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Trip Report Part 1 - Road Trip from Alabama to GNP and Canada -July 3 - 8, 2012

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My family of four (2 Adults, 2 Teens) finally were able to take our Chevy Chase vacation! Thirteen days on the road and twelve nights! For this trip, we planned to drive! from our home in Alabama to Glacier National Park. The reasons we chose to drive were convenience, the adventure, the delay in flights to nearby airports (we use SWA) and it seemed more efficient to us. So many things we wouldnt have seen if we hadnt driven. Along the way as I was planning our Glacier trip, I discovered Banff and Jasper AL CA and the Icefiend Pkwy...so we just HAD to go there too! Our goal was to zoom up to Glacier and then begin to slow down and enjoy our trip and then sightsee along the way back home. It was one of the best trips we ever took, although we have been on many fabulous vacations! No regrets!

We rented a minivan for the trip and began our journey the afternoon of July 3, 2012. While hubby worked 1/2 day, I picked up the rental van at the airport and came home to load. I had everything packed already and as soon as he got home, we hit the road. We were able to drive 8 .5 hrs and spent the night in Warranton, MO. Day 2, we drove to Murdo, SD, which was our longgg day 12.5 hrs approx. We stopped for a bit in Mitchell SD to see the Corn Palace. My teens were satisfied during the trip thanks to the CHrysler T & C minivan that I rented had power outlets, so they played their Wii and slept. No complaints although everyone was tired. Stayed at a Best Western in Murdo. The key to our trip was detailed planning and reservations! There arent many hotels in Murdo and this BW was rated the best. As it was the 4th of July, we saw fireworks on occasion from the window of the van and also some sporadic ones after we checked into our hotel around 9:30pm. Limited places to eat at night in Murdo...Subway was satisfactory.

Day 3, we again got up and left early for our final road day until we arrived in Glacier. Our destination was Choteau, Mt to spend the night and be able to stock up on groceres before we hit the national park. This day was also about 12 hrs of driving. Very interesting though as we passed by Badlands NP and planned to stop on our way back. We drove to Choteau, MT, which was a nice little town. Had reservations at the Stage Stop Inn which was very nice and reasonable. The next morning,we got our grociers and continued our journey to St Mary to enter the park.

Day 4, Drove from Choteau to St Mary and stopped to have a late lunch at Johnson's Cafe. What a treat that was! Such a fun local place to eat! Then we drove on to Many Glacier Hotel, where we had three long days and 2 nights. Be aware that the parking lot for this hotel is up a steep embankment...Not close enough to run back and forth for things. We had a balcony double room in the main building, but folks, let me tell you, it was a very small crowded room for four. We have stayed in double rooms at many national parks, and this was the smallest room we ever had, so the balcony was nice to spread out. (For our next adventure to the Grand Canyon, I have reserved two rooms). Also, we were on the 3rd floor and there are no elevators. The hotel is as beautiful as everyone raves about, but with the very long days, we werent there much at all. As it was July, the sun didnt set until at least 9:00 or 9:30pm every night. The weather for us was just beautiful....clear skies and very warm temps...in the 80s....though we packed and were prepared for sudden drops and took layers everywhere. We did the hike around the lake and drove the first part of the GTTSR that afternoon/evening. Hiked St Marys/Virginia Falls, stopped at Sun Rift Gorge and hiked Baring Falls. Saw several deer on the trails...grazing...took photos and left them along. Just enjoyed the drive and the hikes. There are no words to describe how beautiful, calm and peaceful St Marys Lake is. When we arrived at Logans Pass (July 6), over half the parking lot was still covered in snow. There were mountain goats all around the parking lot as it was late evening, though the sun was still up. We found the trailhead to Hidden Lake overlook covered in snow and slush in places..Again it was in the 80s and we were in our shorts...There were actually some skiers on the adjacent mountain ranges...The trail was pretty crowded by all kinds of unprepared tourists...walking in flip flops through the snow (bet they didnt get far as it was deep at some points). But again, it was very hot...We didnt plan to hike there our first day, but on our way leaving the park, so at least we knew what to plan for and expect. Dont forget your sunglasses, folks...there is no shade! Beautful day!

Day 5 (July 7)We got up and had breakfast in our room from food that we brought...(Do you know how long it takes for 4 people to get up, eat, shower and be get dressed?) We had Chief Two Guns reserved for the boat ride across the lake. We went on the ranger-lead hike to Grinnell Lake, hiked to Hidden Falls and then continued on the hike to Grinnell Glacier. The hike to Grinnell Lake was very easy for us and enjoyable. The facts presented by the ranger was very interesting. As continued on the Grinnell Glacier, it was obvious this was a much more difficult hike. Very rocky, steep at some points, narrow and all uphill. It was 80 + degrees and I was desperate for shade to have our picnic lunch. There was no shade to be found. Very ironic that it was so warm on this hike, but at the end, we were crossing through snow while wearing our shorts! Be prepared, friends! Hiking poles were very useful for this hike. Although the entire hike was not open to the Glacier, we did hike as far as we could to where the trail was closed. We saw lots of baby mountain goats the higher we were...had snacks while watching several goat families nearby. Their coloring blended in well with the snow and we could have easily overlooked them. This hike was tough on my knees on the way down..I am thinking I went too fast as it was steep and easy to keep going. Be aware...but did use my hiking poles all the way. My teens ran up the hill all the way and were waiting on us...they also ran down the hill..I was worried I might find their broken bodies somewhere as I passed. They love this hike! The view of the glacier was incredible, just so beautiful! A reminder for all hikes - carry food, more water than you think due to altitude, bear spray, layered clothing, hat, sunglasses and great attitude when the hike gets long...the views are so worth it! And highly recommend the boat ride across the lake after such a long hike. After rest and naps in our hotel room we drove over to the Swiftcurrent Inn and had dinner in the restaurant there. No reservations, but the wait wasnt too bad...definitely reserve to save time!..We enjoyed their pizza and spaghetti. Afterwards, we hike around Fishercap Lake...Deer were the only wildlife we saw...Later that evening, had ice cream in the snack bar at the hotel.That evening clouds came in and the wind blew in a short storm. The temps dropped probably 25 degrees just like that and I was so glad I had my Yellowstone Park sweatshirt! The next day, the weather was back to warm and sunny!

Day 6 (July 8) Had our last views from out balcony, packed up and headed on our way to continue our journey. I think everyone was tired from the fast pace and long hikes...so we were fine to move on. We headed to Logan Pass to hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. Still plenty of snow there..boardwalk was completely covered, though the trail was open and the rangers encouraged us to trek on...Trail was crowded, as I said before, with lots of unprepared tourists...They hiked a bit and then returned freezing due to wet feet, though outside temps were hot! The trail is not steep, but a stead climb..very beautiful in the snow, but wear the correct shoes! And we definitely needed our hiking poles! I kept waiting to fall down as it was slippery, but that didnt happend until the return trip back down the hill, ha. After the hike, we continued our drive along the GTTSR... More spectacular than words with all the waterfalls full of melted snow rushing near the roadside...Lots of traffic allowed us to enjoy it even more as we were in no hurry. Our goal for the day was to enjoy the drive and end up in Eureka, Mt near the Canadian border, which was just a short drive. We stopped at Lake McDonald to look around and picniced along Avalanche Creek. This was one of my kids favorite places as they just hung out and threw a football around. Very lovely...parking was a challenge as we arrived early afternoon along with everyone else. But it is all good. They wanted to wade in the water a bit, but the water was freezing due to snowmelt. We had dinner in Whitefish at The Shak and ice cream later on. We also found a self-serve car wash which we desperately needed after the long road trip. Our goal was to spend the night just outside the Canadian border so we would be rested for the drive into a foreign country the next day! We arrived in Eureka and spent the night at one of the few places around, the Ksanka Inn..it is attached to a convenience store. It was a basic roadside motel, but the room was pretty large. It was very inexpensive and the owners were helpful. Be sure to reserve to insure a room. (See next posting for the rest of the trip)

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