Pearl Jam concert.
Without really meaning to, we seem to wander back to Montana every couple of years. The call of the mountains is more than we can resist. We can only stay away for so long before we yearn for the crunch of the gravel under our boots on a hiking trail, the chirp of a chubby marmot, and a breath of fresh air.
It was the last week of August and temperatures in the deep south were soaring.
It was time to head to Montana and get lost.
Day One: Let the journey begin.
While we have flown to Montana under our own power on our most recent trips, we decided to fly commercial thanks to an unbeatable fare. Instead of it taking us 2 full days to get to Kalispell, we left early one Saturday morning and were in Montana by lunch, local time.
The first, very miserable, order of business was to buy groceries and then figure out how to fit 4 adults; 2 oversized suitcases; 2 small suitcases; 4 large backpacks; 3 daypacks; 2 tents; a week’s worth of camping gear, hiking gear, and clothing; and 4 coolers filled with groceries into one standard size SUV with no luggage rack.
There was an inordinate amount of cussing, stomping, and gnashing of teeth, but we finally got it all in there.
Sweet Heavenly Moses.
By the time we were finished, we looked like a Chinese delivery truck.
Instead of lunch, we decided on a drive to Polebridge for a 4:00 dinner at the Northern Lights Saloon.
For us, there is simply no other way to kick off a Glacier National Park vacation than with a long drive up a dirt road for a fistful of pastries, a jar of beer, and a giant slab of homemade huckleberry pie.
Not wanting to waste a minute, we decided to start our hiking that night. What? Who wouldn’t want to do a 2.5 mile hike at 7:00 p.m. in bear country in an outfit that smelled like huckleberry pie? Just to sweeten the deal, the temps dropped into the high 30s even though it was late August.
The hike to McDonald Lake campground was a perfect, short jaunt to stretch our legs and help our bodies readjust to our backpacks, which had been in storage for 2 years.
The sparsely visited campsite was positioned on the western shore of Lake McDonald in an area that had been ravaged by the Roberts Fire of 2003. It doesn’t get many visitors, but we chose it specifically because it was a backcountry campsite that we knew we could make it to in about an hour.
Despite the remains of the burned trees, the view from the lake was spectacular. It was a cold, cloudy evening, so we didn’t get to enjoy much of a sunset, but it was quiet, peaceful....beautiful.
The best part of the McDonald Lake campground? You can have a fire!
Do you know what goes perfectly with a campfire?
Wine and cookies from the Polebridge Merc, of course! Nothing says "glamping" like a paper cup of wine and a greasy, brown paper sack full of cookies.
The sun completely faded from the sky and it was time to retire to our tents. The two hour time difference meant that we were exhausted even though it was only 9:00 in Montana. As I snuggled down into the warmth of my sleeping bag, I wondered what this trip had in store for us.
Bears? Blisters? Blizzards?
We’d seen it all in our trips to Montana.
I couldn’t wait to wake up and find out what was next.