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Link to just the pictures:
Glacier National Park - July 2011

Our last full day in West Glacier so we had another early breakfast at the West Glacier Restaurant then back up Going to the Sun Road to Avalanche. This time we took the shuttle further up the road to "The Loop" while McDonald river raged below. This is the only major switchback along the road and has the dramatic Heavens Peak across the valley. Still tons of snow up there with alot of avalanche activity. We started along the Highline Trail and soon after, a bridge crosses a creek and starts to climb with quite a drop on one side, we figured we would go about an hour knowing we wouldn't make it all the way to the Granite Park chalet. The 2003 Trapper Fire cleared out this area pretty well, but there still remains thin charred trees that are close to falling and lots of new undergrowth. Surprise surprise.... amazing views all around with the trail contouring around the slope with high snowy peaks all around. Miles was picking every dandelion he could find and would either give them to us to carry or tickle his own cheeks with them, too cute! More wildflowers, waterfalls, and evidence in the rocks of the ripple marks of the former sea floor. Back at Avalanche we had another picnic lunch after Miles fell off the bench and got a couple new bumps/bruises. We went back to the motel for Miles long nap while I went for a run, and when he finally woke up we went to the Discovery Cabin at Apgar, arriving just as they closed. Plan B was to rent a rowboat after Miles made me follow him into the lake to freeze our toes. He was hesitant at first, but seemed to like wearing the life vest. Jean rowed at first and we went along the shore to see all of the cabins that are privately owned, but grandfathered-in after Glacier became a park. It would be just awful to own one of those... NOT! Just before getting back to the dock Miles was standing up and grunting. When we got to the dock the girl at the boat rental place asked him if he liked the boat ride, he simply replied "yeah, I pooped". Dinner and ice cream at Eddie's then back to West Glacier keeping on the lookout for another bear. While eating ice cream Miles kept opening his mouth real wide and saying "aaaahhh", if I couldn't get the ice cream in there fast enough he would open wider and say "AAAHHHHH!"

We had our last breakfast at West Glacier Restaurant the hit the road early towards Waterton Lakes. Miles kept putting a piece of pancake over his eye and saying "aarrrgghhhh, pancake pirate". Unfortunately the drive along highway 2 took quite a bit longer this time due to construction delays and traffic. Miles has done great with all the car-time by keeping himself occupied with books, Mr PotatoHead, and his new blue airplane. We stopped in St Mary's then motored on to Babb and the Many Glacier section of the park, arriving around 11am. Wanting to keep Miles on his same nap schedule, we just took a short walk around the Swiftcurrent Valley trailhead then went to a shady spot in the parking lot above the many Glacier Hotel. We set him up in the backseat again and took turns walking around. The Many Glacier Hotel is in an amazing location right on Swiftcurrent lake with dramatic peaks as the backdrop. Up the valleys you can see glaciers and waterfalls. Half of the hotel is under renovation but the other half has kilt-wearing bell-hops, huge windows, and great displays about the history of the area and before/after pictures showing the receding glaciers. After Miles woke up we ate chili next to the car and hiked to Swiftcurrent Valley to Red Rocks Lake and Red Rocks Falls. We were hoping to see moose, but did not. As usual, lush green surroundings through pine and aspen trees, and beautiful lakes surrounded by mountains. Once back at the car we continued towards Waterton taking the Chief Mtn Intl Highway around Chief Mtn and to the US/Canadian border. We got the usual barrage of questions and it was so tempting to ask when was the last time his country won a Stanley Cup?! Waterton is this cool little town on a lake that apparently is just like Banff before all the commercialization. The mountains jump from the prairies and there's a constant wind. We drove past the Prince of Wales hotel and easily found the Waterton Lakes Lodge Resorts. First priority was for me to get Miles to the pool while Jean did a load of wash, but apparently the forces were working against him..... a kid just pooped in the pool so it was closed, then it would be closed for the next two day for maintenance, we walked across the street to the park and just as we got there the water stuff shut off for the night. So, Miles ran around and played in the playground with his bathing suit and swim-vest on instead, and he was just fine with that. We had some pizza/salad in the room then just chilled out and watched TV and caught up on email and the news. I took a short walk to the shore and dock and was real excited to check out the rest of town. Much smaller the Glacier, but no less scenic.

We had a lazy morning and enjoyed the normal sized bath/shower while having coffee and breakfast rolls from a cafe across the street, PSU alumi guy there also. It was nice to be able to just walk around instead of having to drive everywhere, so we moosied up to dock looking at all of the boats and got our tickets for the 10am MV International cruise across the 9 mile long glacial carved Upper Waterton Lake. While waiting, we walked around the docks while Miles went up and down the docks jumping across the floating dock sections while the Prince of Wales hotel sat majestically above town. Of course right before we got on the boat he wiped out getting a couple new boo-boo's on his knees. The 1927 wooden MV International was a great 2hr boat cruise across the lake with lots of information from the staff. High peaks all around with their sheer sides carved from glaciers, even the highest in the park (Mt Cleveland) peeking out from behind other high peaks. There was a pretty chilly wind so it was nice to be able to go in and out of the cabin. At the US/Canadian border there were monuments and a 20ft straight swath of trees/bushes cut down and maintained. At we southern tip of the lake we docked at Goat Haunt for 30mins so we could walk over to the Intl Peace Pavilion and we ate our $30 Subway sammies in the grass and I met a teacher from PSU. Just a couple rangers and plenty of mosquitoes stay here. Back on the boat and back to Waterton while making Miles hysterically laugh pretending to pull a rubber bracelet out of his ear. Note to self: come back and hike to Crypt Lake, rated as Canada's best hike. Miles easily fell into a long nap back at the room and Jean and I took turns going for runs around town. I started at the hotel, ran a few blocks to the raging Cameron Falls, circled town, up the hill to the visitor center to the trailhead for Bears Hump, along the side of Crandell Mtn. While on the boat, the guy giving the talk said it takes most folks 30mins to get to the top, and his best time was 11mins.... I was hoping to beat it. Its 1 mile and 700ft to the top and there's no flat spots. The trail is in great shape and even has big steps and rocks most of the way. I topped out in 10:25 and sat down taking in the views perched above town while catching my breath. Man, what a view! You can see out east and north to the plains, the Prince of Wales hotel, all the lakes, all of Waterton, and the entire length of Upper Waterton Lakes wayyyyy down into Glacier National Park. Very cool. Back down the trail and to the hotel. I woke up Miles and Jean after his 3.5hr nap, he was pretty groggy and didn't want to get out of bed, which is rare. Once we finally got him moving we drove past Cameron Falls and back to the Bears Hump trailhead. Jean hiked up while Miles and I played in the visitor center then hiked up a short bit, taking plenty of breaks to sit down in the dirt and draw "happy spiders". When Jean came down we went across the street to the Prince of Wales Hotel. The views from inside are amazing with floor to ceiling windows. Huge wooden beams throughout as well. Several pictures and a quick walk to the windy cliff over the lake. We had dinner at Zum's Eatery on the patio and I tried their famous fried chicken. After dinner we took Miles back to the park as the wind picked up and dark clouds moved in bringing some rain and plenty of wind along.

With the wind still whippin' through town we packed up the car and grabbed an overpriced bagel and coffee then checked-out. We drove up to Cameron Lake and looked around the hillsides for grizzly's, no luck. There were even small white-caps on the lake and our short hike was real short due to the cold wind and Miles nose turning red. Now the long drive back to Billings, sad that vacation was coming to an end. The US Border Patrol agent brought a tear to my eye when he said "welcome home folks". Miles DVD player was barely working and we passed the time playing "ahhh-cooooo blue debbie" and putting Mr PotatoHead's blue eyes in his tater-tush while saying "and don't forget your angry eyes", just like on the Toy Story 2 credits. We stopped in Great Falls to visit and have lunch with Jean's uncle Tim and Mary. A great little visit and then we were stopped for what seemed forever in construction delays right outside of town. We stopped in the crazy hillbilly town of Lewistown and stretched and had a snack. We made reservations at the Kelly Inn in Billings and took Miles for a swim as soon as we got there while Jean ordered pizza and salad. I talked to the Subaru dealership and they said our car may not quite be done first thing in the morning. Ugh.

I was at the Subaru dealership shop right at 8am, deja vu from exactly a week ago. Once the repairman got there he showed me our car with the axle off and the exhaust still unhooked. He said the axle was stripped and he was waiting for one more part, it would be a couple hours. He also explained to me that the pilot bearing blew out, leaking transmission fluid all over and squirting into the clutch (no wonder that was slipping), he took apart and fixed/cleaned the transmission, replaced the clutch, replaced the rear main seal, and replaced the axle. We were finally on the road close to noon. Luckily a Pearl Jam concert from 10/31/09 was just starting for the closing of the Spectrum in Philly! This helped pass 3.5hrs. Dinner at Outback in Cheyenne where Miles smacked his head on the sidewalk, then the last few hours drive home arriving right at 10pm. It was good to push through the last bit to get home and try to get things back to normal on Sunday. What a trip! Ended up being more expensive the any other vacation, put 1270 miles on our Subaru, 1400 on the loaner Subaru, and lots of great stories and memories in between.

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