After waking up bright and early we rolled into the Glacier National Park, and Apgar Campground Friday morning right around 7:30am.
As luck would have it, a trailer was leaving and we pulled right into their spot.
Apgar was a perfect base camp for us while in the area, Joe was flying back to Seattle that evening and it was fairly close to the airport in Kalispell MT for being in Glacier National Park.
After paying for the campsite, we unloaded the box (heavy ass thing hanging off the back of the van) and headed back into the town of Columbia Falls to get some work done and drop in to the 12pm class at Hellroaring CrossFit.
We were welcomed immediately at the CrossFit gym and felt so at home there!
The owners, Gabe and Sarah, are great people and it was really reflected in the gym and the members.
The first day we took the noon class, then stayed after to do some of our own lifting, where we had so many folks stay and talk with us about our journey that we just felt like we were at our home gym!
Tatos in the Wild
The rest of the day we ran errands, drank a LOT of coffee and eventually met Jacky and Stacy in Kalispell, where they basically hugged Joe then we took him to the airport for his flight to Seattle.
With Joe gone it was a girls weekend in the van! Woo!
We arrived back at base camp, set up the van, jumped in Lake McDonald, had a few glasses of wine and stayed up late catching up on all things van life and Seattle.
Saturday morning, we slept in, had coffee, and did some lifting in the campground before catching the Glacier National Park shuttle bus from the campground (how convenient) and heading up the Going to the Sun Road.
Along the way we stopped and hiked Avalanche Lake, which was a fairly easy, heavily trafficked hike. And once at the lake, I would definitely advise to walk all the way to the far end, that way you escape some of the crowd and can have a nice lunch spot looking up at some very impressive waterfalls.
At Avalanche Lake I jumped in and swam around a bit, the lake was cold, but bearable, and on a hot day I imagine it would be incredibly refreshing.
During our return trek around the lake a lady stopped us and asked if we saw the bear near us… we hadn’t. So, she showed us some photos of a mama bear and two cubs cruising down the shoreline maybe 100-200 yards away from us before she turned up into the brush!
Then it was time to head down the trail and onto the shuttle.
But we weren’t done yet!
This time we rode the shuttle all the way up to Logan Pass.
For those of you who have ridden the Going to the Sun Road you know how epic this drive is!
Fortunately, for us, this was Saturday afternoon and the forest fires in this are hadn’t started yet, so we’re able to see some of the amazing vistas and peaks.
By the time we arrived at Logan Pass it was late afternoon, and the last shuttle heads down at 7pm, so we had just about 2.5 hours to explore. We opted to hike to the Hidden Lake Lookout and we were so glad we did!
Hiking in the evening is always a great because the crowds definitely thin out. We saw a far off big horn sheep, a dozen or so mountain goats, and a few fat marmots. Oh, and the view at the lookout was by far one of the best in the park.
After taking the shuttle back to camp, we were feeling pretty tired, and the girls got to experience showering in the van before having a delicious dinner of fish tacos and you guessed it… some more wine!
Sunday we woke up with big aspirations of more hiking, only to find that two of the campgrounds up towards Lake McDonald had been evacuated and the road was closed due to a fire that had started the night before.
White Water Rafting
So, we opted to walk around Apgar village and do some souvenir shopping before heading down to Glacier Rafting for an afternoon white water trip.
This was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon and see some really beautiful scenery along the river. The water was so pristinely blue and clear we could even see some lost iPhones on the bottom! Ha!
After a four hour float we grabbed some coffee to warm us up and some ice cream to cool us back down… because, as Jacky would say “reasons.”
That evening we had a campfire and s’mores before heading off to bed.
Monday we drove into Columbia Falls so I could work for a few hours, and Stacy and Jacky dropped into the 12pm class at Hellroaring CrossFit.
We hung out at the gym for a while doing some other workouts and lifts while I finished up my work day.
Again, I can’t express the gratitude to Gabe and Sarah for letting us share their space, working at the gym began a common practice for me the upcoming week and I really really appreciated their hospitality.
Monday afternoon we swung into the airport and picked up Joe before heading to Backslope breading for some tasty lunch bowls (and really tasty nitro cold brew).
At this point the Going to the Sun road was still closed and it was apparent that this fire was not going to be contained anytime soon. The sky was filled with smoke and we decided to go for a swim in the lake instead of trying to drive anywhere for hiking.
Monday was the girls last night with us and also the last night you could have a campfire in the park. So, we sat around chatting and eating more s’mores before crashing for the night.
Tuesday was another work day for us so we drove into town to have coffee and get the girls breakfast at Montana Coffee Traders before sending them off back to Seattle.
Just like with my parents, having friends come visit makes my heart happy and full. These girls are some of our best friends and for them to trek 10+ hrs just to spend a long weekend was really special. I hope I can convince them to fly someplace else along our route.
Another Round of CrossFit & Work
That afternoon Joe and I hopped around coffee shops before heading, you guessed it, back to the gym!
We spent the afternoon working and working out and chatting with Gabe and Sarah. It was really fun getting to know them as well as the members in their community.
With all the smoke in Glacier National Park we were debating how long we would stay on the West side of the park, but we would have to finish up our work week over here because we couldn’t get internet on the east side of Glacier.
At some point over the next few days we both snagged appointments with Gabe who is a physical therapist and practices dry needling.
Now, Joe and I have both had acupuncture but dry needling was a whole other ball game! If you have never had it done it is basically acupuncture style needles stabbing your muscles repeatedly! Sounds fun right! It was!
We Found Family!
Another fun small world coincidence, we learned Emily’s cousin Julie and family were vacationing in Glacier. We met up with them at a local coffee shop and caught up for an hour or so. It was great to see them and hear about their trip and upcoming adventures and showing their kids our big van.
The East Side of Glacier National Park
Knowing Thursday would be our last day in Columbia Falls we said goodbye to the folks at the gym and prepared to head to the East side of Glacier National Park where we hoped we could at least get some hikes in. Joe still hadn’t been able to do anything in the park!
Heading east we decided to camp at Johnson’s of St. Mary’s, an independent campground that had laundry, showers and wi-fi.
This worked out well since we both needed to work on Friday, and we decided to stay for two nights.
The campground is also about 1.5 miles from the St. Mary’s visitor center where the shuttle stops. And after working a partial day we decided to run into the park and take the shuttle up to Logan Pass for an afternoon hike.
During the run, Emily decided to face plant on the sidewalk and twisted her ankle showing off her pure grace and agility. She’s 100% fine and we couldn’t find the rock that grabbed her!
It was nice, a bit of the smoke had lifted in the afternoon so on the shuttle ride up the mountain we were able to see some of the landscape surrounding us.
Once at the top we decided to hike a portion of the high divide trail, where we went about 3.5 miles out before turning back to be sure we had plenty of time to catch the last shuttle back down.
The high divide trail was really fun, it hugged the ridge line for most of it and on a clear day I’m sure the views are hard to beat!
We made it back to the shuttle stop with about 1.5 hrs to spare, so we climbed part way up the Hidden Lake trail.
Boy were we glad we did, there was a herd of 12-15 big horn sheep crossing the trail about a mile up!
Many Glacier Campground
The next day we packed up the van and headed out to the Many Glacier Campground where we decided we would spend the next evening.
Grinnell Glacier Trail
That afternoon we set out on the Grinnell Glacier Trail, which ended up being about a 14 mile trek.
Again, this trail was really beautiful and you ended in this amazing glacial basin with one of the coldest lakes we’ve ever encountered! We could only imagine how cool this would be without the mar of smoke.
When back in camp, were running low on water so we opted to “shower” in the creek, aka lay down in the creek and hope the water washed the dirt away. We’re convinced it worked!
Uncertain of our plans for Sunday we headed to bed. Waking up we decided we had had enough of the smoke and we started our trek towards Badlands National Park.
But wait! More surprise guests were on our way!