Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our Trip West | GNP: Many Glacier - July 19, 2013

And here is where our vacation story gets exciting. Patrick got up to go to the bathroom that morning and when he turned around to head back to the tent he saw a mama grizzly bear and her cub walking down the trail only 50 feet away. I was sleeping in the tent, so he woke me up to let me know that a bear and her cub were outside. I am a very deep sleeper so I was pretty out of it at this point and really during the whole bear encounter. I did want to see it so I tried to look through the tent, but with the rain fly on I couldn't see anything. Patrick got the bear spray out and continued to hide behind the tent. The bear kept looking back at him periodically, so the bear was aware that Patrick was there, but the pair kept moving down the path and eventually to the other side of the lake. Before they got to the other side I did look out the tent to see them for myself. At that point they were pretty far away, but that was close enough for me.

Patrick took some photos once they were a little farther away, but since we just had the little camera and they were far away the pictures aren't the greatest. You can see the bear looking back at Patrick though. That alone would have freaked me out. I am glad I was barely conscious for this experience or I would have been freaking out big time. One thing the photos did clarify for us was that the bear was in fact a grizzly bear. It's not the color the bear's fur that determines whether it's a black bear or a grizzly bear, but whether they have the hump on their back. This bear has a very distinct hump so it was a grizzy bear.

Bears at Cracker Lake

And here is where the bear went after we had our little encounter. They were very hard to track in the woodsy area over there, but our binoculars were very helpful in keeping an eye on them.

Bears at Cracker Lake

Originally we planned to make oatmeal for breakfast since we brought it with us and it would be great fuel for our trip back, but after our bear encounter we didn't want to do anything to attract the bears back to us. So, we settled for granola bars instead.

From this photo you can see how dramatically the temperature changed from afternoon to morning. Without the sunshine it was pretty chilly and we both broke out some fall like clothes to warm up.

Patrick and Sara at Cracker Lake

And here is the trail that Patrick saw the bear on earlier that morning. He had even pointed out the day before that he thought that might be an animal trail.

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After one last look at the beautiful Cracker Lake we were ready to head back to civilization and away from the bears. All the videos and bear safety information say to be loud as to not startle a bear. So the entire trip back we were very loud by doing lots of shouting and singing. It was well worth the extra effort to not have another bear encounter.

Cracker Lake

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We arrived back at our car around 1pm. Our car was parked right next to the Many Glacier Hotel and after our little bear experience we thought we would check to see if they had any rooms available. They had one room left so we decided to take it. It wasn't anything fancy, but it did have a bed, a shower, electricity and view of Swiftcurrent Lake so it wasn't all bad for $150.

We took a shower and ate some lunch before our 4pm boat ride we signed up for. The boat ride took us across the Swiftcurrent Lake and then we got off and walked a quarter mile to Lake Josephine. Once we were at Lake Josephine we got on a different boat with a different tour guide who escorted us across the lake. From Lake Josephine walked a mile and a half to the Grinell Glacier Lake.

Swiftcurrent Lake

Many Glacier Hotel

Swiftcurrent Lake

Lake Josephine

Grinell Glacier

Wooden Boat on Lake Josephine

After the boat excursion we had a very nice dinner at the Interlachen Lodge in the hotel. We ordered these buffalo chicken balls, basically a chicken meatball with buffalo sauce on them. They were way easier to eat than regular wings and very tasty. We love the idea so much we are planning to make them at home sometime. We also split a club sandwich and a burger and had some tasty beverages that included huckleberries. It was a great way to recover from our long day of hiking.

View from Many Glacier Hotel

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our Trip West | GNP: Cracker Lake - July 18, 2013

This morning we got up and packed up our bags for backpacking, which is much more involved than just packing up the tent and putting our stuff in the car. Despite that we out of the campground by 9:30am. Our plan for the morning was to go to the Ranger Station at Logan Pass and see if we could get our back country pass changed to a different route. We had read in our Glacier book that passes were available there, but once we got there the ranger said we would have to go to St. Mary to get the pass so we went back to our original plan of backpacking at Cracker Lake.

This was our first time on the really cool part of Going to the Sun Road. The road is quite amazing. The views are spectacular and really it's amazing that the road was ever built through these mountains. The road is covered in snow until late June and it starts to snow there again in September, so there is a really short period every year to visit.

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

St. Mary Lake

We also drove by St. Mary Lake on our way to Many Glacier and Cracker Lake.

St. Mary Lake

St. Mary Entrance

We arrived at Many Glacier and ate our lunch out of the back of the Explorer before we headed out on the trail. It was a pretty hot day, so it wasn't ideal hiking conditions so we hoped for a somewhat shaded trail.

Glacier - July 18, 2013

Lake Sherburne

It was a six mile trail to Cracker Lake and the trail was about half shaded and about half in the direct sunlight, making it kind of exhausting. The first people we saw on the trail were a couple of ladies. We asked them if they made it to the lake and they said they were there, but didn't stay long because they spotted a bear across the lake. As we ventured along we saw more people and all of them were turning around because of the bear threat. This was a little freaky for us since we were planning to camp the night at the lake. We decided until we actually saw the bear ourselves we would keep on going. So we kept on going and didn't see any bears. This trail is also a horse trail so we saw a group of people on horses along the way and that made us feel better since the bears are probably afraid of a big animal like a horse.

We arrived at Cracker Lake around 4pm, so there was plenty of time to set up camp and explore the area. I am so glad we did this trip. The time we spent at Cracker Lake was so much fun. When we first arrived we saw a moose bathing in the alpine lake. Apparently moose are just as dangerous as bears, but we were a safe distance away so fun to watch the moose.

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Cracker Lake

Cracker Lake

After all the talk of bears on the trail, we weren't shy about putting our food up immediately after we got to our site. The site is set up way different than on the Superior Hiking Trail. There was an area for food prep, a food storage pole, a latrine and three camping sites. The actual camping sites are about 50 to 100 feet away from where you cook, eat and store your food as to not attract animals to where you are sleeping. All good ideas.

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Glacier - July 18, 2013-003

Cracker Lake

After our long hike during the heat of the day, Cracker Lake looked very appealing to cool down at. So, we gathered up our things and went down to the lake. The water was freezing cold, I guess what do you expect from an alpine lake. So, we didn't stay in for long but we did hang out on the rocky beach for quite a long time just enjoying the beauty and the peacefulness of being out there by ourselves.

Cracker Lake

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Cracker Lake

Sara and Patrick at Cracker Lake

We found these ruins of old mining equipment down by the lake as well. We think it must have gotten there via helicopter as it doesn't seem like there would any other way to get it there.

Old Mining Equipment at Cracker Lake

Cracker Lake

Then we took some photos of ourselves in the snow in 90 degree July heat.

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We got back to the camping area and set up our tent. It was amazing to sit in the tent and be surrounded by so many beautiful things. This was definitely the coolest place we have ever camped. Our Minnesota and Wisconsin tenting adventures don't even come close to this.

Tent at Cracker Lake

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After the tent was set up we went back up to the food prep area to make dinner. We made one of our favorite backpacking meals Burrito Orzo Soup and it was awesome after a long day of hiking. At dinner we were joined by some very annoying prairie dogs trying to steal our food, but other than that it was a pretty enjoyable to eat dinner in such a gorgeous place.

Burrito Soup at Cracker Lake

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We were both exhausted after our long day in the sun, so shortly after sunset we were both out. Another great day on vacation.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Our Trip West | GNP: Avalanche Lake - July 17, 2013

We got up very early this morning because our friend Dan told us that if we wanted to get a back country permit we should get to the Ranger Station by 7:00am when it opened. It didn't actually open until 8am so we had some time to kill in Polebridge before the Ranger Station opened. The Polebridge Mercantile is known for it's baked goods so luckily it was open and we ate some breakfast there. We shared a huckleberry bear claw and a sausage and hashbrown stuffed pastry. They were both super tasty.

Glacier - July 16, 2013

Polebridge Mercantile

Glacier - July 17, 2013

After our breakfast we headed to the ranger station and it still wasn't open so we waited some more. The process to get back country permits is that you can only get a pass 24 hours in advance, so our plan was to get a pass for that night at Quartz Lake which was a 12 mile loop from the Bowman Lake Campground. When the ranger checked there were no passes available for that site, so we would have to pick a different back country site. There was a spot open for Cracker Lake the next night so we signed up for that. It was a six mile hike in and back to an alpine lake so we figured it would be comparable to what we wanted to do at Quartz Lake. This new plan also meant we had to drive 20 minutes back on the windy gravel road again to go back to the campground and pack up our stuff.

After packing up our stuff we headed back to the Apgar area. Even though we just ate breakfast we decided that huckleberry ice cream would be a great morning snack.

Huckelberry Ice Cream

Next on the list was finding a campsite for the night. We looked at the map and decided that we would try the Sprague Creek Campground. It was a smaller campground that had sites right on Lake McDonald. Well even though it was fairly early in the morning all the sites were filled, so we were forced to trek on to the next campground. After dealing with some traffic on Going to the Sun Road we ended up at the Avalanche Campground. Luckily there were plenty of sites available so we chose one and got our tent set up.

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The trail to Avalanche Lake was only a few minute walk from our campsite so we decided that would be a good activity for the afternoon. The trail was only a couple miles long so that sounded enjoyable after our extensive exercise the day before. The trail was really nice, but very busy since it is one of the easier hikes in the park. The entire way to the lake we kept thinking that it may rain on us, but we didn't get wet until we actually arrived at Avalanche Lake.

It was crazy to watch the thunderstorm roll over the mountain. And even crazier to see the scenery change right before your eyes. The storm wasn't too bad where we were, but we heard on the radio the next day that someone had been struck by lighting during that storm at St. Mary Falls. Luckily the weather the rest of the trip was gorgeous and this was the only rain we had the whole time we were in the park.

IMG_0062-35 - Sara & Patrick

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake

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For dinner that night we made our Rice and Black Bean Burritos. We bought a pack of Old El Paso Black Beans and a pack of Old El Paso Rice and heated it up on our trail stove and then put it in a burrito shell. It makes for a super quick and easy camping or backpacking meal.

Taco Dinner

After dinner we decided to go on a drive back to Lake McDonald since we kind of missed that area in the morning when we were trying to get a campsite for the night. It ended up being a perfect night for a drive. It was about an hour before sunset so everything was just beautiful. We stopped at McDonald Falls, the McDonald Lodge and Lake McDonald near the Apgar Campground. We ate more ice cream and even got a new ornament for our Christmas tree. The ornament we choose was a bear eating huckelberries, which was a good pick since our bear sighting was one of the best stories we have from our trip.

Mc Donald Falls

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Lake McDonald

Mc Donald Falls

So that ends another fabulous day on vacation which includes all of the required elements: adventure, good food and a little relaxation.