Wet and Wild Day Includes Changing Tire in a Downpour
As we left Great Falls at 5:25 a.m., the cloudy skies turned to rain from Conrad on, making us think the weather prediction of occasional showers might be wrong. However, when we crossed Marias Pass, all was well. The clouds were high in the sky, which was perfect for our hike along McDonald Creek.
We arrived in West Glacier at 8:30 and met with Madelon and Jackie from Eureka, the only two of our expected four who met us. Perhaps, the cloudy weather scared them away.
Our hike was a bit humid but otherwise uneventful weather-wise. The creek was high, producing big rushing water over the cascades, including McDonald Falls and Sacred Dancing Waters, where we ate a hurried lunch. A few of the gals went a quarter mile more bushwhacking up the trail to view yet more cascades. The clouds covered the tops of the mountains, but the hike was still gorgeous.
We saw a few flowers: some fading trilium, pussy toes, alumroot, penstemon, woods forget-me-nots, anica, foam flowers, yellow violet, Canada violet, bunchberry (dogwood), meadow rue, fairy bells, strawberries.
For animals, we saw a bald eagle, golden eye ducks, a few harlequin, squirrels, and goats.
We also saw tent caterpillars. We had a debate on whether they were tent caterpillars or web worms. We looked up the difference and tent caterpillars come out in the spring and build woven tents in the fork of a branch, while fall web worms come out in the fall and build more loose webs on the ends of branches. Click this link for more information
At the end of the hike, we said goodbye to Jackie and Madelon and headed for the second part of the fun: whitewater rafting with Glacier Raft. Our guides Peter and James did a good job of handling us “older women” and didn’t get too mad at us when we couldn’t paddle in sync or told them corny teacher jokes.
We had several gals who had never been whitewater rafting before. Was Kuntz ever disappointed when she discovered that the guides weren’t the only ones with paddles: that yes, she had to help! Others wanted to sit IN the raft, not on the outer edges.
In the end, we all made it through Bone Crusher, Jaws, Eye of the Needle, Washboard and all of the seven named rapids on the river. And only the front few got wet until the weather took a turn for the worse about three-quarters of the way through, when rain came down. But just as we ended our float, the sun poked its head out for the first time that day to make our barbecue perfect.
James and Peter started us out with lemonade, water, a veggie tray and chips and salsa, followed by the main course of steak, chicken and veggie burgers along with bean and pasta salads. But the finale was just what women want: cheesecake with strawberries on top.
The one glitch at the take-out spot was no bathrooms: the gals had to try to find a place, but it was difficult with traffic and houses on one side and the “guy” guides near the water on the other preparing dinner. Some have tales to tell and we think James and Peter might too. We felt certain they were laughing after we left about our potty adventures.
But the guides also had a glitch in their day: They may be cautious if they take a bunch of school teachers out again. When one guide tried to explain the history of the area, some of the gals knew more than he did. Mary, in particular, corrected him on the name origin of Marias Pass: She knew that Captain Meriwether Lewis named it in honor of Miss Maria Wood, cousin of Captain Clark.
As we said goodbye to Glacier Raft and piled into the cars, we still had one last treat of the day: Goats at the goat lick area, but we also had a car mishap: Mary got a flat tire just out of Valier and the rain started coming down in buckets at the same time. It reminded some of another Glacier trip with car troubles in pouring rain.
But Mary was our hero; she got out and changed the tire. She was almost done when a gentleman stopped and helped lift the tire back into the trunk. However, the ordeal didn’t end there as the “donut” tire was practically flat too, so we limped into Conrad to find air. Unfortunately the air compressors at the two gas stations weren’t working, but Mary used her own compressor that she had in her car to fill it up enough to get back to Great Falls, although slowly, with Kuntz’s car following behind just in case. After many a giggle on the way home due to over-tiredness, we arrived in Great Falls just before 11 p.m.
It truly was Mary's day: She drove, she changed a tire, she used her electric generator to pump a tire, she knew the history of the name "Marias Pass" better than the Glacier guide, and she kept her sense of humor!
Side note: it was also a day of turnarounds: Katie missed the trailhead cue, so had both cars turn around and then turnaround again as we were going in the right direction to begin with. Then driving home, we saw the goats, so turned around to go look at them and then back again to face homeward. Then Kuntz missed the Valier turn off, so we turned around again!
Another side note: Story about the woman who survived going over McDonald Falls.