Autumn in Glacier National Park

September 25, 2015

We spent one very nice week at Glacier National Park from September 12 through 21. Most of that time we were camping at a KOA in West Glacier which turned out to be a perfect starting point for our adventures.

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Sam with some of the wood he found in the forest around the campground…we had to trim it down just a little!

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Sam made a Teepee out of some of the sticks that he brought back from the woods and Ben thought it was just the right size for him!

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This is our campsite at the West Glacier KOA.  I really liked staying there…I loved the view of the woods and mountains from our camper.  This is when we were all packed up and ready to head out, but at least we got a picture!!

On Monday (the 14th) we went into the park for the first time. Our first stop was the ranger station so that the kids could pick up their booklets to earn their junior ranger badge. They are really enjoying this activity. If you have kids, I would highly encourage you to check it out, it’s a pretty cool program and the kids learn quite a bit! Anyway….we planned to drive the Going-to-the-Sun road that day.

We started the drive, but stopped for the first time at Trail of the Cedars to go for a short hike. What a beautiful walk. It wasn’t all that long (maybe one mile total and it’s in a loop), but it took you right through the forest and along Avalanche Creek. There hasn’t been enough rain in Montana this summer so the creek was much lower than usual, but still very pretty. Because it was so much drier we were able to walk a little in the creek bed and cross the water using logs and rocks. Getting the kids to keep moving on the trail was like pulling teeth…they were having so much fun exploring. As you get to about the halfway point of the trail there is another trail that branches off and heads to Avalanche Lake. We were talking to some of the people coming back from that and they highly recommended it so we decided to do that hike another day. For me the highlight of the Trail of the Cedars was when you crossed the creek on a little bridge and looked upstream. The water was rushing through a narrow pass made of boulders and it wove its way toward you. It was breathtaking!! I would imagine it’s even more impressive when rushing with more water from the snow melting. The rest of the trail was nice too…the trees are amazing!! Huge Cedar and Hemlock trees reaching to the sky and the ground was covered in ferns and moss. I loved it!

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Trail of the Cedars and Abby

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Ben inside a tree

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Elise and a crazy looking tree…we thought it looked like a tree with a big nose!

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Joe tried running up the tree

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Joe, Sam and Abby crossing Avalanche Creek

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Ben, Lance and Rose showing off their big muscles!

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Ben and Lance crossing the creek and being goofy!  (They might be Dutch dancing…I’m not sure!)

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Elise and Abby inside another giant tree

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Avalanche Creek waterfall

We continued the drive after that, there was so much more to see! As we drove the road curved along with the river until we started climbing up the mountains. The fall colors were just getting pretty and the higher we got the more color there was. We could see amazing waterfalls like Birdwoman Falls which is 492 feet. We saw one glacier on the drive and got some pictures of that. We drove past the Weeping Wall where water is usually cascading down, but because of the dry summer it was just a little wet and dripping. We stopped at Logan’s Pass which is on the Continental Divide to look around. Later that afternoon we drove through parts of the park that had been on fire earlier this summer in some big forest fires. We finally made it to St. Mary’s Lake which is on the eastern end of the park and when we got to the entrance there we turned around and started going back the way we came. This time through we got to see a black bear making his way through a recovering burned area from few years ago. We also saw a mother and baby moose in the river. It was a long, but very good day!

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Driving the Going-to-the-Sun road you just kept seeing more and more of the beautiful mountains.  The river is below and Birdwoman Falls are in the background near the middle of the picture.

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Some of the pretty fall colors in the mountains

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Don’t you wonder what he’s thinking???  Probably something mischievous!

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Even on top of a mountain is a good time to read a book!

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Sam and Joe hanging on for dear life….or are they???

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One of the glaciers you can see from the drive.  Scientists predict that by the year 2030 all of the glaciers in the park will be gone.

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Where there had been a forest fire this summer

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The first black bear we saw

The next day we went back into the park and the kids turned in their booklets. Abby, Sam and Elise all earned their junior ranger badges which they were pretty proud of! We headed back to the Avalanche Creek area to begin our hike. Just as we were looking for a place to park we saw another black bear meandering around in the woods across the street from where the trail started. I was a little nervous about having all of us out of the car and beginning the hike with him so close, but he was headed the other way so we went anyway. It was going to be a longer hike this time….2 miles to get to the lake and then 2 miles back. I had packed a couple of diapers, wipes, snacks and water for the trip. We started out full of energy. The path was so pretty and interesting. I really don’t think I could get sick of looking at the enormous trees and mossy ground. The kids wanted to wander from the path every two minutes to check things out and we finally had to tell them that they could wander all they wanted to on the way back, but let’s just concentrate on getting there for the time being. When we were about 2/3 of the way to the lake Rosemary had a dirty diaper….and not just any dirty diaper! It was in her clothes and in the baby carrier I had her in. We laid her down on a little mossy rock and set to work cleaning that little lady up. She was cold and mad so she was screaming her little head off! (In case you’re wondering….no, we didn’t see any other bears on the hike…we didn’t even need to carry bear bells. They could probably hear our family from a mile away!!!) I hadn’t packed any extra clothes for her and it was a cool day and getting colder as we were hiking higher up the mountain (it was about 40-45 degrees when we got to the lake). She ended up wearing Ben’s fleece jacket on top and then we put her legs into the sleeves of Lance’s coat and wrapped that around her inside the baby carrier. Then we wrapped my jacket around her and the outside of the carrier! She looked a little goofy, but it was the best we could do! We finished the hike and were rewarded with a spectacular view of Avalanche Lake, the surrounding mountains and three waterfalls that were coming down by the lake. It was worth the hike! We hung out there for a while…enjoying the snacks and exploring the rocky beach. The kids had a lot of fun trying to catch one of the many chipmunks that were scurrying around. Finally it was time to head back. Surprisingly, the kids had plenty of energy to wander like we had promised them they would have the chance to do. We were all pretty tired, though, by the time we got back to the car so instead of going back to the campsite, we went out for pizza to finish the day!

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The second black bear we saw, right before our hike to Avalanche Lake

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Waterfalls along the trail

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Lance and Ben hiking….even though we had the backpack for Ben he preferred to walk most of the time

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This is how Rose looked near the beginning of the trail

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Joe exploring Avalanche Creek

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Ben found this branch and insisted on sweeping the path behind us…he takes it very literally when they say not to leave a trace!

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What a pretty trail to be on

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Our first glimpse of Avalanche Lake and Ben giving us a gun show!

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Joe’s out there on a stump doing the Karate Kid thing again!

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Avalanche Lake

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Look at how clear that water is!

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You can see the waterfalls coming down the mountains

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We sure did work hard for this family picture!!  (fyi…Elise had just finished crying from falling down a few minutes before, that’s why she looks so sad)

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Here’s Rosemary’s crazy get-up after her unfortunate diaper debacle!

The next couple of days Lance went to work. He goes into town and finds a place with wifi. The kids and I stayed at the campsite. They had fun going into the woods and collecting large sticks for our fire and Sam and Elise even went around and sold some bundles to other campers. They also did a scavenger hunt that I made up for them. They had to collect some of the things in a baggie and some of the things they just had to find and take a picture of. That was a lot of fun and they enjoyed that. On Friday we packed up the camper and left the KOA. We went for one last drive in Glacier and intended to hike to Hidden Lake, but when we got to Logan’s Pass it was so cold and windy that we changed our mind. We just enjoyed the drive instead!

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Another picture of the mountains….the colors had changed just a little bit more and the mountains were a little more hazy than a few days before.

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Little Rosemary sure does have some great big brothers who love her to pieces!!

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Elise and Rose…this was taken right after Ben face-planted into the lake and Lance took him back up to the car to find him some dry clothes.

We ended up driving for a little while, thinking we would leave Montana, but things weren’t going as planned so instead we stopped at a campground in Kalispell. We set up camp for that night and ended up staying three all together. The kids loved it there. Our site was right near the playground, a giant chess game, pedal carts and the hot tub. The most unique thing about that campground is their petting zoo….not so much the fact that they had one, but that during the day they let the animals roam all over the campground to explore and munch on grass. It was not uncommon to look out our camper window and see donkeys, ponies or lamas walking right next to it. There were also a couple of very friendly dogs and a cat. It was nice to stay a little longer there than we had intended. We had a lot of fun there.

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Eating lunch and hanging out with donkeys…pretty awesome!

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Elise at the playground

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Lance trying out one of the pedal carts

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Ben and the very friendly campground dog, Gabby

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Little Ben in his little chair while enjoying the campfire and a s’more

Well, after Montana we drove into Idaho and then into Washington…..but that’s another post for another day!

2 thoughts on “Autumn in Glacier National Park”

  1. Beautiful pictures and great adventures! Didn’t you feel like your family was supposed to be singing “The hills are alive….with the sounds of music…” I loved the pictures and miss you guys! Love to you all, Mom

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