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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Glacier National Park 2021: Prologue

 When considering our summer vacation this year, we had several constraints. The big one was that we didn't expect to be able to have the kids keep their masks on for the entire time during a transatlantic flight. We also didn't anticipate the kids getting vaccinated by then, being 6 and 9. Finally, we wanted to take advantage of the July 5th and 6th long weekend. I'd originally proposed driving up to Boise Idaho and working remotely, but my wife didn't want to do it.

I figured this was a good year to do some domestic travel. I'd always loved Glacier National Park, but I'd never actually visited it during the summer during the prime backpacking season. The kids loved back-country camping, so I joined in the lottery to reserve a backcountry camping spot. I lost the lottery big time, getting my reservation confirmation only in mid May, and then went about booking lodging around my backcountry permit, only to discover that much of the prime lodging was already taken. I did what I could, but then also discovered to my dismay that Glacier National Park had now instituted an entry-permit system similar to Yosemite's, and all the entry permits were already taken. I was now officially soured on the pandemic having driven so many people to visit National Parks instead of going to New York City, Malls, or Movie Theaters like they were supposed to. Fortunately, Arturo was also going to be there at the same time, and he had 2 permits. If it was anything like Yosemite's, they would give us a hang tag for the car and once he got us the permit we would be good for the week.

Arriving late at night on June 24th, we walked our luggage down to the airport hotel and slept. At breakfast the next morning, a fellow tourist heard Boen and I talk about visiting Glacier National Park, and walked up to our table with a canister of bear spray. "Would you like this? It's never been used!" I never would have considered buying one, but sure, I'd take it for free!

After breakfast, I walked across the street and proceeded to try to pick up a rental car, but not before the rental car administrator convinced me to upgrade to a Subaru Outback SUV rather than using the Fiat 500-sized they were about to give me. It was an extra $40 a day (after sales tax, etc), but it turned out to be an excellent choice. We loaded everything into the car, which barely fit, and then drove off to Idaho's Target for some supplies, including a cooler, various picnic food, and drinks.

I'd already picked out a hike for the first day prior to arriving at Flathead Lake Resort: Diamond and Cliff Lake. On the map it looked like it wouldn't be too far out of the way, but in practice, it was a huge off pavement detour. Nevertheless, we arrived safe and sound and I got practice playing around with the SUV off pavement. It handled very well and I could see why many of my outdoor friends loved the Subaru.

We ate a quick lunch at Diamond Lake, and then hiked up over to Cliff Lake. The parking lot was full but we didn't see anyone at Diamond Lake, which made me curious, and as we arrived at Cliff Lake we could see that a large church group had taken over the lake side. The group leader offered to take a photo of our family, and I assented, and while he shot the photo I noticed the pistol strapped over his chest. Another member of his party was similarly dressed, which made me feel just a little uncomfortable but I tried not to let it show. Neither my wife nor kids noticed!

The hike back down was just as pretty as the hike up, but we were now several hours behind schedule, and now the drive down to Flathead Lake felt tiring, beautiful though the countryside was. We arrived at the Flathead Lake Resort, with no one to greet us and no apparent way to contact the staff. I eventually found the text message with the internet wifi password and got enough connectivity to send off a text message, whereupon a staff member showed up to tell us which cottage we were in and we were supposed to just walk in and grab the key. She recommended a local place for dinner and we went over and grabbed dinner, texting Arturo as to plans to meet tomorrow.

However, it was a misunderstanding—he was planning to arrive not on the 25th, but on the 26th, and so we would get access to the park only on the 27th!

Once again, I turned to the book in search of a nice hike to do on the 25th, and found the Picnic Lakes or Birch Lakes, which seemed like nice hikes. I told Arturo that we had a plan and not to worry, and we made plans to start as early as possible.

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