At 7:00 a.m., we awoke to a dreary, gray morning. A thick
layer of gray clouds covered the sky, and it looked as though they would open
up and pour rain on us at any minute. It didn't matter to us, though, because
where we were going, we were already going to get very wet. The night before,
we had made reservations at the Glacier Raft Company to do a half-day of
whitewater rafting at 10:00 a.m.
In all honesty, this was the part of the trip I was not looking forward to,
but John talked me into going. He had gone whitewater rafting during his first
visit to Glacier National Park in 1996, when he was in Montana for the Lost
Prairie Boogie, and he told me that it was a lot of fun and that I would enjoy
it. So, on this cool and dreary morning, wearing clothes that we didn't care
if they got wet, John and I drove over to the Glacier Raft Company to check
After signing accident waivers, we were given rain gear and told that we had
to be ready to board the bus at 10:00 a.m., at which time the bus would take
us to the boat launch along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. While we
were waiting, we purchased a disposable, waterproof camera so that we could
take pictures during the adventure. Then, at 10:00, everyone began to climb on
board the busses. There were two of them, one for the all-day tour, and the
other for the half-day. The half-day bus was packed, mostly with little
children. John hoped that we would not end up on the same boat as them.
Fortunately, all of the children were with one group, and they didn't want to
be separated, so we were relieved. (Of course, we did end up on the boat with
a teenaged girl who looked as though she was only there because her parents
forced her to be there. She was wearing so much black eye make-up that she
looked like a raccoon by the time the trip was over!)
Our boat guide was Val, who promised us that it was going to be a wild
adventure. Upon reaching the boat launch, John asked Val if we could sit at
the front of the boat -- that way, I would get the best seat in the house. For
our own safety, he asked us if we had done whitewater rafting before, to which
John replied, "I have. She hasn't, but she has done a lot of canoeing." Val
was sold on that, so he put us both up front. Before shoving off from the boat
launch, Val began the standard safety lecture, starting with how to sit in the
boat so that we won't fall overboard. He also taught us how to paddle -- which
was the same as paddling a canoe, except that we would really have to paddle
hard once we hit the rapids -- and he lectured us on what to do should we fall
overboard. There were various safety lines all over the boat for us to grab
onto should we start to slip overboard. If, by chance, we did fall out of the
boat, he instructed us to float on our backs and wait for him to cast out a
line to rescue us. The life vests we wore would ensure that we remained afloat
until we were rescued. Val then explained that he didn't have to rescue many
people at all from the water, because not many people fall out of the raft.
As I listened to the safety lecture -- and as we started floating downstream
-- I began to feel more at ease, a little less afraid of falling into the
water and dashing my head against a rock. I was secure in the boat, my feet
tucked into the mesh of the raft, and I was enjoying the gently ride down the
Then...we hit the first rapid, and after that, I was sold! As the waves
crashed against the raft and sent it into the air, I screamed, "Wahoo!" like
Homer Simpson; and when we were in calm waters again, John looked at me and
noticed that I was smiling like a schoolgirl.
That first rapid was barely a class one. In between the first and the second
set of rapids, Val quickly described what the different classes of rapids
meant and that we would only seen ones, twos, and threes along this trip --
nothing too dangerous, but enough to make it exciting all the same. He also
explained that, at each set of rapids, there were photographers -- one of whom
was his pregnant wife -- waiting to take pictures of us; these pictures would
be available for sale once we returned from our trip.
As we progressed downstream, we began to hit the class two and class three
rapids, and soon we were soaked the cold river water, which was a bitter fifty
degrees that day. But I didn't care, because each time we hit a rapid, I was
laughing and hollering because it was the most fun I had ever had (with the
exception of my first skydive, of course).
About halfway through the ride, Val decided to take us up against a wall. We
watched the other rafts ahead of us and noticed that none of them dared to
take the risk of riding up against it. However, Val figured that we should get
our money's worth. He told us that, at the moment we hit the rapid, the people
seated on the left hand side of the boat should get up and lay on top of the
people on the right to keep the raft from turning over. This was executed
perfectly, and we rode through the rough rapid without capsizing, though we
got completely soaked in the maneuver!
And then, when the trip was over and we arrived back in West Glacier, at the
Glacier Raft Company, I told John, "That was so much fun! I want to do that
again!" He merely smiled and said to me, "I told you that you'd like it. Would
I ever take you anyplace that I think you wouldn't enjoy?"
The trip was over at 1:00 p.m., just in time for lunch. After returning to our
cabin to change into some dry clothes, we stopped for lunch at the family
restaurant in Apgar Village. Then, John suggested that we take a drive into
Polebridge so that we could see the northwestern part of the park. Looking at
the map of Glacier Park, he found a dirt road -- Glacier Route Seven -- that
would take us all the way to Kintla Lake. I said, "Let's do it!" because what
is a Verley adventure without at least one dirt road?
As we began our journey, it began to rain lightly on us -- just enough to keep
us from doing any hiking, but not enough to force us to turn back. Our trip
took us through thick, lush virgin forests, past the Fish Creek Ranger Station
and campground, up through vast, open prairies, where we found that there were
privately owned ranches within the park. The road then traversed a section of
the forest that had burned many years ago. Among the scorched trees were baby
pine trees, no more than ten feet tall and still growing so that one day,
they'll be as tall as their predecessors.
At last, we came to Kintla Lake and campground -- a campground that has very
few amenities, unlike those more centrally located within the park. John and I
parked the car there and walked up to the shores of the lake. The gloom of the
rainfall hung over the waters of the lake, covering the mountains, which
surrounded it. We imagined that, on a clear day, the lake must be very
beautiful, but with all of the rain, we weren't going to be able to see it.
For our return trip, John decided that we should take the route through
Polebridge, a small town outside of the park boundaries, where there was a
bar/restaurant with about six tables -- all full that afternoon -- and a
general store with one gas pump that was out of gas that day. Needless to say,
we didn't stay there very long. Continuing on our return trip, we decided to
take the North Fork Road, which followed along the North Fork of the Flathead
River, just outside of Glacier National Park. This, too, was a dirt road, but
this one was about four lanes wide and well graded -- what we would call
"super slab." Along the way, the road was lined by beautiful ranch houses with
rich green yards covered by tall, majestic trees and enclosed by rustic wood
fences -- such lovely scenery to enjoy during the long drive back to Apgar.
By the time we reached West Glacier, we were nearly out of gas, and we were
ready for dinner. We decided not to eat out that night, but instead we would
have grilled cheese sandwiches and noodle soup -- something to take away the
chill from the cold and rainy day. We stopped at the store to pick up a few
groceries. Then we took everything back to the cabin to eat.
After dinner, we went for a walk around Apgar Village so that we could do a
little souvenir shopping for our parents and to buy a deck of cards for
ourselves. Ernie's Mercantile had the perfect deck for us. The back of the
cards has a cartoon drawing of a bear dressed as an elk, standing next to a
sign that says "Do Not Feed the Bears". The bear, in turn, is holding a sign
that says "Trust me." After that, we walked over to another gift shop, where
John bought me a one-week anniversary gift: a very nice and very warm Glacier
National Park jacket.
We spent the rest of the evening playing poker with our pocket change and
trying to play rummy (but John couldn't remember the rules!). We had so much
fun that we lost track of time -- it was midnight before we finally crawled
into bed and went to sleep...
Heather & John's Big Adventure.