Day 3: The night was chilly and Autumn a bit restless, but our first of nine camping nights went well. I cooked up some delicious mountain pancakes before we headed to the Apgar Visitor Center. At the center we inquired about trail conditions and those appropriate for kids. Ethan picked up a pre-reader Junior Ranger packet. The Junior Park Ranger program is geared towards children and allows the kids to learn more about nature and the park through fun activities. Ethan was excited to complete his first one. Before heading out we clicked a few classic photos of Lake McDonald. The views from this Visitor Center area are truly breathtaking. If I could, I’d just pull up a chair and book (or maybe a laptop) and hang out all day. The scenary never gets old.
Before heading out, we were informed that the Going-to-the-Sun Road was still not open. That was disappointing as we had planned on heading east the next day via this route. We completely understood what kind of snowpack conditions all the western States were experiencing so we’d use an alternate route tomorrow.
We decided to hike around the Avalanche Creek area along the Trail of the Cedars. The trail was located 16 miles on the east end of the lake. The Western Red Cedars along the loop are magnificent and the creek is flowing at capacity. The hike was easy and allowed Ethan to explore the different flora in the area.
On the drive back west we stopped by McDonald Falls and snapped a few shots. We also enjoyed a nice lunch along the river. The park was active but it was fairly easy to get around to the various scenic points and trails. We assume that when the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens the number of visitors will increase.
After lunch we stopped at Lake McDonald Lodge to catch a boat. We rarely do a park concessionaire activity when visiting National Parks but this seemed so unique and something Ethan and Autumn would love. We weren’t disappointed. The boat left the lodge and toured the lake for an hour. A National Park Service Park Ranger provided a talk about the natural and human history of the area. The kids loved the boat ride and the views.
After grabbing wood, ice, and milkshakes we headed back to camp around 3pm. We wanted the kids to enjoy the camping area without any plans. Both kids let energy out and played, played, and played. We fired up our first, and last, camp fire of the trip to grill sausages and marshmallows. I say last because camp fires and kids never mix well. They want to touch everything and seem drawn in like a magnet. Also, smoke abatement is difficult and everyone just smells afterward. The fire was worth it though because our meal was delicious.
Later in the evening we tried to listen to the evening ranger talk at the campground amphitheater but the person giving the talk wasn’t a ranger. Instead it was a park employee or intern giving their first PowerPoint presentation. After the 210th “Awesome”, “Cool”, and “Ummmm” we left. The kids didn’t mind at all. We instead strolled around some of the hiking trails in the area.
Autumn fought going to bed tonight so we packed up the family in the car and drove along Camas Road. This area goes through the 2003 Roberts Fire towards an entrance north of us. The views of the burned area and the northern Rockies were spectacular. I’m glad Autumn couldn’t sleep because, otherwise, we wouldn’t have driven around here. It was a great area to view.
After putting Autumn to bed, Ethan and Laura completed his Junior Ranger activities packet. The packet focused on shapes, coloring, matching, and numbers. All of us finally turned in around 11pm.