Back to Portland

The DesertOur trek from Glacier National Park back to Portland was rather uneventful, and yet satisfying.  We drove all the way through, only stopping in Coeur D’Alene for lunch (which was a completely unexpected yet beautiful city in Idaho).  Again, somewhere in Montana we hit a giant hailstorm of bugs.  We seemed to literally drive through a wall of them with some as big as your fist.

As we drove through the dry areas, we watched the outside temperature gauge in the car reach as high as 106ºF.  Rachel wanted to know what that feels like, so at 70Mph we opened the windows and stuck our arms out.  It felt just like a blow dryer, and closed went the windows.

Dust DevilAlong the way we saw a ton of dust devils, which is kind of neat as I don’t remember ever seeing them this large before.  They look like mini tornadoes, and they seemed to tear across the skyline with a fury.

After crossing into Oregon we followed the Columbia River along I84, a large section of which we had taken before.  As the sun set, we were provided beautiful views of Mt Hood clear as day right over the river.  The most beautiful sight however was as we were passing Multnomah Falls and the sunlight was peaking through some clouds so only the falls were lit up.  It almost made us turn around, but we pushed on.

Mt Hood over the Columbia River

We arrived at George and Stacie’s with just enough time to show them some pictures and then head to bed.

Even just driving through, the scenery out here is beautiful and fulfilling.

Iceberg Lake

It just wouldn’t be right to go to the backpacking paradise that is Glacier National Park without doing some hiking.  To that end we decided to hike the 10 miles (round trip) to Iceberg lake.  The trail starts near Many Glacier Hotel which happens to be on the opposite side of the park from where we were staying, a mere 2 hours drive over the Going to the Sun road.  There was a Ranger guided hike at 8:30 in the morning so we went for that.

flowersOf course, the scenery from the road was beautiful but we also saw plenty of animals.  A herd of Elk were grazing in a field and 2 Coyotes were hunting mice or rabbits or something.  When we got to the trail head, we were a few minutes late so the Ranger and the group had already started off.  Not a big deal, we’d just meet them on the trail.  We grabbed our packs and off we went.  First thing we see? A bear, just a black bear but only about 50 ft off the trail and very startling.  Then we caught up to the group about a tenth of a mile in.  The group with the Ranger was about 25 strong and included an 80 something year old man and his family.  He had hiked this same trail about 30 years earlier and was looking to see how things had changed (or remained the same).

Iceberg LakeAbout a mile in we took a break and the Ranger started a game featuring the local flora.  She’d tell the person immediately behind her the name of some wild flower and that person would tell everyone that passed the name of the flower.  Then she’d tell the next person… and so on.  It was fun!  There were so many different flowers, we cycled through everyone about twice and only covered about half of them!

As with everywhere we’ve been, the scenery was amazing throughout the entire hike.  The hike itself was incredibly rewarding and the lake was the prettiest lake this side of Crater Lake.  I can now say I’ve stood on an Iceberg for the first time, although Rachel was afraid to jump across the small gap of glacier runoff water to join me.  I have to admit, the thought it would get bumped and float out into the lake leaving me stranded was definitely there.

A hike back, another bear and a restful evening.  A great day in Glacier!

Red Bus Tour through Glacier

Since we were only in the park for a few days, we wanted to see and learn as much as possible.   What better way than a guided tour through the entire park on one of the old Red Buses?

st-mary-lakeWe struck out at 8:30 on the Crown of the Continent Tour with our guide Matt.  Matt was a nice guy who introduced himself as someone who’d grown up his whole life wishing he had a place in the backwoods where he couldn’t be bothered.  He told us that once he saved enough money that’s exactly what he did.  His place is 8 miles from the nearest telephone, 4 miles from the nearest neighbor in the winter and 1 mile in the summer.  He parks his truck and ski’s 2 miles into his house in the winter time because that’s as far as it’s plowed.  He has a generator for power but no TV, no internet and no phone.  I’m sure I could live that way if I had to, but I’m not sure I’d want to.  Still, it has a certain appeal.  I could probably write a whole post just on Matt so we’ll stop there.  There is an funny story involving Laura Bush though so maybe I’ll write that up some day.

The tour took us over the going to the sun road and back into Many Glacier Hotel for lunch.  It was amazing, and informative and the going to the sun road takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen.  We saw 9 of the park’s 27 Glaciers from the bus and countless Perennial Snow Fields.  Matt informed us that a glacier has 3 requirements.

  1. It must have a surface area greater than 25 acres
  2. It must be greater than 100ft thick
  3. It must be moving

If a chunk of ice meats some but not all of these requirements it’s considered a perennial snow field.  Yes, perennial because it comes back (or remains) every year just like your flowers.  Speaking of flowers, we got a glimpse of some of the alpine wildflowers while stopped at Logan’s Pass and they’re amazing!

goatsOn our way back through we stopped at a little parking lot just past Logan’s pass where the Mountain Goats hang out.  They were everywhere.  In the parking lot, on the walkways, on the rocks nearby, in the trees nearby, hanging out on the man made walls… literally everywhere.

The downside to making land like this accessible to the masses is you begin to affect the wildlife.  The goats are no exception.  Anti-Freeze is now a delicacy in their diet.  Don’t worry though, they can’t ingest enough of it to hurt them, remember… they’re hard core.   They live above 7,000ft 365 days a year, avalanche’s and all.

After the tour we cooked some hot dogs and pasta to end the night on a good note (full) and drifted off to sleep.

Spokane to Glacier

After a good night’s sleep in the worst hotel of the trip so far (seriously! we had to get maintenance to open our door after we left for 30 minutes for breakfast!) we headed out of Spokane, glad to be on the open road again.

Lake McDonald from Hotel RoomThe trip from Spokane to Glacier National Park was relatively uneventful save the giant bug storm we drove through in Montana.  It seemed bugs the size of your fist were hitting the windshield every 5 seconds or so and they definitely left their mark.

After arriving in Glacier we were greeted with a beautiful view of Lake McDonald from our balcony.

The Lake McDonald Lodge was beautiful, and reminded me of a miniaturized version of  the Old Faithful Inn.  I only wish they had these sorts of places in the Adirondacks.  Come to think of it maybe they could trade.  The Adirondacks could use these sorts of structures and the national parks (or at least the Lake McDonald Lodge) could certainly use some Adirondack furniture.  The chairs at the lodge fit in just fine but they’re crazy uncomfortable.

After dinner we just sort of relaxed and went to bed early, ready to take on the park tomorrow.

Planning our 3 week Hiatus

Rachel’s Brother George lives in Portland Oregon and he’s getting married in July (the 11th to be exact).  Since we’ll be trekking all the way across the country for the big event we’re planning on making a vacation of it.  We’ll be staying in the Pacific Northwest for 3 weeks.  The rough itinerary is Portland for about a week, Glacier National Park for about a week, Seattle for a few days and then back to Portland to fly home. Beyond that we have no idea.

We’re trying to plan as little as possible and just wing it but we’ve put together a tentative map of the route we might take and the places we want to see.

2009-trip-planView Larger Map

We don’t want to plan our trip but we do want ideas.  We’ve never been to the west coast or the pacific northwest and we need to know the cool stuff to do or see.  If you have been to this part of the country, please let us know what places you enjoyed (and those you didn’t) so we can add it to our list!