Friday, September 30, 2011

Glacier Vacation

My family hasn't been on vacation together in years, so Labor Day weekend in Glacier Park was bound to be epic!  The trip had been planned for almost a year, so it was exciting when it finally arrived!  Since we were going to be in Montana, my parents joined Conor & I at the Keenan's house for some lunch on the way to Glacier.  We rarely have an opportunity to get the in-laws together, so this was a real treat!  The only dad knocking my mom's entire lunch all over the kitchen floor!  Can't take him anywhere ;-)  With full bellies, thanks to Suzie, we started the drive to Lone Elk Lodge.

My dad found this cabin for us, and it was perfect!  Three bedrooms with their own bathrooms, and one beautiful kitchen.  It was much better than staying at one of the hotels in the park where the accommodations are quite a bit more "rustic".  The Simpson's aren't exactly known for "roughing it!"  The cabin was decorated for Fall, a pumpkin candle burning, and fresh baked huckleberry scones waiting for us.  It was so inviting; I couldn't wait to put on my cozies and pour a glass of wine!

The owners of the lodge told us about a short walk to a pond where we might be able to see beavers at sunset.  However, to see beavers you need to be very quite and sneak up on them...two things Simpsons aren't very good at.  Therefore, we saw no beavers!  But it was a fun walk to some railroad tracks and a great place to see a pretty sunset every night!

The first night we played Mexican Train, a family favorite, and yours-truly won!  This is no surprise, I win a lot!  And, spoiler alert....I won almost every game played over the course of the weekend!  Winning!  Although we stayed up til the wee hours of the night, we still woke up early to get in a long hike before my brothers and their girlfriends arrived.  That morning we bundled up 'cause unfortunately it was quite cold & rainy outside. The rain didn't last long though and the sun poked out to warm us up from time to time.  We chose a hike close to our lodge in East Glacier at Two Medicine Lake.  We were feeling pretty good, so we decided on an 11 1/2 mile hike, oh my!  Along the trail there were tons of huckleberry bushes which slowed us down a little, because you can't just eat one.  They were so delicious, mmm.  The trail traced along the lake, giving us some very pretty views, and then climbed up through the woods and prairies to Upper Two Medicine Lake .  We sidetracked a little bit and hiked in to Twin Falls which was just spectacular.   There weren't many people on the trail that day (probably because of the morning rain) which was great but a little unnerving, because we were in an area with recently spotted bears! Of course, we left the bear spray at the cabin... Oops!  This was our rookie hike, the next day we would be more prepared.  We found a great spot for lunch, which also included beers...only the Simpsons pack beers in for a long hike!

After our hike, we were pretty exhausted and couldn't wait to be back at the cabin.  While driving out of the park we noticed about a dozen cars pulled over, so we stopped to see what was going on.  Good thing we did, because right in the far side of the river were two grizzly bears feasting away on a moose they had taken down.  It was quite a sight to see!  I have never been that close to a grizzly bear, let alone two, and hopefully never will be.  They were ginormous!  Such a cool thing to see at the end of the day.

That evening Jon & Shalan arrived just in time for dinner!  My incredible mom had spent the entire week before our trip planning out all our meals.  She brought so much food with us that we filled the entire fridge!  Again, no roughing it here...we ate amazing food all weekend.  That night we had baby back ribs along with plenty of wine.  This led to another late night full of games.  This time we played Apples to Apples which can get really loud with everyone at the table yelling out their opinions!  Hopefully we didn't wake the neighbors.

The next morning we woke up to the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.  I'll get out of bed for that!  They were so tasty; I am inspired to make them myself one of these weekends!  They went perfectly with a batch of gin fizzes which energized us for the day's hike.  We drove up to St. Mary's where Ryan & Chelsea met up with us.  We had planned on doing a hike to Iceberg Lake in Many Glacier, but when we got to the trail head we realized it was closed due to Grizzly activity.  We were all a little disappointed but really liked the area so we picked a different hike at the same trail head.  I don't know why the park rangers think the bears know to stay off the open trails, but at least we were prepared with bear spray this time!

Everyone was pretty beat after another long hike and ready for drinks!  We went to the Many Glacier Hotel which sits on a lake and has an absolutely breathtaking view.  The hotel itself is beautiful and very rustic.  It took us awhile to find the bar, but of course we availed.  It was a sunny afternoon so we took our drinks out on the deck, with everyone else at the lodge, and made some new friends while recuperating from the hike.  Nobody wanted to leave, but we had another fabulous dinner waiting for us back at the cabin. 

Since this was the first night the eight of us were together at the cabin, Conor & I brought out our surprise for everyone...  My dad loves Tommy Bahama shirts (or the Costco brand Jamaica Jaxx).  They have became his signature look at the lake or on vacation.  So, Conor & I thought all the boys should have matching shirts for this vacation!  Half the fun came from buying the shirts.  We were at Costco scouring all the shirts looking for the right sizes and deciding what colors looked best.  We just destroyed the Jamaica Jaxx display.  Then at checkout, the clerk is wearing one of the shirts and comments to Conor, "These shirts are awesome huh? Gotta have em in every color!"  At this point Conor is pretty mortified that this guy thinks he needs this shirt in four different colors!  Just as the pink is fading from his cheeks, the lady who checks your receipt before you leave also has to comment on our purchase: "Oh wow, when you like something you have to get it in every color!"  I was almost rolling on the floor laughing at this point!  Good times.

The drinks were flowing when we handed out this great gift, which made the whole experience just a bit more awesome.  The pictures are priceless!

 The next day, a few members of the family woke up really sore and didn't think they could do another long hike (amateurs!).  So instead, we decided to go white water rafting!  It took quite a bit of convincing to get my Mom on board for this activity, but eventually she caved into the pressure.  This was the warmest day of our trip (upper 70s), so it worked out nicely.  We had a boat to ourselves, and our guide was awesome!  It was a fun experience, although a little more leisurely than I was expecting.  However, this made my mom happy and provided us with a good opportunity to take in the scenery and relax!  No big wildlife sightings on this leg of our journeys, but we did see all sorts of fish in the crystal clear water heading down the river.  After our float, we bought some awesome life jacket coozies and hit the West Glacier bar that was right across the street!  This bar sure had some character to it...and some characters in it!  My favorite part: a guy with a mullet wearing a "White Trash" cut off t-shirt! 

That night Conor & I kicked my mom out of the kitchen so she could relax!  We made everyone a "Montana" dinner which included stuffed buffalo burgers, baked potatoes, and asparagus!  Everything was a big hit!  This night Conor & I were sharing a room with Ryan & Chelsea, which is only problematic because of Ryan's snoring problem!!!  I made him wear a breathe-right strip to bed, but it did not work.  His snoring was so loud! I could barely contain myself i was laughing so hard, I'm not sure how I didn't wake him.  Conor & I eventually decided that if we wanted to sleep we were gonna have to take the hide-a-bed!  Not ideal, but at least we got some peace & quite.  I love Ryan to death, but don't think I'll ever be able to sleep in the same room as him.  I don't know how Chelsea does it!  If Conor even thinks about snoring, or makes a sound that is close to snoring, I just hit him til he wakes up.  It may be tough love, but it works! ;-)

 Sadly, Monday came all too soon and it was time to leave Glacier.  I had such a wonderful time that I could have stayed all week!  We got up early so we had time to have one last breakfast with my family before driving to Bigfork to spend a little more time with the Keenans.  Suzie put together a nice lunchtime BBQ for us, so we had a chance to see some of the family before we flew back to Phoenix.  Unfortunately, we probably won't be back til Christmas, which is just way too far away!

I cannot wait until the next time I'm back in Glacier Park, and would recommend a trip here to anyone!  Especially if you've never been!  It is beautiful!

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