Friday, September 04, 2015

NW Day Six: The Crown of the Continent

We’ve had a series of late nights and early days, so decided to set our alarm for 8 this morning instead of our usual seven. By 8:50, the Jedi was taking stuff outside to load the van…where he was greeted by the sight of two cows, casually crossing the street. No pictures of this, unfortunately, but here was our view from the lodge window and parking lot.

We still had a lot of baked goods in the van from our very first stop at Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana. After spending some time, and money, in the lodge gift shop...

we parked the van with a view of the mountains and ate apple turnovers, blueberry loaf, and cold cheese pizza for breakfast. At least, that’s what the rest of the family had. I got a coconut almond chocolate chip muffin and an almond milk hot chocolate from the lodge café. 

We drove into the park, 

read aloud the bear safety pamphlet we were given

and stopped at the St. Mary Visitor Center

 which had a small learning center with cool displays. 

I don’t even know what time it was when we finally started on Going to the Sun Road. But we spent a LOT of time on just a few miles of road, because the scenery looked like this…..

We also stopped and headed for a few short hikes off the road at a couple little creek junctions. Because again, this..

 And then more overlooks like this...

We didn’t reach Logan Pass, altitude 6646 feet,  until 2:20. 

We hit the restrooms there, and then, had our packed lunches the lodge had bagged up for us. Again, we ate in the car because the wind was so intense it would have made picnicking outside a real hassle. (At the St. Mary’s Visitor Center, the Jedi had asked the rangers if it was always this windy. The rangers told him that they usually measured how windy a season was, by how many flags they had to replace. This year, they said, they’ve only had to replace one American flag and one Blackfoot Nation flag. There are some years where they have to replace all the flags up to three times.)

Our lunches were awesome homemade treats. Sandwiches on whole wheat bread, loaded with the lunch meats we had ordered the night before, with lettuce and tomato. (I got everyone’s tomato slices. We had specified no tomato for Boybot, but I didn’t bother trying to special order anyone else’s sandwich.) There were apples and a bag of carrots in each lunch, a bag of chips (which we had already eaten as a snack to hold us over when we weren’t going to make the pass by lunchtime), a water bottle, and homemade cookies wrapped in cellophane. I don’t know what they put in the cookies, but they were wholesome and filling, none of this empty sugar stuff. These cookies were clearly baked for HIKERS.

After lunch, we put on our own hiking boots, and headed up the Hidden Lake Trail at Logan Pass. 

The trail was 1.5 miles to the overlook. But I REALLY wanted to do some hiking in the mountains, and the rest of the family sucked it up and humored me. The first quarter of the trail was a set of boardwalk steps that went up the slope of an alpine valley. Though it started off looking all innocent and easy....

The stairs were the most difficult portion of the hike. But even from just this part, the views were wonderful.

When we reached the top of the stairs, the trail flattened out, somewhat, and turned into a gravel trail that hugged the edge of the mountain peak, complete with streams and waterfalls.

I have to confess, after we had passed much of this, 

that I put forth the idea of turning back. I knew it was much later in the day than we had planned, the hike had been long and strenuous, we had taken some great photos and had the experience of hiking in the mountains that I had wanted. But the Jedi said, no, we had come this far, we might as well go all the way to the overlook.

I am so glad he did. This was by far the most spectacular view I think I have ever seen. 

While the Grand Canyon was mind-boggling in its size and scope, I think the mountains have it beat for breath-taking beauty. 

Eventually, after a few more family photos, we had to tear ourselves away and head back. 

For the record, we hiked three miles round trip. We hiked up to 7140 feet in elevation, so a total gain of 494 feet. There were spots on the trail where the four of us were the only humans in sight. The scent of the pine, the near total stillness and silence....I can't
 even describe how awe inspiring this hike was.

 But we did have to share the mountains with others…

And finally we reached the stairs back down.

We drove over the continental divide, and then headed down the west side of the Rocky Mountains. 

 We also hiked the Trail of the Cedars, but after Hidden Lake, even a pretty little water fall in an ancient forest couldn’t compete.

We ended our day in Glacier wading in Lake MacDonald. (Well, two of us waded. I wasn’t about to put my feet in those icy waters!)

We left the park a little after 8, and then realized we had close to an hour drive to Kalispell, and that Bullman’s Food Fired Pizza closed at 9. I phoned an order in for pick up (one medium rocky mountain pizza and one medium pioneer pizza). We got there at about ten till nine. Our intention was to take the pizza back to our room….but there was a ColdStone right next door, so we ate in the van for the third time that day, and then headed into ColdStone for dessert.

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