Sunday, July 31, 2016

Glacier National Park

Time for another vacation post. We've had a lot of travel this year and our pocketbooks are much lighter, but we have priceless memories. This vacation with my side of the family has been in the works for the past year and we were excited for it to arrive.

We stayed at a giant house thirty minutes outside of the park. With 14 people and 3 babies, we needed a fun and comfortable place to retreat to.

The house was tucked back in a forest-y neighborhood and we had wild turkeys running around, deer, and horses neighing. And enough mosquitoes to populate the continent of Antarctica.

It was so fun to have all the cousins together for the first time, and the three babies together - heaven.

We celebrated Katrina's birthday and Kyle and Katrina also had their 5th anniversary while we were together. I got to meet Amelia for the first time! She's such a pretty, sweet thing.

I made flowers for the babies and Amelia is wearing hers and Chloe got a giant blue one due to her daddy's love for over the top bow accessories. It was bigger than her head! Perfect!

Chloe and Kendrick especially were enthralled with each other. The personality types of those two together cracked. me. up. It was typical man vs. woman. Chloe gave Kendrick a piece of her mind and Kendrick just tried to grab her or looked at her very confusedly.

These videos help illustrate.

Those not busy with babies spent time playing epic games of croquet or Kube (a Scottish form of chess).

Each family took turns cooking dinner different nights, and we played games and talked and enjoyed the company of family that doesn't get to be together very often.

Now, as for our time actually spent in Glacier Park. That place is AMAZING.

Our first hike took us to Avalanche Lake. It was a great hike to start off the trip and adjusting the babies to backpacks.

We enjoyed a pretty waterfall before we started the trek to the lake.

Once at the lake, the boys played in the water while babies were fed and we enjoyed the emerald water with picturesque waterfalls in the background.

After Avalanche lake, we ate lunch where Kayleen caught a butterfly,

and then went to check out Lake McDonald and rent a motorboat and a rowboat to spend the afternoon out on the water.

It was a long, glorious day and my boys were especially tucked out.

Kendrick succumbed at the lake, and when Ammon was nowhere to be found later that evening, I remembered he had asked to play outside and I found him napping on the deck.

Day two was one of my favorites. We made the most terrifying drive through Logan's Pass on the cliff's edge and ended at the visitor's center. At the visitor's center we were waiting for everyone to get ready (it takes forever with all the equipment and baby requirements) when bear was called out. You could see a mama grizzly bear and her cub crossing the mountain side. They crossed right over the trail! A ranger ran ahead to make sure people stayed out of the way, but it was surreal to watch those beautiful creatures in their habitat, making their way along. They were too far away for decent pictures, but as you see pictures of the trail, just imagine a mama and baby bear in the background.

The hike to Hidden Lake was especially fun because you would be hiking along a field of mountain flowers and see marmot creatures wandering among the plants one minute, and then the next you would be hiking through slippery snow.

Then, as you crest a hill of snow, you'd come across beautiful small lakes drizzling into one another.

The view of Hidden Lake was spectacular and there were quite a few mountain goats wandering around the area that we watched as we paused to wait for the rest of the family to catch up.

We also saw some bighorn sheep up high on the mountain.

Hiking back was a fun adventure of slipping down the hills of snow and racing along the board walk. Brigham had Kendrick in the pack and I held Lydia's hand through the slippery parts, so Uncle Ryan took Ammon and they made an adorable sight racing down the trail to the end.

After lunch at the visitor's center, we went on the Highline Trail hike, aptly named for the cliff-edged walk. It had amazing views, but was terrifying with kids. The sheer drop off had me terrified of one of them slipping and falling to their deaths.  Luckily, a bunch of our group turned around and the kids gratefully headed back with them, leaving me to hike with Kendrick on my back and Brigham to climb and explore the cliff-side waterfalls with my brothers as the ladies waited below.

The Highline Trail turns into the Garden Wall trail and eventually hits Haystack Rock overlook. A smaller group of us decided to continue to Haystack Rock overlook while the rest turned around.

The views from the overlook were breathtaking and it felt good to hike with NO kids and just my brother and brother-in-law.

The three lone finishers

After two days of hiking, we decided to give hiking a rest and float the river instead.

Those with babies decided which parent stayed behind, and I was lucky to be able to go.

We floated along and tried to hit the "rapids", occasionally pulling off to the side to climb, skip rocks, suntan, and explore.

The Flathead River was freezing cold but had beautiful blues and greens that had us all constantly remarking on the sight.

At one part of the river, there is a narrow canyon that was perfect for cliff jumping. Despite fears of some in our group, the boys jumped away.  Their bravery inspired the kids to do the same, but from shorter ledges. I was so proud of Lydia, who was TERRIFIED, but jumped anyway.

She may have immediately panicked once she hit the water, but she did it!

Ammon would have jumped more if the water wasn't so cold, but he is fearless with a life jacket on. Taylor decided to be crazy and float behind the boat down the river, despite the temperature of the water.

After taking a day off of hiking, Thursday, we jumped right back into it with a day of waterfalls.

First we looked at a pretty little gorge.

Then we hiked to Bering Falls

And then walked along a unique, gorgeous trail. It probably was my favorite scene. The purple mountain flowers, with the dark, burnt trees, against the blue of the lake and the mountain peaks just awed me. We even saw a moose with big ol' antlers swimming in the lake.

I also really liked the handsome man with the cute baby in the backpack in front of me.

We hiked to St Mary Falls.

And then went a bit further to Virginia Falls.

We had a bit of a family meltdown and a lost Ammon scare at the end of this hike, but luckily all ended well. My hiking buddy was the cutest and we made it home hot, tired, and happy.

Brigham's legs are black from dirt. That's a sign of a good hike right there.

Friday was reserved for those that wanted to do a longer, harder hike. It ended up that my two brothers, Scott and Kyle, and my brother-in-law, Taylor, and I were the ones to go. Brigham had a super bad sunburn from previous hikes and didn't feel up to the challenge, so I lucked out and was able to go again. Let me reiterate how awesome it is to hike without kids. And my kids are good hikers. Just being able to not worry about anyone but yourself and go at whatever pace you want is so liberating.

We left very early in the morning to make the 2 1/2 hour drive (this was the one downside of Glacier. Most days we had a two hour drive to get to any of the hikes. That, and the parking. It is SO hard to find parking. It's already full at nine in the morning, so you have to get there early!) to the east side of the park. From there, we left to find the trail to Grinnell Glacier.

The signs weren't very clear and we ended up on an equestrian trail for the first bit. The foliage was up to our armpits and we were alone in a shady part of bear country, so we had a fun time freaking ourselves out about running into a bear and imagining what we would do. Everyone assured me I would be the one to die because I am the slowest sprinter.

We hiked around this cute, crystal clear lake. We heard a noise, and despite all my brothers brave talk of fighting a bear, we all froze in fear at the threat of one.  Luckily, around the corner it was just some people where the trails converged. We all laughed at ourselves and continued on.

The trail suddenly and drastically hit an incline and we went up the mountain until we were above the treeline and ran into the first of three turquoise lakes.

The vibrant color of the water was incredible.

We hiked on along the mountainside admiring the reds, yellows, purples, and whites of the flowers mixed with the funny bear-tail plants poking up among them.

We trekked through multiple waterfalls trickling, splashing, and flowing down the mountain, and eventually we had a view of all three of the lakes stretched out between the mountains.

The view the other direction was just as magical with a waterfall cascading down into the top lake.

I couldn't believe the beauty. Still can't. God sure made this world a beautiful place to live.

The last .4 miles was a half a mile of death. Steep switch backs led us to the Grinnell Glacier. And it was so worth it.

Though most of Grinnell Glacier has melted, we were able to walk out on the icy lake and admire something I thought I'd only see in movies. Pictures don't really do it justice, as you couldn't capture the whole glacial area in one frame.

I was really proud of myself. The hike was hard, but fun, and I not only made it, but kept up with my brothers and saw awesome stuff.

We ate lunch on the rocks by the water (while the mosquitoes had a lunch of their own) and explored the glacial area. I'm blessed to have gone, when I did and see what I saw. So much of the glacier has already melted and they estimate that by 2030 the glaciers will all be melted in the park. I'm so sad to think of the beauty that will be lost.

We saw plenty of animal life on the hike. In fact, a bighorn sheep was our trail guide for awhile at the end. He just sauntered along on the trail right in front of us. We could have reached out and stroked his fur. We also saw bunnies, funny looking ducks, deer, marmots, and mountain goats.

My legs complained with each step I took the last mile, and the car never looked so good after a 12 mile hike in the sun. We had expected to take three hours each leg of the hike, but we did it in two and kept a grueling pace. We wanted to beat a storm and didn't want to get back too late. Boy did we pile-drive. Looking back, I'm glad we did due to the circumstances, but next time I think I would like to take it slower to really stop and enjoy the beauty of the place as we hiked.

We were starting to drive home and marveling at how lucky we were to see what we had seen and acknowledging how perfect our timing had been, only wishing we could have seen a bear, when we noticed a million cars pulled over and people with their cameras out on the side of the road. Scott freaked out when he WAS a bear!

We all jumped out of the car as fast as possible, Kyle only in his socks, and joined the throng of people.  It was a mother grizzly bear and her TWO cubs. We were only about 40 yards away! It was incredible. We were out of our minds crazy happy. Though hard to get a good picture of the bear in the long grass, we could see them clearly. And when a car honked its horn, on of the bears even stood up on its back legs. In this picture, the little brown mound is the mama bear. We were surprised by how light and beautiful her coat was.

We couldn't help ourselves and inched closer, Taylor trying to get a good shot on his GoPro. We made sure to stay on the side of the road since that particular bear apparently had charged someone the day before - according to the park ranger. A lady echoed our thoughts exactly when she said, "Is this even real right now?"

Eventually the bears wandered deeper into the trees and we lost sight of them. In the van we felt like the luckiest group of hikers alive. The odds! The success! After the 2 1/2 hour drive home we shared our stories with everyone that had stayed and gone shopping around town.

Saturday we spent the morning playing basketball and tennis, and then we drove back to Lake McDonald to spend more time in the water before shopping for our last souvenirs. Sunday we all headed home.

It was so amazing being together and exploring the beauty of the park. I told Brigham I think I want to live in Montana; that's just my type of place. It's so beautiful and the mountains call to me. I feel so blessed to be able to go and see what we saw with the people I did and I encourage you, if you have the chance yourself....GO!!


  1. Oh my goodness!! What a beautiful trip. I so want to go there now. The picutures were beautiful and unbelievable! And way to go making that 12 mile hike. Its all those boot camp classes you take!!

  2. i cannot get over how beautiful your pics are! seriously so gorgeous!! i wish we had places like that near me- or people who liked to hike. how amazing! and how fun to experience that with your family