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Staff Reporter 

Fourth of July holiday a great time to reminisce

Write to the Point


Seems that the Fourth of July is the perfect time to revisit history.

So as I sat around the campfire at Apgar Campground along the shores of Lake McDonald, just inside the confines of Glacier National Park, it got me thinking about Independence Days that have stood out in my mind.

Many Fourths had been spent in similar laziness along Deadman’s Creek up in Ferry County enjoying time with my family who lived to camp.

That’s camping as in setting up tents, sleeping on the ground tucked into a down-filled military surplus mummy bag and learning to cook over the fire. Not like the line of three massive RVs tucked carefully bumper-to-bumper who were our neighbors across the road, and whose generator whir and clatter often drown out the sound of traffic on the nearby Going To The Sun Highway.

Admittedly, as the years passed, within the last 10 years I’ve graduated to a recreational vehicle of sorts — a pop-up tent trailer — because there’s plenty of other pain to be had these days besides the sore back from sleeping on the ground.

But I know how to cook darn good flapjacks over coals on a massive cast iron griddle and a killer Dutch Oven meatloaf, too.

So as we killed time before and between rafting both the North and Middle Forks of the snow-swollen Flathead River, I reminded my wife that Apgar was one of the first places she really camped way back in 1970-something, but also on a July Fourth weekend.

Actually, her first night in the cramped classic A-frame pup tent had taken place at Lolo Pass as we “road-tripped” our way to Glacier.

Where in Apgar the fear at night was a nosy bear trying to join us in the tent, at Lolo, the concerns were different as we shared the campground with dozens of rough-looking biker dudes and their chicks.

See, they bought a keg of beer near closing time at the local restaurant and bar where we had eaten dinner and the party was an all-nighter with loud voices and the whoosh of Frisbees flying over the tent.

This year’s Glacier trip unearthed plenty of additional local history, such as finding out the Lake McDonald Lodge, designed by Spokane’s Kirkland Cutter, was celebrating its 100th birthday.

One could not help but notice the remnants of an August 2003 wildfire that burnt within yards of the west shore of the lake and one time threatened the rustic lodge and hotel structure just across the water.

Not all memorable Independence Day holidays have been spent around the fire ring in the Great Outdoors.

In the summer of 1994 my wife and I concocted the brilliant idea to drive cross-country with 12 and 10-year-old daughters in the “Family Truckster” and visit good friends who lived in Washington, D.C.

When there’s the lure of free lodging in the nation’s capital at the end of the journey, the many “She’s touching me,” flare-ups or the endless “Are we there yet,” queries pass relatively quickly.

But as luck would have it our timing was perfect. We landed in Rapid City, S.D. and were able to catch the Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore.

A patriotic musical presentation from the U.S. Air Force Band and a stunning fireworks display overhead not only captivated us but quieted the adolescent arguments. But the performance also riveted thousands of others who had ventured to see the presidential faces sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum.

Carefully placed explosives used between 1927 and 1941 transformed Rushmore’s face of granite into a national monument. The sculptures attract visitors from across the nation — and the world — to gaze at the massive mugs of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Carelessly placed explosives, however, stand out on another Independence Day. That’s when my friend Russ decided to find out what an M-80 firecracker might do to his rural mailbox next to his driveway.

Luckily the silly prank — admittedly fueled by a bit of alcohol — didn’t injure anyone other than Russ’s burning ears after his wife saw the shattered mailbox.

Maybe we should have chosen hanging around the campfire, but those are dime-a-dozen Fourth of July memories?

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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