Avalanche Lake Trail, Glacier NP, July 18, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014 We must have been tired from yesterday’s adventures. Ran got up earlier around 7:15 and took a walk over to the cafe for some coffee. I got up shortly after and checked the Internet while Bob slept on until 8:30. Auggie and I took a walk to find Randy and we all got cleaned up and ready to take on the day. It was sunny with a little cooler high of 82 expected today. It was still hazy, but that won’t change anytime soon with the forest fires in nearby Spokane, Washington. It always takes a little breeze to clear up the air. We left the campground at 10:00. Our destination was Howe Lake on the Inside North Fork Road. 

It was a single lane gravel road that took us up to the trailhead. This part of the forest had been ravaged by fire at some time. There were lots of dead trees.

We drove up about 5 miles when we encountered another car going down. Luckily, there was a spot for one of us to pull off to let the other one by. We stopped them and asked them if they knew anything about the trail. They told us we had missed the sign and it was back down the road. They were headed there too. We found a place to turn around and went back to find the trail. We parked and started up the trail at 11:00. We weren’t far behind the other people. Bob was in the lead and wore the bear bells around both his ankles. Besides that, he yelled out in his booming voice, “Hey Bear” to let any bears know we were coming.

Ran and I followed. It was obvious that the path was not frequented very often and was overgrown, but we hacked our way through. We probably should have worn long pants, but we pulled up our socks instead.

Bob was good at pointing out animal tracks for us. We saw tracks for moose and maybe a deer or goat, but luckily no bear tracks.

We could hear the other hikers as we ascended the 240′ verticle climb for about a mile. Randy and Bob checked the altimeter on Randy’s watch to see if we were getting close.

According to Randy’s altimeter, we had already climbed high enough to be near the lake. Something was wrong with this picture. We met the other hikers coming down.

They told us there was nothing up ahead and they thought the low area where we were standing near must have been the lake at one time. We were all scratching our heads wondering what we missed.

We discussed it and decided to turn around. We headed back down when Randy got a phone call. At least the cell service was good here.

The trail was completely in full sun the whole way. Thank goodness it was hazy from the fires, otherwise we would have really baked.

When we got back to the car, we checked the map. Turns out we didn’t go far enough up the dirt road to the trailhead and we were on some fire trail. Oh well…..3 miles of hiking for nothing, but the trail was interesting. We ate our lunch and decided to take in another hike today. We were gluttons for punishment! We were headed for Avalanche Lake Trail–a 4 mile round trip hike and a climb of about 500′. We arrived at the popular trailhead about 1:00 and luckily found a parking space right away. We’re lucky that way! This is one of the “must-do” hikes from all of the things I’ve read and researched. It was on my list of things to do. It is reached from the Going-To-The-Sun Road on the western side, north of Lake McDonald. This hike starts out at the Trail of the Cedars–a paved 0.7 mile nature trail that connects with the Avalanche Lake Trail. The Trail of the Cedars loop trail is amazing by itself.

It takes you on a level boardwalk through a stand of hemlocks, cedars, and giant redwoods.

The trees were said to be 500 years old.

We did one half of the loop and then started our gradual assent which follows the Avalanche Creek.

It leaves the creek on a wide, rocky (but easily maneuverable)trail through the same type of forest. It was an interesting and well-defined trail to say the least. The trail opened up to some interesting views along the way.

We found so many things to look at and the best thing about it was that it was mostly in the shade. 

It took us up to Avalanche Lake that was nestled in the end of a very deep valley.

When the path from the woods finally opened up to the lake, my jaw dropped for a couple reasons:

1. There were so many people there that I never expected.

2. We could see 5 spectacular waterfalls from where we stood at the edge of the lake which was that beautiful aqua-marine color.

Avalanche Lake was surrounded by cliffs draped in waterfalls that cascaded all the way down to the bottom.

We stood there and could hear the roar of the waterfalls from across the lake. Sitting on a bench in the shade, we marveled at the beauty all around us. We were in awe! 

The walk back was easy and always seems less strenuous and quicker. 

Once we got back down to the Trail of the Cedars loop, we crossed the bridge and followed the boardwalk around the other half of the loop on the other side of the river.

We came across more huge trees and this gorgeous massive root system.

This half of the loop trail was completely boardwalk with nature signs along the way.

This 4 mile round trip hike was one of my favorites. What a pleasant way to spend an afternoon! Once we got back to the car, we made one more stop before heading back to the campground. We just had to see McDonald Falls.

We had passed it on the way to other places the last 2 days and had made a vow to stop and see it today, so we did. It was another awesome waterfall with such volume and power as it made its way down to the lake below.

We took a couple of funny pictures using the backup camera in the car, just to see if it would work (Randy’s idea). 

Then we headed back to the campground. We had walked about 10 miles in all today and were a little stiff getting out of the car once we got back. We all showered, grabbed a cocktail, and relaxed before dinner. Bob grilled up some burgers and brats with all the fixin’s and we chowed down. We worked up quite an appetite today. After dinner, Bob took Auggie for his walk while Randy and I checked out the sunset. It was obscurred by all the smoke and clouds, so we didn’t see much. Randy built a campfire and we roasted marshmallows for s’mores.

We enjoyed the evening with a campfire and great tunes. It was the perfect night for a campfire.

We had a great day–awesome scenery, lots of laughs, and great company!

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