Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Our Backpacking Trip to Glacier National Park

 On the 26th of August we left our house at about 11 pm at night to take a little drive and then climb aboard a train at 2:20 in the morning - heading out to Glacier National Park.

  We had been to Glacier before and absolutely loved it but on this new adventure we were doing things a little differently both by riding out there on a train and then spending our time backpacking (hiking into the back country and camping there) while we were there. Let the adventure begin!

 We totally loved traveling on the train. It was a blast to be able to move about, rest when you wanted to, sit at a table and play games, look out at the scenery, use the bathroom as needed without stopping and so on. Also fun was the various people that we met and visited with. Riding the train is a rather social experience.
 We packed some food but I had been so busy (wedding flowers to deliver right before we left besides the packing and just getting everything at home ready for our absence) that I didn't get enough packed for every meal. So we did eat a meal in the dining car. It was rather expensive ($100 for supper!) but it was fun. The tables only sit 4 and so if you have more or less than 4 the dining staff pair you up with somebody you don't know and you sit with them. On the trip out Megan and Aaron opted to sit with a nice couple from Indiana (Who got dessert for them at the end so they thought that was pretty nice). Jonathan and Mara were sitting with Ken and I.
 The first night (and then the last night too) at Glacier we had rented a little cabin. That was pretty fun. It was really comfortable and made for a good night of rest and it was nice to take a shower before heading out camping for the week.
 We bought some postcards and sent them out that evening.
 The kids had fun doing some resting and reading - preparing for no books and more tiring activity in the days ahead.

  The next morning was Sunday morning. I very much dislike missing church but I don't believe there were very many options for church in the park (After I got home I found out that 2 different preachers that I knew were out at/by the park at the same time we were - though I don't know about this first Sunday - but they were there the 2nd Sunday - It would have been fun to meet up with them and have church together.) so we did our own little communion and Bible time together.
 Then we road the shuttle most of the way through the park (on the Going-to-the-Sun road) until we got to Rising Sun campground/store/cabins and the trailhead to go up to Otokomi Lake. And the hike began! Our bags were the heaviest at this point as we had all of our food for the whole week. As the week went on our bags (especially for those of us that carried food) got lighter. At this point Ken's pack was weighing in the 60 pound range, mine around 40 pounds, Mara's 35 lbs or so, Jonathan and Aaron's around 20 lbs and Megan's around 15 lbs. Jonathan would have gotten more but since he was still recovering from Lymes disease he needed to take it easy. Thus Ken got an extra heavy pack.

 Park of this trail had burned in the Spring so that was a little different. It still was pretty in it's own way. We did have a better view of Lake St. Mary for a much longer period of time.
 Some pretty falls that we saw while hiking. There was the lovely sound of rushing water by the trail during much of our hike.
 While hiking up the trail (it was 5.4 miles to get to the campground with an elevation gain of 2180 feet) we met a guy coming back that had passed us a while earlier. He told us that he had seen a black bear in the path ahead and decided he would turn around since he (the guy) was alone. He was just out hiking - not back packing. We however had our campsite to get to so we decided to make a lot of noise and keep going.

  We noisily headed up the path but never-the-less after a little while along comes a black bear down the path towards us. At that point we really start making a lot of noise at which point he finally appears to notice us. He looked up at us and quickly turned around and went away. We didn't manage to get any pictures.
 We found a lot of berries including the Thimbleberries that are pictured above. We also found a lot of ripe huckleberries and some june/service berries and some Oregon Grapes. I didn't know what the Oregon grapes were so we didn't eat them but I have since found out what they are and that they are quite useful for making jams and such with. We also found a bunch of wild currants and elderberries. It was getting supper time as we were still making our way to the campsite and so I snacked pretty heavily on berries.

  We were quite tired by the time we made it to our campsite. It was quite nice and the first night we shared it with a couple from Portland who were expecting their first baby.
 On Monday we decided to go on a day hike. We put on our waist packs, crossed over the little stream, headed up through the woods and then came to this lovely meadow where we decided to take a picture.
 Then we had to climb on a lot of loose rock which I don't find so fun.

 While we were walking along on the loose rock on the side of the mountain we came up to a shoulder (or a bump) that we needed to climb over. As we were getting ready to do that a Grizzly bear stuck it's head up over on the the other side. It was only 25-30 feet away from those in the lead (which was not me - I was trailing behind). We were pretty startled and we started making a lot of noise. Mara was yelling "Don't look her in the eye!" which is one of the rules concerning dealing with bears. I was yelling "And back up!" That is another rule. I think Aaron is the only one that really started backing up. Megan was standing right next to Ken in the lead and just yelling. Finally I hollered "Megan, back up!" and then she came back to me rather shakily - leaving Ken and Jonathan with their bear spray reading to defend us if needed. She did take a couple of steps towards us but then decided against that. And she disappeared behind the bump again though not before we saw that there was a cub too. That was a close call! Meanwhile, where had she gone? Should we go back to camp and continue on our hike? We had all backed up and we couldn't see over the bump to see where she went.

Finally we saw them far below us and then they decided to hike through the woulds that we had just hiked through. I guess we wouldn't go back to camp just yet. They are in the picture above. Mara got a better picture (from this distance too - nobody took one while we were close) but this is what I have.
 The lake was pretty to see from above.

Ken wanted to get to the top of the mountain but as we got up one part we would find out we had farther to go then we thought and Aaron's foot was hurting him so we ended up splitting up and Megan, Aaron and I went back down by some snow and a weeping rock wall and a little stream and the others went up to the top.
 Megan by some mossy rocks that were kept that way because of the weeping rock.
 Aaron and Megan went "sledding" on the snow using her rain jacket as a sled. They thought it was great fun.

 Here they were playing in the little stream.
 They moved some rocks around and created a little pool.
The next day we decided to hike up to the other side of the lake. In the picture above you see the lake and the point of it in the top of the picture was the area of our campsite. This picture was taken from partway up.
We tried to get a picture with lake Otokomi in the background but I had trouble getting the correct angle.
High above the lake was this beautiful meadow with a stream running through it (which turned into a waterfall that went into the lake below). We sat there to filter some water for the rest of our hike. Aaron, Mara and Megan also enjoyed dipping their feet into the water.
The girls in the stream as it started to descend.
And then we headed up once more.
Still climbing.
Finally up to the ridge which wasn't terribly wide. There were steep cliffs going down the other side. Down below we saw another lake and river and a large group of Elk in and near the water's edge. Ken's binoculars were nice for looking at them.
Mara found a cave of sorts.
Megan found a hole that she could stick her arm through.

The kids were content with stopping at the ridge for Ken wanted to go to the top so I went with him. Up there he was able to count 45 mountain peaks. So fun and beautiful!
I loved the beauty of this hike.
We were ready for a big supper when we got back. Spaghetti was on the menu. Our little bitty campstoves made me nervous every time that something would tip or more likely that a child would knock a pot off but thankfully we never spilled anything the whole trip.

The next day we were changing campsites so we prepped as well as we could and headed to bed early.
The next morning we got up early and headed out eating granola bars and cheesesticks (and berries along the trail!) as we went.

We made the 5.4 miles in good time getting down to Rising Sun just a little after 10 am. We treated ourselves to ice-cream sandwich at the camp store. Then Ken had to take a shuttle over to St. Mary Ranger Station to get a new permit. Meanwhile the girls and I got tokens to pay for taking showers at Rising Sun. The boys decided that was unnecessary.  I was very efficient and washed some laundry out while showing too. Then I embarrassed Jonathan by hanging it up on shrubs and posts out behind the shower house. :-)


Our next step was to take 3 different shuttles down over the pass and down on the other side of the park by Lake MacDonald. There we started up the Sperry Trail to Snyder Lake.
We were already a little tired and now we had 4 plus miles to go UP. The trail was pretty steep a lot in here. We did a lot of resting as we went. We made it to the campsite right about supper time.

The next day we had decided would be a rest day.
The girls and I had fun picking a lot of berries around the campsite.
Aaron and I tried out doing some fishing. (No fishing license is needed in the national park.)
Our equipment wasn't the latest and greatest. :-) We each found a stick, Aaron had brought a little line which he used, We had found a lure which he used at first but then he switched to a hook that he had brought. I used dental floss and a simple hook that I had brought. Our bait was huckleberries and then I also tried a bit of jerky. I had planned on using a slug for bait as we had seen a bunch in the morning but by the time I went fishing I couldn't find any.
I caught one! Yes it is rather small. :-) It was suggested that I throw it back right away but I was really hoping to catch more and then even if they were small we could still have a fish meal. So I put it in a kettle of water for a while. Alas, I never caught any more and so the fish did get thrown back in the end.
A queen's thrown near the food preparation area.
A mama mule deer and her babies visited the campsite. They liked to come to the lake for water.
Our berries that we picked were used to make a yummy dessert for supper that day. We used 4 1/2 cups huckleberries, 3/4 cup thimbleberries, a few elderberries and raspberries, about 5 currants and we stewed them up with candied ginger that we had along. Then I made a topping with some of our (extra) sweetened oatmeal which I browned in some coconut oil. The topping didn't stay on top very well but it was still quite yummy. Next time though it has been suggested that we bring some extra sugar along for making desserts like this.
The next morning we woke up to rain and clouds. It was beautiful though rather chilly.
Jonathan had walked in his sleep (during the rain) and proceeded to get much of his stuff wet but thankfully he did have a pair of pants, a t-shirt and a rain jacket that were pretty dry. I kept working to find more ways to keep him warm. Cups of hot chocolate, tea and coffee were important that day.
Filtering water was a very regular chore on our trip.
There was a little let-up from the rain that afternoon but it was still chilly. We decided that a good little hike would warm us up. We went up to the top end of the lake and did a little climbing.
Some of them decided to go back and play another game but Mara and I kept climbing. We went along the waterfall that was coming down into the lake and we climbed up beside it for a ways.
The rain started to fall again but we is was very pretty. Then we even got a nice round of small hail. Aaron had been hoping for snow and this looked about like that scattered on the ground.
We cuddled together at various times to warm up. Aaron didn't want to participate in the group hugs and so at this point he was in a mandatory (grin) group hug.
The next morning it was still raining. It was time to head out. A night in a warm, dry cabin was sounding pretty attractive at this point. Aaron and Megan are ready to head out of camp.
We did some brisk walking as we were chilly and the tall plants that we had to walk through a lot at the beginning got our pants quite wet. Our trip was mostly all downhill though so brisk walking was easy. It was really a pretty morning and we did a lot of singing while we walked.
The rain let up for a bit when we stopped for lunch on the edge of a cliff.
We stopped to look at the horse coral which was very near the place we would catch the shuttle.
We stopped in to look at the Lake McDonald lodge. It was very rustic and neat. There were a bunch of bicyclists in there who I believe were avoiding the rain that was once again falling. Two guys were playing duets on the piano which was quite fun to listen to.
We took the shuttle back to Apgar Village. Our cabin wasn't quite ready yet so we decided to eat the ice cream cones that we had planned on getting. This dog came over hoping to share our ice cream with us. The kids thought it very fun to spend time with a dog again.
When we got into our cabin we ended up with one that had a lovely view of the lake and the mountains beyond. We all took showers and put on clean clothes which was so lovely after a week of wearing the same things over and over. Then we went out and about for a while and ate supper at a restaurant.
Sunday morning found us leaving early to catch the shuttle to get on the train. The train was over an hour late but we did finally get on after 9:30 am and we on our way.
We once again enjoyed hanging out a lot in the lounge car with it's big windows and tables for playing games and eating at.

 We ended our journey on the train at 5 something on Monday morning and then drove home arriving around 7 am. I was trying to decide if we were ready to just begin our day but Ken declared that he was going to bed for a while so we did and slept for a couple of hours. The youngest 3 didn't go to bed but instead had fun playing with Kitchi, checking on the other animals and just enjoying being home.

  When we arrived home there were ice chests on our front doorstep from my parents holding some fresh milk, watermelon and plums (all from their farm). What a sweet treat. My sister and brother-in-law (our new neighbors) had taken care of our home and animals and it was so nice to see everything looking good. Mid-morning our next door neighbor called and said she had noticed we were home and wondered if she could bring over some Beef and Barley stew that she had made for our lunch. She also came bearing a bouquet of flowers. We feel so very blessed by the wonderful people in our life and how lovely home, family, friends and neighbors are.

   Time on the trail is a good time for lots of singing (at least if you have the lungs for it) and so we sang quite a bit. It was fun to to think of so many songs that related to our experience of traveling, bearing burdens, the beauty of creation that we were enjoying, the mountains that we were climbing and so forth. One song that came to my lips many times was "Find Us Faithful". It is a song that I really appreciate the message too and so I am sharing it below.


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