Friday, June 29, 2012

Glacier Part 2

It's a good thing we slept well the night before. First thing in the morning we were up and on our way. We hiked to Avalanche Lake and passed a great many people on the trail. The trail followed the river for a while until we reached a point where volunteers were re-routing the trail because it had been washed out from flooding and was still underwater. It was only a few miles, but rewarded us with a stunning view.

It was so incredibly beautiful. The morning was even warm and pleasant. Before we arrived in Glacier the forecast said that that day was to have a high of 45, but as luck would have it we ended up with a delightful 77 degrees on this, the first day of summer. Talk about an amazing place to be on the longest day of the year! It was light until about 10:00 p.m. that night.

The amount of water that flows through the area as the snow melts is enough to carry enormous boulders and trees with it. This pile of trees near the headwaters of the river shows the size of some of the material the water can carry.

It was even prettier in person, but I'm sure you already figured that.

A friend gave me these earrings Friday the weekend before and I seriously wore them every single day while we were camping. I LOVE them and it makes me feel sassy to have cute earrings on even when we're camping. Gotta love girls and our priorities...

One of the trails we had planned to hike started from the Logan Pass visitor's center but when we arrived it didn't seem like the best of ideas. The ranger said people had been hiking it all day and there should be no problem, but it took far too long to get even to this sign at the start of it and my hiking shoes were slipping all over the compact snow. It didn't even occur to us that there might well be snow on the ground since the rest of the park is so green and lush right now.

We decided to stick to the valley for hiking and chose a couple falls to head to. These pretty little flowers were along the trail and we both loved them, though Jim thought they were white and I thought they were yellow so for a minute or two we didn't realize we were talking about the same thing.

We shared the trail for a while. This deer just sauntered along the path and didn't mind that people were around until someone tried to pass it within about two feet of it's bum and it took off into the bushes as though it feared for it's very life, which it probably did.

Glacier is so green and incredible! I thought Oregon had spoiled us being green and lovely, but Glacier was just as impressive, only with towering mountain cliffs to enhance it.

Since Jim had seen his Bighorn Sheep, I really wanted to try and see the Mountain Goats. They are supposed to live around a place called "Goat Lick" at the southern edge of the park so we headed over. Check out the sky!!! We saw this on the drive over and I freaked out about it's awesomeness and made Jim pull over so I could get a picture. It's so incredible to see the division between air masses. It's not clear here but starting at that line and stretching behind us as far as we could see there were developing thunderstorms, so the bright blue contrast was indescribable.

And.... we saw a few goats. We almost missed them and it wasn't as spectacular of a show as the sheep gave us, but it was great to see them. By this time we were both exhausted. Our legs were still tired from all the stairs in Yellowstone plus fatigued by the elevation gains on our hikes here (since everything either goes down into a cayon, up out of a canyon, or both at different points). All we wanted to do then was hang out at camp with our tradition of bottled root beer by the fire.

We aren't really trying to pick favorites, but I think Glacier picked itself as a definite favorite for both of us and it didn't even have to try. I love it here and would go back in an instant - in the summer of course. We've been inspired to try and get some land and have a summer home in the mountains because we just didn't want to leave. Of course we still need to graduate, get jobs, get a regular home, and then save a whole ton of money before that is an option but the dream has been born, which means the poor girls may not get our spare change anymore. I'm going to go find myself a peanut butter jar and start saving.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Glacier Part 1

Beauty is everywhere. There are only a few places that I struggle to find something beautiful about, but just because I can find beauty almost anywhere does not mean that I think everywhere is equally pretty. Even if I had before, I wouldn't now. Glacier National Park is that amazing.

This was a real treat because we've both had it on our summer vacation bucket lists for a couple years. The drive there from West Yellowstone was fantastic, and I think we were both completely in love with Montana before we even got to the park. Granted, it is summer. That's an easy time to fall in love with Montana.

We arrived at the park in the evening and naturally set up camp right away. We wanted to get started on the Going to the Sun road before the sun dropped too low in the sky. We stopped at some of the main switchbacks so we could get out and drool over the gorgeousness of it all for a while. The lighting was a little harsh, but I still love how the pictures turned out.

Looking at how the forest has recovered from previous fires gives me hope for the hillsides burning from the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado right now. We may try to control it, but nature will always prevail. After time the mountains around my hometown will be lovely again, just as these are.

There really are no words to describe how incredible it is.

Jim was lucky enough to get his wish! He's always wanted to see Bighorn sheep in the wild and we got quite a good show from these guys. They were coming down the mountain to cross the road. I was taking about a million pictures in the hope that one would turn out ok (since I had to hold the camera out the window and couldn't look through it). When I stopped to see how they were turning out these two guys smacked their horns together like something on the Discovery Channel. I caught the tail end of it, but missed the big smack because I was staring at a 2 inche LCD screen. Note to self: take 8 million pictures but look through them LATER.

We were about as close to them as we could be.

As evidenced by this guy right by my window.

I was more concerned with bears here than most of the places we camp. I'm not sure why. There weren't any bear lockers at each campsite and we were allowed to keep food in the car, unlike some places we've been. There wasn't a resident bear in the campsite like when we were at Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, and there hadn't been any recent sightings posted at the ranger station. Even still, I was nervous. We decided to set up our grill and cook dinner at a picnic area in the park rather than back at camp. We were right by a lovely lake with a deer who just hung out with us for a while.

It seemed that everywhere we looked there were more waterfalls.

I totally love the blossoms of the bear grass. It's crazy to think that it sends up a stalk of blooms once every 5-10 years.

After reaching the end of the road and turning around we were surprised to see the sheep were still hanging around. Despite all the traffic, cameras, and gawking tourists, they just did their own thing. This guy was standing so majestic he looked just like a statue to me.

We headed back, crashed in the tent, and awaited the adventures of the coming day. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


We left the kids in the care of the grandparents and took off. The girls are spending two weeks with family in Utah and so we finished our vacation alone. They are in good hands, and had a blast sleeping in my parents trailer and becoming Junior Rangers. I'm guessing we are hardly even missed.

On our way out of Yellowstone we stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs because it's the one thing that I always want to see when I think of Yellowstone. I confess I was a touch disappointed. In my mind I imagined the whole thing would be active and have since come to accept that is quite unrealistic. Mammoth is rather large and apparently the total volume of water emerging from the springs hardy varies but the parts of the springs which are active will change frequently. Now that I look at the pictures I think it was pretty cool but at the time it didn't speak to me quite so much. I just expected something much more grand.

Suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of several elk. They were everywhere near the North Entrance to the park and not affected by people, cars, or other sources of commotion.

Every time we go somewhere we send ourselves a postcard with a description of what we did there. Since this was park visit #23 we're getting quite a nice collection of them. We made sure to get the card in the mail before we headed on our way. I loved these bear statues flanking the doors of the post office. We hopped back in the car and drove for the better part of the day. Alone. Which meant there were no requests for snacks, questions about how long until we stopped, or movies blaring too loudly into headphones. Strange, but nice. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yellowstone in Pictures

We spent 3 nights in Yellowstone and I took 700 pictures. Seriously.  There is no way I can adequately summarize the whole trip so here is a quick photographic journey through our adventures. I know I love to look at pictures as I blog-stalk others, so I'm humoring myself to think you want to do the same to us. Here it goes, a quick photographic summary of our time in Yellowstone. It is in no way complete, think of it as the Cliff-notes version of our stay.

The sign pic. Enough said.

When we were about a mile into the park traffic stopped abruptly. It turns out a tree fell across the road about four cars ahead of us. Jim went and volunteered his man-muscle to help get it moved away. We were stopped for a half hour or so in which time I heard "I want to go see Grandma" at least 6000 times.

After making it through the traffic jam we stopped to see how soon Old Faithful was supposed to erupt. Since it was only about 20 minutes later we waited for the show. The girls tired quickly of the waiting, but thought the eruption was pretty neat.

There were Bison - of course. We had a great show from this guy who stood right next to the road licking his lips until he dropped and rolled in the dirt. 

And then there was jumping...

And more jumping...

Along with hiking...

And some more jumping...

Followed by some needed meditation. Seriously, who doesn't like to ponder quietly while in nature?

This is perhaps my favorite picture of the entire trip. Ellie and her Moose Tracks. I really would love to know what kids are thinking sometimes. I looked at this picture probably 20 times in the hour after I took it because it makes me laugh every time.

Grandma and Grandpa gave each of the girls $5 to pick out something from the gift shop. That is quite a feat since everything there is a bit more than that. Ellie decided to buy the first thing she saw that was in her price range (a little black bear with velcro on it's paws) but Aeryn stewed over that money for a long time before settling on the little brown moose with velcro on it's feet. I swear the money was burning a hole in her pocket and she could think of nothing else except how to try and multiply it so she could get the $20 bear in the pink ranger vest.

Practicing reading the geyser signs.

Smooches by a waterfall.

Gorgeous colored pools.

Enamored with their new hydration packs.

Self portrait by the falls. Aeryn wore this scarf of Grandma's for probably two days straight. She wasn't even cold. I think she just likes to wear things of Grandma's.

And another. What can I say? It's what I do.

Hiking down a million and a half steps to see the lower Yosemite falls. I think there were actually 340, but it felt like a million and a half by the time we were at the top again. On the way back up we saw the tail end of a marmot scurrying across the rocky outcroppings.

Seeing rainbows in the waterfalls.

It was an amazingly full few days. The weather was gorgeous and for the first time I didn't freeze to death at night while camping, thank you to the air mattress! We all had fun. 

The end. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

On the Road Again

We loaded up the mini-van and headed off. Let's just start by saying that it was a rental. As a friend questioned my being a mini-van mom with less than 3 kids I feel the need to make that disclaimer. We rented it and it was wonderful to have enough space for all our camping stuff AND us! The next stop was Grand Teton National Park. Spoiler alert: (un)fortunately none of us got lost and were rescued by Harrison Ford in is private plane. Darn.

It was pretty windy when we stopped at the sign, windy enough that Ellie was trying to hold it still. The girls didn't care though, I think they were just thrilled to get out of the car. Taking the pictures at the sign is always the beginning of doing something fun so they are usually quite happy about it. Besides, we tend to encourage general silliness at this point and that goes over pretty well too.

This was another quick stop. We were in the park for only a few hours on our way to Yellowstone, but wanted to be certain to do a little hike at least. We picked a quick 3.0ish mile route to Taggart Lake. It was Ellie's first hike and she did a really great job!

Most of the hike looked something like this until Jim had the brilliant idea of the girls switching off who they hiked with for a while. He would hike with Ellie for a while and Aeryn would hike with me. Watching the distance on his Garmin he'd yell out "switch!" and the girls would swap places so Ellie was with me and Aeryn was with him. We were both surprised as to how well it worked. They both got one on one time with each of us and it made the hike go quite quickly. He's such a good dad. I know I've said it before and I know I'll say it again, but I totally won the lottery finding him. Hiking on Father's Day just proved it again.

Even though the hike went really smoothly, the little ladybugs did want a break now and again. They carried their own water in our Oregon Track Club bags so the break may have been more because they were excited about their water bottles than because they were tired. Why is it that a plastic bottle makes water something really special to a kid?

We reached the lake and amazingly no one fell in! The kids did test the laws of physics somewhat as they tempted fate on that front. Ellie did slip and get one foot in, but that is minimal compared to what was possible.

Check out that sexy mug. Grrrrr.

Aeryn seems so grown up to me now. Perhaps it's because I gave her my old sunglasses. Yes, I'm sure that's it. It can't be because she's actually growing up.

Don't the kids look thrilled?

We couldn't complete the loop around the lake because a bridge was out so we had a really nice out-and-back hike. The lake was beautiful and we found this pretty little spot with a view of the mountains.

And just because it's gorgeous, a picture of a rock. The contact is incredible. I'd say I'm sorry for being a nerd but Jim would just look at me and say "no, you're not" - sorry that is. I can't help being a geek.

Heading back down the trail was the easiest part. The kids knew the next stop had grandparents and were a little anxious for that. It's like they just knew they were about to be spoiled! It was a FANTASTIC beginning to our camping adventure. Everyone stayed happy, cooperative, and willing to keep going - not to mention the Teton's are gorgeous beyond description. It was a perfect day.