Archive for September, 2015

Summer Vacation 2015 (Part Two: Glacier National Park)

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015


As we left Coeur d’Alene on Sunday, Harrison remarked, “For my first trip, I’m going to come here with my kids.”  You can see the first half of our summer trip by clicking HERE.

Greg talked us into driving a little out of the way so the kids could see the Canadian border.  We then drove to Whitefish to meet up with our friends, Aaron and Angie Scott and their five kids.  We had dinner with them in town.  We planned our next few days in Montana.


We enjoyed a rest day at our cabin on the Flathead River.  (Across the river from the cabin is Glacier National Park.)



The morning started with Em making eggs and the boys making toast.  Sometimes it gets hot in the kitchen. . .


We played Sorry (a.k.a. “the game of sweet revenge”).



Emmeline and I read some too.  She was reading the Percy Jackson series.

I read Heidi.


We waded in the river.

This pretty much sums up my kids:
One happy explorer.
One elegant day dreamer.
And one charismatic risk taker…who tends to steal the spotlight.



Then we headed into town and had crepes for lunch.

For dinner, we grilled out.  The grill was kind of dirty and the contents were catching on fire.  We didn’t want to start a forest fire in such dry conditions, so Greg babysat the grill while I went in and out with food.  He even dragged out a few fire extinguishers for good measure.



Post dinner trash duty is serious business in bear country.



We drove into Glacier National Park.  We hiked the Cedar Trail up to Avalanche Lake (about 6 miles round trip) and had a picnic there.




Although St. Mary’s was closed because of a forest fire, we drove the Going to the Sun Road up to Logan’s Pass where the continental divide cuts through the park.


The landscape is so severe and vast and glorious in Glacier.  There were many times that I didn’t even attempt to photograph the mountains out of respect for God and his creation. I knew I just couldn’t even approximate what they are like.

I had waited over 20 years to return to a landscape like this.  I had waited over a dozen years to have kids old enough to hang with me and hike steep trails.  Sometimes as a mom, I feel like I am always having to run a three legged race and dumb down my intensity.  One of the things that made our summer trip so magical is that my family shared in that intensity some.

Twenty two years ago, as a highschool sophomore, I had the opportunity to live in Zermatt, Switzerland which lies at the foot of the Matterhorn.  The program Swiss Semester still exists.  Ever since then, I have had a strong longing to return.  When I hike, I feel alive. I feel like me.  Shooting, teaching, creating does it too.  Hiking in the mountains is on that very short list for me.

Here is a throwback photo of me as a 15 year old doing a 7 hour hike over a mountain pass.  We spent the night in an Alpine hut.

Rachel Swiss Semester Over Pass_blog

And here is a throwback photo of one of my first Swiss adventures–ascending Breithorn with crampons clipped on my boots.  The man in the photo is a Swiss guide.  I was tethered to him for safety.  We are looking straight at the side of the Matterhorn.

Swiss Semester Klein Matterhorn Swiss Guide_blog

Carter gets it.  I knew he would.  He’s intense.  He wants to explore.  He wants to move.  He wants to go.  I knew he would feel free hiking.  He loved Montana.

After our hike, Carter and I checked out Apgar Lake.  I’d like to spend a whole day here next time we come.  (This isn’t a picture of my kid.  Kind of creepy, but I couldn’t help myself.)


Grampy told us to stop at The Huckleberry Patch to get a huckleberry shake.  This was pretty much all Harrison cared about in the days leading up to our promised “pilgrimage”.  If you’ve never had a huckleberry shake, it tastes like a vanilla milk shake mixed with blueberry muffin batter.  It’s delicious and rich.  Harrison was all business.



We woke up super early (5:30 a.m.), met the Scott’s nearby, and drove to the east side of The Park (about 2 1/2 hours away!).

We hiked up to Ice Berg Lake.

It was an epic day…

28,461 steps.
11.6 miles.
15 years of friendship.
12 people.
8 kids.
1 moose.

(At the end of this blog, you can see Greg’s account of this hike.)


We had lunch at the lake.  We walked around the side to touch snow–a novelty for Texans in August.

You just can’t see this and feel this and experience anything like this from a car or a plane or a helicopter or a boat.  You have to go by foot because it is the only way to get there.


Angie’s littlest, Gage, gave her a tiny mountain flower.





Harrison learned to cool himself down by filling his hat with water and dumping it on his head.



We’ve known Aaron and Angie since before any of us had kids.  If anyone in my family were ever in great need, I know we could call on these friends.

Aaron can get Greg to laugh like no one else.  These two always have a good time when they are together.  This friendship is precious to us.


We drove back to the cabin after grabbing dinner on the road.  We.  Were.  Wiped.

Carter said it was “the best day of his life”.  He was so jacked up emotionally about the moose and the hike that he didn’t fall asleep until 1:30 a.m. that night.


We slept in a bit.  Packed up and flew home.



I am so thankful for our summer trip.  It was an experience all five of us will cherish.

I got to know my family better and enjoy each of them.

I saw how Emmeline faced her self-doubt.  She started off our second large hike struggling to get going and keep pace with the group.  She didn’t complain.  She put one foot in front of the other.  She kept going.  Even though hiking isn’t “her thing”, she made it her thing with a good attitude.  She tried to get on board to love me.  On the descent she admitted, “I sort of like hiking now.”  I also saw how she is a peace-maker.  When there is conflict in our family or when someone is struggling, she has a beautiful way of re-directing.  She is emotionally sensitive.  She recognizes when someone is struggling and works to help move them emotionally.  It is kind of hard to explain without seeing it in action.

I saw even more how Carter is wild and free.   This is his natural habitat so to speak.

I learned a bit more about Harrison’s inner world.  He isn’t a big talker.  He doesn’t use a lot of words, but his words and thoughts have weight.  He shared with me that Coeur d’Alene felt like what he sees in his imagination.  He shared his dreams.  He is already thinking about when he is a husband and dad one day and has the privilege of going on an adventure with his family.  I saw his amazing social skills at work.  He quietly observes other kids, waits patiently, and engages.  He keeps thinking about sharing with other kids and helping them–not just himself.

And I recognized even more how Greg loves me.  After 17 years, he knows me very well and wants me to be and feel free.  He is my advocate–often rallying the kids to love me.  I saw his advocating love most clearly on our second hike.  He doesn’t love to hike, but he loves me enough to join in–not just reluctantly but whole-heartedly.  Greg NEVER journals or writes down his thoughts.  But he actually wrote his account of our hike.  If you’d like to read it, I’ve included it below.



“A Hike to Iceberg Lake–Was it Worth It?”

I have never loved hiking. I understand why some do, but I’m not one of those people. I figure that a machine (motorcycle, car, ATV, helicopter, etc.) has already been invented that can get me there quicker, easier, and with less possibility of encountering dangerous wildlife. Isn’t this why the generations before us invented these things? They hated walking through rugged terrain while worrying about the likelihood of being eaten by a grizzly bear. I’m with them.

My beautiful wife is one of those people who loves hiking. She gently dragged me on a number of hikes during that under-appreciated time right after we were married and before our kids were born. That was almost 13 years ago. So, she has been waiting to return to the wilderness or unpaved trail or wherever it is that you go hiking for over a decade. During that time, she also gave birth to a son who loves the wild as much as she does. He’s 10 going on 23. (No kidding, at one conversation during our trip he asked if he could have some beer and during another conversation he asked if he could carry a handgun on our next hike so he could better protect his mother.) My other two children and I have somewhat of a lesser passion for hiking, but wanting to be good, supportive, family members we went along.

The day began at 5:30 am. The reason? Even though we were staying about 20 minutes from the entrance to Glacier National Park, we had to drive 2 and a half hours to the other side of the park were there was a better hiking trail. At least that was what I was told. Actually our day really began the night before when my very detailed oriented wife spent an hour organizing all of our supplies, packs, and even the next morning’s breakfast. I may have remarked that Lewis and Clark took less on their trek across the uncharted country as a way to suggest that we were taking too much. (I would later be proven wrong.  We did need all that stuff.) That morning we woke our kids up around 6:00 am, and by 6:15 they were already fighting about something. That’s not a good omen or way to start a long day.

We had previously decided to join with another family on this hike.  The thought was that more adults is better, and maybe our kids and their kids would somehow motivate each other. Or maybe it was just that misery loves company. We all arrived at the entrance to the trail around 10:00 am. It took 15 minutes for us to put on sunscreen, bug spray, and back-packs, then use the last indoor restroom facilities with actual plumbing until we returned. As we entered the trail I saw a sign that says “Iceberg Lake- 4.8 Miles”. Ugh! That really means 4.8 miles up and 4.8 miles back down for a grand total of almost 10 miles of hiking.

My wife is a photographer so she was carrying a backpack with her camera, lenses, and various other photography equipment. My youngest child couldn’t really carry much more than some water and a few things in his backpack. This meant I was the family packmule or Sherpa. (On a very positive note my wife did refer to me as her Sexy Sherpa at one point during the hike – or at least I think she did. I might have been delusional from the extreme physical exertion and lack of oxygen at that altitude.)

The first half hour was mostly uneventful with the occasional question from a child about how much longer or are we almost there. Our group soon unofficially divided into the lead group who wanted to go faster, and the slower group who mostly wanted to go home. The next hour involved about 10,000 mostly uphill steps, cries from some of the children that they were thirsty, and scores of commands from the adults to the kids including, but not limited to: “Don’t run ahead”, “Stay with the group”, “Stop pushing your brother”, “Keep walking”, and “Stay away from the edge of the mountain because you might fall off”.

As we were nearing the top, we heard some rustling in the trees just off to the side of the trail. (This was the approximate location on the trail where the family we were with had spotted a bear on their previous attempt of this hike.)  I was thinking, oh wonderful, we just startled a hungry bear. Fortunately it turned out to be a moose. After the initial relief that it wasn’t a bear, the reality that we were 10 feet away from a giant wild moose hit. Now what?! This thing could charge us at any point and that wouldn’t be good. Moose vs. human doesn’t usually turn out well for the human. We were trying to balance being cool parents by letting our kids see the moose with being sensible, practical parents and getting the kids out of there. Plus my wife wanted a photo of the wild moose. (My wife is normally a very cautious, orderly, law-abiding individual. When there is a photo opportunity, those traits can go out the window.) Fortunately I think we got a mild-mannered moose so we were able to let the kids have a close look and get the photo. There were a few tense moments.  We even started running for safety at one point, but it was a false alarm.

After about two hours of hiking we reached Iceberg Lake. It was what you might expect, a beautiful scene from nature that words and photos can’t accurately describe. Was it worth the hike? Probably. Maybe. I guess.

We ate lunch and played for a few minutes. Shortly thereafter, my son (the one who is 10 going on 23) tried to jump over a rock, but instead he fell and hit his shin pretty hard on the rocky path. He of course refused any sort of first aid or medical attention because he wanted to keep playing. From what we could tell it was a pretty big bruise and a nice scape just below his knee. Just before we left to begin the journey back down, he did allow me to use some of the supplies from the first aid kit that I was lugging around in my backpack. (Good thing thing I thought to pack it – oh wait, maybe that was my wife’s idea.)

As we began to head back down the mountain and to the safety and comfort of our vehicle, my son was still limping from his tumble. I offered to carry his backpack because I think that would be easier than having to carry him the rest of the hike if he keeps thinking about how much his leg hurts then refuses to continue walking. Somehow removing his backpack that weighed all of 5 or 6 pounds was the miracle cure because as soon as I did, he was able to run, jump, and play with the other kids on the trail.

The kids were still on a high from seeing the moose. They so badly wanted encounter more wild animals. They literally asked every person who we encountered along the way if they had seen any wild animals. (Literally every person. No exaggeration.) The kids then proceeded to tell the story of their moose sighting to each one of the other hikers. Every time they told the story somehow the moose got bigger and we were standing closer to it.  At one point, there were even claims of nearly being able to reach out and touch the moose.

About a third of the way down, I began to realize that cheap, $25 work-boots from Walmart I was wearing were not actually good hiking boots. While they did have a hard sole, which protected me fron the rocky path, and they were brown in color, which fit in nicely with everyone else’s hiking boots, they were not at all meant for hiking long distances. They were heavy, didn’t fit well, and made my feet hurt.

We finally made it to a stream and a small waterfall which signified the halfway point. We stopped there for a moment so the kids could rest, play, and attempt to injure themselves. Everyone was getting pretty tired by now and some of the younger kids weren’t too happy about continuing. We knew we had to leave quickly and keep going down before someone had a big meltdown. So we pushed on.

This last quarter of the hike was the toughest.  My role was to stay at the back of our group and prod the little kids along and try to keep everyone moving. I had to get pretty creative with my encouraging words and comments. I tried distraction, bribery, and begging. (I think I may owe one of them a pony and another one a college education-or the equivalent in cash.) I myself was getting tired and I started to think I might not make it when finally I saw the end of the trail. I could see the paved road and parking lot next to it. Never before had I been so excited to see a parking lot. My excitement was soon ripped away from me when I remembered that we had to walk about a quarter of a mile across the parking lot to get to our car. I nearly started crying.

Finally after what seemed like 30 minutes of walking (but was probably only about 3 or 4), we reached the car. I chunked the packs I was carrying into the rear of our minivan and I tried to find some water.  I moved to the front of the vehicle and I just sat in the drivers seat. My kids ran off, and I didn’t care. It was time for me to rest. I began to think about the hike to Iceberg Lake and ask myself, was it worth it?  Maybe? I’m not really sure.

Soon I regained enough strength to go into the little store they had at the entrance to the trail. I was thirsty, hungry, and tired. My body was telling me I needed something, anything. I was roaming around the store when I see a fountain drink machine. As I was putting ice in my cup and browsing my selection of beverages, my younger son comes up to me.  (This is the son whom I’m convinced has some sort of internal radar or echo location for sugary snacks and drinks.). He sees me getting a drink and says, “Dad, what do I get?” I respond by saying, “You just got to go on a 10 mile hike through a beautiful national park. You get to make a core memory.” (That was a reference to the animated film “Inside Out” we had recently seen.)

I took a sip of my Coke and I thought to myself, and apparently even said out loud, “This is the best Coke I have ever had in my life.”  A lady who was working at the store must have  overheard my entire conversation with my son about our hike. She also heard me rave about how wonderful their Coke tasted.  She asked me if I thought their Coke was so good because of their store’s equipment/mixture or because I had just returned from a 10-mile hike. I wasn’t sure of the answer at the time, but in hindsight I’m pretty sure it had a lot to do with just returning from a 10-mile hike.

We finally began the long drive back to our cabin.  Normally I probably wouldn’t be too happy about a 2 and a half hour drive, but this time I didn’t care.  I was just so excited about being able to sit down and not walking uphill over rocky terrain. My son hadn’t stopped talking about the hike since we got into the car.  He had been on cloud nine the entire time. He said to me, “Dad, thank you so much for taking us on this hike. It was awesome. Today has been the best day of my life.”  (No kidding. He actually said that.). A few moments latter, my wife turned to me and said, “Thank you for working so hard to make this possible. This was an amazing hike. I am so happy.”

Was the hike to Iceberg Lake worth it?  Absolutely!