In which we go to Glacier (Part I)

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in June 2012.

The view from our hotel room of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in June 2012. Doesn’t it make you want more?

Last year on our trip out West, we tried to hit a lot of the highlights on a drive across the northern US. We got to see a lot of cool things: YellowstoneMount Rushmore, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, etc, but we when we got to Glacier National Park in June the highlight of the park, the Going-To-The-Sun Road was closed for snow. To be fair, it was gorgeous all the same and the folks at the National Park Service would like to let you know there are other things to do, but it just seemed we were missing the whole main experience.

This picture, from the same place as the picture above, is the image on my work computer desktop and iPad  background

This picture, from the same place as the picture above only the next morning, I love so much. It is the image on my work computer desktop and iPad background

Jeff and I were hiking around a cool little urban pocket wilderness, Tiger Mountain State Park outside Issaquah, last week when we started talking about our move last year that had us chasing the ever lapping sun:

Me: You know the only thing I regret about that trip is that we didn’t get to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
Jeff: Well, let’s do it next weekend.
Me: What?
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, we can do it. You’re not on call. It’s possible to get there in a day. We can do it, so we should do it if you want. 

And that’s one of the many reasons I married him. I’m thankful for his spirit of adventure and his insistence that we seize the opportunities we have control of. It’s a nice lesson to be reminded to do things if you can in fact, do them.

So that’s how on Thursday night we found ourselves in the insanely cool REI headquarters downtown, dodging mountain bikers on a tree lined test path and climbing out of the parking garage with its very own waterfall, to buy some sleeping bags:

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Inside REI Headquarters

And then on Friday after work, heading out on yet another Team Sarvas road trip. Just East this time:

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Just a 2 day, 1200 mile road trip. No big deal.

The original plan was to make it to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, just across the Washington state line to spend the night. When we got there though all hotels there and in nearby Spokane were booked. All. Of. Them. A helpful hotel clerk told us that our only real option was to continue driving 40 miles east and hopefully Kellogg, ID would have something. It was approaching midnight, but what could we do? So we kept trucking on, the whole time trying to call ahead, but failing due to losing signal in the mountains. The desk clerk at the almost full Silver Mountain Resort seemed sad that all he had to offer was a studio room, but perked up when I told him that he was my new favorite person and we’d take it! Yay for a bed and a shower after a long day of clinic and an even longer day of driving.

After a goodnight’s sleep and hearty breakfast we set out again and reached Glacier around 1pm. And then we started to climb. I’ll just let the pictures tell the story from here (though they do not begin to do it justice):

Stopping for lunch on the way up.

Stopping for lunch on the way up.

Adult lunchables!

Salami, cheeses, fancy crackers = Adult lunchables!

It's not being in the woods without some good ol' raisins and peanuts (and M&Ms, granola and banana chips..).

It’s not being in the woods without some good ol’ raisins and peanuts (and M&Ms, granola and banana chips..).

The road is carved into the sides of the mountains. Obviously Jeff drove and I tried to keep my fear of heights down to a dull roar.

The road is carved into the sides of the mountains. Obviously Jeff drove and I tried to keep my fear of heights down to a dull roar.

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Rim Rock

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You can see why the road is sometimes closed - they have to clear thousands of pounds of snow each year.

You can see why the road is sometimes closed – they have to clear thousands of cubic feet of snow each year.

It’s crazy the amount of snow they clear each year. The park even employs professional avalanche experts to test things out. Pictures from this year’s clearing can be found here. Check them out – they are indescribable!

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So excited we got to do this!

Logan's Pass Visitor Center

Logan’s Pass Visitor Center

Bighorn sheep just chilling in the sunshine

Bighorn sheep just chilling in the sunshine

Continental Divide - 6646 ft

Continental Divide – 6646 ft

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DSC_0557The entire road is about 50 miles long and once we reached the end of it and therefore the east side of Glacier, we decided to camp for the night and snagged one of 4 camping spots left. We certainly cut the obtaining of nightly lodging thin on this trip, but both nights we were fortunately okay! (But seriously, with two tents AND the Jeep, which we’ve definitely slept in before, are you really ever out of nightly shelter?).

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Perk: The Rising Sun campground was right next to the Rising Sun Motor Inn which meant hot coffee in the morning!

We set up our new (to us) tent to test it out for a camping trip we’re planning later in the summer and started dinner. Just in case the blue one didn’t work we had my favorite small yellow Marmot I’ve had forever in the car as backup.

Not too shabby lodgings

Not too shabby

I feel I've inundated this post with too many pictures already, so more in the next post.

I feel I’ve inundated this post with too many pictures already, so more later.

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In which these are the last of the pictures from our trip

I know these are horribly out of order, but at least this completes the last of our pictures from our trip across the US last summer. After leaving Yellowstone we made our way north through Montana, stopping for the night in Helena (pronounced Hel-eh-na, not Hel-lee-na like I’d been saying my entire life in those name the capitol quizzes).

Official border crossing while leaving Yellowstone

More impressive state sign in Gardner, MT

We decided to check out the Lewis and Clark Brewing Company for dinner since 1) it was just down the road from our hotel and 2) like the yuppies we are, we’re fond of local breweries. The reviews online praised their beer and burgers, but when we got there they only had beer – no food except some popcorn and bar nuts. Also as a brewery they had some interesting rules:

Fortunately Helena had a great little pizza place just a block away and we filled up our bellies there instead.

Montana bills itself as one of the last great wildernesses in the contiguous United States and after spending much of the next day driving through it, the claim is pretty accurate. Despite being June it was cold and we spent hours driving without passing another car or building. I can only imagine the solitude here in the depths of winter.

Montana landscape

Our goal was to see Glacier National Park and drive its famous Going-To-The-Sun road as one of our final destinations before Seattle. We should’ve known that wasn’t going to happen when we stopped at a diner in West Glacier for some huckleberry pie and the only people there happened to be us and a park worker that said he started next week “at the beginning of the season”. My entire life I was somehow incorrect in counting June as a summer month – in Montana at least it is more of a late winter/early spring season.

We were some of the only tourists going into the park and one of the only rooms occupied in the Village Inn at Apgar. The Going-To-The-Sun road was closed due to snow and they hadn’t yet finished plowing it. I was pretty disappointed because I was looking forward to driving what has been called one of the most scenic roads in America, but we made the best of the evening and treated ourselves to a delicious meal at the nearby and nearly empty Lake McDonald lodge before retiring to our hotel room to hunker down under several blankets with the heater cranked on high.

View from our hotel window when we first checked into the the Inn

Lake McDonald – getting a glimpse of the peaks as the clouds moved out

 

Our first sighting that Glacier National Park has glaciers..

The next morning brought sunnier, clearer skies

The next morning we decided to drive the 10 miles of the Going-To-The-Sun road that were open to at least see a little of the park that we’d budgeted two days to explore.

Attempt as a self portrait from our hotel patio

The loyal Jeep

Lake McDonald

Since our ability to see more of Glacier was hampered by the snow fall we decided just to go ahead and drive to Seattle that day and end up there two days early.

To round out our road signs:

The day we drove in Washington was characteristically rainy – appropriate I think for our first time together in the Northwest.

Eastern Washington reminds me a lot of Kansas – flat and agricultural.

And that rounds out our trip across the US. If you ever have a chance to do it, go. We have a vast and diverse country. Travel on back roads as often as you can. Eat huckleberry pie from the dingiest diner you can find. Play all your favorite songs and listen to some new books. Pick a good co-pilot. Know that BLTs are best enjoyed at the local gas station/restaurant. Experience the areas you’ve only ever seen in books and on postcards. Do everything you’ve ever wanted – who knows when you’ll make your way there again.

And always keep in mind that the best part of the trip is the journey itself.