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Off-trail

Days 53-54: Goin-to-the-Sun Road

Day 53: Lake Macdonald

We didn’t really have to hurry to get out of the West Glacier RV Park. We only had a few miles to go to our next destination and could fill the hours between as we liked. Since I stayed up late, I slept as late as my body would let me, then cooked one of our microwave breakfast sandwiches and had a bagel and yogurt and fruit and coffee for breakfast.

Finally, just about checkout time at 11, we were packed up and ready to go. The first stop was the Mercantile for some butter. Or rather vegetable oil spread because I wanted it to be easily spreadable.

Then we stopped at the Backcountry Permit Office to discuss the trail conditions and the finer points of acquiring a backcountry permit the following morning. We also watched the required 15 minute video while we were there. We decided that a very early start the following morning to get into the office first would be called for.

Then we decided to go west out of Apgar and see what was that way. We stopped and ate ate the turkey sandwiches I had made at Fish Creek Picnic Area. While we were there, we had plenty of cell service, so we watched a docuvertisement about the “famous” Polebridge Mercantile. We decided we might as well go see it.

It was 30 miles up a dirt road just outside the park’s west side, and there it was, a cleared flat dirt lot filled with cars. And even just outside the door of the merc it smelled like sweet and cinnamon baked goods. I bought a loaf of fruit fritter, Mama got an apple danish, and they threw in a day-old pizza rollie.

We asked about the gas they had. They said 6.50/gal, 3 gal max. We decided we had enough to get back to West Glacier.

On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant and bar that was not nearly as popular as the merc. We decided to pass on eating there. I certainly wasn’t hungry.

We stopped at the Glacier sign on the way back in for a picture, then at the gas station in West Glacier before heading out to check into Lake Macdonald Lodge. Because we checked in fairly early, we got one of the better rooms on the second floor. No lake view, but a big window and a fan to put in it.

After we had brought in what we were going to bring in, I spent a couple of hours in the lobby trying to get some pictures uploaded for you readers. I was interrupted because Mama was hungry so we went down to the lake to eat supper. Then I left to continue my blogging project and even get a nice tepid shower to cool off before we returned to the lakeside to try to watch sunset. But there were clouds completely obscuring the sun and there wasn’t much to see.

And, given that I was going to have to get up really early in the morning, I got to bed as soon as I could after that. It was still hot in the room but the temperature was starting to drop and the fans helped. I’m sure I was asleep before 11.

Day 54: Rising Sun

My alarm went off at 4am and I started getting up and getting dressed and was ready to leave by 4:30. Destination? Backcountry Permit Office in Apgar Village. Mama dropped me off there just before 5 and I was the first in line.

What followed was three hours of sitting on the ground hoping my itinerary would be possible. At first there was enough wireless data that I could watch TV shows, but then more people showed up making meaning I couldn’t make so much sound. (I had left my headphones in the room on accident.) Then the whole village started waking up and the data speeds just evaporated.

Finally, I got inside and there was a mad rush all over the park as 8 group leaders in four locations were all putting together permits at the same time. The rangers were pretty surly compared to how friendly they had been the day before. My itinerary was almost finished being plugged in when the last day didn’t work out. And then a ranger suggested putting me on a permit that was being made at another location. It got me to most of the places I wanted to be on the days I wanted to be there. The only downsides were a very long day later in the week and the fact I would have to pay for a night I had no intention of using. I took it because it seemed likely to free up sites for other people and they said there was no problem adding Jacob to it.

I was done by 8:20 but no one else there was going past the lodge so I walked over to the visitor’s center while calling Mama at the lodge to come get me. She picked me up there and brought me back to the lodge, at which point we had a leisurely rest of the morning, not leaving until checkout time at 11. I had what amounted to a McDonald’s breakfast meal with sausage egg McMuffin and some wifi time in the lobby. Finally, we set out to drive the whole Going-To-The-Sun Road.

We stopped a few times along the way so that we took all day to finish it. We walked the Trail of the Cedars (a mile of hiking!), climbed up to a waterfall near the Weeping Wall, wandered around the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center, checked out the CDT crossing, had lunch overlooking St. Mary Lake, hiked out to Sun Point (separately–I also literally ran over to Baring Falls while Mama was at Sun Point), and got the famous photo overlooking Wild Goose Island before we made it to the Rising Sun Motor Lodge.

We checked into our cabin, put all our food inside, then left again immediately to check out the restaurants in St. Mary town.

We stopped at Johnson’s and heard it had an hour wait. We went up the road and everything else seemed closed, so we came back and signed in on the wait list. We were one of the last few seated and one of the last to leave after it closed. I had a huge spinach salad with chicken and huckleberry cream fizz, and Mama got the special, which turned out to be beef sliced and drenched in gravy with sides of bread, decent mashed potatoes and undesirable cole slaw, most of which she gave me. She also ordered huckleberry ice cream and ate most of it because I couldn’t find anything special about it.

And with that we returned to the cabin, opened the window and stuck the fan in front of it, and went straight to bed. Another early morning awaited.

Miles hiked: probably like 2

Trail miles: 0.1 to be hiked again verbatim

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