Two Weeks on the Road With Aden — Part IV - Glacier First Days

Although I had planned to get up for a Glacier sunrise, the night before I had told Aden we would not get up and go stupidly early. I did want to get going early enough to make sure we could spend the day on the St. Mary side of the park. Not too much sleeping in for him, but also wanted him well-rested. We picked Grinnell Glacier as our hike for the day and the rest we would figure out when we got there.

With some last-minute shuffling of the trip, I was able to get us a spot at the KOA on the east side of Glacier. Our ticket for entry to Going to the Sun Road was not effective until the next day. Well-positioned for a great day at this location. We got lucky.

I did not quite make that sunrise. We had the AC cranked and my cool weather sleeping bag made me right comfortable that first night sleeping on the converted table. Suspect that I just needed the sleep — even with the hotel beds we did a lot of driving and Dad was feeling it.

I came to a few times and had some micro regrets about not rising to meet the sun. Aden nestled away in the overhead sleeping compartment didn't even stir or holler at me through the multiple alarms I set.

No coffee pot in the RV so I grabbed a coffee at the KOA store. Not bad. Sun was up sort of. Was hard to tell. This part of Montana does not have the sort of sunrises I am used to in Arizona (and have missed out on all summer). The whole trip we will not see a dramatic sunrise.

Still a lot of morning before most would be getting going I thought. Aden as my shotgun we cruised into the rough un-improved entrance until we didn’t. Road construction! We got held up for about an hour waiting on the shuffling of gravel trucks, loaders, and other tourists. Finally!!!!! Cue up the Willie Nelson music

The night before Aden had started to learn how to work my “good” camera. The same model I had bought when he was a baby so I could do a better job as his official photographer — had to replace that one after waterlogging it in a hydration pack mishap doing the Bisbee 1000 in 2015 with his mom. We had some amazing views heading in once we got past the re-building of the unimproved road into St. Mary. Aden got a little practice with that Cannon. Had convinced him we ought to leave it in favor of my iPhone when we went hiking to cut weight down and not have a Bisbee 1000 repeat.

A morning hike at Grinnell was not an original thought. We had used our time sitting in construction traffic well; hydration packs filled and ready, right footgear, even slathered on the sunscreen. No challenge with parking. After a little stretching, we were on the trail.

What an amazing hike. After about a mile with a lot of others, we broke free and had it to ourselves for several stretches. Lots of great picture taking. A little complaining about the distance, but Aden is a really good hiker and handled the trail like a champ. Adventurous as well. More than a few spots where he took some liberty with the trail to climb up or down for a different perspective.

Bears!!! Oh well. Guess we can only go halfway today.

Aden really wanted to get on the water. So we got in line for a boat rental. Another popular choice. We had wanted a kayak and nearly got away with it until we were foiled. We had to turn the boat around and exchange it for a canoe so the rightful lessee could take it out. Oh well, what’s the difference. This was a moment of a great discovery. Aden has been out on the water with his mom, but he and I have never paddled together. Turns out I sort of suck in the department of directing the paddle. We spun around a lot, beached ourselves, and had sustained issues going in the right direction. Fun just the same. And what a beautiful day for canoeing.

After a good solid day on the St. Mary side, we were ready to head to our next destination. West Glacier was well over an hour and a half away. The construction delays made it a lock that we would not see the next KOA until after 6. The combination of no-shoulder roads through the mountains on HWY 49 and US 2 tested my mettle. More than once did I imagine something that resembled a bad Hollywood movie scene. Keep it on the road, no wings on this thing.

Amazing views. Worth the white-knuckling as we got down along the Flathead River. Aden and I decided we would do a rafting trip in one of the next few days.

Hooking up at the West Glacier KOA, Aden asked me why I did not get the full hookups (we only lacked the sewer connection). Honestly, I could not remember why. I told him I suspected they did not have any left when I booked the 5-nights we would have there.

Pasta with vegetables again tonight. This has become a camping staple for us. Easy to prepare. Tastes good. But we need to see what we can do to improve the cuisine. Our neighbor had the right idea — he was cooking up some brick oven chicken on the fire. I had not bought any meat in Browning given the limited cooking facilities (also was not trusting the frig yet). I thought there was a 100% fire ban in this part of Montana. Flathead County was under extreme fire conditions. By and large, there was no burning aloud. KOA seemed to be exempt somehow.

We had our plan for the next day. Our Going to the Sun Ticket was punched. Tackling the trails around Logan Pass was our mission. Up and at it early to beat the crowds. The rangers waived us through pretty easily with our annual pass. So why the reports of long lines and backups? After an hour of navigating up to Logan Pass, it resembles Disney Land. Now I get it. The gang is already here. Guess we needed to rise and head out by 5 versus 7.

Change of plans. Can’t get close to any trails without getting run over hiking up the road to get to a trailhead. Now what? One of the best days we had! That’s what. We spent all morning getting some fantastic shots on the west side of the park. Aden really put that Cannon to use. Not so much in the way of wildlife yet. My RV squeezing skills are pretty good. Perfected the 3-point turn. Later in the afternoon, we made it down into several creeks and lakes to cool off and for picture taking. Getting down into McDonald Falls was a real highlight. Took some figuring and calculating but Aden and I did it quite well. An awesome day together. Saw a few deer up close.

End of the day we devised a plan for the remaining days in West Glacier. Rafting, UTVing and a day at the Under the Big Sky Music Festival, Zip Lining, and then another run at Logan Pass.

Dad. Doer.

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Chad Wakefield

Chad Wakefield

Dad. Doer.

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