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  • Writer's pictureChristina Adele Hon

Justin and Addie: Avalanche Lake Elopement in Glacier National Park | Christina Adele Photo

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

When Addie reached out to me for her September 28, 2019 elopement with Justin she had already had a lot of it planned. They had their permits for a quiet ceremony with a few friends on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake, they had dinner reservations for a steak at the Cattle Baron Supper Club following their ceremony, and they even had specific places in mind for bridal portraits. Justin and Addie are local to the East Side of the park and had an extensive knowledge of that area. Which made planning on my end pretty easy. I sent them a few sample itineraries and they selected the one they liked the most. It included a first look at Two Medicine, and then photos at Rising Sun, Logan Pass, and Many Glacier prior to their ceremony. They would then have a nice dinner at the Cattle Baron, and stay at Summit Mountain Lodge for their wedding night. I would send them all of their photos prior to their reception with family and friends in Choteau the following week. Everything was all set for a gorgeous elopement during the peak of fall color in the east, or so we thought.

In life- and especially in life when you live in a national park-you learn very quickly that very seldom do things go according to plan. As the day approached and appeared on the 10 day forecast, we started to get nervous. There was going to be snow. We are from Montana, Justin and Addie are from Montana, we could all handle snow. In fact, snow would be beautiful and adds its own amazing element to photos. Fresh snow and peak fall colors, it's hard to find something more beautiful. But snow could also mean closures, it could mean having to change plans. So I started to create back up itineraries- An itinerary for if Logan Pass closed, an itinerary if Two Medicine closed etc... Just to be on the safe side, I also created a west side itinerary. This was really the last resort, Justin and Addie were really after fall color. While the west side does have aspens, they are not in the abundance present on the east side, and they peak a lot later too. The west side was not at all what they had envisioned for their fall elopement.

As the day got closer and closer, and we started getting alerts, we learned that it was not just going to snow, but it was going to SNOW. 4 feet of snow to be exact. We didn't have to wait until the day of to find if things would close, everything was shutting down preemptively. And I mean everything. There were exactly zero options left in Glacier for September 28th. They had to make the hard call that their elopement was not going to happen, at least not then. And it was the right call. Despite the forecast often being wrong, that storm did in fact bring 4 feet of snow to much of the park. On the east side, even the snow plows were getting stuck and it took days for even the major highways to open again. It was quite literally the storm of the century. It rarely snows that much in a single month (even January), but to get that much in a single day in September really was unheard of.

One of the perks of hiring a local Glacier National Park photographer for your elopement, and specifically Christina Adele Photo, is the knowledge and flexibility we bring. I limit myself to one elopement per week, and I commit myself to that elopement no matter the circumstances. I don't have a flight to catch or another wedding to photograph when things go wrong. I am right there with you, ensuring that your dreams will still come true. If we need to reschedule within a week, because of weather or closures, I am willing to do that for you, without charge. If we need to plan around potential closures, I can make last minute changes to ensure that you still get the photos you want. I know which roads close first, which areas are subject to most volatility, and can plan for all of it. Justin and Addie were able to change their September 28th East Side elopement to an October 3rd West Side elopement. And they were able to get all the photos they envisioned.

Once we had settled on a new date and come to the conclusion that the east side would remain closed and we would have to move west: I spent the next few afternoons scouting locations that would have the peak fall color they were after. While East and West Glacier are only 2 hours apart, they are vastly different in terms of climate. I was able to find a few locations with that gorgeous fall color, sent them a few itineraries and to my delighted surprise, they picked the most ambitious itinerary with a five mile round trip hike to Avalanche Lake, stops at Lake McDonald, Belton Bridge, and the Nyack before heading up to the North fork and Bowman Lake for sunset. It was a lot for one day, but we managed to squeeze it in.

The morning of their elopement, we met up at 10 AM to begin the hike to Avalanche Lake. The clouds were stunning and there was a fog going in and out the trees. Addie had crafted her own gorgeous bouquet made from silk flowers, and they fit nicely in the outside pocket of her backpack. If hiking, I always recommend chatting with a florist and having them give you a bouquet of hearty flowers, or having a bouquet made from silk or wood flowers. Many flowers will wilt by the time you make it to the destination, so keeping this in mind will ensure you have a gorgeous bouquet by the time you reach your destination. There are many companies out there, including Teton Wood Blooms, that can create custom bouquets of silk or wood flowers that are so realistic you wouldn't even know they weren't real.

By the time we made it to the Lake, the sun had come out and we were standing in glorious sunshine. We hiked along the lake until we found a private beach. Addie and I left Justin on the beach and disappeared into the trees. There I helped her into her dress and laced it up. They then had their first look on the shores of the lake and presented each other with rings. Because of all the last minute changes, they had not been able to move their special use permit. They ended up getting legally married at the reception they had with their family and friends later in the week. But for them, gifting each other with rings was the special moment that was celebrated the rest of the day. It was the moment that bonded them. It signified that after everything, this was finally happening. After portraits at the lake, we hiked out -with Addie still in her dress. We stopped for photos at Avalanche Gorge before heading down to Lake McDonald.

After photos at Lake McDonald, we headed down to the spot I had scouted earlier in the week with the amazing fall color. It had gotten even prettier since I had scouted it out. It did require us crossing a small creek on a beaver dam to get to, but luckily Addie was well prepared for hiking and all the terrain that comes with it here in Montana. From this spot we backtracked to the Belton Bridge, and then made our way to the North Fork. All of this was totally new for Addie and Justin, even with them being somewhat local. They were excited to have found new places to explore on their days off. We stopped at Polebridge for some Huckleberry Bearclaws and photos, before making our way to Bowman Lake for sunset. It was an action packed day, and turned out to be everything that they had hoped. And I was still able to get them photos in time for their reception. Interested in planning your own Glacier National Park Adventure Elopement? Inquire here, rates start at $2500 for a 6 hour session with all planning included.

Things to know when planning an Avalanche Lake Elopement with Christina Adele Photo:

-It is a 2.5 mile hike each way, and the hike to the lake is mostly uphill, so you will need to plan for that.

-Ceremonies and vow exchanges are not permitted at Avalanche Lake, the closest locations for this are at the Avalanche Amphitheater or Avalanche Picnic Area. - Avalanche is best during the late afternoon and evening, or anytime on a rainy day. -This is one of the most crowded areas in Glacier National Park. Parking is full by 7 AM in the summer and stays full well into the evening, shuttle lines to and from the trailhead can be hours long, and it can be difficult to find a spot to be alone near the lake in the middle of the day.

- Because of aforementioned crowds, I don't recommend this is as a spot for elopements in the summer. Early spring, fall, and early winter are about the only times of year I would recommend this location.

-The hike to Avalanche Lake takes you by Avalanche Gorge and the Trail of Cedars, so you can get to two spots within close proximity. - Avalanche is typically only open from Mid- Late April until December 15th, and can close during severe weather.

"The day started off with a missed alarm clock, spilled coffee, and hair done in a gas station on the reservation. We hiked to Avalanche lake, visited the dock at Lake McDonald, crossed a sketchy beaver dam across a creek to the spot at Nyack, journeyed up the North Fork to Polebridge, then watched the sun slowly sink at Bowman Lake.

Many people have asked us, why Glacier? The feelings Glacier Park gives us is unsurpassed by any thing else. Unfortunately the snow storm of the century (literally) crashed our original plans. Thankfully we were able to plan a new adventure for this special moment in our lives. Hopefully these photos help you fall in love with this special place. A great adventure with many more to come."

Who does a photographer hire to do their wedding photos? At first, I didn't think there was anyone remotely qualified. Then I met Christina. She put all of my stress and worries at ease. Even when our original plans were dumped on (literally), She came up with new ideas in a different part of the park without 4 feet of snow (actually amount of snow received). Not to mention we had a few photos sent to us by the time we had left the park. Thanks again Christina Adele!"

"Our Glacier National Park elopement experience with Christina was nothing short of extraordinary. She is talented, flexible, and knows Glacier better than anyone else.

Weddings and elopements are stressful to begin with, without having to factor in the natural elements. When our original plans were ruined by the snow storm of the century, Christina worked with us to reschedule and come up with a new plan that was better than the first. Without that flexibility, our dreams of eloping to Glacier with memorable, epic photos would have been lost. With her superb knowledge of the park, we trusted her fully to lead us on a photographic expedition and set up phenomenal shots.

She went along with our crazy ideas and even added a few of her own. Before we even drove out of Glacier Park that night, she had already sent a handful of beautifully edited images directly to us which was an unexpected surprise because turn around time is usually months! It has only been a couple weeks, and she has finished editing most of the photos. We are so fortunate to have all of the amazing photos Christina captured to remember our best day ever."

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