OH! Montana; my favorite state of the whole 50.
I feel like I was a bit gypped on the state. I left Yellowstone after sunset, meaning I drove through Montana in the dark. I remember all the white crosses along the highway marking the fatalities- 127 already for 2018, I counted them as I drove. I didn’t realize I was driving through mountains, over passes with spectacular views. I arrived to my AirBnB by 1AM. I had plans to watch the sunrise at Glacier National Park- driving up ‘Going to the Sun’ road. I had booked this AirBnB specifically for location and laundry. I’m staying in Whitefish, MT. the cutest mountain AND lake town. Quiet hours started 3 hours before I arrived, I’d have to do laundry in the morning. I came in and went right to bed. I was still hoping to wake up at a decent time.
Glacier National Park
It didn’t matter. I did wake up at a decent time, but if I’m not there for sunrise, than I have no need to rush. Instead, I showered and did laundry as I got ready for the day. I arrived to the park by 11, thinking 4 hours is plenty of time to drive the route and be on my way. Originally, I’d made Montana more of a drive through state. The only thing on my list was Going to the Sun Rd. As I advised the gate of the park I read ‘Going to the Sun rd. CLOSED’ ugh!! First the hot springs in Utah, now this!? As always, I made the best of it. Going to the Sun Rd. closes after the first snow fall.
Dressed to drive through the park, I never expected to do a strenuous hike, but 2 miles doesn’t seem that far on a sign. I drove as far as I could- 16 miles into the park until I hit the closure gate. The closure gate ended immediately passed Avalanche campground– the parking lot here was packed with cars waiting. I waited patiently for a spot, too. It took about 15 minutes before I found one.
It was very congested because every turnout on the way had been blocked, too. There was construction going on during the off season. Anyway, I didn’t plan on a hike today, just driving… so I was dressed in just my converse, thin leggings, a sweater and light winter jacket. I figured for 2 mi, it would be fine.
Hiking Avalanche Lake trail, Glacier NP
I ended up hiking over 4 miles total- to the lake and back. It was about 36F degrees, and snow was melting all around me in this cedar forest. I mean like softball sized chunks of ice falling from branches as high as 80 feet. You could hear them falling; I dodged all the massive clumps of snow and ice- barely. At one point it hit so close it covered my shoes, they got soaked. The ground was covered in mud and piles of snow but I kept trudging along. There were so many times I wanted to give up and turn around. Although it was longer than the Delicate Arch hike and pretty strenuous it didn’t seem as hard, maybe because it wasn’t as hot.
Majority of the hike is inclined. I ended up making it to the lake after about 2 hours. It was formed by glaciers and is very remote. This park was insanely beautiful. Unfortunately, I couldn’t capture the true beauty with my camera. I could not clearly capture the ice capped mountains beyond the clouds but I’ll never forget. It was literally breathtaking. I stayed here for a while. Eventually I made my way back to my car.
Lake McDonald, Glacier NP
The way back was a lot easier, all downhill, but scarier because I was completely alone in bear country with no spray. Clearly, I made it out alive. I got to my car way behind schedule at this point, mind you, and decided to stop one more time.
I wanted to stop at Lake McDonald, a pretty area I had passed on my way up. I stopped here and met a very friendly nurse from Oklahoma. She took some pictures of me and we chatted for 20 minutes. I never got her name but I was so happy to have met her. Even though it was brief, I’m learning more about myself by my interaction with strangers. I’m also finding more kindness than I had expected.
I hopped back on the road right before sundown in pursuit of food. I found a brewery right near Woods Bay– which by the way, I would love to have a vacation home on this bay; gorgeous. However, by the time I finished dinner it was dark and I was driving through Montana practically blind all over again. I had never known about how pretty Montana was, it was never on my radar but I am so excited to plan a warmer trip there. (AND I DID in 2019)
Spoiler Alert: I’ve been back and spent a few days camping in Glacier. This is by far my favorite state. I also got to see more of it- driving in the daytime. I came from Yellowstone again- it was August 2019. I’ll post about it in my American Roadtrip 2019.