Our morning was leisurely. Billy and I found the boat launch by strolling along the shore of Lake McDonald taking photos along the way. Bill met up with us there and we (somewhat jealously) watched some boats put in for the day. Bill and I both grew up on or near water in the upper midwest and living in the desert now, our lives don’t include much boating.
We decided to pile in the SUV and go check out Lake McDonald Lodge, just 9 miles up the road. The road itself is a remarkable thing. Going-to-the-Sun Road is named after a mountain nearby, which was named by the local native americans, the Blackfeet. It is a two-lane blacktop road constructed in 1932 and is undergoing renovations, partially funded by stimulus money. The stretch along Lake McDonald is finished and it is beautiful. I don’t ride a motorcycle, but for those who do – this road is a fantastic ride! There were a lot of bikers out there and all singing its praises. The road is winding and smooth and the scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous. Wildlife is present. There was a very bad motorcycle vs. bear accident while we were at the park, so be careful.
Lake McDonald Lodge is a swiss chalet style lodge completed in 1914 that sits on the shore of Lake McDonald. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Landmark. Lodgings there also include cabins and a motor hotel. Outside the big lodge there is totem pole and a large circle driveway where the red buses line up for tours of the park. More on those later. Inside is a really cool two-story lobby with a grand fireplace and lots of mounted animal heads, a gift shop (of course!), and a very nice fireside dining room with views of the lake where we later ended up having a few breakfasts.
We walked through the lobby and out to the back patio, filled with lounge chairs and overlooking a boat dock where a historic wooden boat, the DeSmet, launches for tours. We strolled along the upper shore where the cabins sit, and wound our way down to the beach and skipped rocks in the clear cold water. After a bite at Jammer Joe’s, it was time for our river rafting trip!
We got to the Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier and filled out forms full of legal garbage (I will not rant on lawyers here) and went outside to wait for our guide. There were lots of people waiting, and when a bus pulled up and a guide asked for everyone waiting for the family rafting tour to board. I wanted to get on that bus, but noooooo, we were booked for the whitewater rapids adventure trip! Having only seen rapids on television, I was certain I was going to end up swimming in 33-degree glacier water. I whined and jokingly complained to everyone around and made friends with the other folks who were waiting. Soon, our bus arrived and took us upstream. We ended up sharing a raft with folks I befriended earlier and had a blast!
My boys sat in front, and my new friend Melinda and I were in the next row. (The get soaked in every rapids row). My sweetie was behind me to save me from falling in. As our jobs were to paddle our guide Brian back to base, I could not bring a camera to take photos. No worries – the raft company takes them at ‘Bonecrusher’, and they are available for purchase after the trip. That’s me in the white shirt. All my fears were baseless – I really enjoyed the trip. The exercise and excitement were fantastic. Nobody fell out accidentally, and our guide was a real pro and kept us off of the rocks. We did have to rescue one of the other boats by ramming them once and that was super fun!