2018.06.14 GNP Day 4 – Polebridge and Avalanche Lake

When you are up and awake first thing in the morning, you get to hear what a two-year-old says when they wake up.  This morning, Ellery says, “Daddy! I wake up, Daddy!”  So cute!

Ellery likes to see pictures of herself that KK has taken and saves to his laptop.  Yesterday, Ellery had worn a GoPro on her head as she played in snow for the first time.  She got to relive that experience this morning.

KK shows Ellery her video

Ellery likes Marissa to play her guitar

Today’s main activity was to go north along the west side of the Park.  The one area we have not had a chance to explore yet.  In particular, we had our sights set on Polebridge, Montana, home to the Polebridge Mercantile.  This store has been in business for a 100 years, and KK had heard they have a fantastic bakery.  More baked goods!

The Middle Fork Flathead River runs right next to our house. On our drive north, we passed right by the point where the North Fork and the Middle Fork merge.  In fact, the road we took was called the North Fork Road.

Confluence of North Fork and Middle Fork Flathead Rivers

I have not mentioned yet just how clear every creek, river and lake is up here in Montana.  This is the purest of water. Every rock and submerged log is plainly visible no matter the depth.  The only exception is when the water is roaring, which is often in the rivers.  This water is moving!  And the water has the prettiest color, which is difficult to describe. Let’s just say we are enjoying the rivers and streams up here.

Quite a bit of the road to Polebridge was dirt and gravel.  The running joke of the trip has been that Stephanie’s Subaru has been in its natural habitat.  It seems like every third car we see in a parking lot is a Subaru.  It was during our vacation to Yellowstone several years ago when we witnessed much the same thing that we started thinking about getting a Subaru pretty seriously.  It has been fun to fit in with all the other granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, Subaru owners.

Scott rode in our car on today’s drive.  He told us a story about yesterday we had not heard. When we had our picnic lunch at Two Medicine, Ellery sat on a big rock behind our car while eating her lunch.  I had moved the car nearer the bathrooms and a truck had pulled into my spot.  The driver of the truck got out, picked up the big rock Ellery had been sitting on, and put it in his truck.  This guy has not heard of “Leave only footprints and take only pictures”!

Dirt road leading to Polebridge Mercantile

Later as we moved ahead, we saw that the truck broke down, we helped by getting him in touch with a heavy duty mechanic and moved on. We enjoyed the mercantile.  Their bakery did not disappoint us.  A popular item with our group is the huckleberry bear claw.  In case, it has not been obvious, huckleberry is the official food item of Montana.  We have visited stores devoted entirely to huckleberry food, clothes, and souvenirs.

Kings visit Polebridge Mercantile

Enjoying our baked goods sitting in front of the Mercantile

Huckleberry Bear Claw close-up featuring Mallory

While we were spending five minutes driving from the Mercantile to the Park entrance, PK told us over the two-way radio the history of Polebridge.  The story involved a man who built the store, and got a wife who he made run the store, so he could smoke, drink, fish, and “grow large cabbages”.  It was an excellent story.  Thanks PK!

We drove back to the Lake McDonald Lodge since Scott needed to return a t-shirt. While we were standing around inside the lodge, we ran into Park Ranger Bill, who gave us a hard time on Monday at the Agpar Visitor Center.  Bill was off-duty and having a fun day with his daughter. We chatted with him for a few minutes. Bill was turning 80 tomorrow and was still going strong.  We all want to be Bill when we get older.

There was consideration given to some of us walking the Avalanche Lake trail at this time, but it was raining off and on, and the sky was pretty dark.  On top of that, Stephanie was trying to mail in her absentee ballot for an election she is going to miss later this month.  Today she realized that she needed to have her ballot notarized.  It is not easy to find a notary in a sparsely populated area.  A man working at the Lodge made some calls and found one in Columbia Falls about 45 minutes away!

Fortunately, we did not have to drive all the way to Columbia Falls.  We stopped at the Post Office in Hungry Horse, the town where we are staying.  The postmaster said she was not a notary, but said, “Go see if Shaun is still working next door at the grocery store”.  Yes, Shaun was working and we got the ballot notarized!

Shaun the Notary Public

Civic Duty Engaged!

When we got back to the house to meet up with the rest of the group, dinner was in full swing.  It was a celebration dinner to recognize four birthdays and two anniversaries.  We were eating dinner at an unusually early time for us – about 5:00.

KK grilling on the back patio.  Nice view!

After dinner, our groups split up again.  Scott, Erin, Ellery and Marissa drove to Kalispell to visit Wal-Mart.

Ellery rides the Hungry Horse statue in town.

Stephanie, Mallory, KK and I drove back to the park and hiked the Avalanche Lake trail.  This trail was 4.5 miles long with 500 feet elevation change.  The trail was right through a heavily forested area, and it was rather dark and shady, even at 6:45 when we started our hike.

Our cousin, Earlene, has had a funny saying that she will break out from time to time, and KK used it on the hike: “I wonder what the poor people are doing right now.”  That makes us laugh every time.

Of course it was a beautiful hike.  We saw some other hikers, but not a lot.  Everyone we passed come back from the lake assured us it was worth the hike.  This hike was rated #11 in the park by my trail map guide.  The lake at the end was spectacular.

We forgot our bear spray at the house, so to protect ourselves against bear attacks on the hike, we made a lot of noise, sang and chanted.  We made bird and howler monkey noises – anything to ward off bears.  One popular chant was “I am not a tasty snack”.  Mallory pointed out that the emphasis should be on “I am NOT a tasty snack”.  It is inappropriate to say “I am not a TASTY snack”.

On the hike to the lake, at one point Stephanie was surprised by a deer just a few feet off the trail and screamed “DEER!”.  Mallory thought she said “BEAR!” and jumped clear  to the other side of the trail.

Rushing stream.

Hiking the trail.

Avalanche Lake.

The lake is fed by three waterfalls, which are clearly visible and very clearly audible where we were on the far side of the lake.  There were just a handful of other hikers at the lake when we arrived around 8:00.

Selfie at Lake

Mallory at Avalanche Lake

On the walk back from the lake, KK said “I hope I don’t see any red glowing eyes back in those trees.”  “Well, what would that be?” I asked.  “I don’t know.  A Chupacabra, maybe.”, said KK.

On our drive back along Lake McDonald, it was getting to be almost dusk and KK said, “This is about the time of day when you will see the animals moving.”  Not a few minutes later, we came across a momma bear and two cubs along the side of the road.  The Mom and one of the cubs was black, and one cub was brown.


Sunset at Lake McDonald

Back at the house, we had celebration dessert at 10:30 because vacation.


Thank you, Glacier National Park.  You have been amazing!

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