Thursday, August 28, 2014

Road Tripping Part Four

Monday- Thursday: Sundance Campground (our base camp)
Destination: Glacier National Park
Purpose: Camping and Exploring

by the way...Sundance Campground, where we have settled for most of the week, was a good choice. Conveniently located just a few miles from West Glacier one direction and the town of Coram the other direction, it's proving to be excellent base camp. The price per night includes water, electric, Wifi, hot showers and the nicest owners/managers. The bathroom is sparkling clean and our campsites are thoughtfully laid out. We have some very nice 'neighbors' all around us.   While we are close to the highway, we don't really hear much of the traffic and it's actually the trains we hear most. 

Tuesday: We left soon after breakfast to spend the day inside the Park. Going to the Sun Road is not for the faint of heart! I am glad I wasn't driving but riding shotgun in order to take pictures, I found myself instinctively leaning to the left away from the view more than once. Yikes. Narrow road, hairpin curves one right after the other, and sheer drop offs... um, yah....

The highlight for me this day was reaching Logan's Pass-- the highest spot on the road AND the opportunity to stand on the Continental Divide! How beautiful... are the feet...

The parking lot at the Pass was crammed full and even though we drove around several times, there never was a spot that opened up so we had to just take turns hopping out of the truck and checking out the view while someone else drove around.

We went down the east side and came out by St. Mary's Lake and enjoyed ice cream in the berg of  St Mary's. We hopped on Hwy 2 and completed our day with dinner in Essex, a popular winter spot for cross country ski enthusiasts and anyone with a love of trains as the lodge and restaurant is right next to a very busy train station.

We returned to camp at dusk and enjoyed some quiet time around the campfire before retiring. Extra blankets have been needed the last couple of nights. It's been pleasantly warm during the day but this high altitude brings a nippy chill once the sun sets.

Wednesday we all slept in. I guess the days of hectic traveling caught up to us and we needed those extra Z's. With breakfast dishes done we laid our maps out on the picnic table and plotted a course for the day. With some online research we were able to find a hiking trail that met our criteria: short drive to the trail head, no more than 5 or 6 miles in length round trip, a moderate hike and preferably with shade. We discarded one hike because it came with the cautious advice to carry bear spray and bells. (later learning ALL the hikes in the park suggest bear spray!)

We settled on hiking to Avalanche Lake. 5 miles round trip and under the shade of massive cedar trees, with a alpine lake at the end of the trail, this hike packed the punch we were craving. Most of the hike was fairly easy. A few challenging uphill/downhill traversing but the path was wide and smooth. We were within earshot of the Avalanche River the whole time and able to view it often. The smell of the trees and water and earth was pleasing to our senses and despite some climb in altitude we all kept a fairly brisk pace.

As we came around one bend, we were rewarded with the sighting of a deer. Oh, not just a deer, a buck! And not just a buck but a 5 point buck, quite large and really indifferent to the presence of humans. A group of hikers coming down the trail and our group coming up were able to get in quite close range of this princely animal and he just kept grazing at the base of the trees, glancing our way once in awhile, totally unfazed by our close proximity.

We continued our way to the lake and by the time we arrived we were famished. Sandwiches never tasted so good. (I made my delicious peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. Truly to die for. Honest, you ought to try them!)

 We were visited by a few curious squirrels and chipmunks. They really are cute for rodents.

Then as we were finishing our lunch, Bruce calmly announced "Bear!"
Bear?? Where? Where?
Over there!

Sure enough, meandering his way down the edge of the lake, across from us, was a large black bear. Oh, my. I wanted to see a bear this trip so bad but only if it was a safe encounter. With a body of water between us, this felt quite safe and the zoom lens on my camera was as close as I needed to be. We watched and snapped photos till he moved into the brush and out of sight.

We lingered at the sandy shore of the lake, breathing in the fresh alpine air and delighting in waterfalls cascading down the mountain sides above us. When it was time to head down, we did so rather reluctantly. Downhill always sounds easier but in truth the impact can be hell on ones' knees. Still we made it back down in about half the time it took us to hike up.

The whole day was cloaked in  a perfect warm temperature with sweet breezes blowing in off the creek. Our fellow hikers both coming and going were just as happy to be there as we were and smiles and friendly greetings were exchanged each time we passed on the trail. It is truly an international tourist attraction and we heard many different accents and dialects spoken as we traversed.

We made it back to camp around 6, pleased with our day even as our bodies registered discomfort from the physically demanding excursion. Tomorrow we will break camp and begin the slow trip toward home. We will continue to travel together until we reach Washington and then likely go our separate ways for the remainder of the trip. We don't have specific plans for the next few days other than to take our time and enjoy the sights. With no reservations and a major holiday approaching, we may end up in a Walmart parking lot but I think we'll be more creative than that. Whatever our remaining travel days bring, "as long as we're together, it doesn't matter at all."

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