nine, ten, glacier

[pour yourself a lemonade, beer or other seasonally-appropriate beverage and pull up a comfortable chair.  this post’s a long one.]

on a saturday morning in late august, we packed the car to the gills and headed east.  we stopped in ellensburg for some leg stretching, great company and delicious food that fueled us through the rest of the drive to idaho.

not only was idaho a new state for josephine (and ned), it was the site of her first camping experience.  she was a big fan of the tent and the al fresco dining.

the next morning, we slowly packed up camp and went for a walk along the lake we had slept next to.  feeling more relaxed and vacation-y by the minute, we drove north a bit and stopped for breakfast/lunch in sandpoint, idaho.

it was only after our leisurely meal and slow stroll back to the car and after we had driven over the montana state line that we realized (or, in my case, re-remembered) that there was a time zone change between us and the spot where we were meeting my sister, brother-in-law and brother.  meeting them one hour sooner than we had calculated.  oops.  far-western montana (state #10! and new for ned, too) is beautiful even when driven through at high speeds.  we were a little late, which was ironic as they had driven twice as far as we had, but i had chosen our meet-up spot wisely and after we slurped homemade ice cream in fresh waffle cones, all was forgiven.  (if you’re ever in whitefish, do yourself a favor and go to sweet peaks.)  we got back into the car for the final leg of our journey — a 1.5 hour drive on a road that had more washboard ridges than an old-timey laundry convention.  at one point, i thought the car might actually rattle apart.  but we made it unscathed to polebridge, year-round population of 20.  there’s a mercantile and a cafe and a few cabins and not much else.  including electricity. (there is, however, wifi.)

my parents were there, waiting to meet us and lead us the final seven miles (that took 20 minutes) to our home for the week, this cabin:

we settled in, unrolled sleeping bags, acquainted ourselves with the nooks and crannies of the place and sifted through the maps and guidebooks as we planned our week in glacier national park.  josephine settled in to having an entire household of people fawning over her.

the cabin was literally across the river from the park but, due to the rocky roads and the montana-sized distances, it took quite a while to get where we wanted to go.  luckily, josephine’s  a very patient car traveler.  the bag of borrowed and thrifted never-before-seen toys that i’d packed didn’t hurt.

first stop: bowman lake.  there was kayaking, toe dipping, a bit of lazy hiking and baby antics.

(for most people, there were actually two days at bowman lake, the first a lot less relaxing than the second.  i was sick the day after we arrived, so my mom, josephine and i spent the day in the cabin.  the rest of the crew went on an ill-fated, too steep hike and never reached the lake they were trying for.  can’t say i was sorry to miss it.)

the next day: going to the sun road — it spans the width of the park and affords pretty darn amazing views.

we stopped to hike at the far end of the park. when we reached st. mary lake, we went in different directions.  my mom got on a boat and enjoyed a tour of the lake.  my dad rested his legs and read a book in the shade.  and we “kids” continued on to st. mary falls, a worthy destination.

(i won’t recount how my mom’s boat trip only took 20 minutes and our hike took several hours and yet she had to wait for us to finish hiking, get back in the cars and come find her at the windy, lonely boat launch.  bad planning on all our parts.  sorry again, mom.)

the next day, ned and i had hoped to take a long hike, but i scaled back our nine mile plan to something more manageable on little sleep.  (josephine, while a wonderful traveler during the day, was a horrible terrible no good very bad sleeper on the trip.  her best night of sleep was one in which she woke up every two hours.  ned left our bedroom with her one morning and said groggily to the assembled family, “baby for sale.”  i added that no money was necessary.)  we drove with my brother down a road that was more dry stream bed than road to logging lake trailhead and set out through the warm summer sun through a burn from a 2003 forest fire.  we didn’t make it to the lake (that would have been the nine mile hike), but enjoyed a very quiet trail.  well, quiet except for all of our clapping and singing and shouting so as to alert bears to our presence.  we felt our only rain of the week; a little drizzle that was just enough to keep us moving, motivated by visions of what the road would be like after a heavier downpour.

everyone had different thoughts about how to spend our last day.  some of us wanted to hike more, some of us wanted to sit by a lake and nap, some of us wanted to avoid crowds and some of us weren’t sure what they wanted to do.  ned, josephine and i ended up heading back into the park and crowds to hike to avalanche lake.  the rest of the group sat by several lakes and went fishing.  everyone was happy with their choice.  but ours was the best.

and at the end of the day, at the end of the week, we all gathered around a picnic table outside the cafe in polebridge and enjoyed pizza in the warm mountain air.  and then we enjoyed dessert.

we all scattered from there.  my parents left for whitefish and their early departure by train back to the minnesota the next morning.  us youngens went back to the cabin to pack up the cars and tidy the cabin.

the next morning, a mouse jumped into the sink of dirty dishes just as we were about to wash them — our last task before leaving.  one of my favorite trip memories is of ned fishing dishes out of the sink with a broom handle and yelling loudly in an attempt to frighten the mouse out of the sink.  in the midst of yelling about how much he hated the situation he shrieked, “you are so adorable!” to the mouse.

on saturday morning, we bid montana farewell and headed towards home.  we were going to camp near spokane on the way back and break the 11 hour trip into two days, but the drive was going so smoothly and our bed was so appealing that we sailed past spokane and got home, 1,523 miles later, thankful to be back and so grateful for our trip.  i loved the opportunity to explore a new place with my family and, as always, adored seeing josephine being adored by them.  she’s a lucky girl.

(more photos here.)

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