Day 6 - Many Glacier Hotel
I saw in the paper this morning that the storms we just experienced were responsible for both a duo of tornadoes and flooding of the Missouri River. Swiftcurrent lake outside our hotel rose about a foot with all the rain, and all the streams were running full. This morning broke sunny again though, and though a cloud bank rolled in for awhile, we spent the day almost exclusively in the sunshine. Amazing.
We were up early to get in a longish hike. Redrock Falls - a popular hike was at milepost 1.8, Redrock Lake was at mp 4, and then we continued to the bottom of the cirque at the head of the valley probably another mile up the trail. It was a fun trail, very diverse scenery from conifer forest to aspen forest to subalpine, some boulders to scramble on, meadow trails, lakesides, streamsides, and huge cliffs rising above us. The falls were amazing and fun - even to veteran Oregon waterfall people like us - these were more of a tall cascade. We seemed to have the place to ourselves, as the crowds were about an hour behind us, so it was crowded on the way back, but a pleasant hike out. There were reports of a mom moose with a baby at the lake, which we got to see on our way back past it - we missed seeing them from the trail on the way out by a few minutes. It's amazing how an animal so big can disappear so quickly. We saw a couple of deer. We had reports from hikers ahead of us of "impassable streams", but we bushwhacked our way to a place we could all get across for the first one, and hiked off trail up the cirque for the second one. The cirque was full of snowfields and rocks. By the time we returned, a group of hikers had found the washed out plank bridge and had managed to place it over the stream of the upper crossing, and another group had placed a log over the stream at the "bushwhacking" stream crossing. Noah and Zach took off running on the way down and we didn't see them until we got back to the car. They both had walked through the "bushwhacking" stream to get across (wet shoes!), and had both fallen on rocks and cut up/bruised their legs, but were both determined to beat their parents to the bottom. They were laid out flat on the car hood unable to move when we arrived.
I promised the boys some huckleberry ice cream at the end, so we stopped in the bar and all got buffalo burgers with huckleberry ice cream to share for dessert (huckleberry ice cream is a regional specialty which we quickly realized was quite yummy). We had just enough time to eat before packing up for our next activity, the Red Bus Tour.
We hopped in a Red Bus, with a Jammer (the nickname for the Red Bus drivers) named Zachary who was a Patriots fan (who would have thought there would be two of them!). It was still a beautiful sunny day, so the top was down - they provided Pendleton lap blankets, which I appreciated to stay warm. Whenever we would stop, we got to poke our heads out the top, standing on the seats to see and take pictures. The boys especially liked that part. The tour went up to Chief Mountain, then down to take as much of the Going-To-The-Sun highway as was open, then back to hopefully catch some evening wildlife along the way into the Many Glacier valley. No wildlife sightings today though. Zach was just about exhausted to the point of craziness, so we chose to eat at the hotel, and the kids went back to the room to crash before we had even finished paying the bill.
We had to pack up and change rooms today since we only booked through last night, which worked out well for two reasons - we wanted to pack up the car and get going earlier tomorrow and we got to see the other wing of the hotel - a bit more spacious and it had a balcony but not the view.
Day 7 - on the road again
The Red Bus Jammer had suggested a breakfast place - Johnsons - at St. Mary's near the visitor's center where we were heading, so since breakfast wasn't exciting at the hotel, we packed up everything and ate there. The boys got their Jr Ranger badges at the visitor center, then we said goodbye to Glacier and headed north to take the Canadian route back since it was still several days before the road was open to go over the Going-to -the-sun road through the park. Overall, I think it has been a great experience being in Glacier in the "shoulder" season - before the crowds of their summer. Glacier is the first trip that Jim and I took together as a couple - back in 1991, and it was fun to go back again. Seeing pictures of the Grinnell glacier that we hiked to back then, it is amazing how much it has receded since we were there. The "experts" are predicting that at the current rate of decline, all the glaciers here will be gone if we wait 20 more years to come back. The beauty of the park isn't in the glaciers themselves, fortunately, it is in the sheer walls and stunning valleys that the glaciers carved out, but it is still kind of amazing that we could see something like that disappear in our lifetime.
At the Canadian border we asked to get our passports stamped - we wanted a record of having been there . They grudgingly obliged. Things look different in Canada- mileage was in kilometers, petrol was in litres, visitor's centre was spelled wrong… We stopped in Waterton - the Canadian portion of Glacier park to visit the Prince of Wales Hotel. Though it still had a Swiss-chalet like structure on the outside, the inside was more of an English hunting lodge. The bellmen and wait-staff wore kilts, whereas at the Many Glacier Hotel they wore Lederhosen. The specialty was high tea at Prince of Wales, whereas it was Swiss Fondue at the Many Glacier Hotel. We perused the gift shop where I was reminded that we needed to pick up some maple cookies while we were in Canada - another regional specialty that just doesn't taste the same here.
Along the way we noticed a sign for Buffalo Paddock loop, so we took it (why not?). It drove us through a buffalo paddock (surprise) where we got to see some baby buffalo and their parents. We also got to see 3 coyote pups (we finally decided that must be what they were) eating a carcass of some kind (bird? rabbit? beaver?). That was worth a diversion.
We had a couple of favorite roadsigns today: A salamander crossing sign and a sign in Waterton of a deer knocking over a person. They also had warning signs posted that the roaming deer in Waterton will attack a dog unprovoked because they are fawning. Sure enough, we saw some fawns that couldn't have been more than a week old, and we witnessed a deer purposefully stalking a dog on a leash - such that the owner had to pick up the dog and even then, the deer cornered the guy and wouldn't let him out of the shelter he took cover in. Eventually they called the park rangers and somehow they got the deer away long enough that the man could get his dog back to the car.
We stopped in a grocery store and picked up some lunch stuff (and those yummy maple cookies) and had PBJ sandwiches in the car as we drove. We had to stop at the Frank slide at Turtle Mountain, as it was so impressive that a huge section of the mountain collapsed and sent boulders and debris across the valley floor in the Crowsnest River Valley in 1903. We also had to stop to see the world's largest dump truck - used for pit mining in the area - Zach just fit in the wheel well! We also saw quite a few wind turbines - some farms, and some seemingly for personal electricity use. They kind of littered one valley. One person said they were ok during the day as they kind of blend into the landscape, but at night their airplane warning lights are annoying.
We crossed the border back into Idaho, and had dinner at a really yummy Italian restaurant in Sandpoint, ID, then pushed ourselves (the kids fell asleep before we got there) to go just a little further to get to Cour d' Alene where we stopped for the night. We finished up listening to Lunch Money yesterday (we all enjoyed it), listened to some CDs of what we saw in Glacier, and began listening to Travel Team by Mike Lupica.
Day 8 - home
Up early, ate the "free" breakfast offered by the hotel (a slimmed down choice of breakfast entrees), and got on the road. Thank goodness for books on tape, as there isn't much else to say about the day. We finished the book (again, everyone enjoyed it) just as we pulled into Troutdale - on the outskirts of Portland. Immediately the kids started acting up in the back seat - both excited to be getting home, and totally bored. I unpacked the suitcases and started laundry and lunch as soon as we got in, while Jim ran out to pick up the riding lawnmower which had been in the shop to be fixed. Jim and the boys got back on the road (in the truck) to deliver the lawnmower to the farm and do some mowing. I stayed in town to do errands and get ready to pack up again for leg #2 - Honduras.