When we reached Many Glacier, I thought someone was playing a cruel practical joke on us. Surely, this couldn’t be real…could it?
That such perfection exists within our own country’s borders always astounds me. Americans get a lot of flack for (allegedly) not embarking on as much international travel as other nations, but realistically, why do we need to when such natural wonders are in our own metaphorical backyard? We spent a few solid minutes just standing there staring at our surrounds.
I’ve been to many places in my travels—more than 100 countries at this point—and few have held the magic that arriving in a lodge smack in the center of a remote and sprawling national park like Glacier Country have held.
Accessed via the east side of the park, Many Glacier is about as remote as you can get without forfeiting services like accommodation and food. And for those who want to go even more off the beaten path, another mile is Swiftcurrent Inn and Cabins, where hikes often make their base due to the 11 trailheads in close proximity.
The whole area felt equal parts New Zealand and Switzerland, what with the crystal clear lake, tall peaks surrounding it and chalet-like lodge sitting at the water’s edge.
We would be spending the night here at Many Glacier Lodge, which was more than OK with me; the early-1900s property couldn’t occupy better real estate and is in the middle of extensive renovation efforts, too.
When we first arrived, we didn’t take much time to settle in as were given an immediate crash course to the area via a hike with Glacier Guides, who offer various guided treks of all lengths and skill levels throughout Glacier National Park.
Poor Corrie, our guide; she thought she was going to get a nice workout, seeing as we’re all the active types. Little did she know, it would be more of a leisurely stroll as she’d be stopping every few feet to wait for us to get our photos in.
Or to show off our verticals.
I blame Kent and Canaan for that. They might take more photos than I do—and that’s a tall order—but neither had ever been victim of a jumping shot. I quickly changed that.
I will say that Canaan nailed his Alvin Ailey on the first try. But in terms of a tandem shot, well, it took awhile to perfect.
Tia, on the other hand, was a natural.
We arrived at Many Glacier Lake at the perfect time: just as the Morning Eagle was heading out for its first test run of the season. They told us as long as we were OK with possibly breaking down in the middle of the lake, we could come along for the ride. We took the chance.
We didn’t break down.
If we thought our Two Medicine boat ride was fantastic—and indeed, it was—it still couldn’t hold a candle to seeing the glassy water under bright sunlight and dramatic clouds. We were all smiles as we disembarked the boat and started on our short walk back to the lodge.
Normally, if you’re visiting Many Glacier, you can opt for the 1.5-mile walk from the lodge through the woods and around the first lake to the boat company, who will either drop you off on the other side for another 1.5-mile hike around Grinnell Lake or the much more serious Grinnell Glacier Hike. We weren’t up for this on that particular day, so we admired Grinnell from below then turned around and began our journey back to the lodge.
Corrie was a most knowledgeable guide, pointing out myriad flora to us, as well as trees where bears had stopped for a backscratch. Next time, I’d love to go out with her again but actually tackle the Grinnell Glacier (after a bit of training, that is, and with SVV in tow).
That night, we all dined at the Ptarmigan Dining Room, where we ordered a mix of game and other Montana delights.
Such as huckleberry.
You didn’t think I’d escape a meal without huckleberry, did you?
Lucky for me, the bar direction and bartenders seemed to share my obsession.
There are few drinks I like more than a huckleberry smash (including bourbon, duh). If only someone would ship me some huckleberries now that they’re in season—**cough, cough, Tia, cough, cough**—then I would attempt to replicate this back home.
And there were some epic s’mores, too. What? S’mores are totally a Montana thing.
The next morning, I did something I never do and that’s get up at 5am to see the sunrise. Then I took my picture and promptly went back to bed until our meet-up time as we had to make the three-hour drive back to Kalispell in time for my midday flight.
Although as we pulled out of Many Glacier, we were all beaming from an incredible week, I’d be remiss if I said we weren’t the slightest bit bummed we’d still not seen a moose. Correction: We saw a mama and a baby from the lodge’s wraparound porch, but they were so far across the lake, we only saw little moving dots—and that was from behind binoculars at that.
But then…this happened. A giant antlered creature appeared—it’s almost as he could hear our disappointment echoing throughout the valley—in a field just a few miles beyond the hotel. Spencer, the one of us who most wanted to see such a majestic creature, spotted one in a field and said, all casual like: “Oh…a moose.” Like that’s an everyday occurrence for all of us.
We got out of the car and slowly walked around the brush for a better look. Moose are aggressive, y’all; you don’t want to get too close.
Ignoring us, he inched closer and was just about to cross our path, no doubt invoking all sorts of “why did the moose cross the road?” jokes when a huge truck materialized, seemingly out of nowhere, and scared him away. Oh well. At least we had him for a few brief minutes.
Moose checked off the list, we—Jade, in particular—were hoping on a bear, another creature that had continued to elude us, and had about given up when we were driving back along Looking Glass as one lumbered out across our path.
Cute little guy didn’t much care we were not more than six feet away. He took his time ambling up the cliffside, stopping a few times to pose for photos.
We were so lucky that final morning in Glacier Country that I wondered what I could summon next: a million dollars? A book deal? An in-person meeting with Taylor Swift herself?
As if our Montana trip could have gotten any better, we ended it on the best—and most apt–note we could have hoped for.
Thank you, Montana, for delivering such perfect weather for us. Thank you for giving us patience and proving it would be rewarded. Thank you for all the huckleberry things. Thank you for countless laughs with dear friends. And thank you for giving us a renewed appreciation for our national parks, expansive and extraordinary they are.