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

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

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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

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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:

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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.

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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…

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