Time to hit the first national park on our trip, Glacier. Since it wasn't that far from Missoula, we went all the way to the park and did a quick trail before going back to our motel.
The hostel we were at was oddly empty during our whole stay. We only saw a couple other people at a time, rather than a busy hostel. It ended up being fine for us, since there was no competition for using the kitchen. We had breakfast and packed. I also called the Subaru dealer, but they didn't have the part we needed, so it may have to wait until we get back home. Ah well.
We were off. Actually, we filled up the car and stopped by a nearby Target to pick up a couple things, but after that, we were truly off.
After going west a bit on I-90 (towards Seattle, ironically) we headed north on Route 93 until we hit Flathead Lake, then onto Highway 35, following the east side of the lake It's impressively large, and was fun to look at as we drove by. Then, we went by a bunch of Flathead River tributaries (plentiful and looping enough to almost be sloughs), then onto Highway 206, followed by Route 2, familiar to us as the way to cross Stevens Pass into Leavenworth.
We spotted our hotel as we drove by, and then entered the park. We purchased our entrance pass (good for a week, twice as long as we would need it) and proceeded directly to the Apgar Visitor Center, where we found a place to sit and eat our lunch. After that, we went into the visitor center, waiting for one of the volunteers. We got a map, as well as some recommendations for hikes. We had wanted to try the Highline to Loop trail, but the Highline was closed. Fortunately, the Going to the Sun Road had just opened a few days before, so we knew that the shuttles would be running.
The plan was to take a look at the Trail of the Cedars trail, and see if we felt we had time to go up to Avalanche lake. Into the shuttle line we went, but we kept waiting for a shuttle to show up. People kept bailing, so we kept moving up in the line. We struck up a conversation with the woman behind us, who said she was originally from the local area, but now lives in New Orleans. She tries to make it at least once a year, and they were going to do their traditional hike around the loop of Trail of the Cedars. Eventually, she also bailed, thinking that there was a risk she wouldn't be able to find parking.
Lo and behold, a few minutes later, a shuttle showed up, so we entered and took a seat. The Avalanche Creek stop was the last one that particular shuttle made, so we rode to the end and started looking for the trailhead. We started on the boardwalk of Trail of the Cedars, and just as we almost got to the trailhead for Avalanche Lake, we saw the woman from New Orleans. She said she lucked out and found a parking spot right by the trailhead, and was glad that we didn't have to wait long after all.
We decided that even though time was tight, we would give Avalanche Lake a shot, especially if we did it at a pace closer to walking in the city rather than on the trails. There were a ton of people going both directions, such that we were never very far from anyone. I had a trail guide which showed us where we were on the trail as well as our elevation, and we were confident that we would make it. Indeed, we eventually saw the lake, but decided to go along the trail a little bit more where we were able to go down onto the beach and get an even better view. Very impressive.
We started our way back, again going quickly. We were able to reassure people going the other way that they weren't far, and the view was worth it. Back to the Trail of the Cedars, and we took the other side of the loop back to the shuttle. Luckily enough, there was one sitting there as we arrived, so we just walked right on.
After we got back to the parking lot, we decided to have dinner in West Glacier, right outside the park. The restaurant wasn't very crowded, but they seemed to have trouble getting people seated (even with lots of empty table, the line of people waiting didn't seem to go down very quickly). Dinner and dessert done, we went next door to the grocery store to get breakfast and lunch items. After that, it was back to Coram where our motel was. Checking in was quick, and we took everything inside, and before too long, were ready to sleep.