18 hrs in Glacier National Park – When Adventures become MISadventures


The forecast calls for clear skies and dry roads, but instead we are met with deep grey clouds and rain pounding the windshield.

So much for a clear forecast, I think. I hope it breaks just enough for us to get the tent set up and stuff stowed inside.

Days before, we packed the Xterra and trailer, loaded up the kids, and hit the road. Our goal is to explore as much of the Canadian Rockies as we can before we need to be back for school and Chris’ first 100 mile race, the Wasatch Front 100.

We crest a large hill above Saint Mary’s Lake and the weather does indeed break, leaving a beautiful scene of sun rays over water. I talk my husband into pulling over so I can snap a photo.

We arrive at our pre-reserved campsite at Saint Mary’s Campground, just inside the park boundary and throw up the tent, toss in pads and sleeping bags, and pull out warm layers for the rainy night ahead. According to radar we have a short break before another storm moves in.

We pile into the tent and gather around the Glacier National Park Map to scout out our adventures for the next few days. The rain starts again, slow at first and then harder. Looks like the radar was correct.

camping with kids

And then horror erupted!

After a few hours of sleep I awake to quiet moaning, coughing, and then… you parents probably know what is coming.

I lunge for the beach towel we’d stowed inside for the damp dog, and try to contain as much of the vomit as possible from erupting all over our sleeping bags. I partially succeed.

Thank God the rain stops again. We stumble out of the tent in a half stupor and begin the laborious process of cleaning up sleeping bags, pads, the floor of the tent, our son who was covered in vomit, and ourselves. A process that is nightmarish when at home, but degrees worse when the sum total of amenities at your disposal is a tiny sink in the campground bathroom with only cold water. (But hey, at least we aren’t in the backcountry?)

Somewhere amidst this I stop to ponder the bear warnings and the need to keep food away from sleeping areas… I wonder what I am supposed to do when our whole sleeping area smells like vomit.

Somehow we make it through the night, sleeping half of us in the car (with a bucket for more barfing episodes) and the rest in the tent under what remains of our clean gear and clothing.

Adapt and Overcome

In short, we survive. We do the short hike to Saint Mary and Virginia Falls the next morning (by now my son was feeling much better) and we even take an hour to paddle on St. Mary’s Lake and let Kai play in his new Ruffwear Float Coat.

Nevada Falls, Glacier National Park St. Mary's Lake, Montana

But come mid-day, Chris and I are too exhausted to mourn our Glacier National Park tragedy and due to the prospect of more rain in the forecast and our lack of desire to endure the vomit smell for the remainder of our time here, we cut our losses. Just a few hours away, across the Canadian border is a warm place for us complete with laundry and showers. 🙂

Sometimes adventure isn’t measured by success. But by how you adapt and overcome. I can’t offer 5 neatly-packaged-tips to prevent this from happening to your family. As parents, our control diminishes over many things. We make due. I am reminded that too often plans need to change. And I am reminded to be thankful. The times when things work out perfectly are a gift, but not the norm.

So we scrap our plans in Glacier, hoping one day to be back. And bail for the border.

How about you? Have your adventures turned to misadventures? I am thinking of investing in a small collapsible bucket for future camping trips. Any suggestions? 🙂

hiking to St. mary's Falls, Glacier National Park

We geared up for this trip with the help of sponsor, Sharpie Extreme. We use Sharpie Extreme markers to label and organize our gear. They provide long lasting color that will resist fading due to water, sun, snow and mud. 

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5 comments on “18 hrs in Glacier National Park – When Adventures become MISadventures
  1. Good call! We have also experienced being woken up by that dreadful sound while on a backcountry canoe trip. Thankfully she missed the sleeping bags and Thermarests. Last year my niece upchucked all over my Helinox. Fun times!! I try to remind myself that my kids learn just as much watching how we handle these situations as they do on the “good trips”. This said by the mom who’s fully loaded van just broke down on the way home from an 8-day canoe trip. The adventure continues 🙂

  2. One of the first times we took or son, then 8 months old camping we had thunder storms, rain and hail then in the middle of the night I awoke to the tent collapsed, the roof laying just a foot from our heads. Our tent was shot at 2am, I sat in our jeep with our son while my husband packed up our soaked gear and broken tent. We then went home 😏

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