Glacier Vagabond Venture

“There was always a million sparkles on the water…like that mountain lake.  It was so clear Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other.”- Forrest Gump.  

My daughter and I were leaving our Canada trip and still had a few days to fill of our unplanned adventure. We did some basic research and stumbled upon a picture of a lake with beautiful colorful rocks. We’ve always been fascinated with colorful rocks, so that was enough for us to say LET’S GO!

The lake, Lake McDonald, is located in Glacier National Park in Montana. Neither of us had ever heard of this place, despite it being one of the most popular spots in the National Parks. We punched in ‘Lake McDonald’ into our GPS and took off without plans of hotels or campsites

Not knowing much about the lake, we weren’t sure where exactly our GPS would take us. Luckily, it took us to the Lake McDonald Lodge, a beautiful resort that was unfortunately booked. 

We stopped inside at the restaurant that was ‘reservation only’ but were able to find two empty seats at the bar. We had a beer and a nice veggie burger and chatted with the friendly bartender. We asked him what some of his favorite hikes were and what the must sees and do’s were in this part of Glacier. He told us about some of his favorite spots and thanks to him, we were able to discover one of our favorite places of the trip and also a place to stay for the evening.

*Local Tip: The bartender told us there was a ‘hippie type’ place just outside the park that had delicious pastries and camping was available. He also said that it was a bit of a drive but we were up for the challenge. Saying that this town was off the beaten path would be an understatement. It was an 18 mile drive on dusty and bumpy roads. We were nearly all the way back to Canada and almost turned around but decided against it. Finally, we landed upon Polebridge, a hippie feeling town without traditional electricity and a mercantile. It also had a ‘wild west’ feel of a cafe/saloon, a hostel/ranch, and a farmer’s market.


Polebridge Mercantile

The Polebridge Mercantile was mostly known for its delicious homemade huckleberry bear claws. We also noticed the campers enjoying sandwiches, craft beer, coffee, and surprisingly, internet! Be aware that there was not cell phone service or traditional electricity. The clerk in the store gave us directions for a place we could car camp less than a mile away. It was right on the river and we were able to search for colored rocks. We met several other amazing, friendly, nature-loving campers that were willing to share knowledge and supplies with us!

   *Packing Tip: Even in the mid-summer months, it gets incredibly cold in Glacier at night. Bring insulated clothing or layers of extra warm clothes and blankets for these chilly nights. 

Haystack Creek Falls

Or next adventure would be driving the infamous Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s a 50 mile scenic mountain drive inside Glacier that is an absolute must-do! Without stopping it takes about two hours from one side to the other, but of course you should plan on stopping at the lookouts as you go. Don’t be in a rush and be sure to enjoy the views in every direction.

It took us about six hours to complete the drive with our photo stops and short hikes close to the car. We were limited on our time there and only had two days for this park. I would also recommend doing this drive in the summer months. This road can accumulate up to 80 feet of snow in the winter and it takes road crews more than two months to get it plowed. Often, the road does not even open until June or later. 

 At the very end of the East Road is Saint Mary’s lake. You may recognize the scene from being on numerous calendars, brochures, and books. I had to stop for a picture of Wild Goose Island. This area was in a scene from the movie Forrest Gump. It was a wonderful photo opportunity and we did hike around this area to get several photos. 

Several Blackfeet warrior statues are located at the Saint Mary Valley Overlook and at several of the entrance points. Definitely stop and take time to respect and pay tribute to our Native Americans.

Glacier National Park by far has some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. There’s more than a million acres to explore. The only regret we had while here was not having more time to spend. 

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8 

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Find the joy in the journey

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