Last July, the fortunate combination of a series of events led my boyfriend and I on a magical road trip from Seattle, WA -> Portland, OR -> Priest Lake, ID -> Flathead Lake, MT -> Glacier National Park, MT -> Missoula, MT and finally to Boise, ID.
*For the record, I do not recommend the route we took between Missoula and Boise. It was about 200 miles longer than the route through the Sawtooths and the most miserable landscape I’ve ever seen.
Anyways, Phil was between jobs and in the process of moving to Boise while I simply wanted an excuse to hit the road and enjoy the outdoors! Usually we spend a couple weekends a summer camping and backpacking in the Cascades and the Olympics but this last summer we were so busy with the move that we’d only gone hiking a few times. I’d also grown tired of listening to Phil tell me that Glacier National Park was the most beautiful place in the world and OMG how had I never been there?! In a matter of days we devised a plan for our road trip (and by we I mean mostly me since I’m the planner in this relationship).
Our trip started with a brief detour to Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR for the wedding of Phil’s good friend Zach. Originally, I thought we could hit the road after the wedding and find a place to camp along the way to Priest Lake but we ended up going out in Portland after the wedding with some other friends and crashing on cots in their hotel room. It was probably for the best since the weather wasn’t ideal and we had a 7.5 hour drive to Priest Lake ahead of us.
Priest Lake (affectionately known as Priest) is a massive and pristine freshwater lake in Northern Idaho. Phil, having grown up in Spokane, WA, spent many summers visiting Priest where his aunt and uncle own a lovely lakefront cabin. After a long day in the car, we finally arrived at the cabin. This cozy abode has been in the family forever and Ron and Marcia (Phil’s aunt and uncle) have made it into the most comfortable, quintessential lake home you can imagine. Not to mention it’s fully stocked with outdoor delights: motor boat, kayaking, fire pit, walking trails, BBQ…
Two nights at the cabin and then we were on our way to Flathead Lake, Montana. I did have to make a reservation at the Flathead Lake State Campground to ensure that we got a spot but it’s not exactly the nicest campground. We really just needed a place to stay near the entrance to Glacier National Park and it fit the bill.
Now, I did a lot of research leading up to this trip and planned for nearly all possibilities because that’s what I do. Considering the number of nights we could stay in the park and all the different areas we wanted to explore I decided that we’d stay a night at Apgar, Rising Sun and Many Glacier. Those 3 campgrounds are arguably the most popular and busiest ones (of all 13) in the park so it’s important to get there at the crack of dawn or risk not getting a campsite at all. This National Park site is helpful for planning ahead as it tells you when each campground fills up every day.
After our night at Flathead Lake we woke up really early to pack up and get into the park as soon as possible to find a campsite. We ended up finding a spot at Rising Sun around 8:00 a.m. and although I’d planned for us to camp all over the park, we stayed at Rising Sun all 3 nights. It turned out to be well located for driving to the various areas of the park we wanted to explore.
We zigzagged across the parks several times, chasing good weather and bear sightings (granted, I never saw a bear), and took a bajillion photos. I won’t dive into the details of every moment but here are some photos from our days in the park.
I don’t say this very often but Phil was 100% right – Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The west side is lush and green (a lot like hiking in Western Washington), while the east side is dry and rugged. I commented more than once that it felt like how I imagined discovering the Land Before Time would feel – magical, wondrous, bigger than life.
Delaying our departure as much as possible, we packed up our temporary home and left for Missoula. Four hours later we found our Airbnb in the wooded hills just outside of town. It was a rustic lodge style home with a private bedroom, bathroom and living area for Phil and I to enjoy and after so many days camping, I was grateful for the hot shower. Our hosts were wonderful and had put together some recommendations of fun local breweries, wineries, and a delicious Italian restaurant for dinner. They definitely helped us make the most of our only night in Missoula. I can’t wait to go back.
The next day we drove over 8 hours to Boise through the most miserable scenery you can imagine. There’s not much to say, it was a sad note to end such a fantastic trip. The combination of the awful drive with some sad news we received and the fact that we weren’t going to see each other again for over a month put us in a somber mood.With many tears. I went to the airport to return to Seattle.
Two weeks later Phil was able to come back to Seattle for the weekend to visit so we didn’t have to go the whole month apart and not long after that I moved to Boise myself.
That road trip reignited my love and appreciation for the beautiful country and wilderness that we live in. I often fantasize about traveling to distant and exotic places but this trip reminded me that there’s still so much I haven’t seen in the United States. In 2017, I plan to explore the space around me. Phil and I have begun plotting a trip to Arches and Zion National Parks in Utah and the best part is that Lima can come with us!