Monday, October 17, 2016

Flathead Lake, Montana

Since I'm from the Northwest, I have had many friends who are from or love the Montana Mountains.  There are many facets of Montana to love but one of the areas that is most often highlighted is Flathead Lake.  I for one, had never really visited Flathead Lake and wanted to spend a little more time than I had allotted in my previous drive by mode.

A look to maps showed several campgrounds around the Lake to choose from so after leaving Two Medicine Campground in East Glacier, we headed out to find a landing spot on Flathead Lake. There is also a lot of farmland that surrounds the lake that is planted in orchards.  Most of the rest remains in Tribal lands or as private development and the remaining is resorts.  I struggled with two of my RVing rules which are dueling in conflict as we moved along on this day.  
  • Secure a overnight site early in the day - then explore and play...


  • Avoid backtracking - Travel in forward motion using a home base to explore and play in an area then moving forward again. 

    After checking for availability of a campsite we to no avail  along the east side Flathead Lake we opt for our backup plan of of a Walmart in Paulson at the south end.  Most of the afternoon was spent in search of a suitable landing spot and less time in enjoying the opportunities in the Flathead Valley.   One great exception was the Cherries.  Sweet Cherries were available at fruit stands along the highway and we indulged!!  
    The price wasn't particularly sweet but the cherries were luscious   
    We checked out the local WalMart and then proceeded to find a local "park with a view" for a bit of beach play, dinner preparation and of course.....sunset!

    dinner preparation,

    and of course sunset.

    Having been on the east side of Glacier with limited grocery options for a week meant we were prime for restocking of fresh fruits and vegetables and other provisions.  
    Our stop at WalMart was an opportunity that we would certainly welcome.
    A RedBox Movie rounded out the evening.
    A stop at the car/ RV wash, laundry, and local free hotspot made a great early start to our day!

For a fee there are even showers for people!!!  A block from WalMart and all our needs are complete!
  At 9:30 AM we were ready to hit the road in search of a campsite.

We stopped along as we went north checking out camping spots and eventually secured a site for one night at West Beach campground near Lake Side.  We moved each morning (to 3 different sites) as a site opened and finally found the perfect site where we were able to stay an additional 2 nites.   We were hoping to connect with a friend who was going to join us for a couple days of camping. (unfortunately she got a nasty bug), but  I also needed the rest before heading back into West Glacier for more serious hiking.

Every camp site has pluses and minus's.  This campground has a nice day use area but it is quite a ways from the day use area.  As a popular boat launch area, the parking was often full near the water.  Two days I was able to secure a parking place close to the water where we spent most of the afternoon.    

West Shore State Park Day Use Area

One of the difficulties for us was waiting for calm water.  Flathead Lake is a huge lake that runs north to south making it a prime candidate for lots of waves during the day. We also had a couple of storms blow through which added to the wait for calm water.

There is a concessionaire at the day use area that rents paddle boards and kayaks so when we finally had a calm spot in the late afternoon Hailey rented a Paddle Board and had fun learning how to stay upright.

It takes a lot of concentration

The sweet smile of success

        A lot of effort.....

 And a lot of practice!

 Weather changes quickly in Montana, mountain country and we have to be prepared to wait for the opportunities.                    Morning sun,                    afternoon storms......

The next morning we had a window of opportunity, so we inflated the kayaks and took a picnic lunch out to the little island and enjoyed a little flat water fun.

Our Island getaway

 cruising round the island

One last selfie

While we were at West Shores State Campground, we got to know one of the camp hosts pretty well while we were here and found them to be very helpful.   It was fun to meet someone who takes pride in their job and finds a way to have fun along the way.

surprises she left in the restrooms!

 In the process we learned there are several State Campgrounds around Flathead Lake and they are all run by a commissionaire.  Nearly all of the campsites are reservation only which makes getting into a  campsite nearly impossible for those without reservations.  In the days we were there, there were at least 5 sites each day that stayed vacant when  RVers who had made reservations, didn't show up or cancel.  Meanwhile campers are turned away.  The system favors those who can afford to through away the money, leaving campers of limited means unable to enjoy the lake opportunities.  (End little rant!)

Wildfire Smoke makes pretty sunsets, but hard to breathe

Smoke from wildfires in Hamilton, Montana, (in Southwest Montana)  drove us north so off we headed to West Glacier.  Some adventures are big adventures, others days are ordinary days, living life fully, sometimes quietly, gently rocking on the water.

  ~ Happy Trails - Back to my Happy Place ~


Monday, October 10, 2016

Life at Many Glaciers.....After the Big Hike

How do you follow up the a great hike of your dreams? First with a hot shower! At the store you purchase coins for the showers.  It is amazing the things you find out hanging out at the store.  Boy did that feel good!! So soothing to tired muscles and I must admit, my back was screaming at me!  Hailey made dinner, Bless her little heart and we were down for the count. 

So how did I follow up the hike of my dreams?   You rest..... and then you set another goal.  I must admit....the first goals were not so big,  not so grand.  Many Glaciers has so much to offer, it is clear why it is one of the Parks most sought after campground.  If my life circumstances were different, I would hop into the Minnie McVansion and head to this natural wonder again. And Again.  And Again.

First goal of the day was to walk to the camp store and restaurant ....I deserved a reward..... COFFEE!  
Sitting on the porch drinking my coffee, I heard folks talking about the visiting moose.  
Believe me my ears perked right up!

(1/4 mile from our camp site to the trailhead, a mere 1/4 mile hike to Fishercap Lake, a mere 1/4 mile back and of course the trampsing around in the woods to get the best vantage point for pictures. and a 1/4 mile return to the campsite Hailey is going to kill me!)

Oh but it was worth it.....We need to stretch out the sore muscles,  right?

 No babies in tow....but a most hospitable couple indeed.

  I am watching you, watching me....

I assure you these we taken a long distance off with the telephoto lenses,   Just the same we got a few distance pictures and left them to their evening snack.  Evening lighting and distance shots do not deliver perfect shots but I did want to disturb them further.

It was a nice little evening jaunt.

Walking the next morning was a bit better but it was clear there were no more BIG hikes in our immediate future.... (Do you see that another trip will be in my distant future)  
 Sooooo in the mean time, I proposed a little kayaking. 

Hailey resting with Many Glacier Lodge in view.

A thunder storm blew in fast, with 10 minutes between these two pictures.

It was a fast paddle for the boat launch where we were met by a park ranger checking on boater as an extreme weather warning had just been announced.

While there were folks on the beach enjoying a picnic and beach fire.....we choose not to be on or near the water during a thunder storm.....

The thunder storm blew in fast and had a lot of cloud to ground lightening strikes.

Luckily no fires.  Too much excitement for me but weather at Glacier is ever changing and requires constant adjustment.

We returned to camp for our forth night at Many Glacier Campground.  It is beginning to feel like our Glacier Home.  There are still so many things I would have liked to do and could have easily spent another week at this campground.  Do consider coming with lots of food and gas as prices near Many Glaciers are expensive.
In the morning we will head out for Two Medicine Campground.

Views along the way to Two Medicine

Two Medicine Lake

In what was our shortest walk/hike we discovered a unique waterfall near Two Medicine.

Running Eagle Falls, also called Trick Falls near Two Medicine

Handed down through oral histories of the Pakuni is the story of a Native Princess, known as Running Eagle who lived in the 1700's before while settles came to this area.  Running Eagle was the only young woman to ever go on what is commonly called a vision quest.  She went alone up into these woods to fast, pray, suffer and dream while she found her medicine.  She became a woman warrior known for her courage and bravery.   After her fathers death she took care of the extended family according to Pakuni traditions.  

Near her 30th year she went with a war party across the Continental Divide where she was killed by the Flathead in the territory.  The other warriors brought her body back and she was buried within a tree above the Falls.  The Pakuni people continue to admire her for her courage and honor and the person she became. 

This picture became so for me as symbolic of the promise of youth following the inner calling of and yearning of their heart.

During spring run off the water tumbles off over the top of the upper falls, later in the summer it falls through the lower falls forming a natural bridge that the water flows through.  I remember when traveling through Utah seeing natural bridges that were formed by the water.  Here is the water still doing the forming.  I so wanted to climb up to the top to view the water as it fell into the hole in the earth.  But there was no way to do so.

Leaving the East Side of Glacier is a bit like leaving the Mountain top. It has been an experience that truly has touched my inner being.  It has been a bit like reading a fabulous book.  For me it is always hard to pick up the next book,  afraid that you will never again find an experience that is as meaningful.

But, there will be new dreams, and new mountaintop experiences.
Each unique in itself. 
So off we go, ready for new experiences, open to all the possibilities. 

~ ~ ~ ~

Friday, October 7, 2016

Glacier Park's Iceberg Lake - The Hike of my Dreams

Glacier Park, Wild, Challenging, Drop-dead Gorgeous, land of my dreams.   Since I have been to Glacier before, I had a list of uncompleted hikes and unfulfilled destinations.  My first trip was marred by poor weather as it rained steadily every day.  Years later, I came with young children so hikes were limited by hikes accommodating short legs and views from visitor centers.   I could feel the anticipation build as we drove to the Many Glaciers Campground to set up a base camp which contained several possible hikes and adventures...

The nearby Swift Current lake also provided a sheltered pristine kayak destination with a nearby boat launch for exploring by kayak.

 Yes, we would love it here!!

Room with a view

After a visit with  ranger I selected Iceberg Lake as the hike I most wanted to complete. A challenging 10 mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 1,100.  Though much longer than any previous hike this year (prior distance a mere 3 mile round trip hike), the reward of seeing a lake with icebergs floating was tantalizing and provided the incentive to push my comfort zones to view new horizons. 

I still had serious doubts about my ability to complete the hike but knew it was a worthy destination.  As my desired hike leaves from the visitor center parking lot, we were positioned to hike directly from camp and had developed a strategic plan,  turning in early for the hike.

       Ready for the hike - Bring it on!!     

I was fully prepared to take all day for the hike with as many breaks as needed for the hike as well as a few other tricks to complete this hike.  I was told that the most difficult part of the hike was the first 3/4 mile as it has steps and continued gain in elevation....yep it was hard but after that it was mostly a steady gain with beautiful views which provided much needed distraction.  

 I prefer the gentle incline...

While I have not been known for bird photos....once in a while I am privileged to snap a treasured photo.

An elusive Ptarmigan Grouse

Everywhere I look is a canvas ready for painting, or a bouquet waiting to be picked.

I stop countless times hoping to capture the brilliance of each wildflower, that photos can not repeat.


At moments I feel like we are all alone in God's great wonderland.  At other times, I feel transported to a busy intersection where I am the geriatric crossing guard with swarms of hikers passing by.

I am grateful for the moments of rest then pressing steadily toward my goal.

Our arrival at Iceberg Lake brought congratulations from those who passed us along the trail.  
  We Made It!  
We were now 2 miles farther than my longest hike this year and half way as far as we would need to go today.

In planning for this hike, I attached a inflatable backpacking pad to my day pack.  I spent nearly an hour resting before the hike back down the mountains.  I can't imagine a more beautiful view!

My fascination with the colors and variety of the Montana rocks is present everywhere I look.  And it is surely is evident here on the face of the mountains and also where the glaciers have carved out the glacier bowls and the piles of displaced rocks.

With each cloud that goes overhead casting variations of light, the colors change.  The above picture was taken with my phone and does not have any edits.   It was mesmerizing.... 

Tiny but Mighty

Iceberg surfing

One last look, and it is time to head back down.

From glacier, to lake, to creek, to waterfall 

 I have always preferred to hike a looped trail, but I am amazed that my perspective of the return is so different.  Same path,  but my sights are set on in a different direction. 

Oh my God....we have to go all that way DOWN. 

Finally we are down.

When I had the MRI done this last winter the Doctors told me the the spinal injury would continue to
progress and  limit the activity that I could engage in.  It has resulted in a change in my attitude.  
Each challenge I face I look at the demands that will be required , and ask myself, 

If not now, when.....

This day, I am elated....

Six and a half hours, 10 miles, 1,100 feet elevation gain.
Memories to last a lifetime.