Idaho/Montana (Road trip: Day 11-13)

We wanted to push to get to as close to the outskirts of Glacier as we could to camp close by for an early morning hike. There were a few places that we had to detour to first though! Our first stop was a river that Scott’s aunt had recommended called Priest River in Idaho. It was beautiful and massive, but I think the route was the golden part of the whole thing. By taking a few extra minutes on the route we were able to travel on some backroads instead of a main highway. From Priest River we dropped down and headed toward Coire Dalene.

Hudson’s old fashioned burgers

Coeur d’Alene is an absolutely beautiful lake town. People vacationing from all over the country come here to enjoy boat rides, beach days, and to just relax at the resort. Our friend Andrew told us to check out an old school burger joint called Hudson’s right on the walk to the lake. The burger place, lovingly called Huddy’s, has been around for over 100 years and is 5th generation family owned. They crank out simple burger with cheese, onion and pickle, you can add spicy ketchup, regular ketchup, or spicy mustard yourself. The menu is simple and the prices are cheap, the same way they have been doing it for years. Comically, they pride themselves on not offering fries, mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, mushrooms, and all the other burger add-ons. They keep it simple and we loved it! Sitting around the bar, we watched locals order burger after burger and be treated like family by the staff. It was definitely something you have to experience if you’re ever in the area.

Cooking up dinner at Hungry Horse Dam

From there, we walked around the shops, and sat by the lake, charting out our next destination. We decided that it would be best to head toward Montana and up to Glacier in order to do an early morning hike the next day. Rumor has it that Glacier has become packed during the last few weeks, rangers are having to turn people away, and it is only opened up partially.

Avalanche Trail, Glacier
Avalanche Trail, Glacier
Avalanche Trail, Glacier

On our way up to Glacier we passed through Kootenai and walked a quick walk to the falls and then drove through Kalispell to get to Hungry Horse Dam. It was the closest place to Glacier without being in the park to camp. Our first campsite was a bust and turned out to actually just be a day use area so we continued up the road to the dam. At the dam we got a beautiful view of Glacier, the surrounding mountains and the reservoir. Scott proceeded to tell me that dams are a huge terrorist target because of the damage they can do, thank you Scott for that image. We continued to drive down this forest road, stopping at different campgrounds and turning around because all were at capacity. We were in National Forest so we basically just needed to find a safe place to pull our car and sleep for the night. About an hour down the road we found a pull-out, no one had claimed it yet! We pulled up, put our car on risers and set up camp for the night. It was so hidden and perfect, not a soul in sight! I cooked up some leftovers while Scott tried to negotiate with the solar shower.

Avalanche Trail, Glacier
Montana

After dinner we decided to test our luck, hoping that the shower sitting on the dash all day had gotten warm enough to have a quick rinse. With the help of each other we somehow got clean and hopped into bed for a good night sleep before our extremely early morning hike the next day. Scott insisted that we wake up at 4:45 in order to get to the trailhead before 6. I protested, but knew that he had reason to get up this early and so we did.

Avalanche Trail, Glacier

Thank goodness we are in a van, because the packing up is incredibly easy. We were up and on the road in no time. I was trying to sort our hiking bag on the drive, cover up my blisters, and not spill all of our water in my lap while transferring it into bottles. Scott warned me that once we got there we would basically jump out and get on the trail to beat the crowds.

Johnson Bar Campground

It is days like these that I am so thankful for Scott’s overzealous attitude. By the time we got to the trailhead there were already tons of cars in the parking area. We were lucky to snag a spot. Most of the people were parking there to then bike the sun road because the road was shut down to cars due to COVID and extra snowfall. Unfortunately, we only had one bike AND the two hikes we were hoping to do were closed until further notice. This did not stop us from doing the Avalanche Lake Trail though. As soon as we pulled into our spot, we jumped out of the car determined to get to the lake before most people were there. I’m not going to lie we were pushing hard to get there, passing groups all the way up the trail. It was a beautiful hike, but I told Scott we couldn’t stop to take pictures we had to get to the end before all the other people did. Luckily, at the end of the trail there was only one quiet couple at the lake taking a time lapse since 6 that morning. Scott and I were able to enjoy the peace of the lake and take tons of uninterrupted pictures. The couple even offered to take a picture of us. After soaking in the silence and awe of the lake, waterfalls, and massive peaks, people slowly started to trickle in. Blocking other people, photobombing, and turning calmness into calamity.

Johnson Bar Campground
Johnson Bar Campground

Scott and I quietly left around the same time as the other couple so our experience wouldn’t be altered by the mass of people. On our way down we passed upwards of 100+ people trying to get to the lake. Again, I am thankful for Scott getting my butt up so early so that we could have the experience we did. Even crazier, when we got back to the parking lot, it was completely full and rangers were turning people away and around, AT 8am!! I thought this situation couldn’t get crazier, but as we were driving out and people were walking the extra five miles from their cars to trailhead we were flagged down by a lady who offered to pay us to drive to the trailhead because she was quote “desperate.” I had to hold back my chuckle as Scott apologized that we only have two seats in her car and are unable to accommodate her. Have you ever heard of something so wild!? This is America, I guess.

Drone picture from Johnson Bar campground

We decided from Glacier we were going to try to halfway between there and the Wallowas, which was our next destination. I looked up a campsite that was in the middle of the Nez Perce national forest that looked promising. It was in the middle of nowhere and had a river running through it. Best of all, there were a ton of campsites nearby so hopefully we would get lucky somewhere.

Drone picture from Johnson Bar campground

Our drive to the campsite was beautiful. I saw more wildflowers than I had ever seen in my life, and the mountains seemed never-ending. These backroads had a homey feel of Oregon, lush greenery and little cabins dotting the river. Even better, the campsite I had looked up had a few available spots. I could not believe how beautiful it was. Neither could Scott. We got a spot that backs up to the river with a fire pit and picnic table. Just a few steps away we can go to a sandy beach that has a few small places of slow-moving river to stand and float. The best part of all, is with a national park pass it only costs $7 a night! We quickly decided that we loved this spot and after a soak in the river, a solar shower and dinner we decided we would stay a second night.

Drone picture from Johnson Bar campground

On our second day we used to do some light “housekeeping.” I reorganized the inside of the van, Scott charged up all of the electronics with the solar panels and did laundry by hand, and I caught up on 8 different blog posts! Scott even had time to do a little mountain biking up the road. So far, we are absolutely loving Idaho and will probably spend a few more chunks of time on this trip here. Tomorrow morning we are off to the Wallowas!

Drone picture from Johnson Bar campground

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