[Glacier National Park, MT]
Waking up on Sunday was great because the half marathon was done but also because we were just done with our last night in a tipi. I am grateful for the experience and it was definitely a unique way to spend the night, but there were two majors reasons that a 4th night in a tipi would have tested all of us:
- The temperature. The tipi is open on the top (unless it rains) to provide ventilation for the camp fire in the middle, and on the bottom – we slept on the grass. It got down into the 30s (2-3 C) at night, so that meant a really cold tipi. The camp fire in the middle is nice, but someone needs to keep putting wood in in overnight, and it also smoked a lot, ventilation and all.
- The ground squirrels. These little cute rodents were going back in their holes in the ground at night, but during the day, they had free reign of the place, and we did not appreciate them leaving is little pellets of poop on our bedding or nibbling on books, flip flops, sleeping mats or anything else left in the tipi.
When Olivia first suggested we make alternate sleeping arrangements after the first night, we shot her down. How dare she suggest – we were tougher than this. However, last night, tired from the half marathon and facing another night in a tipi, we decided to book a hotel room in Great Falls for tonight. Everyone else was flying out on Monday except myself and Laura, so it would bring them very close to the airport; May would be 2 hours closer to her home in Colorado, and Laura and I would have a chance to exchange our rental car – our windshield crack kept spreading. It seemed like a great idea, so we booked two rooms at a Holiday Inn in Great Falls.
On Sunday, we took some final farewell photos at the Logepole tipi village. There was a sign that said “No photos allowed”. Since our friend May is a photo fiend, that was a perfect spot for a funny photo. We took a carefully orchestrated photo there taking photos in front of the sign forbidding photos (we had permission, since we were paid campers).
The plan for the day was go into the park to complete the challenge hike. National park races are tough in and of themselves due to altitude and elevation changes, but what makes them even more challenging is the option to complete a strenuous hike within the national park within 72 hours of the race. The race organizers give us 3-4 options to pick from, and we have to take a picture at the top with our medal and bib to submit. Completing this challenge would give us a discount to a future race, not to mention a feature on the race organizers’ website and bragging rights. Of the 4 hikes we could do to complete the challenge, we picked Iceberg Lake.
On the way there, we stopped at the national park entrance to take a photo at the sign, and to marvel at the perfectly calm surface of Many Glacier lake.
Located in the Many Glacier area on the East side of the park, Iceberg Lake is a moderate hike going up 1200 ft in elevation over almost 5 miles. This is not a lot of elevation for such a distance, and we found the grade being gentle on our tired legs.
The beginning of the hike was gorgeous – we skirted the edge of a valley overlooking amazing rocks all around. The tall blooming flowers with the white puffs are called bear grass.
We stopped for lunch at a waterfall, and we had to fight off those same ground squirrels off our lunch!
As we got higher in elevation, we started seeing patches of slushy snow we had to go through. That meant we were getting close!
Iceberg Lake as amazing place to see. It was the end of June, and most of the lake was still frozen. The little bit of water that had melted on the edge was so cold! So what do we do? We take off our socks and shoes and wade in it! 🙂 Linda, one of the gals in our group of 9, jumped right in, clothes on and all, and dove under the ice!!! We took photos with our bibs and medals, and had a nice time just relaxing and enjoying this amazing place.
The hike down went by quickly, although it got hot. On the way down, we saw what looked like mountain goat traipsing through the snow high above us. This is a photo of them taken with my 30X super zoom, and they still look like ants.
We were almost back down to the trailhead when we stumbled upon a couple standing in silence on the trail, starting off to the side. One of them lifted his finger to his mouth, making the universal sign for “be quiet”, and pointed to where they were looking. There was a deer there casually eating some grass. She didn’t seem to be bothered by us and kept grazing. We all stood there, watching.
Once we got down, we decided to have dinner at the nearby Many Glacier hotel. This was another hotel built by the Great Northern Railway company and it was built in 1915. It is situated right on Swiftcurrent lake and the views behind it are amazing! The lobby has photos of the park’s glaciers taken at the beginning of the 20th century and now – the difference is striking! We had a great dinner here. On our way back to our cars, we saw some horses being taken home after a day of horse back rides in the park.
The drive the Great Falls took 3 hours. We were exhausted by the time we got there, and it was late, but we did take advantage of the jacuzzi. The tipis seemed like a distant memory!
This concludes the Glacier National Park portion of the trip – Laura and I are headed to Yellowstone tomorrow!