Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 15/16 - Marathon Drive

Saturday, August 28
Hit the road early and drove. And drove. And drove. No pics for this post. Just the Stats:

1280 miles
20.4 mpg
Drivers: 3

Dan and Bara did all the driving up until Jamestown, ND. Once we hit Jamestown, I fueled up first the car and then myself with a drive-thru Mocha Frappe from McDonalds. After a cool rainy day in Montana, the temperature only warmed to the low 70's as we crossed the North Dakota and western Minnesota.

As we approached the Cities, I marveled at the fact that I was able to keep the cruise control on all the way through the metro area. Only at 4 am on Saturday morning!

Sunday, August 28, 5:00 am. Home! Our beds never felt so good.

Day 14 - Last Day in the West

Friday, August 27
Packed up and got ready to leave the coop. Did I mention that we camped inside the new house? Our tent was in the future great room. Bara's was in the future guest room.

River side of the house. Looking good!

In the evening, we celebrated summer and September birthdays. Notice the "cousins" t-shirts, courtesy of Grandma.

We enjoyed our last bonfire.

And rounded out the final evening with some fireworks.

Day 13 - Relaxing on the Water

Thursday, August 26
Are you ready Mom? I'm gonna do my twisty jump!

Meanwhile, near the shore, sea monsters lurked.

And further out, engines roared.

And mothers checked their diving form.

Day 12 - Window Wednesday

Wednesday, August 25
Wednesday was window day (one of several, actually). Dan and JB worked putting windows into the new house at the river.

The kids and I were slow to get moving, but just in time for the hot midday sun, we hiked out to see the view from the new high bridge on the island.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 11 - Glacier National Park

Tuesday, August 24
Woke up and hiked the Avalanche Lake trail, right from our campsite.  We left about 9:30 am.  This was one of the hikes that Dan and I did on the way home from our wedding in 2002.  Avalanche Gorge is so amazing!  When we reached Avalanche Lake, there were a lot of people, but the weather was sunny and spectacularly beautiful.  All the kids did a good job hiking except Anna, who was a little whiny and tired out.

After finishing our hike, we ate lunch and packed up the campsite.  We did some more sightseeing from the car while driving to Many Glacier.  There we did some grizzly bear watching on a grassy mountain slope directly across Swiftcurrent Lake from the lodge.  All together, we saw 6 grizzlies and one black bear on that slope.  There was a mother grizzly with two 2-year old cubs and another mother with two yearling cubs.  The black bear was alone.  A  little further down the same road, we saw the black bear again, even a little closer to the road.  That's definitely the most bears I've ever seen!  There was obviously something tasty eat on that slope.

Finally, after our big gawker slow-down at the bear slope, we got on the road home. I drastically underpacked in the food area, so with empty cooler and empty stomachs, we started searching the navigator for a pizza place on the way home. After a stop at the delicious Mackenzie River Pizza in Kalispell, we rolled on towards T Falls with full bellies. Since we had eight in the van (am I going to jail for posting this?), we buckled Elsie and Ethan together in one seat, and it was a long, tired trip home for them. To add to the fun, there was still road work near Hot Springs at 11 at night. We waited impatiently for the a pilot car (twice) to lead us through the construction zone. When we finally piled into our beds, it was well after midnight.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 10 - Glacier National Park

Monday, August 23
Dan, Bara, the kids and I got on the road to Glacier around 8:30 am.  Elsie and Ethan had to squish together into one seat for the ride since we had eight packed into the Caravan.  Unfortunately, just after Hot Springs, there was a lot of construction that slowed us down.

When we got into Glacier, we first drove to Avalanche Lake Campground to get our camping spot and setup camp.  Then we drove to Logan Pass, where we saw the visitor center and hiked the pass.  The sky was cloudy, and the hike was very cold and windy, but spectacular.  The alpine meadows were full of stunning wildflowers.  Along the way, the kids saw marmots, chipmunks, and squirrels.  At the end of the trail, there were mountain goats.  A cute mama and baby were directly under a big rock we were all standing on.  On the way back, Elsie and Ethan saw some far off big horn sheep courtesy of another hiker's telescope.  I was hiking far off the back the whole way because of all the wildflower pictures I took.

Next we did a short hike up Sunrift Gorge.  Due to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (Obama stimulus money), there was road construction all along the Going to the Sun road.  The construction wait time was a welcome photography break.  Can you imagine wishing for more road construction delays?  Only on vacation.

Back at the campground, we made a fire and grilled up some delicious Hebrew National hot dogs (my favorite!) and cut up a cantaloupe we brought, careful to remove any sticky sweet trace of the fruit from ourselves and our campsite, so we didn't attract any bears!  After dinner, we had a cozy night together in our huge tent.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 9 - Crawdad Feed

Sunday, August 22
Slept in.  Jenna cooked an egg and hash breakfast on the grill for anyone who was hungry.  Did I mention the stove and the furnace and the fridge in the camper are all kaput?  The new house is going up just in the nick of time.  At 11 am, we all went to church, while Bara went to the office to Skype her sister who was in the hospital.  Her sister had just awoken after 4 days of being unconscious from either a fall or complications from Strep throat.

After perfect weather everyday, we did have a few clouds and a little spotty rain.  After a light lunch, we had a relaxing Sunday afternoon.  I went to the shop to do laundry, the kids played and hung out with Bara and Jenna, and Dan and Anna napped.

In the evening, Jim and Gail, Gail's horseback riding friend Patti, and Brad, Cassandra, and Amanda came over for a fish and crawdad feed.  Most of the fish came from the Wooden's, but the kids also caught a few small bass right before dinner and Elsie cleaned them.

Christian, my picky eater, hammered down the crawdads.  Who would have guessed?  Meanwhile Ehren declared he was "never ever ever ever gonna try one of those" even though he loved playing with them while they were alive.  I'm told that later he did eat one, just one.  The crawdad eating champion, however, was Gail's friend Patti. Patti is originally from Pennsylvania, but you might think she came straight from New Orleans.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 8 - Missoula Farmer's Market

August 21
Jenna and I left for the Missoula Farmer's Market at 6 am with her Impala loaded with gluten-free goodies.  Her business partner, Barb, drove separately, so Jenna and I could do some errands after the market.  When we arrived at the market in Missoula, it was easy setting up because there was relatively few items compared to a produce stall.  The market was fun, but unfortunately for the Gluten-free Maniacs, the focus was more on the produce side, so they didn't sell out.  After the market, Barb, Jenna and I had lunch at the Red Robin (decidedly not gluten free, but greasily delicious).  Then Jenna and did a few shopping errands and headed back home.

Meanwhile back at home, Dan, JB, Bara, and the kids took a trip up Vermillion River to visit a friend's gold mine.  Afterward they ate ice cream at the Little Bear and then went back to the river lot for a boat/jet ski ride to the beach.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 7 - Horseback Riding

August 20
Horseback riding day! Gail was so kind to let us (Ehren, Christian, Anna, Bara and I) come out and go horseback riding at the ranch with Elsie and her. First the kids took turns being led around the yard. Then Gail and Elsie saddled up the other horses and we got to tour the ranch on horseback. Bara rode Chicka; Anna and I rode Stretch; Elsie rode her Paint, Willow; and Ehren and Christian rode Muffin (the mild-mannered pony who is 18? years old). Gail led Muffin and walked the whole way. We had a great time. Christian is a natural rider and really holds himself well on the horse. He seems in tune with most animals.

As for me, I've always said I would never ride Stretch after I saw Jim ride him as a barely broke 2-year old. However, I trust anything Gail says when it comes to horses, and she assigned me to ride Stretch, so I did. He is 10 years old now, and after riding him, I have decided he's my new favorite horse. I might even like him better than Skippy, Gail's cow horse that died after accidentally eating poisoned grain quite a few years ago. Stretch is tall and handsome, and he is a really good horse. As Elsie and Gail reminded me, his father was a race horse (a quarter horse, I think).

Day 6 - Whitewater Rafting

Thursday, August 19
Dan, Bara, and all the kids except Anna, packed into the van and headed to Missoula for a whitewater rafting trip. They went on a five-hour rafting trip from noon-5 pm with Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures.

Meanwhile, Anna and I had a quiet day in town with Jenna. We both spent some time on the computer ( for Anna and catchup on email and blogging for me). We lunched at Java River Deli and ate a delicious "Mighty Mandy" (BLT with Avacado) followed by a triple berry smoothie.

When we all rendezvoused at the river lot, I heard a lot of details about all the rapids. Ethan and Ehren were talking over each other trying to tell me about them. The Boat Eater and the Tumbleweed were two of the favorites. Then there was the Triple Bridge, which I'm told is a road bridge, a rail bridge and some other bridge. Bara, Dan, Elsie and Ethan did a lot of paddling. Christian was holding on to the guard rope, ducking down for the rapid runs, but then followed each by saying, "That was great!" See pictures here:

Day 5 - Huckleberries!

Happy, happy kids. Lots of sleep. THIS is a VACATION!

Now comes my favorite part.  This is the first time I have ever been in Montana during huckleberry season!  Even though I missed blueberries in Minnesota again this year, I had my first ever huckleberry-picking experience.

Dan, Bara, all the kids and I filled the van and drove up Graves Creek road. After a quick visit to the falls, we continued up the mountain. I can't give away our exact, highly secret location, but suffice it to say we hit the mother load of huckleberries. I really thought I was in heaven with all the huckleberries and interesting woodland wildflowers. Dan let all our kids have a chance to "drive" on the forest road, which they thought was pretty fun.

In the afternoon, we returned to the river lot, and spent the hot afternoon swimming in the Clark Fork. After a delicious outdoor dinner of grilled hamburgers, the boys went fishing, while Jenna, Bara, Anna, and I went back to the shop to bake huckleberry muffins. Both ventures went well. We returned to the river lot with our muffins to find that Ethan had caught a huge rainbow trout.  A day of huckleberries and trout - how perfectly Montana.