Filed under: Comfort at Camp, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, State & National Parks, Tent Campgrounds
Set Up in the Dark
Several years ago, on one of our summer adventures for which we normally schedule ourselves to be away from home for at least 10-14 days, we raced across the country from one destination to the next, lighting no more than a couple of days at any one spot. This is one of my most grievous sins: that of planning too many stops and destinations in one summer trip. Back in the day, we would leave home at 4 am on the first morning of our trip and head in whatever direction we had planned for whatever distance was scheduled as taking us approximately 14 hours. Our (my) goal was to get as many miles under our belt in that first day as possible, so we could theoretically slow down a bit from that point on. It just didn’t always work that way.
Road trips being what they are, we often ended up traveling in excess of our planned 14 hours due to unforeseen circumstances, or for more hours than whatever our mileage for the given mid-trip day was to take. These were also the days when we were tent camping. Since we have started traveling in our trailer, which slows us down a bit, I have learned to assume a more leisurely pace; one more in line with what a vacation is supposed to be and one that moves about as fast as our Durango can really pull our camper up the Rocky Mountains. This has been a good thing for all of us.
On our first trip to Montana’s beautiful Glacier National Park, however, this lesson had yet to be learned. On that trip, we had left our home near Green Bay, WI at 3:55 am (already five minutes ahead of schedule—Yes!) and headed southwest, to Fort Morgan, CO where we spent our first night in a Days’ Inn. We hit the road the following morning by 7:10 am and headed to Taos NM, one of our favorite towns, where we camped for four wonderful and peaceful nights before heading to the Grand Tetons. We made a short one-night stop there, on the way to our true destination, Glacier National Park. Of course we arrive at Grand Teton National Park after dark and awaken the following morning at 7:30 am. We are all tired of driving, so we spend an hour in a wonderful heated outdoor pool to relax a bit before loading up to continue our journey at just after 11 am.
According to MapQuest, and the way I had mapped out our journey, we had plenty of time to arrive at the campsite we had reserved in Glacier to get set up during daylight hours. Life being what it is, however, we do not arrive at our site in the Fish Creek Campground until just after 9 pm, even after exceeding the posted speed limit by a rather significant amount and causing ourselves a great deal of stress along the way. In spite of the dark and the late hour, the four of us set up the tent in five minutes flat. A nearby camper who was watching with great interest remarked, “Looks like you-all have done that before!”
We put the kids to work laying out sleeping bags, and Terry started a campfire while I was trying to decide what to prepare for dinner for my famished family. And not only did I not have a nice, well-lit kitchen like in my camper now, we had only brought along one lantern and it was by this light that I was to attempt my preparations. When planning food for the trip, I had picked up several Mountain House meals to try and it was these we ate in the dark that evening. But no more delicious meal was ever eaten by my starving family! Cleanup was a bit difficult but possible and, after the meal, rather than being tired, we were ready for a walk after spending the past 10 hours in a speeding car.
We remembered that we had chosen this particular campground because it was on the shores of Lake McDonald, a glacial lake in the park.
By the light of the nearly full moon, we located the stairway down to the lake and thoroughly enjoyed a moonlit walk along the shores of Lake McDonald. After the day we’d had, this was peace. We turned in shortly thereafter, but the following morning found me sitting on a rock by the lake with a fresh cup of coffee. Again, peace.
We have returned to Glacier Park several times since that first visit and have requested the same campsite, just up the stairway from the lake, every time. We have never been disappointed; we always find peace there as we did on that first moonlit night. And I have learned not to plan too many miles in a day which also adds to our peace and enjoyment immeasurably!For more information on adventures in Montana, read more about Montana camping.