Hello everyone - thanks for returning after a week's break from Mosaic Monday! The visit from #1 Daughter and her boyfriend was memorable, and extra special since #1 Son is already here and joined in the frolic when he wasn't occupied with job search activities. On their first day, it was already mid-afternoon by the time we got home from the airport, so we made no plans other than showing The Boyfriend around the house and property. Vacation calorie intake began in earnest with a afternoon snack of huckleberry pie and ice cream. (And of course, Head Chef prepared a dinner fit for kings - ribs, smoked turkey, cornbread, salad.)
As we planned the activities for their visit, the duo asked us to challenge them physically. "Wear us out," The Boyfriend said. So, the next day, the Montana workout began. Kayaking on the river sounds simple enough, but it requires logistics such as dropping off one vehicle at the takeout point, and ensuring that the right gear is in the correct vehicle. We managed to get all five of us out of the house on time, but the takeout point was not well-marked, and we arrived at our first destination, Polebridge, with 2 rigs. Oh well. Not the end of the world. We snagged some home-made baked goods from the famous Polebridge Mercantile, settled all of us into one vehicle and drove the short six miles to Bowman Lake. Its spectacular surroundings never get old.
We backtracked to the put-in point near Polebridge, and left the "kids" to inflate the kayaks and pack raft while Spousal Unit and I took his truck to the takeout at Coal Creek. A Mercantile member of staff gave us directions, and in no time we had returned to inspect the boats and were ready to float nine miles of the North Fork of the Flathead River. At this time of year, low water means rocks and log jams are nearer to the surface, requiring vigilance and carefully chosen channels. Early in the trip, Spousal Unit and #1 Daughter collided with a tree and tipped over, but in such shallow water that it was not a major event. It was a warm, blue-sky day and we made one stop to swim.
We had hoped for smoke-free skies during their stay, and we got our wish. Haze can make for interesting sunsets, but I would prefer my air without particulate! That night we enjoyed tasty lasagne on the deck, with an ever-changing sky for entertainment.
On Day 2, Spousal Unit and The Boyfriend went fishing while #1 Daughter and I engaged in retail therapy followed by a picnic at the beach. In keeping with the "workout" theme, fishing entailed a 2.5 mile hike (one way) to Lupine Lake, and paddling a pack raft as needed throughout the day. Lifting a margarita at the beach was a little less strenuous!!! The Boyfriend caught a half-dozen fish, and perhaps more importantly (from my perspective), he saw a bull moose on the way to the trailhead. We call that visitor's luck!!!
Now, Day 3 would be the true test. Destination: the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park. 13.4 miles and 2700 feet elevation gain. I have written about this hike in a previous post, in which I note that we left the house at 6.45 AM in order to secure a parking spot at the Loop and catch a shuttle. That was 2017 and this is 2020 - departure was advanced to 5.30 AM. Glacier has become an extremely popular place, and the fact that half of the Park is closed has exacerbated parking issues. Even with 45 extra minutes, we still experienced parking challenges! But, as always, it was worth the anxiety.
It was lightly raining as we began our adventure; later in the day, with the hot sun and dusty trail conditions, we would have welcomed that precipitation! Immediately, the hike began to deliver on our expectations, with a mountain goat, massive cliffs, and abundant flowers along the Garden Wall. It had been at least 10 years since #1 Daughter had done this hike, so both members of the duo could be heard exclaiming over the beauty, or shaking their heads at the wonder of the views.
Although this was my fourth time experiencing the Highline, we typically go earlier in the summer. I was fascinated by the difference in the flowers one month later in the season.
This hike offered another first for all of us - the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. After seven miles, intrepid explorers have the "opportunity" to ascend more than 900 feet in less than nine-tenths of a mile. In keeping with the challenge to "wear us out", it was a no-brainer. The climb is mostly steady, but there are sections that are very steep. I am pretty sure that we were pausing to catch our breath rather than letting other people have the right-of-way as they descended the narrow path that pitches straight down if you take a wrong step! And here is the reward!
You may have already noticed the lack of other people in my photos. Trust me, that requires some patience and some camera agility. The Highline Trail is an incredibly popular hike; I would guess that we shared it with at least 250 people that day. And yet, you can still reliably see wildlife - goats, marmots, bighorn sheep. And this time, we saw a new animal for me - a pika. No picture, but so adorable!
Are you still with me? Yep, now you know how the duo felt. Four miles of down, down, down still remained to close out this hike. But along the way, you earn fabulous views of the terrain that we had already traversed. Can you see the faint line in the center of the picture below? That is the trail to Grinnell Glacier Overlook.
The switchbacks seemed endless and only the thought of the creek at the end kept the team moving. Upon arrival, all of us threw off our boots and socks and plunged knee-deep into the glacier-cold water. Aaahhh. The Boyfriend didn't hesitate to go all the way in - after all, ice baths are de rigueur for athletes! He was smiling even as he professed that the trail had "kicked his patootie". Mission accomplished!
Even pro athletes need rest days, and as master vacation planners, we had the forethought to schedule nothing for Day 4. Some folks caught up on podcasts, or read a book. The kids raided the toy closet and we played Scattergories, Sequence and Euchre. I recently began a new cross-stitch project that will become a throw pillow for #1 Daughter and The Boyfriend. What a treat to sit on the deck and stitch! We closed out the evening around the firepit, with s'mores to boot.
And suddenly, we only had one full day remaining. Day 5 began with a short (2.7 miles one way) but technical hike to Leigh Lake. Steep sections and rock scrambles keep your focus sharp! (Spousal Unit and I completed this trail on May 9 and it was covered with snow. So watch for a future post with comparison shots.) For this post, I will just show you the family shot at the lake, courtesy of a fellow hiker.
#1 Daughter and I enjoyed ice creams as Spousal Unit drove home. Ah, summer! The duo treated us to dinner that night at the Kila Pub, and everyone was sleepy by the time we pulled into our driveway. Sigh, the end of another family visit. My only consolation is that I am sure the mountains will soon be calling them back!
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