Flashback: Glacier National Park

We hop a plane to the paradise of Kauai this weekend, and I’m eagerly anticipating the change of scenery- to be immersed in all of the things that are different than home. The local food and drink. The warm climate. Vibrant color everywhere. Sun on my skin and the sea in my hair. The lush tropical vistas, opposite of the ones I’m used to. I love traveling because I get to experience another way of life– and come home appreciating my own a little bit more.

Until I return with Kauai stories, I thought I’d share a magical, too-short portion of our incredible 5-week road trip in the summer of 2011. It wasn’t our first jaunt with Betty, our 13-foot cottage-on-wheels; we’d spent a couple of weeks getting to know each other earlier in the season. Our vague yet ambitious plan for this second trip was to head north from Utah, turn left before we entered Canada, spend time in Seattle with my brother, and head south on Highway 1 until we reached San Francisco. If I tried to describe the countless wonders and adventures we encountered on that trip, I’d fill a book… so I’ll simply share a snippet.

By the time we reached Montana’s stunning Flathead Lake, we’d already been on the road for a week. We’d revisited site #13 at Warm River in Idaho, right on the water. Our favorite hippie couple had made us delectable sandwiches at the Mountain Market and Deli in Island Park. We camped at the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, where we almost kidnapped two adorable baby pit bulls (pre-Cholula!). We tried out our brand-new paddle board on Henry’s Lake and John fished at sunset. We’d stopped for a picnic in Yellowstone and hiked Sage Creek Trail before landing in Bozeman for a few days of fun with our dear friends.

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We’d resumed our comfortable routine with Betty; we could unhitch and have camp set up before we’d even finished our first happy hour cocktail. As was our habit that summer, we made no campground reservations. We simply wandered until we found the perfect spot to call home for the night- and our luck had been spectacular.

Now there we were, ready to park Betty and explore. Not surprisingly, there was not a camp spot to be found anywhere on the east side of Flathead Lake in mid-August. We drove past numerous summertime cherry stands and “campground FULL” signs before stopping in charming Bigfork to regroup. Pointing at the little tent insignia on the map, we headed for Hungry Horse Reservoir. A long, bumpy drive down a dirt road was worth it and we found a beautiful, secluded campsite overlooking the lake. The best part: it was not far from Glacier National Park.

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We drove along Lake McDonald, stopping for photos and soaking in the views. It felt like we had stepped inside a painting. The glacial water was every shade of aqua and the clouds were spaced perfectly in the big Montana sky. I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains, but I’d never seen anything like this.

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We headed for Logan Pass, driving up the harrowing Going to the Sun Road. The views from every side were breathtaking. We bypassed the crowd at the visitor’s center and headed toward the trail to Hidden Lake. Even in August, we donned our thermal shirts and slogged through slushy snow.

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We were turned away from the trail by a park ranger who told us a stubborn mountain goat was blocking the way. We spied on the goat for a while, watching him amble down toward the lake. What a happy beast he must be to live here.

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We wanted to get back to camp before sundown, so we turned back toward the truck, watching another little goat family munching appetizers in a meadow full of flowers. The light on the peaks as we headed down the hill was warm and glorious.

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We stopped to admire my dream cabin before grilling up another one of our fabulous camp meals. Afterward, John serenaded me on his guitar by firelight while I sipped wine. During that trip, so many days were as ideal as this. We knew then, in that brief time of life between jobs and before babies, that we were living a dream. 

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The next day, after an early morning paddle on the lake, we packed up and left the reservoir. Our one and only time commitment required that we get to Seattle in two days. My one regret about that portion of the trip is how little time we spent exploring the park. We pointed west near the Canadian border, toward the Methow River Valley and Northern Cascades National Park. There, we’d hike through hundreds of wildflowers and John would trick me into a much longer trek than I’d wanted. My reward was what has to be one of the most incredible views in America (see the masthead above!).

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But that’s another travel story for another day. I’ve got plenty of them.

Have a good week!

Need an escape? Dive into the Travel Bliss page!

One year ago: I took a look back on my trips back to California over the last few years.



  1. Don’t pop my bubble if you didn’t post this for me. Dreamy, dreamy. Can’t wait to go! LUV BUS…smile. Mountain goat photo…my fav. Great story with it.

    PS – did you even need another camera? These shots are amazing. If you did it with a point-n-shoot, I’ll be seriously impressed.

  2. Love your pictures and blog! We are going to be traveling to montana in a few weeks. I’m trying to search for beautiful camping areas. I love the camping site you found at the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Was that at a specific camp ground? Thanks so much! Liz

    1. Hi, Liz! Thanks for reading! As I recall, we drove down a long (well-maintained) dirt road to get to our campground. It felt rather remote. Our method for finding campsites was to check the map book for the little “tent” insignia, and I’m sure we simply chose one that looked like it was on the water.
      An area that I highly recommend are the two campgrounds at Cliff and Wade lakes in Montana (near the Idaho border). Take a peek at these posts. https://theusualbliss.com/2012/07/05/montana-done-right-part-one-112-2/
      The area is simply beautiful and the campsites are lovely. Both campgrounds are pretty small so be thoughtful about when you arrive (you might have to stalk and wait for people to leave!)
      Anyway, have a wonderful trip!

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