Glacier – Apgar Campground
Bug Bites: 3 (None until our last 3 days when we stood out in the evening talking with our neighbors. I think that Thermocell Chuck bought must have been working.)
We stayed at the largest campground in Glacier, Apgar. It is on the west side of the park near the shores of Lake McDonald. On some days we headed to other parts of Glacier, but we spent most of our time nearby. Even though Glacier is experiencing record crowds, we found the campground quiet and peaceful during the day when everyone else was out exploring. We’re learning that we like to have some down days without any set plans. I guess it’s our version of the weekend, a time to relax and putter around. So it was good to stay a full 2 weeks. We could intersperse quiet days with hikes and exploring. And we found that even with the crowds, if you time things right it’s not too bad. We biked the short path to the visitor center daily to check our mail on the free wi-fi, and often rode to Apgar Village, with outdoor rentals, souvenir shops, an ice cream stand and a beach on the lake. With super conservation we managed to go the entire time without having to hook up and drive the trailer to dump our grey tanks (there are no hookups so we’re dry camping).
Our first exploration day we drove up the east side of Lake McDonald. It starts right next to the campground and heads 10 miles north to the foot of Glacier’s peaks. I was amazed by all the colorful rocks I found along it’s shores. Looking west you get views of dead pine trunks sticking up through newer greenery below. Although I think these were the result of fire, many of the parks white pines are dying from a fungus and beetles.
At the north end is the Lake McDonald Lodge. The outside is Swiss Chalet, but the lobby is all hunting lodge with cool rustic chandeliers. A little further on is the McDonald River where the water rushes over the ledges of rock forming several falls. On one of our last days we enjoyed a 5 mile hike along it’s banks.
Near the top of the lake is one of the most popular hikes in the park, Avalanche Lake. We decided it would make a great first hike so headed there on our second day. We managed to find a parking spot at the popular picnic area and trailhead. To access the trail you start out on the Trail of the Cedars nature loop. If you read my earlier post about the cedar trail near Yaak River you know that this didn’t impress us much. It turned out that the whole trail to the lake was similar. It looked like any number of trails we had hiked back home and the lake, although pretty, was not much different, except for the parts where you could see Glacier’s peaks in the distance. Still I heard people exclaiming in awe of it all. My favorite part was the falls where the water rushed through stones, carving slowly away at their surface. We did see two deer (bucks with their fuzzy antlers) right by the trail, which is the first wildlife we’ve ever seen while hiking if you don’t count birds and chipmunks. So that was kind of cool.
On our last day there we rented a double kayak and headed out on the lake. We’ve been thinking about getting kayaks and this was a chance to try it out. At the rental place, they told us we could make it to a spot with views of a small sunken boat but to allow extra time to get back because of the wind. So off we headed. The paddling wasn’t too hard and it was nice out on the water. We enjoyed the views of some cabins and bald eagles nesting along the shore, but never did find the sunken boat. Turning back we found paddling back against the wind was going to be harder, just like the guy had said, but we still managed to get back before our 2 hours were up. I think if we get a kayak it is going to have to be more comfortable that this one was—we both had sore butts and backs.
All in all, Lake McDonald was another peaceful setting. Much like all the other special places we’ve discovered during our visit here, staring across the lake up to Glacier’s peaks brought a sense of peacefulness and wonder at the beauty of it all.