Archive for September, 2015

Going-to-the-Sun Road, are we?

September 28, 2015

Glacier – Part 3 … Sunday, September 13 – our second full day in Whitefish. Our friend, Scott, had arrived Saturday evening so now we are a group of 11 with 3 vehicles. Of course we’re driving back into the park today! Eric had the map out and was presenting several options. Drive up the west end of the park to the Lakes and do a hike! Or drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan pass and do a hike! Megan is coming with us – she can do the Trail of the Cedars Hike! Wait a minute – What? The Green Bay Packers play football today? Who do they play? The Bears? Of course they do – you expect Adam to miss a Packer’s game?

Okay … So seven of us enter the Park in two cars – David, Eric, and Scott leading in David’s truck, followed by Aaron driving my car with Kelly up front, Megan and me in the back. We had just entered the park, when suddenly Megan and I both feel car sick. No big deal. Just suck on these cherry menthol cough drops, Megan. Okay, let’s open the windows and suck fresh air into our lungs, wind-whip our faces to cool down. Uh, so, that’s not working … oh boy, no cell phone coverage to alert David ahead, ‘Houston we have a problem…’ I grope around in my pack, jerk out an Albertson’s grocery bag, shove my head into it just as I start heaving, violently. Luckily the bag didn’t have a hole in it. The contents of my stomach pooled into a balloon shape in the bottom of the bag. I pinched it closed with my fingers so as to contain the smell, but now Megan is gagging violently and casting me looks of terror and disgust. Aaron and Kelly remain dead silent in the front as Aaron continues driving, staying right on whatever route David’s truck was leading us on.

Miraculously, David pulled over at McDonald Lodge. I had puked about four times by now, surely my stomach was empty! So I get out and greet the group with a big smile. I’ll be fine. You bet I will. I want to do that Trail of the Cedars hike with Megan and drive to the Logan Pass summit! Uh, I’ll just make a quick trip to the bathroom … and meet you all in the gift shop! Okay, well, there’s nothing in the gift shop we want to buy but do you have a plastic bag, Miss, perchance?

The group congregates out front. (Scott took the picture.)

Kelly, Aaron, David, Megan, Eric in front of McDonald Lodge ... Time to regroup!

Kelly, Aaron, David, Megan, Eric in front of McDonald Lodge … Time to regroup!

Okay, so you all go ahead (Scott, Eric, Aaron and Kelly) … David teams up with Megan and me – we’ll be along shortly – you know, probably meet up with them at the summit. I just need to sit for a bit in the Lobby – gaze around… I look up at the (now familiar) chandelier…

Does that enormous dangling light fixture make you dizzy?

Does that enormous dangling light fixture make you dizzy?

I’ll just settle my stomach with a coke …. uh, oh no, better skee-daddle back to the ladies room right quick, uh, maybe walk faster…fly into the ladies room… oh no! Stalls are full! No problem (as I lean over and hurl in the sink, sickening the kind lady next to me washing her hands…)

Okay, so we’re going back to the condo …

Turned out not to be such a hardship for David, going back to Whitefish – he just joined Adam and Meredith, Ben and Rhonda downtown for some Packers football and beer and a few pool matches against Ben.

My stomach did settle finally – so about mid-afternoon Megan and I stretched ourselves out on lounge chairs by the pool.

IMG_1696

Sipping cokes. Watching the clouds. Feeling the wind on our faces. Laughing at the two young kids commanding their mother’s constant attention while they jumped and frolicked in hyperactivity in and around the pool, one inevitably hurting himself with a big whale of a cry, sending the mother flying out of her chair to investigate the ‘boo-boo’ and to comfort. I remember those days when our kids were little. Sweet. Busy!

Meanwhile, Aaron, Kelly, Scott, and Eric drove the Road-to-the-Sun to Logan Pass. I hear it’s not the easiest drive even on healthy stomachs. Aaron drove – clenching the wheel, maneuvering the car around deeply ascending hairpin curves along the outer shoulder of the road against oncoming cars, imagining how far down you’d roll if you slid off the edge, and how you don’t want one distracted moment where you send your whole carload tumbling …

I’m just saying … my stomach situation probably wasn’t ideal for the drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. I do have photos of their trip, though. Scott took them …

IMG_1781

IMG_1780

IMG_1779

The week after we were there, one of my Facebook friends drove to Logan Pass on Going-to-the-Sun Road and posted her photos on her FB page and, what the heck, they were mine for the vicarious experiencing. Thank you Josara Grosshans. I’m totally there!

12029559_10207304401875586_8863641576637895981_o

Driving

Driving up Logan Pass

Looks a bit chillier than when we were there a week earlier, but what the heck. Open the window and let the cool air caress your face!

Getting back to our group of four on Logan pass, there was no parking the truck to get out and hike. The lots were not only full, there was a line of cars waiting for spaces to open up. Our group circled around thinking they might find parking in another spot, only to return to their original place further back in line. We read in our Park literature after we got back that parking at the popular hikes in the Park is very difficult between 10:30 am and mid-afternoon (if you can’t park, you can’t hike!). How lucky we were yesterday to find two open spaces to park for our hike to Avalanche Lake! There is a free park shuttle service that provides access for visitors to visitor centers, trailheads, campgrounds and lodges along the Going-to-the Sun Road. What shuttle? Yeah, well this year the shuttle service started July 1 and ended a week ago, September 7. So, unable to park, and out of patience to wait in line for a spot to open up, our group of four ultimately turned around at the pass and drove on back. No problem! Aaron and Kelly joined the rest of the clan downtown, while David, Eric and Scott met Megan and me at the poolside restaurant/bar where I was now able to choke down part of a hamburger.

All in all, it was a great day. Four of the group made it up to Logan Pass. Megan and I relaxed and enjoyed resting by the pool. David held his own against Ben at pool. And the Packers trounced the Bears 31-13.

For an added bonus, David had thrown his ‘Cheesehead’ in the back of the truck when we were packing. Now to celebrate the Packer’s win!

Do

Do Green Bay Packer fans really wear cheeseheads?

The sunset was beautiful too.

Sunset over Whitefish Lake

Sunset over Whitefish Lake

One full day left! Big plans for us all tomorrow too, you know it.

Glacier National Park – Avalanche Lake … uh, and Go Dawgs!

September 26, 2015

Part 2 – Saturday, September 12, 2015 … 10 of us in the condo planning activities for our first whole day of vacation … of course, we must hike to a lake in Glacier National Park! No??? What? It’s a huge weekend of both professional and college football? Yes, it most certainly is. Son, Aaron, and his best friend, Kelly, fraternity brothers and University of Georgia alumni, HAVE to see today’s game of the Georgia Bulldogs vs. Vanderbilt. Well, Aaron, I doubt there’s any sports bars at any of the ancient rustic lodges in Glacier.

Actually, Aaron had warned us ahead of time of his urgency to watch the Georgia Bulldogs’ second game of the season against Vanderbilt (which historically has been a wily, unpredictable opponent). I intended to maybe catch a bit of the game and to at least pack in my suitcase some Georgia logo merchandise to wear for the occasion:

Our official Georgia Bulldogs apparel, all of which I forgot to pack in my suitcase for the game against Vanderbilt

Our official Georgia Bulldogs apparel, all of which I forgot to pack in my suitcase for the game against Vanderbilt

Oh well …

Daughter Megan was keen to see Glacier but not at all excited about a strenuous hike. Contrast with my brother Eric, a.k.a. ‘Mountain Goat’ who was eager to hike to the highest lake in the park. He pops up early Saturday all perky and ready to go:

We know you’re a cat lover, Eric, but “Uzzi Kitty?”

In the end it all worked out beautifully – Aaron and Kelly and Megan stayed back at the resort, while the other seven of us drove our two vehicles into Glacier National Park. First destination: Lake McDonald Lodge. It took about half an hour to reach the entrance to the Park – then another 30 minutes on Going-to-the Sun Road alongside Lake McDonald (the largest lake inside Glacier National Park) to Lake McDonald Lodge.

Lake McDonald Lodge was built in 1914. The lodge is reminiscent of a Swiss chalet:

Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge

with a hunting lodge atmosphere:

Eric gazing up at the beams in the front lobby

Eric gazing up at the beams in the front lobby

IMG_1638

Because no roads were built to the lodge until 1921, its front faces the lakeshore to greet guests who arrived by boat from Apgar landing. For some, this hotel was the final destination, while others traveled from here to explore the park on horseback. In 1929 Going-to-the-Sun Road opened to Logan Pass from the west.

View of McDonald Lake from Lodge lakeside balcony

View of McDonald Lake from Lodge lakeside balcony

From McDonald Lodge we continued six more miles on Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Avalanche Lake hike. We didn’t prepare ourselves for the difficulty of finding one parking space, never mind two. We circled around in all the filled lots (hey, you can’t get out and hike if you can’t park your cars!) But we got lucky. Suddenly, two cars pulled out simultaneously, just for us, it seemed. Thank you, Universe!

At the trailhead you start on a handicapped-accessible loop called Trail of the Cedars, which is just enchanting, peaceful and gorgeous. (Perfect for Megan!) You branch off the loop to continue the 5-mile moderate round trip hike up to the Lake. Here we are, headed up to the lake …

Eric, David, Ben and Rhonda off to see the wizard

Eric, David, Ben and Rhonda off to see the wizard

In an ancient forest of towering cedars and cottonwood trees.

Paradise

Paradise

IMG_1648

Are we there yet?  Even Eric's getting a little tired.

Are we there yet? Even Eric’s getting a little tired.

At Avalanche Lake!

David and Jody

David and Jody

Adam and Meredith

Adam and Meredith

Ben and Rhonda

Ben and Rhonda

A Mountain Bluebird (Idaho’s State Bird) visited us while we picnicked and rested.

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

A panoramic view of the lake on a video:

Walking back now. It’s a magnificent hike:

IMG_1665

IMG_1666

IMG_1669

Warning signs in Paradise:

Yes, we understand  the visual

Yes, we understand the visual

I didn’t get even close to the banks of the surging creek

Jody and Adam

Jody and Adam

Ben and Rhonda

Ben and Rhonda

Things in Paradise turned topsy-turvy

Whoops!  Is something wrong with this picture?

Whoops! Is something wrong with this picture?

We’re back on the Trail of the Cedars now, completing the loop. I tried to capture in a video the incredible height of a black cottonwood tree in this forest of ancient giants:

Well, my best effort anyway. The growing conditions are ideal because of the moist Pacific air trapped by the mountains that settles over the Park.

The undergrowth looks semi-tropical up here in northern Montana, just south of the Canadian border.

IMG_1672

After we finished the hike we drove on back toward the condo. When we were back in cell phone range we were receiving texts from Aaron. The game wasn’t over yet! But Georgia held a strong lead. By the time we were back, the game was over – Georgia beat Vanderbilt 31-14!

Great day overall! Although there is so much left of Glacier to explore … our visit is clearly too short, but we have two more full days! Tomorrow we’ll drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road at least to Logan pass and back – do a hike somewhere along the way….

Right? Uh…

Whitefish, Montana

September 25, 2015

Visiting Glacier National Park has been on our bucket list for years. Back in March we decided this was the year to do it. “We’ll go in September, when it’s less busy, the weekend after Labor Day.” I booked the condo, at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, for four nights, starting Friday, September 11. Great. Booked the flights to Kalispell, MT, for our kids, six tickets total, from New York, Atlanta and Boulder, respectively. “Hey, what’s this extra security fee?” Great. They’re all flying across country on September 11. (Good one, mom.)

Turns out, the flights were fine. Adam and Meredith flew out of Newark (where Flight 93 originated 14 years ago), where they participated in a moment of silence to honor the victims and heroes of September 11, 2001. While the kids were air bound, we drove the 7-hour trek from Idaho Falls up to Whitefish – in two cars, David and Eric in David’s truck, with Megan and I following in my car eight car lengths behind. I didn’t want to lose them! I made David swear he would not speed past 85 on the freeway (I-15 North) or pass three cars at once (his specialty) on the long stretch of two-lane highways (Highway 141, 200 then 83) in Montana that lead north through the Flathead Indian Reservation to Flathead Lake and up to Glacier.

I didn’t take any photos of the scenery on the drive up, since, uh, I was driving. And we gunned it. Stopped for gas once and then, after about 5 hours of driving, pulled over at Seely Lake, MT, for lunch at the ‘Chicken Coup’. Yum! (Well, we filled our gullets anyway.) Our driving route to Whitefish took us right past the the Kalispell Airport, and sure enough, four of the six of our clan beat us there. We had no room for them in our cars anyway, so they waited for the last two of our group to arrive on their flight and then the six of them took the free airport shuttle to the Lodge twenty minutes away.

We all converged on the resort about the same time. Here is a view of the lake from our condo:

Whitefish Lake

Whitefish Lake

and the Restaurant, Patio Bar, and pool at the Lodge, overlooking the lake …

IMG_1782

Friday evening we grabbed dinner in Whitefish. Downtown was hopping and the restaurants were jammed. We were lucky (just winging it) to get a table for 10 at Loula’s Cafe, a couple of blocks off the main drag. The food was good, appetites were sated, and after dinner we returned to the condo and turned in early. (Most of us, anyway. That’s my version, and I’m sticking to it.) Hey! We (I) had a big agenda planned for Saturday. Going into Glacier National Park for sure, hiking ….

Concerning Saturday… We could book our group of ten on one of those Red Bus Tours that escort you to magnificent sites throughout the park while seasoned park veterans provide informational and historical narration!

What a fabulous way to see the park! Let's do it!

What a fabulous way to see the park! Let’s do it!

The famous Red Busses serve as an “ideal way to see and learn more about Glacier National Park. In fact, the vintage 1930s buses are part of the human history and heritage of the park. As much of the park’s scenery is vertically oriented, the roll-back tops are perfect for providing full views of the stunning mountains, and the area’s signature Big Sky. The guides are seasoned park veterans, who are here because they love the park and enjoy sharing the park with visitors.” (to quote information in the link)

Book our group on a Red Bus tour? Of course we didn’t. Although a group of us did see one parked at McDonald Lodge.

Here’s two more photos offering you a foreshadowing of what was to come on Saturday….

A cat brandishing an UZZI

Huh?

Huh?

and a sour, wrinkly Bulldog you’d better beware of:

IMG_1797

So what’s this blog about, again? Weren’t you up there in Whitefish to visit Glacier National Park?

Yes, that’s the idea …

Redfish Lake

September 3, 2015

Every summer we try to stay a couple of nights at Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley, Idaho. This year we rented a cabin for two nights (August 23-25) while David’s sister, Pauline, was visiting.

Redfish is about a 4-hour drive from Idaho Falls. We usually stop in Sun Valley for lunch on the way. Then we head up Highway 75 – the Sawtooth Scenic byway – to Galena Summit, at 8701 feet. We always pull over to take in the view of the Sawtooths. I captured this photo from the summit – mid-afternoon, August 23.

IMG_1485

It is smoky today so you don’t see the far right end of the range where Redfish Lake is nestled at the base of Mount Heyburn. Check out this wiki-link to Galena Summit for a better photo and information…

We’ve checked into our cabin and wander up to the lodge – pose for photos – David and Megan in front of the lodge,

Redfish Lake Lodge

Redfish Lake Lodge

and Megan and I in front of the lake. Mount Heyburn is the craggy granite peak poking up on the far right.

IMG_1523

Another view of the lake and Mount Heyburn:

Mount Heyburn

Mount Heyburn

Eric, Pauline, and I hike up to the Bench Lakes. It’s about 8 miles round trip. (David stayed behind with Megan, who didn’t feel well.)

Here is the map at the trailhead that gives you that reassuring ‘you are here’ aerial view of the lake and hiking trials uh, trails.

“No death marches, Eric!”

The trail to the Bench Lakes runs along the left edge of the lake; jogs off, and climbs steeply up to the Lakes when you get about 2/3 the way to the end of the lake. Hard core hikers and climbers can pack in and hike for several days – to Alpine Lake, Cramer Lakes, Hell Roaring Lake – Eric and David both have tales to tell (i.e. death marches) … You can actually hike for fifty miles from various trails leading off from the lake (and take a boat across the lake to save some hiking).

I only took one photo on the four-mile trek up to the Bench Lakes:

Mount Heyburn

Mount Heyburn

We’re at the Lower Bench Lake now. Pauline and I are snacking on nuts, brownies, cheese, and chocolates, while Eric fishes:

Eric, the fish whisperer

Eric, the fish whisperer

He hooks one right away:

IMG_1494

A beatiful lake trout. But it’s so fiesty, it’s about beaten itself to death fighting Eric yanking out the hook.

A lake trout and his no good very bad day

A lake trout and his no good very bad day

He catches 8 fish by the end of the day, throws them all back. (Yeah, with big mouth ow-ies, Eric, and occasional gouged eyeballs, and no lunch to boot!)

At the second Bench Lake (five minute walk from the first lake) there’s a nice view of Heyburn.

IMG_1500

Pauline and I are pretty beat by the time we make it back to the cabin.

Pauline at the end of our hike

Pauline at the end of our hike

Except, she’s 79 years of age, and no more worn out than I (cashing in now on her years of dedication to yoga, stetching and exercise!)

For dinner we drive to Stanley, Idaho – just a ten minute drive. You might have heard of Stanley, as throughout the winter it consistently hails as the coldest spot in the mainland USA. But this late August night is warm and exquisite. I capture a view of the sun setting over the Sawtooths.

Uh, might be more impressive during the day?

Uh, might be more impressive during the day?

Then we looked in the opposite direction. What the? …

You're kidding, right? A fire?

You’re kidding, right? A fire?

Oh my goodness. A fire has erupted near Challis! Eric, is this caused by your voodoo or are you just photo bombing my photographic challenge?

You're scaring us, Eric

You’re scaring us, Eric

By the time dinner was over, the fire had grown much larger…

IMG_1508

We found out when we got home that the fire had erupted in the Salmon-Challis National Forest – 17 miles west of Challis, Idaho. It has not been contained yet, 10 days later.

Okay, time to put a wrap on this. On our way home we hiked near the White Cloud mountains to the Fourth of July Lake. Here is a great link that describes this hike and several other nice day hikes around Stanley, Idaho.

The area had been charred by a forest fire about six years ago.

IMG_1530

The trees are bouncing back though! Many young spruce standing 4 feet tall:

New growth!

New growth!

Walking back now though a burst of fall colors.

IMG_1542

But, what I enjoyed most about our hike to Fourth of July Lake? The views as we drove back on the 10-mile dirt road to the main highway….

The Sawtooth Mountain Range coming into view!

IMG_1549

I took a photo of the “Alps of Idaho”

'Just can't capture it!'

Just can’t capture it!

And a video, which I tried to post here several times, but it doesn’t work, but it should, and maybe it does on your computer, laptop, i- Pad or i-Phone … but if it doesn’t – oh well, I’ll keep working on it: (?????)

Because I never want to forget how magnificent the Sawtooths are.

Well, we’ve been back home over a week now. Pauline stayed with us 10 days but then she flew home. But not before I cajoled her into posing for a picture in our back yard with my hubby, David, her younger brother.

David, Pauline, and Rudy

David, Pauline, and Rudy

Two Caraher dynamos. Well, three, counting Rudy.

Pauline says she wants to do it all again next year. She’s in such great physical shape, she could probably even survive one of Eric’s hikes, you know, which inevitably turn into death marches.