Returning to St. Mary’s Glacier – 2020

Carly and I have been dating for over six years and married for just under three now, which seems like such a short time when I write it like that, but we’ve packed a whole lot of adventure into those 6 years. In that short time, we’ve also started to develop some family traditions. There are traditions that will surely grow in the years to come, but some that I hope will never change. For anyone that’s read a few of my posts, I’ve written about it a couple of times before, but one tradition that I hope never changes is returning the same weekend to the spot of our engagement every year. The first time we came, we were still living in Oklahoma; however, now, the tradition has been made easier since moving to the Centennial State. Leading up to this weekend, I couldn’t believe it was already time for our fourth trek up to St. Mary’s Glacier.

We’re starting to learn our lesson when it comes to parking at the trailhead, and arrived just before 8am. We found parking no problem, but I’m sure it filled up not soon after. As is part of the tradition, I’m entrusted to carry the cooler full of food and drinks to the top of the rocky climb. The way back down is always easier once my backpack has been emptied.

People climbing rocky trail surrounded by pine trees
Man with backpack smiling for picture with pine trees in background

There were a few people surrounding the lake when we finally emerged from the forest to the full glory of St. Mary’s Glacier. There was also more snow that we had ever remembered seeing before. I’m wondering if it hasn’t been quite as warm there this year, because at the same time, the water was also much lower than we were accustomed to. The rock where Carly was sitting when we got engaged is typically right along the edge of the water, but today, it was sitting much further back.

Man standing and looking over a mountain lake with glacier in background
The view never gets old up here. Truly one of my favorite places in the whole world.
Mountain lake with glacier in background
I mean.. how can you beat this?

Our favorite picnic spot around the edge of the lake was open, and we staked our claim by spreading the blanket. We settled in to relax and sink into the serenity surrounding us. It was here that we spent the next couple of hours – neither of us with a care in the world. Other people came and went. They took their pictures and moved on. We stayed unmoving, almost as if we were part of the landscape itself, content to have the breeze and the sun on our faces.

Woman standing along edge of mountain lake
Man sitting down and looking out over mountain lake
There’s no better place for a picnic, in my opinion!
Mountain lake with sun shining down, creating a rainbow in the cloud
The sunlight diffusing through the clouds and creating a rainbow was a treat today
View of mountain lake from up higher and through the trees
Wild Columbine flower nestled amongst greenery
There’s nothing quite like coming across a perfect wild Columbine
Wildflowers set amongst greenery
View of mountain lake from up higher with trees in between

Eventually, though, we got the urge to go exploring. We hadn’t been over to the glacier itself since the year we got engaged, and with all that snow looking down at us, it was calling us back this year. Since there were people near it on our way in, we also stopped on the way to the glacier to take some pictures on “our rock”.

Man sitting on rock alongside the mountain lake
No digging for the ring in my backpack today – or “snacks” as I tried to convince Carly that day.
Woman sitting on rock alongside the mountain lake, with glacier in the background
Woman looking out over mountain lake with glacier in background
Where the magic happened!
Husband and wife selfie with lake and paddle boarders in background.
Husband and wife take selfie while kissing

We continued on around the lake to the side that resembles more of a beach setting, with a lot more people spread out. Today, there was even a group of paddle boarders exploring the lake and shouting “encouragement” at the cliff divers.

Landscape shot of people sitting alongside mountain lake with glacier in the background
I don’t remember ever seeing this many people here, but we also don’t usually explore this side either
People alongside mountain lake with glacier in the background
Man sitting on paddle board with his dog on the shore of the mountain lake

The crowds had arrived by this time, and we found the trail off the beaten path that we had taken 4 years ago for some peace and quiet away from everyone to enjoy ourselves. It proved just as peaceful this year.

Stream flowing down alongside the trail and through a patch of wildflowers
Yellow wildflowers growing amongst the rocks

After spending a few minutes in the quiet, we scurried our way back up to the main trail and made our way to the glacier itself. I climbed up as far as was necessary to get past the throngs of people having their snowball fights and sledding down the glacier. The view is incredible from up there, and it really is worth it to work your way past the people for a quick peek.

Man taking picture of the glacier with backpack on
Looking like a tourist!
St. Mary's Glacier and surrounding mountains
Looking up St. Mary's Glacier
Looking up St. Mary's Glacier from the middle of it
One day I’m going to have to join the skiers coming down this in July
Looking down on the mountain lake from St. Mary's Glacier
Husband and wife take picture on rock with mountain lake in the background.

As is the case every year, it was hard to eventually pull ourselves away from the peaceful lake and make our way back down to the parking lot. It’s easier knowing that we can come back anytime we want. It’s also easier knowing that there’s a 100% chance that we’ll be back again this same weekend next year for our 5th time!

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