We did it. We took a road trip that went well beyond the 3-hour trek to Sunriver, we slept on 3-inch pads on the ground and ate ramen for dinner. And we had one of our best vacations ever.
We drove 10+ hours to Montana, where we spent two nights at a horse ranch sleeping in tipis in Polson, two nights camping at Whitefish Lake State Park and two nights at a KOA in West Glacier, just a couple of miles outside Glacier National Park. (We were supposed to spend the first two nights in Missoula, but a group of rowdy bikers there for a "testicle festival" convinced us to rethink our lodging reservation.)
And that became the theme of the whole trip: go with the flow, go with our gut, just go and do whatever we wanted.
We had made lodging reservations for 7 nights, and we didn't keep any of them. When we saw kayaks and SUPs for rent at Whitefish Lake, we did it. When we realized that the view at Bowman Lake was so much better than what we were seeing on the trail we were hiking, we ditched our hike and went back to relax at the edge of the lake instead. When we saw they had rowboats for fishing in Lake MacDonald, we did that, too. We were suddenly the most spontaneous family ever, and it was awesome. Deciding everything on a whim turned out so much better than any preconceived plans we had for the week.
Staying at the horse ranch led us to a community rodeo in Ronan, Montana, where we were captivated for 2-3 hours and felt lucky to be part of this small town's big event of the year. It also led us to the art festival in Bigfork and the National Bison Range. And just being at the horse ranch was magical. The kids had free run of the place, with about 20 horses to interact with (Pickle was their fave), and we sat and watched the amazing sunsets and ate breakfast with the other guests at Gaynor Ranch.
In Whitefish, we found ourselves face to face with a big black bear and didn't get much sleep those 2 nights, but the kids thought the whole camping thing was so exciting (especially with a bear!). The campfire on our 2nd night was listed as a highlight. Sophie kayaked solo for the first time and also went to the bathroom by herself in the middle of the night with a flashlight ("I can go by myself!").
Glacier deserves a full post in itself and definitely a repeat visit. Words and pictures can't do the beauty of this place justice. On day one, we drove up to Polebridge and onto Bowman Lake, where the kids frolicked in their undies since we didn't bring bathing suits (because who knew we would be splashing in a lake). On day two, we checked out Lake MacDonald and took Mathis out with his new fishing rod. The lake had white caps by the time we had to row in, making it quite a workout for Lewis. And then on our last day, we drove up the Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass and a breathtakingly beautiful alpine meadow. Just amazing. It was too cold and rainy to hike it. Next time.
Back at the West Glacier KOA, we enjoyed soaks in the hot tub and roasting marshmallows in our campfire.
On the really long drive home, we already starting thinking about where we'll go for next summer's spontaneously awesome camping road trip. Sun Valley area? Olympic National Park?
We'll keep our plans open.