Apparently this SoCal girl has a masochistic streak, because just after our Iceland trip, we were off to Glacier National Park in Montana. In February. On purpose.
To be fair, this trip asked us to go on it. Rick had work there and GNP has been the top of my National Park list for a while. The weather wouldn’t be ideal but we couldn’t not go, right?
We landed in Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) on Friday night and drove up to Whitefish. The town was clean and friendly and dressed up for a festival. We knew we were coming back to see what the Winter Carnival had to offer, so we drove a little outside to Piggyback BBQ for good St. Louis style ribs and absolutely transcendent chicken. Then it was off to explore the resort.
We stayed at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, an upscale mountain resort. Our studio suite was big, charming, and had a huge fireplace and enormous bathtub. As a result, we didn’t reeeeallly explore the resort at all. I don’t need to get into a hot tub with eight drunk guys on a bachelor party to know I like hot water when it’s cold. I don’t need to sit near a fireplace in the lobby when my room has one with cushy chairs and no requirement to wear pants. I was prepared to move in to our suite and live there forever but we had drink tickets so we went down to the bar.
We sat in the lodge’s open bar area, near a window and far from the stage. There was an excellent guitarist playing—strong singing voice, solid harmonica skills—who was thoroughly committed to playing turned up to 11. At one point he asked “am I too loud?” The audience said “yes” and he said “oh well.” But he was great from a distance—especially after the soundproofing a martini brings.
Everything sounds better over martinis
*much hotel goody bag-, fireplace-, and bathtub-exploring takes place*
The next morning, we knew what we wanted: the park. Glacier National Park. We were gonna see some glaciers! In a park!
Excited to see glaciers
Except, no. It wasn’t until after we paid our $25 entrance fee (“good for seven days!”) that we learned that almost all of the park is closed during winter. Yes, we checked the website that morning to be sure the roads were plowed. But no, we did not notice that their special Going to the Sun Road Snow Conditions Page had last been updated in June. WTF is the point of a snow conditions page that is only updated in the summer? Someone at GNP owes me a refund.
But we were able to get to McDonald Lake, at least. From there, we set out to do a hike. Any hike. Just for the love of Pete let me get out into the snow and gallivant. I love gallivanting!
A lovely place to gallivant.
It was a beautiful warm day—too warm for snow, which meant both rain and ice during our hike. After one particularly awkward fall (Rick had to help me up, like some sort of alternate universe marriage proposal, where I couldn’t get off one knee), we turned and headed downhill. We decided to hike to Johns Lake—no punctuation, deceitful distance markers—and headed out through quiet forests full of moss and deer and me swearing at the slush.
We made it to Johns Lake (although we never found out if it belonged to someone named John or was for people who paid for sex workers or what) and watched a mix of rain and snow fall around while we boomed and ate cheese. You live your dreams, I’ll live mine.
We took the Going to the Sun Road back to Lake McDonald, and this time spent a while on the lake itself, taking in the sun and reveling in the quiet. It really was the most perfect part of our weekend.
Feeling rewarded by nature, we headed back into town to catch the tail end of the winter carnival. We may have missed the parade but we definitely didn’t miss the fire dancing or pole performances or the dunk tank. Or the beer! It was a casually raucous time, if such a thing exists. Happy people drinking beer dressed like hippies while holding their babies and watching pole dancers. #montana
The weather shifted overnight. Snow started coming down, and while beautiful, it caused havoc at the airport. We spent the rest of the day (Super Bowl Sunday) trying to get home via Salt Lake City. We missed napping through the game on our couch! We missed literally none of the game because nothing happened! The travel-related horror!
In all seriousness, we were the last group of people to get out of Kalispell that day. When we left, it was 25 degrees; by the time we left Salt Lake City, Kalispell was -5. I don’t do a lot of math, but even I know that’s a drop I’m glad we missed.
What, like planes shouldn’t fly in conditions like this?
So, technically we went to Glacier National Park but we’ll have to go back again. Just promise that next time we won’t have to slog through a Super Bowl.
AWK Tips for Glacier National Park
Save the drama for your mama, and save Glacier National Park for the summer.