Shayna and I just got back from one of the best trips I’ve ever had – spending 10 days in the beautiful mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana, where we celebrated the one year anniversary of our
wedding honeymoon. The trip was awesome on so many levels, including the camping, hiking, and majestic views, but mostly it was great to spend quality time with the wife in the great outdoors. I highly recommend everyone to go, whether you stay in hotels or in tents, glaciers or not. I cover more on the trip below, but first here’s why it’s awesome:
Why I love Backpacking
- Being surrounded by nature
- Tons of exercise
- Tons of sleep
- Campfires (and s’mores)
- Spending quality time with fellow backpackers
- Getting away from it all (people, technology, normal life)
- Everything you need is on your back or found in nature
- Food tastes awesome when you’re burning 2-3 times the usual amount of calories
- Re-appreciating how great showers, beds, and other comforts are when finished
Why I love Glacier National Park
- The view – mountains, glaciers, lakes
- The smells – fresh pine, cedar, sweet flowers, smokey campfires
- The hikes - Favs are Highline Trail and hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel
- The temperature – Hot enough to go swimming, but cool at night
When we first arrived at the airport, we got our rental car and drove to the town of Kalispel, the largest of many small towns in Flathead valley, just west of the park. We stopped by a famous house, the Conrad Mansion, barely catching the last tour of the day. It was an impressive house and an interesting tour – built over a hundred years ago and restored to its original condition (we took many pics of this). From there we drove to the hills to our first Bed and Breakfast, The Garrison Inn. Our hosts Gene and Anne Marie were very nice. Gene is also a professional chef and made us a delicious dinner and an amazing breakfast – probably the best omelete I’ve ever had (insanely fluffy, almost a quiche).
After the B&B we drove about an hour before entering the park. We debated white water rafting and horse back riding, but decided water was too cold and horses were not my favorite. We got lucky and found a spot in the Apgar campground, had lunch, then went for our first real hike to the Apgar Lookout. The next day we moved a bit further east, getting a spot at Sprague Creek campground. That day we did one of our longest and most beautiful hikes – Highline trail from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet, then on down to our car at The Loop, about 12 miles total. We saw our first big animals – mountain goats. Did you know they have bacteria in their stomach that generates heat? That helps them survive the mountain tops during 40 below winters. That night we slept super solid – 7 hours of hiking will do that to ya. The next day I gorged on the breakfeast buffet at the lodge (totally worth it), then we drove over the to east side on Going to the Sun road, which was supposed to be awesome but all the road construction made the experience a bit annoying. That night we stayed at St. Mary campground and were lucky enough to catch a performance by the Blackfeet tribe, the native americans who live east of the park. They explained their music, competition dances, and costumes in great detail. Big props to traditional Native Americans. Afterwards we had our first campfire. I love fires.
The next day we got up super early (6:30am) to get to Many Glacier campground to ensure we get a spot. It’s the most popular campground in the park, and, like all but 2 campgrounds, takes no reservations – first come, first serve. All spots are snatched up by around 8am-8:30am every day. After securing our spot, we took the day off from hiking and explored the Many Glacier Lodge and surrounding areas (the great lodges are amazing). I also explored my book and the back of my eyelids in the afternoon (gotta have naps on vacation, right?). We had a camping stove issue that was resolved the night before (oh, thats how you clean it) and this was the first day we had hot meals from the stove. Previously we snacked on bars, PB, fruit, nuts, broccoli and hummus, bread, cheese, crackers, and pickles, which were all good. Now we had hot oatmeal and other warm dishes like rice and beans and indian food. We saved the freeze-dried for backpacking. Our second day at Many Glacier we hiked to Iceberg lake. We wanted to hit up Grinnell glacier, but that was closed due to bears. So guess what we saw about 150 yards off the trail to Iceberg lake? A grizzly bear and her 3 cubs. Awesome. We also saw a mama moose and her baby – from only a few feet away as they were on the trail. The last day at many glacier was more chilling out, shayna did a short hike and I did some picture/laptop stuff. That evening we had our first rain storm and were lucky enough to be able to watch it from the lodge. Later after that we had another campfire along with s’mores. Mmm-mm.
Saturday morning we left Many Glacier to start our backpacking adventure. We drove to the Chief Mountain Trailhead, which is right next to the Canadian border, to enter the Belly river area of the park. It was about 10am when we began backpacking, a mostly level hike 13 miles to our first camp at Glenn’s Lake Head. Let me reiterate how unbelievably beautiful this park is. Gorgeous natural diversity, from moutains, glaciers, snow, streams and lakes, to fields of grass and flowers, to rocky and dusty mountain tops, to pine and aspen forests, and more .. sometimes all at once. The highline trail gave us a taste but being surrounded by nothing but pure nature takes it to the next level. The next 2 nights we spent at Elizabeth Lake head campground (i say head since the bigger lakes have 2 campgrounds, one at the head where water comes in, and one at the foot where water exits). Each night we had to store all our food, toiletries, even water in bear bags and hang them high up in the trees. We also had to prep food and eat in common areas. It was a nice way to meet people – we met boy scouts, families, and several couples .. but not the most romantic. Except the first night, where we had a campfire and more s’mores, we crashed pretty early – often before dark. Once shayna was down for almost 12 hours, after hiking probably the most scenic hike on the trip, up to Ptarmigan tunnel. It was 12 miles roundtrip, over half a mile vertical, with the most diversity and impressive views of any of our hikes. It was tough, but thats how we like it. Gotta earn it. Other adventures included discovering amazing waterfalls, fording rivers, and dealing with hail storm on the last day hiking out. The last 2 nights of our trip were just us appreciating showers, beds, nice meals, and relaxing. It went by much too quick.
This trip was definitely a backpacking and camping trip first, and honeymoon anniversary second. I say honeymoon anniversary since this trip, being a backpacking trip, was more similar to our honeymoon backpacking adventure on Isle Royale (more deets) than our wedding That said, wife and I had an amazing time together. I feel so lucky to have a girl who is into backpacking almost as much as I am, even though she’s only been on 3 real backpacking trips! We both hope to do at least one major trip a year from now on. So stay tuned for more adventures.