Day 10: Avalanche Campground, Glacier National Park, Montana
Lorie insists she heard nothing, but I am pretty sure I discerned rambunctious rodents burrowing around in our air ducts and galley cabinets, trying to gnaw open tin cans with their teeth and tearing into my secret cache of Gummi Worms. I am unrested and out of sorts. In the words of the inimitable Frank Costanza, “That’s it! We’re moving. I will not tolerate infestation!”
“Here, drink your coffee,” says Lorie.
We make an early drive under a promising sunny sky up toward Logan Pass. Traffic is very light, and we have time to sort of poke along and take in the soaring granite peaks and verdant green valleys. At the Logan Pass visitor center we are informed that our planned hike, the Hidden Lake Trail, is closed today due to grizzlies gallivanting on the boardwalks in recent days. So we opt instead for the Highline Trail, which traverses a narrow and precipitous route along the west face of the Garden Wall, at times requiring hikers to firmly grasp the anchored hand cables along the sheer wall.
The views, however, are well worth it, with the morning sun now warming the broad, glacier-carved valleys and making the fresh dustings of snow gleam on the peaks. We see more white mountain goats, accompanied by a single bighorn ram.
Back at the visitor center the parking lot is beginning to grow crowded when the air is suddenly punctuated by a couple of loud shotgun-like reports, and two puffs of smoke drift over the alpine meadow as rangers use fireworks to shoo away an errant grizzly.
We drive back down to Avalanche for lunch, then casually hike up the Avalanche Gorge a mile or so. The creek has carved a spectacular route down through the layers of redrock here, and drops five hundred feet in less than two miles, cascading from one pool to another. Even high on the lip of the gorge, thirty feet above the creek’s current level, one can see numerous water-carved and eroded boulders and rocks, evidence that the creek has been at work here for countless millenia.
It’s just a short cruise down to Lake McDonald Lodge, where we have a reservation for a room tonight. While Lorie handles the accommodations, I drive around and around in the parking lot seeking a level spot in which to park the van. As every Westy owner knows, the vehicle must be parked pretty close to level when using the refrigerator, in order to avoid permanently damaging its cooling element, but in this cockeyed and topsy-turvy parking lot I cannot find anyplace even close to level.
In the end, I spend about twenty minutes messing around, shoving various numbers of RV leveling blocks under the wheels, but finally step back and am satisfied to see that my beloved Vanasazi is just about the only thing that is level in the whole damned place. In fact, the Park Service should come out here with their protractors and plumb bobs to take some measurements of the van, and then start tweaking some of these century-old buildings …
Built in 1913, Lake McDonald Lodge, like many of the hotels and lodges in the park, was designed in the style of a large Swiss chalet. From the cut-stone floor of the lobby, up the clusters of huge cedar columns, to the large roof timbers three stories above, everything about the place inspires thoughts of homey comfort in the great outdoors. The stuffed animal heads hanging from the balcony railings were shot and mounted by the original owner of the lodge, evidently to remind the lazier guests of the kind of wildlife they might see if they bothered to doff their slippers and take a hike somewhere.
After several days of one-pot suppers of pasta or rice or more pasta, we treat ourselves to a positively delightful dinner in Russell’s Fireside Dining Room, accompanied by copious glasses of local beers. Sated and a little wobbly, we amble down to the dock and enjoy a sunset boat cruise on Lake McDonald; the perfect end to another day in Glacier.