Avalanche Lake and a dip in Lake McDonald

July 7, 2017 - Glacier National Park,, Montana, United States

It was our last full-day in the park.  Boo!  After saying good-by to Nicholas and Stephanie we finally started on the trail to Avalanche Lake that begins right off our campground area.  I did this trail with my parents around 40 years ago and with my sons twenty years ago.  It has been wonderful to make so many new memories here with Bill and to share some of my old adventures with him as well.  This was the only hike we did in 1997.  Bill and I had surpassed that already.Trail to Avalanche Lake

The morning was already hot and though the trail only gains 500 feet in elevation, it felt like it was a continuous climb.  First we began in the area of the ancient red cedars; some of which are said to have started growing in the 1600s.  Avalanche Creek cuts through a gorge of red argillite rock at one of my favorite spots in the park.  The power of the water is incredible and it smooths the rock to a shine. I met someone turning away from one spot with her camera.  She shook her head and said, “I know pictures won’t do this justice.”  No, they won’t.Avalanche Creek


This is a heavily traveled trail and said to be the most popular in the park.  I was glad we could begin from our camp and didn’t have to wrestle anyone for a parking site.  Eventually, we crept out of the cedars into spruce, fir and lodge pole pines.  The rotting hulls of decades-long dead trees feed the forest floor and create a soft spongy feeling when tested.  At one point in the trail there is evidence of an avalanche that happened in 2011.  A swath of trees was just plowed down by the force of the snow.  It created a view of Mt. Cannon that was otherwise not visible previously.  We passed through a pathway lined with thick bushes before breaking through to the first view of Avalanche Lake.  This is where there’s been a log-jam for “as long as I can remember” and it’s lovely.  Log Jam at Avalanche LakeThere are anywhere from 4 to 6 waterfalls feeding into Avalanche Lake.  Bill and I worked our way around to the pebbled beach and found a nice rock on which to relax.  In spite of all the people behind us, we both were transfixed by the peaceful lake-without-kayaks in front of us.  We watched a hen American Dipper with her 3 chicks; disappear and reappear from the surface of the lake.  We had a great rock and surely could have stayed much longer had it not been for the oppressive heat.  Bill wet his booney-hat several times to cool down before we began the return trip.My Beautiful Bill


We returned to camp around 1:00 and had a bite to eat.  It was so ungodly hot!  Bill tried sitting perfectly still in the shade. I tried finding a cooler space to lay down in the popup but there just was no relief.  Finally I declared that we had to go somewhere and do something even if it was wrong – just to get in the air conditioned car.  The temperature was in the mid-90s.  “Let’s go get an ice-cream cone!”Hot and exhausted!


We drove all the way to a stand near the Apgar Visitor’s Center (20 miles) for two hand-dipped cones.  Smartest thing we’d done all day so far.  We sat on a shaded bench just off Lake McDonald and felt better fast.  After that we took a little drive up Camas Road (also closed part way up) to see what there was to see.  We did a quick stop at McGee Fen before heading back to our camp.  A short way up GTSR, while driving along Lake McDonald, Bill said, “Let’s go swimming!”  I thought he was kidding.  Lake McDonald is cold, isn’t it?  He was serious.  We drove back to camp and grabbed our swimming suits.


We found a place to park at Sprague Creek picnic area and sure enough, we went swimming in the lake.  I won’t claim that we went out very far but we were both fully submerged!  It was so refreshing.  It was fun.  I couldn’t believe we were doing it.  Very few folks were in that water but it was just what the doctor ordered.  I know we would have stayed longer but I saw what I thought were rain clouds directly to the south.  We’d left the popup completely unzipped to try to cool it down.  I couldn’t bear the idea of coming back to a saturated bed.  We were pretty well pleased with ourselves on the drive back to camp.  Bill explained that he was just compelled to “swim in that lake”.  And so he did. Swimming in Lake McDonald


We enjoyed home-canned beef stew for dinner that was absolutely delicious and by 8:00 p.m. a few sprinkles started to fall.  We did some straightening in the popup, played a few hands of poker, and headed to bed.  Tomorrow begins the long journey home.Walking through the campground



Trail to Avalanche Lake
Log Jam at Avalanche Lake
Beautiful Avalanche Lake
My Beautiful Bill
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