South Dakota Day 8 – Mount Rushmore and Wall Drug

  
We had a different approach on the way home than we did on the way out. On the way out, we powered through, doing majority of the driving in one day. On the way home, we decided to break the drive in half. The halfway marker was Rapid City, which meant we were stopping by Mount Rushmore! 

  
We got into Rapid City around 7, so we grabbed dinner and HuHot, then headed to see the presidents! 

   
           Both Travis and I have been to Mount Rushmore before, but it’s fun to go as an adult because you take more information in. Theodore Roosevelt is my favorite president, so I enjoyed reading all the information about him. We also got there in time to see them retire the flag for the day. They invite all current and retired military to the stage. 

  
After staying the night in Rapid City, we stopped at Wall Drug on the way home. 

   
 They have amazing donuts! We got half a dozen and snacked all the way home! 

What a great trip! Travis and I love to visit national parks because Mother Nature can make things way prettier than any human can. The world has so much to offer, so why not start in our own backyards? We are hoping to get to Zion, Yosemite, and the Redwoods soon. Alaska is what we hope to make the next big trip! Happy traveling! I’m happy to be home with this little guy for a while! 

  

Waterton Lakes National Park Day 7 – Canada Day, Red Rock Canyon, and Bear Hump

Happy Canada Day!! Today was our last full day in the parks. We didn’t even know it was Canada Day until we got free admission into the park! 
After checking out of the lodge, we went to Red Rock Canyon to start the day. Beautiful red rocks carved out by water. The glaciers at Waterton are melting a lot faster than the ones in Glacier, so you can see how much lower the water is now to what it was before. 

   
     There is also a waterfall about one mile away from the canyon. It was a very flat and an easy walk. 

   
 All the trails were packed today. It seemed like many people came out to the park to celebrate Canada Day. It was a really fun atmosphere. However, the park did die down some in the evening because national parks are not allowed to shoot off fireworks. 

After spending the morning at Red Rock Canyon, we decided to do the Bear Hump hike. We heard it was the best view of the park and it didn’t not disappoint! It was .75 miles straight up. No joke, probably the biggest elevation change per mile we had the entire trip (800 feet in only .75 miles). Worth every step! 

   
       Like I said, the trails were packed today! So many whiney kids walking up and up! 

After Bear Hump, we headed to the Bison Paddock. We saw one bison up very close! He was attempting to scratch off his winter coat. We saw a few others, but way off in the distance. 

  
After the paddock, we decided to go to Maskinonge lake to enjoy a snack. 

  
We headed to Waterton town for dinner. I didn’t expect to see an actual town inside a national park, but there it is! We ate a couple meals here throughout our stay. 

   
 After dinner, we walked along the rocky beach, skipping rocks. We stayed in a camp site for our last night, so we headed back pretty early to rest up for our day of driving. 

We didn’t get the opportunity to do any big hikes at Waterton, mostly because we wanted to see a little bit of everything and big hikes take a whole day. I would love to do the Crypt Lake hike and the Carthew-Alderson hike at Waterton. 

One last post about our trip coming up – our pit stop on the way home! 

Waterton Lakes National Park Day 6 – Prince of Wales and Cameron Lake

  
On to Canada! Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park  are joined at the USA – Canada border. We got an early start to spend as much time in Waterton as possible. It was about an hour and a half to the lodge in Waterton where we were staying. 

We had to cross the US border into Canada first. They have removed all the trees along the border, so you can see a straight line exactly where the border is. People can’t cross without going through border control, but animals can! 

   
 Our first stop was to the Prince of Wales Lodge. It was designed by the same person who did the Many Glaciers Lodge. It was so adorable! It looked like a gingerbread house from far away, but up close you could tell it was much bigger. 

   
             

It actually wasn’t too expensive to stay and very worth every penny. It was quaint and exactly what you think of when you hear nature lodge. No internet or cable, but it’s not needed with these views! 

   
        

After getting checked in, we decided to spend the afternoon at Cameron Lake. We walked the Cameron Lakeside trail, totaling 2 miles. It was very level and very easy. Also a lot of traffic, great for families with kids of all ages.

  
  
We also decided to canoe on the lake. After canoeing and kayaking on this trip, I think I prefer canoeing. It seemed easier to steer the canoe. It was a little windy but still beautiful on the lake! 

  

   
   After our lake afternoon, we headed back to the lodge for dinner. Travis made us reservations at the dining room. We decided to get fancied up! 

   
  

I didn’t bring a hairdrier (not normally high on my camping list) so I had to “blow dry” my hair by sitting in front of a fan for 15 minutes constantly brushing my hair to keep it straight. I also didn’t bring any makeup or non camping shoes. Going with the natural look! 

  
After dinner, which was delicious, we went to the lounge for drinks and TV. I love watching tennis on TV, so I caught up on Wimbledon and we also got to see the end of the USA-Germany soccer game! Of course, we also enjoyed the views! 

   
   

Seriously, how cute are they?! Can that please be Travis and me one day? 

Tomorrow, Canada day! 

Glacier National Park Day 5 – Hidden Lake, Many Glaciers, and Virginia Falls

Today was our last day at Glacier National Park before heading to Canada. We woke up early to get our campsite packed up and get a good parking spot at the visitors center at Logan Pass. If you are thinking of vacationing at Glacier, get to the Logan Pass visitors center before 9am. The parking lot is full by 10 and it’s impossible to find parking. 

Funny story: we wanted to do an easier hike today since we had done such a big one the day before. We saw the trailhead for the Hidden Lake Overlook and it was only 1.5 miles there, 3 round trip. It also only had an elevation gain of around 550 feet, so we figured we could handle it in our sandals. Here is what the trail head looked like: 

   
 

Pretty easy right? We get over that hill and see this: 

   
   

See those little people hiking through the snow? At least half of the hike was through the snow. So, we did our “easy” hike through the snow, in our sandals. 

  
Haha! It really wasn’t too bad once we got over the shock value of walking through snow in sandals. We got a lot of comments from people we passed asking about how our feet felt. Honestly, the cold snow actually felt pretty good on our feet since we had walked so much the day before. No complainers here! And the Hidden Lake was gorgeous! 

   
       

We ran into another friendly mountain goat! Fan fact about mountain goats: the salt in human urine is helpful for them nutritionally, so they will often follow hikers around and wait for them to pee. 

  
I was surprised at the number of people doing this hike. According to the rangers, this hike is a very popular one at the park. After reading some of the trail books, I would like to do this trail again but continue on to the lake. Going down to the lake was another 1.5 miles, but every hiking book said it was so worth the extra 3 miles added to the round trip. Majority of people stop at the overlook like we did and head back. 

We went to the Many Glacier area of the park for the afternoon. To get to this area, you have to leave the park and re-enter in a different part. There were free range cows on the other part. Cow crossing! 

   
 Many Glacier has the park’s beautiful Swiss inspired lodge that sits right on a lake. 

   
 We spent the afternoon exploring the lodge and the grounds. 

   
 We bought some drinks and hung out by the lake for a while. 

  
Our biggest mistake of the trip was not spending more time here. It’s more expensive to stay in this lodge, but it would have been worth it. Next time, we are spending more than just an afternoon over here. We didn’t do any hikes starting from this area, but the Grinnel Lake hike is very high on my list. 

We headed back to the other side of the park because Travis rented us a cabin for the night, yay showers! On the way back, we saw a moose! We were pretty far away, but still neat. 

  
Before going to the cabin, I wanted to do the St Mary’s and Virginia Falls hike. This is the must do hike at Glacier for everyone. It totaled 3.5 miles round trip and was mostly level. The views of the Highline trail were my favorite, but this hike had the best ending destination. 

They were doing some construction on the road in the area but don’t let that deter you. It starts with .7 miles to St Mary’s Falls. 

   
   We then continued on another mile or so to Virginia Falls. All along the way, you fall a stream will some mini-waterfalls. 

   
   This is the one. It literally took my breath away. You could feel the energy coming off of this waterfall. You cannot pass this up! 

   

     After getting back to the car, we went to dinner at the Two Dog Flats restaurant and witnessed a beautiful rainbow. You could see the storm happening over in Canada.

   
 The clouds started to roll in, so we got some huckleberry beer and headed back to the cabin. 

   
   Tomorrow: on to Canada! 

Glacier National Park Day 4 – Highline Trail

  
Today was probably my favorite day. We planned our big hike for today. This is the trail that Travis intended to do on the second day. You will see from the pictures that the trail couldn’t be more different. 

We did the Highline trail. We hiked 7.6 miles to the Granite Park Chalet and back, making this hike just over 15 miles. If you are thinking of doing a longer hike at Glacier, this would be a great one. Ideally, you could start at Logan Pass (like we did) and hike to the Loop (where we watched the sunset from) and either hitch a ride or take the shuttle back to Logan Pass. That would put this hike at just over 10 miles. However, the shuttle wasn’t up and running yet, so we just decided to hike back to our starting point.

   
  

 It was worth every step. The hike was one of the most breathtaking hikes I have ever done and probably will ever do. It was carved out of the mountains (just above the Going to the Sun Road). 

   
   The first part of the hike was very popular. Even if you don’t do the entire path, the first few miles are still worth it. This trail is sometimes also called the Garden Wall. It’s so busy, they have a rope to hang on to. In addition of the high views, there are also beautiful flowers (hence the Garden part of the name). 

   
     Once you get past the first mile or so, the traffic dies down some, but it is still a pretty busy trail. Since it is up in the mountains, busy, and mostly clear sightlines, we didn’t feel quite so threatened by bears, but we did see some other wild life. A friendly mountain goat and lots of marmots. 

   
       No camera does this justice! 

   
         

      
The Chalet was a nice place to relax for a while and rest our feet for the hike back. 

   
   

      

We really took our time on the way there because we wanted to take in every view. We were able to go faster on the way back, but we stopped pretty frequently to make sure we were appropriately hydrated. 

We hung out at the visitors center for a little while, and then stopped to soak our feet in the cold river again before going to dinner. We opted not to cook at the camp grounds tonight and went back to Apgar Village for dinner at Eddie’s. 

  
After some relaxing and reading, we went to bed pretty early. Not only were we both exhausted from our day, we planned to get up early to pack up our campsite and have a great final day in Glacier. 

Glacier National Park Day 3 – John’s Lake Loop, Kayaking, Trail of the Cedars, and Sunsets

We decided to have a slow morning, so Travis made biscuits and gravy. I didn’t know camp food could be so good! By far the best thing I have ever had camping! It was so good, we made it a few days ago for breakfast at home. It’s a great and easy recipe for camping or for home. We just used canned biscuits. 

   
       

Yum! We started out the morning with an easy hike, the Johns Lake Loop. Due to some poorly labeled signs, we didn’t do the whole thing, but it was still a very easy, flat hike that I would recommend for all ages. I believe the whole hike was 3 miles round trip. We did about 2 miles of it. 

   
       

After that, we decided to do some kayaking. We have canoed before but we hadn’t kayaked together before. We kayaked on McDonald Lake. It was a hot (for Montana) day, so it was nice to be out on the water. 

   
   

We had meatball subs and dump cake for dinner. Dump cake is my all time favorite camping dessert. Plus, it’s super easy to make. 

   
   

We replaced the cherry pie filling with strawberry pie filling, only used 1/2 cup butter, and didn’t have whipped cream. 

Also at the Avalanche Lake trail head is the Trail of the Cedars. This trail is handicap  accessible and just less than a mile. I love that the park has this option. Great for kids and people that don’t do well with elevation. Plus, it didn’t skimp on the beauty. The park played home to some of the biggest cedar trees! It was breathtaking! 

   
     We wanted to see a good sunset, so we drove up to the loop to watch it. The sun doesn’t set in Montana until 10 or so. We were also hoping to do some stargazing, but it was a little too hazy for that. 

   
                           

This was a relaxing day and this sunset was the highlight. We planned our big hike for the next day, so we wanted a low key, easy going day. That is one of the best things about Glacier, you can have easy days and you can have full days. 

Glacier National Park Day 2 – Florence Falls Hike

  

Today was somewhat of a fluke day for us. We decided to do a longer hike today, and Travis had one picked out that he really wanted to do. Unfortunately, the map we had labeled some of the hikes differently than what Travis had researched, so we ended up on the wrong path. And this path was going right through bear country. 

We started from the Gunsight Pass trail head. The hike took us along the forest floor. We started with hiking next to a river. 

   
     

Once we crossed this suspension bridge, we knew we were in bear country, so we did everything you are suppose to do. We had bells on our bags, talked loudly, clapped, essentially made our presence known. It didn’t work. We came around a corner and around 30 yards away from the path was a black bear. Luckily it was just as surprised to see us and we were it. I wanted to scream and run; however, Travis did the right thing, square his shoulders to the bear and firmly tell it to go away. It worked. The bear ran from us. We were still very shaken up though. And yes, my husband did take on a bear, and win. 

  
We decided to continue on this path because we like to finish what we start. We did pretty much yell the entire remainder of the trail. I think every bear in a five mile radius knew we were coming.

  
It was not my favorite hike and I would not suggest this one for people to do. The path was not very well maintained. We got scratches all over our legs from over grown shrubs. We didn’t take that many pictures because it really wasn’t that pretty either. It was also not a very popular trail. We only saw two other people all day. 

We ended at Florence Falls. This was the highlight of the hike for sure. Very secluded. The final stretch up to the falls was the worst .6 miles of my life. Incredibly narrow and almost straight up. 

   
     

After walking our disappointed butts back to the trail head, we decided to stop at one of the pullouts to stick our feet in the icy cold river. 

   
   

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Apgar Village, shopping for souvenirs and eating huckleberry ice cream.  

  

  

 

Apgar village is a really cute area in the park. When the land was originally being bought to turn it into a national park, a few families didn’t sell their land. Lucky for the park, they keep it classy. There are a couple souvenir shops, a restaurant, and an inn. 

After that, we headed back to camp to make dinner. Travis made us enchilada casserole. 

   
 

I spent many nights reading. I really enjoy reading while camping because it is so quiet. I like having silence while I read and camping provides that. I read The Boys in the Boat while on this trip. This is a book I would highly recommend if you are into sports non-fiction. Inspirational, and now I have a new appreciation for rowing! 

  
One piece of advice if you plan to hike: invest in good hiking shoes. They make a big difference in longer hikes.