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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Glacier National Park 2021: July 3rd - Bowman and Kintla Lakes

 Nearly every guidebook said that Bowman Lake was the prettiest lake in the National Park, but it was difficult to get to. In fact, Google Maps indicated that it would have been a 2 hour drive to get to Bowman Lake from Kalispell, and I wanted to get to Polebridge when the Outfitter was open at 8:00am. There was no point getting there earlier than that, because the National Park Service required all watercrafts to be inspected prior to launching, and the inspection station outside the park would only open at 8:00am.

All my prior practice driving on dirt roads now paid off, as we left the hotel at 6:30am, and arrived at 7:50am in Polebridge after quite a bit of dirt driving. The Outfitter's staff had just arrived, and they quickly brief'd us on the use of the kayaks, gave us oars, mounted the kayaks onto the roof of the Subaru, showing me how the roof racks worked, and had us on the way. The watercraft inspection was smooth and they tagged the kayaks with a permit.

We arrived at Bowman lake at precisely the right time. The lake was still as a mirror, and was as breathtakingly beautiful as everyone had said it was. By the time we finished shooting pictures, unloaded the kayaks, and got Bowen and Boen into their wet-suit, there had been just enough wind to take away that mirror-like finish on the lake, so clearly getting up in time to leave at 6:30am was the right thing to do!

The kids fought over who got to ride with mommy and who got to ride with daddy. It was so frustrating to get there only to have both kids throw a temper tantrum, but eventually we cajoled them onto our various kayaks and pushed off. I enjoyed the kayaking, but Xiaoqin hadn't quite anticipated how heavy it would be, nor did she realize how little Bowen would help.
A mile down the river, we found a beach, got the kayaks off, and then had a quick drink and swapped kids. Bowen had abandoned the idea of doing any paddling, and we paddled down the lake another mile before switching side of the lake to return. We were warned against going all the way down the lake, as it was very likely that a wind would come up and we'd face a long slog back to the launch point, and I reflected that I would probably be able to make it bag, but Xiaoqin hadn't the requisite upper body strength, technique, and endurance to do much more than what we were going to do. As it was, I ended up using the equipment strap to rig a towline between our kayaks so I could row both kayaks back.

Once back ashore, it was already warm, and warm enough that a swim felt good. I discovered to my surprise that despite my viewing of the water temperature earlier on being close to 46F, the temperature felt actually much warmer than that and I could swim for a good 10 minutes. It was by far the most comfortable lake in the National Park that I'd swam in.

When we were all done and the kayaks deflated and put back into the car, it was 3:00pm. That was just enough time to drive over the Kintla Lake for a look see. The drive there was arduous and slow, and my wife questioned if we'd make it back in time for our dinner appointment, but I was determined to see it. The lake looked gorgeous and when we felt the water it was even warmer than Bowman Lake!

The ranger station was most picturesque, along with the motor launch vessel tied up at the NPS dock. I asked at the campground how hard it was to get a spot, and the lucky campers told me it was no problem at all. Given how hard it was to get to, apparently you can always get a spot. The camping fees were also much cheaper than our backcountry sites, at $10/vehicle rather than $6/person!

We reluctantly left Kintla Lake, went to return our kayaks with plenty of time, and also made our dinner appointment at Jag's in plenty of time. I told the kids that we could make one more run at Glacier National Park if we got up by 5:30am so we could make it into the park at 6:00am and we could then do Gunsight Lake. But I wasn't optimistic, given how worn out everyone looked.

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