The Grandest Gathering in Glacier

We have been traveling with these friends and family for several years now (hiking the Grand Canyon, Zion, Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, and more), and it is a highlight of our summer. Our bellies hurt for days from laughing so hard. This year’s trip consisted of a few days on each side of Glacier National Park. The west side is wet, and these first pictures are from our shenanigans of trying to keep our fire started with the “mother fanner!”

Our first day at Fish Creek was spent heading up to Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake (approximately 4.5 miles roundtrip). This is one of the easiest hikes with the biggest rewards.

After the short hike, we decided to head to the top of Going to the Sun Road to do the short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. It was the 4th of July and we were treated to the greatest goat show ever! The baby goats racing down the snow fields stole the show, and of course the kids AND dads had to test their skills too.

The following day was spent hiking the Highline Trail (which had just opened the day before), another favorite where you can shuttle up to the top and hike down 12 miles to another shuttle stop. You never know what the alpine climate will be from the bottom, so we were surprised to find the start of the trail was completely socked in to the clouds. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see much for many miles.

At one point, we lost our way in the snow and ended up following a goat trail. We had to back track through the snow field and luckily the clouds got sucked away as we tried to figure out where the trail was. Unfortunately, all the clouds sat above the Grinnell Glacier Overlook Trail, so we did not take the extension up to the amazing overlook this time around.

Thankfully, by the time we reached the chalet, we had a beautiful view of the Glacier mountain range. We enjoyed watching the marmots and deer explore, without any bear encounters.

We spent the evening waiting for the M family to arrive while playing an epic game of boat tag in Lake McDonald and getting all the runners out for a workout.

Yet another family arrived, and we spent an evening in friend/family bliss reconnecting and making memories.

We spent our last day on this side of the park repeating the Avalanche Lake Trail. It was almost like a whole different trail with the sun shining this time around. And oh yeah…we filled another bus to get there 🙂

As we left Fish Creek to head over to Many Glacier (which was a feat in itself to get 5 campsites in one of the most coveted campgrounds in America), the ranger informed us that the campground was only allowing hard sided campers due to a nuisance bear. Because 3 out of 5 families did not have hard sided campers, we tried to switch plans and find enough campsites elsewhere, without much luck. We opted to keep our sites at Many Glacier, and find a way to sleep everyone in vehicles or the two campers.

Despite whatever challenge is thrown at us, we will always find a way to make it work with this group!

Here’s a few pix of our camper with a few extras 🙂 Our car managed to house a few more too.

There are so many amazing hikes out of Many Glacier that despite staying there several times, we have not done them all. Our first hike was to Cracker Lake, a beautiful turquoise lake 6 miles in. Unfortunately, it had rained the day before, and the trail, which was primarily used as a horse trail, was filled with horse poop and mud. However, arriving at the beautiful lake made it all worthwhile! The kids were given their first ice cream challenge to jump in, and the Hoffs were all in. On the way out, we were able to explore a really cool mine, as well as seeing a grizzly and moose from safe distances.

Our final family joined us this night and we all had a blast around the campground and checking out moose at Fishercap Lake.

The next day was spent hiking another 12 miler to another favorite – Iceberg Lake. We were fortunate to arrive when one of the icebergs was close to shore, so we made sure to get some great pictures wearing Christmas hats and swim suits before it floated out to the middle of the lake! We managed to hike with 22 of us, and boy did we turn some heads!

Nights around the campsite with our big crew were just as fun as our day time hikes. Games, river water time, ice cream, and eating were some of our favorite activities.

Piegan Pass is another favorite, so the following day, we came up with a grand scheme to have the Pienkowskis shuttle our cars back, while we hiked across the park back to our campsite. Once again, we filled a shuttle bus to our drop off point 🙂

We love this hike especially because it requires some foresight to plan out logistics, so you rarely run in to other hikers on this route, and it’s one of the most beautiful hikes in the park.

Joe offered to buy Gavin and Braden ice cream if they hiked the whole way with a boulder in hand, and of course both boys rose to the challenge. Gavin became so attached to his boulder that he asked to continue hiking with it the next day.

Another fun challenge on this hike was to drop kick rocks into Lake Josephine. If they could skip the rocks off the drop kick, Mr. Hamilton would buy ice cream. With a bunch of soccer players along, Mr. Hamilton bought a whole bunch of ice cream that day!

We saved the Grinnell Glacier Trail for the last day because it was not open all the way, and we were hoping it would open before we left. We did not have luck with that, but the hike is so beautiful nonetheless. We stopped at the caution sign, ate lunch, hung out with a very friendly marmot, spied a moose down below, and headed back for our last night of fun together. The next day was so hard to say goodbye to this group!

We made sure we got lots of pix before we parted ways…

I think this hug says it all!

When everyone leaves, we use the time to relax, do laundry, hang out, play in the water, catch up on sleep, and more, in preparation for our next adventure.

After everyone left, we once again tackled our most ambitious hike, the Dawson-Pitamakin Pass Trail, a 19 mile loop hike out of Two Medicine. The weather turned rather quickly when we started, and the first few miles of our hike were in a downpour, and we debated whether we needed to turn around. The sky was quite ominous and we knew we didn’t want to be up at elevation when the worst of it hit. Adrenaline had us racing through, and we finished our 19 mile hike in 7.5 hours! If the Hoffs know how to do one thing, hands down it would be hiking.

Our last day in Many Glacier was spent with Katie, so we took her out to Iceberg Lake, and I’ve never seen anyone swim out to an iceberg as calmly as Katie. It was so fun to see her and play some games before heading off to Canada.

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