During the summer of 2006 I started my annual summer travel adventure by flying to my Grandpa’s in northern Wisconsin and then taking the Amtrak Empire Builder from Portage, Wisconsin to West Glacier, Montana. It was my first long train trip taking more than 26 hours , but I saw spectacular views and had, what the old folks call “quality time” with my Grandpa, which was also great. The sky line was breathtaking as we approached Montana; the vibrant colors from the evening sky behind the tall mountains were spectacular!
Arriving in West Glacier at dusk, my Mom was there to meet us having driven over from western Washington with the rest of the gang. After a short ride, we reached our destination, Glacier National Park. It was dark by the time we arrived at Avalanche Campground and as we approached our campsite, I saw a dim light in the shape of a square. After a few seconds of curiously peering out the window I suddenly realized what it was, a sign. The sign outlined in Christmas lights read, “HAPPY 14TH BIRTHDAY JESS!”. My step-dad, Jack and his two sons, Kit and Casey were there to welcome us. We celebrated my birthday with a hostess cupcake and a small bonfire. The next morning everyone at the campground was asking if I was Jess and wishing me Happy Birthday! We relocated to Sprague Creek Campground to a campsite on Lake MacDonald, which was perfect. Within minutes of setting up, a young girl who was camping next to us came over and introduced herself. Her name was Anna; she was eight years old, the same age as Jack’s son, Kit, and after a week of camping with her family, she was very relieved to meet kids her own age and quickly announced she was Kit’s girlfriend!
Every day was a mini-adventure; an afternoon at a water park in Hungry Horse, driving up Going-to-the-Sun-Road, hiking, and even going on a rafting trip down the Flathead River. The first day we wound our way up Going-to-the-Sun-Road. The road is steep, curvy, and scenic beyond words. The highest part was at Logan’s Pass on the Continental Divide. It was over 6600 feet from sea level and very windy! Other days were filled with hiking, exploring different parts of Glacier National Park, swimming in Lake MacDonald, campfires and smores. One of the last days there, my Mom and Jack surprised us all by taking us rafting on the Flathead, a Wild and Scenic River. I was very nervous because this was my first rafting trip! The Flathead River is fed from snowmelt, which made the water extremely cold! The first large rapid we went over Kit lost his paddle, Casey was so scared he curled up in his lifejacket looking like a turtle in his shell. Every rapid we went over I felt as though I was about to fall out, luckily my youthful agility kept me in the raft and compared to the boys I looked like a pro! All of us had a blast whitewater rafting, even Grandpa who is on the far side of 70 years-old . . . technically.
Jack and the boys headed back to Washington while Mom, Grandpa and I spent another night camping on the east side of Glacier. The train trip back to Wisconsin was great, this time we had a sleeper car! At Portage, we discovered that Grandpa had left the car lights on and the battery was dead – but that is another story. Every day with Grandpa is an adventure!
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