One of the best ~ Glacier National Park

July 4, 2017

Ah, the dulcet tones of freight train whistles.  Every 15 minutes.  All night long.  I thought I’d finally lost the train-in-my-head a couple days after ditching the ear plugs.  I was wrong.  But at least these trains were real.  I might add that Bill loved it.

We were up and at ‘em early this morning.  I had worried more about this little piece of the trip than any other.  My heart was set on camping at Avalanche Creek.  When we made our way into the park the park ranger advised us to pull into the first big camp, Apgar; thinking we might not get a spot at Avalanche.  We ignored her advice.  We were set up and relaxing in our new camping location on Loop A by 9:30 a.m.  Throughout the morning folks were leaving the camp.  It would just have been a matter of time before another spot would have opened had we missed this one.  As it was, it was perfect.  The sites at Avalanche Creek are spaced quite far apart.  The gathering of fire wood is prohibited so the entire campground feels “authentic” and campers are really in a forest rather than a manicured camp.  It did take us a while to put up our awning.  We’d not used the awning with the 4 support poles before and forgot that it should have been set up prior to raising the roof all the way.  We managed.Johns Lake


Our new neighbors, Paul and Karen; gave us several suggestions of where they had done some easy, enjoyable hikes.  We wasted little time and went first to the Johns Lake trailhead off North McDonald Road.  The trail cut through some beautiful, mossy woods before leading us to the northern edge of McDonald Creek; that sure looked like a river to us.  The views of the fast-flowing and churning aquamarine waters of the creek were well appreciated.  It looked so refreshing on such a hot day (mid-90s).  We crossed a foot/horse bridge over the river and followed the trail markers across Going to the Sun Road (GTSR) and up an incline to Johns Lake.  We met very few people on this trail.  The woods were still and quiet.McDonald Creek


Johns Lake is fairly small.  Moose are often seen there as well as deer.  We were already late in the morning so most of the wildlife were back at their camps playing poker (I figured).  While at the lake we met a really nice couple who asked a favor of us.  They had been hiking with two older couples and had come upon a pond.  They all thought that the pond was a very anticlimactic Johns Lake and the older couples had stopped to eat lunch.  Our new acquaintances were concerned that these folks would turn around and completely miss the “real” Johns Lake and asked that we advise them.  A short distance up the trail we indeed met these folks.  They laughed at learning there was more to the hike than a puddle.McDonald Creek footbridge


After our hike we were glad to hop in the air conditioned car and head further down N. McDonald Road to find McDonald Lodge.  This was a gravel road that skirted the NE part of Lake McDonald and eventually turned into little more than a 2-track.  Obviously, there was no lodge here.  We’d both read the sign wrong.  We did see a very human acclimated deer along the road checking out somebody’s truck.


Once having convinced ourselves that we were on the proverbial “road to nowhere” we decided to find a trail we heard of that went along the northwest portion of Lake McDonald.  In a short time we were hiking up Rocky Point Nature Trail.  This was a trail with an interpretive brochure; however, none were currently available.  Instead, every once in a while we’d hike past a number and ponder what it was we were supposed to be seeing. Along the TrailA massive forest fire had burned here in 2003.  Still, it was also a very nice hike.  It was not difficult but the climbing up and down trails still feels kind of challenging to us.  We met another group of people near what I supposed was the “rocky point” who offered to take our picture. Along the Rocky Point Nature Trail


Our last great adventure for the day was a short drive up Inside North Fork Road.  I remembered a riot of wildflowers when driving this road with my kids 20 years previously.  The road is now closed after about 6 miles in.  None-the-less, we were fortunate to spot an immature bald eagle holding down the nest atop a dead tree as well as a great example of a beaver dam and pond.  There were also wildflowers but not in the same area that I recalled.  I suspect that spot was down the now closed section of the road.  I was also surprised to get a call from my son, Taylor; during this drive.  I didn’t even realize that I had cell phone service when the phone rang.  That was a treat.Lake McDonald from Rocky Point


It was the 4th of July after all.  We met star-spangled, out-fitted hikers all along the trail.  We’d planned to get back to camp and cook some hot dogs but we just needed to chill for a while first.  It wasn’t that we were hiking ridiculously difficult trails as much as the heat was just ringing us out!  As we sat by our campfire, another couple came running into our camp with a camera.  They were in pursuit of photographing a nice buck who was wandering around Avalanche campground.  It was startling to have someone come blundering into camp but they got their pictures and then we had some conversation.  Mark and Vicki McMahon were from Jamestown, North Dakota; famous for a white buffalo.  During the conversation, Mark and Bill discovered that they were both veterans.  Mark pulled a token out of his pocket and handed it to Bill as thanks for his service.  It was a nice gesture.



Johns Lake
McDonald Creek
McDonald Creek footbridge
Lake McDonald from Rocky Point
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