road trip part 3: Glacier, Seattle, and Mt. Rainer

view from above the Going to the Sun Highway via courtney khail

Oh, Glacier. By far one of my favorite parks; it’s just so gorgeous! We arrived early so we checked out campgrounds and then drove Going to the Sun highway. It’s only open for an incredibly short window (otherwise it’s too dangerous to travel on because of snow and ice) but if you can drive on it, do it. The views are absolutely breathtaking! If you’re a little scared of heights (or can’t drive and look at the same time) there is also a shuttle which is super helpful. We actually took the shuttle a few times for further away hikes, which works out well since you can then sleep the 1.5 hrs it takes to get back down to camp. And after a 10 mile hike, that’s a huge selling point.

We ended up getting a campsite right on Lake McDonald (thanks to another super early morning of site stalking) and were lucky enough to have amazing views and meet some great people while we were there. We actually met up two weeks later with one of our “neighbors” when we were in Portland. Because we were spending a decent chunk of time in the park we were able to really explore all of it. We took the boat ride at Many Glacier (that took us to the trailhead of the hike where we got to see 3 grizzlies playing in the snow,) drove through the aspen forests via the (incredibly long and curvy) outer roads of the park, hiked to one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen, saw tons of wildlife (goats, bears, elk, etc,) hiked across a glacier, and got to swim in a glacial lake (which was crystal clear and beyond freezing cold.)

hiking through the snow via courtney khail

A really cool “hidden” jewel of the park is that it actually goes into Canada as well. Of course, we didn’t think to bring our passports, but we heard about this little town called Polebridge (population 25) that you hit right before the Canadian border. It was rumored to have one bar and one mercantile store that is home to the best huckleberry pastries ever. They weren’t lying. I could have eaten the huckleberry turnovers ever single morning. Can’t say much about the bear claws though because they never made it into our bag. The drive out there takes a really long time, but it’s super secluded and incredibly beautiful. In addition to a black bear and a wolverine (which you never get to see) we were also greeted with the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.

sunset on the road from polebridge via courtney khail

After Glacier, we drove to Spokane, WA for the night (strangely empty on a Saturday afternoon, but then really busy- like 5 bachelorette parties kind of busy- at night.) If you end up there, stop by the Peacock Room for dinner or a drink and take in the view. In addition to two stuffed peacocks on the bar, the bar houses an impressive stain glass ceiling featuring a peacock feather motif. The next morning we drove to Seattle. Of course, we didn’t realize that it was Sea Fare that weekend so the bridge we were taking to the city was closed. We ended up off the interstate and lost in a residential area while the Blue Angels flew over us. Really cool to see, but kind of frustrating since we really wanted out of the car. Thanks to a random volunteer (who laughed when we said where we were trying to go) we found our way to another interstate that took us into the city. After checking into the hotel (The Maxwell which was be yond amazing and I would recommend to anyone) we walked the city, strolled in and out of shops and had an amazing dinner at Peso’s in Queen Anne.

space needle via courtney khail

pikes place market via courtney khail

If you find yourself in Seattle here are a few things I wouldn’t miss:  stopping by Fran’s Chocolates at the Four Seasons and having a salted caramel (holy goodness) seeing the city from Columbia Center (not the Space Needle) wandering around Pike’s Place Market and having breakfast at Three Girls Bakery (we stopped there every time we could for the ham and cheese croissants,) having lunch at Potbelly (the best sandwiches ever. I still think about them) and if you don’t mind driving a little bit- the Tacoma Glass Museum.

view from the columbia center via courtney khail

glass ceiling at the Glass Museum

After spending a few days in Seattle, we drove out to Mt. Rainer National Park. Once again, we lucked out and got a super private site right on a river. It also happened to be a really clear day (not common) so we were greeted with wonderful clear views of Mt Rainer. As for the park, it was completely different than any other one we’d seen by then. It was super lush, almost rainforest-y, and magical in a fairy tale kind of way. That may seem like a weird way to describe it, but that is exactly how it felt- almost Midsummer’s Night Dream-ish. The color of the plants were almost unreal how bright they were, there weren’t a lot of people so it felt like you had the park to yourself, the views were breathtaking, the vegetation would be super thick and then would open up to spectacular waterfalls or lakes- it was just so beautiful. If you haven’t been, you should definitely check it out.

mt rainer via courtney khail

hiking in mt rainer via courtney khail (see what I mean about the colors?)

the water is actually 10 stories down from where I took the photo via courtney khail

And now that I’ve already written more than planned, I’ll hold off on telling more until next week.  Hope you enjoyed!