DAY 2: Western Tour
We woke up fairly early with good intentions, much like all first-time hikers. After a light breakfast in the cabins’ lodge, we headed out to the town of West Glacier, which is the western entry point to GNP. Checking the road that morning, we found that the road to Logan Pass [the highest point in along the Going-to-the-Sun road and where the Continental Divide crosses it] was still closed. So, we chose a pair of short hikes at the furthest drivable point: Avalanche.
On the way into the park, we stopped first in Apgar where we wandered around the town and gift shop and got a look at the lower end of Lake McDonald. The view was beautiful, but not clear – there was a little haze in the air, but at least there were no clouds in the sky. After browsing around, we decided to head up the road towards Avalanche, stopping along the way whenever we wanted.
There were several pullouts along the way where we stopped. Among the first was a place where I could see through the trees was an excellent view. I had to climb down a steep slope to the lake to get the pictures I wanted and even then, they didn’t turn out like I’d hoped. We drove on until there was a rocky beach where we got out and took quite a few pictures – some of which did come out good. By now, we’d driven only a few miles in a couple of hours. At this rate, the trip would take days.
Our next stop was Lake McDonald Lodge. It was around noon, and the lodge was just opening. We decided not to eat lunch, having just recently had breakfast, but instead we toured the site. The Lodge is quite beautiful with quaint separate cabins and a wonderul view of the lake. It also has a dock at which boat tours of the lake can be taken. We finally moved on to Avalanche, which is nothing more than a parking lot and a camp ground. There were road barriers up, but no snow that I could see which would account for the blockage. So, here we parked and loaded up for our hike of Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake.
The Trail of the Cedars is beautiful and smells like the inside of a cedar chest. The air is so fresh in the park that we stood still many times just to inhale and enjoy the freshness. The trail is actually a long boardwalk through tall cedar trees along a loop 0.7 miles long. This was the easy part. Half way through the trail comes a fork. This fork is the begining of the 2-mile (each way) trail to Avalanche Lake. We took this trail, stopping along the path several times to rest and take pictures. On the way up, we saw several deer, each unafraid of us. In some cases, they even strolled casually within 6 feet of us. By the time we got to the lake, I was completely exhausted – I never knew hiking with a fully loaded camera backpack and tripod set would be so hard. Now, I know. I’m in bad shape and need desperately to improve my physical conditioning.
At the lake, we sat and had some snacks for lunch and took many wonderful pictures. I even tried my hand at a panoramic shot. Hopefully, I’ll get it stiched together and posted for you to see soon.
The way back was easier, but still hard. We even encountered a bear. It was about 50 feet from us and paralleled our trail for a while. We got a couple of pictures, but it was hard to do so since the shade in the forested trail was so deep. At the end/begining of the trail, we continued the rest of the loop around the Trail of the Cedars taking pictures of a beautiful waterfall. We made it back to the car and collapsed. The drive back to Lake McDonald Lodge was quick without stops. At the lodge, we ate an early dinner and tried to relax.
We drove a little more once we headed out. We passed Apgar and took a short side trip to the other side of the lake, then headed back to the cabins [after stopping for a huckleberry shake along the way].
We went to sleep early.