We began our long and arduous journey home at 10 am, Pacific time, after a weird and somewhat cryptic conversation with the store keeper. We preferred his wife, she was a nice woman. This dude was odd as heck. Anyway.
We woke up at 9 and packed up the tent and repacked the car, and then we were off! On the road back out to Ilwaco, we saw A MAMA BLACK BEAR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. Oh boy did we get excited. And then, we looked to the right and there, in the tree, just chillin’, was a little black bear cub! We died, he was so cute. We sat there for about 3 minutes, and then he climbed away and we also climbed away, except we were in a car so it was more like we drove away.
We drove north on Highway 101 for a while, and then I think we took something that may have been a highway 18 or a highway 7. Either way, it took us to I-5, which led directly to I-90. After that it was a straight shot west; it could not have been any easier. We stopped on occasion to use the bathroom, to get some food, and to stretch our legs, which usually happened because the one of the first two were occurring. I drove from literally the coast of Washington all the way to Billings, Montana. A solid 17 hours of driving through two and a half states (I’m totally counting the 80 miles we drove in Idaho as a state) under my belt. After a brief stop in Billings, we continued on our merry way. Jennifer drove from Billings to Dickinson, ND, and then I continued dirving all the way back to Grand Forks. In retrospect, that was probably not a great idea, me driving for like, a bazillion hours with little-to-no sleep. But hey we didn’t die, so score one for us!
We made it back to Grand Forks around 5 pm on Saturday, and by 8 pm we were back on the road. Sara was driving this time; we packed her car and took off for the cities. I curled up in the back seat and slept for about an hour and a half or so, bringing my grand total of hours slept in the past 36 to about two. Woo!
The three of us made it to the cities around 1 am, and after Sara and I said our goodbyes to dear Jennifer, we made our way south to our MN home. We arrived around 3 am, and we didn’t even bother to unpack any of our things. We practically fell into our beds and passed out until 1 pm on Sunday.
The following week was one of rest and recuperation. Sara and I didn’t do much, other than go on long walks and watch American Horror Story: Hotel. If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. Lady Gaga is queen.
And with that, the saga of our super epic road trip is done. It was a really freaking awesome week, full of mountains and forests and oceans, and while I did put 3700 miles on my Jeep I’m gonna go ahead and say it was totally worth it.
Thanks Jen and Sara, for proving to me that we are adult enough to handle a road trip on our own. Till the next one! 🙂
Oh yeah, here are some more photos of flowers. You’re welcome.
Washington, another state I had never been to before this trip, has officially stolen my heart. Sorry, Minnesota, you may have a bit of competition! The mountains, the forests, the lakes, the fog, the rain, the everything. My photos did not do this state justice.
We drove the last six hours to Sol Duc, the campground where we would be spending the night. Sol Duc is located in the Olympic National Forest, in Washington’s beautiful Pacific Northwest region. Or, as Sara liked to call it, the GNP (Greater North Pacific), which should not to be confused with the GOP (Grand Old Party). We pitched our tent, a feat which all should be thoroughly impressed with. It took a bit of effort, but we did manage to make it stand up (by itself!) in the end.
We then decided to hit up all of the trails that we could. Sol Duc is home to a gorgeous waterfall, appropriately named Sol Duc Falls. We wanted to make our way to the falls, and then on the trail to Deer Lake. To reach the falls, we went on a path called Lover’s Lane. Not sure why it was named this, as the path was terribly maintained and would likely cause lovers to unlove each other due to it’s ability to cause tension and arguments regarding which way to go. Luckily for us, we didn’t like each other very much to begin with, so Lover’s Lane did not have the disastrous effects as it would on people who do actually like each other.
After what seemed like an year and a half, we made it through Lover’s Lane and out onto the super-fancy, super-nice path that led to the falls. We followed this path for about a mile, all the while hearing the falls roaring in the distance.
It was a bit chilly and rainy on our walk, and the spray from the waterfall only assisted with making us more damp. It was a lovely waterfall, however. Even though it got my camera all wet. Sad day.
Just past the falls was the path for Deer Lake. We had read about Deer Lake in little pamphlet that the park ranger had given us upon check-in. It was about a 4-mile hike, which sounded like a good way for us to get out and stretch our legs after driving for the last 9 hours. We started the hike, and it was really uphill and rocky. The path was essentially a dry creek bed that they had somewhat improved by strategically placing rocks and/or building some steps and bridges. And I use the words “dry creek bed” lightly, as the majority of the creek bed had some water running through it, i.e. wet socks, wet shoes. Everything was so squishy damp. So squishy damp.
So we hiked uphill on this dry creek bed for a long time, and eventually we were like, “Wait, is this another mountain?” And sure enough, we doubled checked the pamphlet from the ranger and it said that Deer Lake was indeed a mountain lake. Meaning that it is a lake hidden in the mountains. The snow was a bit of a give-away, as well.
Okay, so the elevation was only about 1700 feet vs. the 4200 feet of Mount Brown (refer to my post “The Story of Mount Brown” for the full story of Mount Brown), but seriously who accidentally climbs a mountain, not once but twice in one week? Apparently, we do.
We really need to start reading the fine print when people give us information.
So we made it to the top of this mountain, and we found Deer Lake. Sara, our line leader for this expedition, shrieked with excitement when she saw the lake, which spurred Jennifer and myself on. We were thrilled to be off this weird trail.
The lake was absolutely gorgeous. We sat on the wooden bridge for some time. Jennifer ate an apple and a granola bar. We all took a few hearty swigs of water. After a few moments, there was some fog that began to form. It was lovely fog, all heavy and wispy at the same time, and it came down from the mountains and covered the trees across the lake. I had never seen fog descend on a place like that, so that was pretty neat. I got a few neat photos too.
Sara and Jennifer had continued on the path; we were going to attempt the trail to Mink Lake, which would then lead us back to out campground. I think. I wasn’t 100% sure on the logistics of this hike. I was more focused on taking photos of the trees and the moss and the water. Which I did. I just followed Sara and Jennifer, and trusted that they knew the way. Or at the very least that they could interpret the map.
So I was busy taking pictures of the fog while Sara and Jennifer forged ahead on the path, and about six minutes later I hear Sara yelling at me, asking me what the hell I was doing. So I was like, yeah yeah I’m on my way when in reality I was still snapping a photo or two. Oops. 🙂
I did make my way to them, however, and the path had effectively disappeared under the snow. So much snow. We made our way across a slough covered in snow on the south side of Deer Lake, and then there was just an open field of snow with no tracks from previous hikers. We were effectively screwed. Sara and Jennifer really gave it their best effort, in their attempt to find the trail.
We wandered around for about half a mile before resigning ourselves to the fact that we will just have to go back down the dry creek bed trail. I groaned inwardly and sighed outwardly, but since going downhill is easier than going uphill I was mildly okay with it. I tried being the line leader for about two minutes, and I ended up falling down and getting my shoe severely stuck in the snow. Jennifer had to retrieve it for me, which was harder than it sounds because my shoe was really stuck in there. I was a little embarrassed so I just went back to my usual spot in line, bringing up the rear. We ended up running down the mountain path again, but this one was much more rocky and dangerous so we stopped after about half a mile.
After what seemed like a forever amount of time spent walking (you know, it’s really hard to keep going when your butt and thighs and calves are sore and you haven’t slept more than an hour and a half in the 28 hours), we finally made it back to the waterfall, but then it was still quite a jaunt back to the entrance of Lover’s Lane. Apparently we were feeling quite spry when we began our hiking adventure earlier, and practically sprinted through the path because it seemed much shorter the first time. We reached the entrance of Lover’s Lane but we had already decided that we were not going through that shit-show of a trail again, even though it was quite lovely and very Jurassic Park/Star Wars-esk. It was fun to traipse through the woods and rediscover the lost path, but we just did not have the energy for that. Hiking up and down a mountain in squishy damp shoes with sore butts, thighs, and calves can really put a damper on one’s attitude for adventure. We were also hungry. So, we walked out to the parking lot and decided to walk along road back to our campground. Which was fine, it just took an extra mile or so to get back, bringing our total for the day up to approximately 12 miles. Woo!
We found the campground, and we cut through the small bit of woods between the road and the campground to get back more quickly. I saw a giant log on the ground, and of course I decided to sit there and count the rings on the stump to see how old it was.
262 years old, in case you were curious.
So after this brief tree-ring-counting-detour, which took about 10 minutes, I made my way back to the campsite, where Sara and Jennifer were preparing their food for supper. I tucked right in, and after a hearty meal of sandwiches and s’mores and Cheerios and chickpeas, we went to bed. I was pooped. Which makes sense, because by that point I had slept for approximately an hour and a half in the last 36. Not a great track record.
We fell asleep listening to the sound of the breeze rustling through the moss on the prehistoric-looking pine trees.
And subsequently awoke to the same prehistoric-looking pine trees.
We woke up later this morning, due to the fact that we had just climbed 10 miles up a mountain the previous day. We packed the car in record time before heading out to the Glacier National Park visitor center. We caught the free shuttle to the Avalanche Lake trail head to do some more hiking before moving on with our journey west. We spent a fair amount of time hiking to Avalanche Lake, as we were doing our best to waste as much time as possible. I was allowed (Thanks, guys!) to take photos with my camera, and so I took full advantage of that. 🙂
We finally made the 2.5 mile walk (5.5 miles round-trip) to Avalanche Lake, and boy was that a sight to behold. Crystal clear water surrounded by trees, mountains, and more trees. I could have stood there all day.
Alas, we eventually had to move on, and get back on the road. We stopped in Whitefish to have a picnic in a park and eat some delicious ice cream. My flavor was Montana Huckleberry. It seemed fitting.
I was the driver for the four hour trip to Spokane, Washington. We drove along Highway 93, and that was seriously the curviest road I have ever driven on, I felt like a NASCAR driver. With a Jeep. In the mountains. Montana really is something, landscape-wise. We merged onto Highway 200, which turned out to be a neat little drive through the Montana countryside. It brought us right into Idaho (the panhandle, to be specific), a state I had never been to until this trip. It seemed oddly like western Montana to me. How curious.
The sunset we were chasing was absolutely gorgeous. I had been begging to stop at almost every scenic turnout, but I was turned down by my passengers, and was told to “take a mental picture.” Even though I was driving. You’ll just have to believe me when I say that the sunset, silhouetted by the mountains and reflecting off the water, was lovely. Everything about this trip has been lovely so far. I was (grudgingly) allowed to take a photo of the sunset, and so here it is, in all of its sunset-y glory.
The three of us made it to Spokane (a rather surprising feat, for there were some foreboding signs on Highway 200 in Montana about big horned sheep and 433 killed and 55 mph. We’re still not entirely sure what they mean; 433 big horned sheep killed? Or have the big horned sheep caused the death of 433 humans? Also, this was over the course of a 19-mile stretch, and so that seems like a very specific area to have had so many deaths. The deaths per square foot must be incredible. Additionally, what is the time frame that we’re looking at; for the last year? 10 years? 50 years? So many questions, so many theories and speculations, so little knowledge about big horned sheep and their death rates.) around 10:45 p.m. Pacific time and stopped at Walmart for a couple of camping necessities. We also stopped for gas and coffee, found I-90, and headed west into the night.
It was just Sara, me and the semis awake on the road. We drove for two hours before needing a brief nap. We stopped at a rest area, saw that there was a homeless lady sleeping on the cement outside of the women’s restroom in a sleeping bag and decided to drive 40 miles to the next rest area, where there was no homeless lady sleeping on the cement outside of the women’s restroom. We managed to sleep in the car for a solid hour and a half. After shutting my eyes for what seemed like a second, it was 4:30 a.m. and I figured we should probably keep going. So, we kept going.
SCENE: Mount Brown, Glacier National Park. Sunday, May 28, 2017. 10:30 a.m.
Sara – our fearless line leader and choir conductor.
Jen – our amusing conversationalist and in-house animal expert/eye candy.
Anna – the laggard bringing up the rear and company photographer.
Those two guys who made us feel bad about ourselves because they were sprinting up the mountain – they also showed us mountain goats.
Pink Shirt Guy – at first, he was amused by our quirky antics but soon got really annoyed and quickly passed us by.
The Elderly Snientist – an optimistic gentleman who showered us with words of encouragement, which we ignorantly believed, and also made us laugh with his tales of lost chainsaws. We also think he may have been a snow scientist, but this fact was neither confirmed nor denied.
The Pesky Mountain Goats – so cute! But so annoying, as we are humans in their territory and are advised not to approach. Hard to do when they are standing on the trail and won’t leave.
Special Guest Star: The Snow that Wouldn’t Quit – first made it its appearance as a small patch along the trail and we were like, aw look at that snow and then it became 6 feet deep and were like what in the actual heck, snow. Why.
Narrator: (Dramatic voice) On this day, three girls accidentally climbed a mountain. You may be wondering, just how dumb do you need to “accidentally” climb a mountain. Well, all you need is a bit of blind ambition and a lot of blissful ignorance. Mount Brown is home to a rather formidable trail, one of the most difficult in Glacier National Park. It ascends over 4200 feet in 5 miles, so you can imagine that the trail is steep. What you may not imagine is the fact that there is also snow on top of a mountain. Or maybe you can imagine that. If that is the case, then you would have been better prepared than these three girls. Good for you.
It’s not as if these girls did not have the means to be prepared to climb the mountain. In fact, they had a magazine (which they evidently did not read very closely before attempting to climb said mountain) that stated Mount Brown was indeed a difficult hike; in fact, it was labeled as “strenuous” in the magazine. Now, these are relatively smart girls, two with college degrees and the other beginning her junior year in college this fall, but apparently they decided to interpret the word “strenuous” as “oh, this will be a super nice hike with awesome views of the mountains and stuff” rather than “yeah you’re about to hike up a mountain.” It’s all about the context, I guess.
This is their story, the story of Mount Brown and how they potentially possibly could have maybe died but didn’t.
Oh sorry, spoiler alert.
We started our day with a hearty continental breakfast from the hotel. We made our way to the Glacier National Park visitor center, located on the Going-To-The-Sun Road, where they told us that parking at Avalanche Lake would be extremely limited. We were feeling optimistic, however, and decided to try parking there. Apparently everyone else wanted to park there too, so we were forced to come back and park at Lake McDonald. This worked out just fine, and we decided to hike up Mount Brown. You would think, with a name like Mount Brown (emphasis on the “Mount”) we would have realized that it would not be a simple hike up a hill. We were literally in the mountains of Montana, for God’s sake!
We began our hike at the Sperry trail head, which started right across the road from Lake McDonald, and went up a fairly gradual incline for a solid mile and a half. We found the Mount Brown trail head and thus we began our ascent. Within 10 minutes we had to stop again, our butts and thighs were dying. But this was just the beginning. We hiked for a long time, back and forth up the switchbacks (thanks, expert hiking [aka mountain-sprinter] guys who helped us figure out the mountain lingo) and stopped periodically for water and air. We made it to a lovely little overlook, and we figured we should be fairly close to the top. Boy, were we wrong. We hadn’t even encountered the snow, yet!
The snow started out as a small patch in the woods by the trail, and we thought it was just the cutest little patch of snow we’d ever seen. And then said snow patch multiplied in number and size, and soon everything was covered in a six-foot snowdrift. We learned later that this snow does not disappear until mid-July. Lucky us. It was during this snowy trail era that we ran across (whom we believe to be) the snow scientist. He was sitting in the snow using a little saw to cut into the snow drifts. So, he was either a snow scientist or an elderly guy who liked to sit on the side of a mountain and investigate the snow. Rather curious. He told us we were doing a great job, climbing the mountain. He also gave us directions to get around a particularly giant snow drift which was coming up in our path. This snow drift was probably close to 10 feet tall. We had to skirt around it, so thank goodness there had been people going on the trail before us so we had footprints to follow in.
We trekked through the snow, slipping and sliding as we went along. Luckily we had started our journey early enough in the morning so the snow was still pretty solid during our ascent. No one had any major spills down the mountainside, but Sara and I did fall much more often than Jennifer (and I fell more often than Sara). Jennifer does parkour (hard-core parkour!) as a hobby and thus has fairly decent balance and footwork, which I am sure contributed to her lack of falling. She’s so fancy.
We were so full of optimism and blind ambition. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we started our journey up Mount Brown. However, I think it was this total unpreparedness that allowed us to get as far as we did. If we had 100% knew we would be climbing up a mountain, we honestly probably would have given up. It was the lack of us knowing just how steep and arduous this hike would be that allowed us to almost reach the top. I say “almost” because we did not actually make it to the top. We were probably about half a mile from the top, where it apparently became pretty flat and there was a nice building in which to sit. However, to get to said “top,” we would have had to hike crawl up the mountain side, by holding onto the snowy footholds made by previous (and more courageous) hikers. We stopped because we honestly feared for our lives. In fact, Sara was sitting in the snow for some time, contemplating her life and was about 83% sure she might die. However, the odds were in her favor and she survived. We all survived, in fact, and we are stronger for it. I also got a few super sweet photos, so that was a bonus!
Sara and Jennifer refused to go any further, but I decided to try, and climbed about 200 feet up the mountain before calling down to my companions that yes, they were right, it was absolutely terrifying and if they could be so kind as to not rub it in my face that would be great. So I channeled my inner mountain goat and crawled back down. It was a bit of a struggle, to be completely honest, but I made it without dying! Now it was just the rest of the mountain we had to descend.
Going down the mountain was much easier that going up. It helped that we were fueled by adrenaline and had just been staring our almost-death in the face. We traipsed our way through the snow drifts, and finally (finally!) got back to the no-snow-trail. At this point we started full-out running down the mountain path, which was actually a lot of fun and probably pretty dangerous, but none of us died or twisted an ankle or anything so that was good.
We also made some friends on the way down the mountain; the two guys who sprinted up the mountain also sprinted down (how, we still don’t know) who introduced us to the pesky mountain goats who just would not get off the path, and the guy in the pink shirt, who we later developed an undeserved (yet extremely personal) vendetta against. Unsure why this vendetta became so strong, but it provided a solid source of entertainment for the rest of the week.
We finally made it down the mountain, feeling more than a little sore, tired, and hungry. We reconvened at the Jeep, determined that we had hiked (or bear-crawled) approximately 10 miles in 5 hours, and grabbed some water and food to replenish our bodies and souls. We meandered down to Lake McDonald to rest our feet in the cool mountain water.
Along the way, we paused to appreciate Mount Brown from a distance. It was really high. We were like, wait we just hiked up that?
We fell, we laughed, we wanted to sit down and cry, we almost made it to the top of the mountain and we have no regrets. Having never climbed a mountain before, I think we did a bang-up job of doing it.
Girls . US Highway . Outlandish plan to head out west .
My younger sister Sara and I, along with out lovely friend Jen, made a plan to drive out west on US Highway 2, over Memorial Day Weekend. Well, it’s Memorial Day Weekend and we have actually followed through with said plan. Technically it is still being followed through with, as we are currently in Montana. We have a lot more “west” to cover before completion of the trip. The fact that we are even on the first leg of this trip is in and of itself an amazing feat, as we are fairly notorious for making elaborate and exciting plans and only following through with a fraction of them. It’s a real issue.
Like I said, we are currently in Montana. Columbia Falls, a tiny town just outside of Glacier National Park, to be exact. We started out from Grand Forks, North Dakota on Friday evening at approximately 11:45 p.m. after a necessary food stop at Walmart. Sara had driven to The Cities that day to pick up aforementioned lovely friend Jen, as Jen was a necessary component to this trip and did not have a vehicle with which to transport herself the five-hour drive from Minneapolis to Grand Forks. It really is a shame that aparation is not a real thing. That would make life so much more convenient. However, I digress. It is not the time to delve into the Wizarding World, no matter how fun that may be. This is the time to discuss the first leg of our “Let’s Go West!” camping trip. Like I said, we left Grand Forks around 11:45 on Friday night. I was the lucky one who got to drive through the whole great state of North Dakota. It really wasn’t bad, as I had taken a solid two hour nap on Friday around 7 p.m. in preparation for the all-night driving session, but I will admit it got a little rough around 4:30 a.m. My passengers had fallen asleep, so I just had Third Eye Blind to keep me awake. However, we managed to make it to Montana in time for the sunrise.
We stopped for breakfast, and kept right on going. I was provided a two-hour reprieve, during which time I had a nice little nap. I decided I wanted to drive again, because it was my vehicle we were taking (a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, white) and I just like to drive. And drive we did. Montana is a huge state, nearly twice the length of North Dakota. It took 5 hours through ND, which meant that we had about 9 hours to go through MT. However, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for a drive. The three of us grew up in southern Minnesota, and so we were not used to such terrain. The hills of Montana were exciting, but when we saw the mountains we (meaning I) became ecstatic. There were squeals of excitement all around. Mainly from me. Of course, we had to stop once we were close enough to take some photos of the impending mountains.
So we kept on driving and eventually made it to the mountains, and man was that a sight to behold. I’ve never really been in the mountains, much less driven in them, so that was an adventure. After our lovely drive through the mountains, we made it to the west side of Glacier National Park, and we found our hotel in Columbia Falls around 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The beds were very inviting, and I ended up taking an hour-long nap, which increased the number of hours I had slept in the last 18 to a whopping total of three. Later that evening, Sara and I decided to do a bit of exploring. We found a nice little lake to sit by whilst watching the sunset. It was a gorgeous evening, albeit a bit buggy, but that is to be expected. It was around 65 degrees, no wind, and it smelled like forest. Wonderful.After our nice little sit by the lake, we returned to the hotel for a much-needed repose.