My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Most Beautiful Hike

On the advice of a ranger, who told me the hike to Scenic Point was one of the best hikes in Glacier,  I decided to spend Friday morning hiking this trail. The mileage (3.1- one way) seemed to be within my range and I thought I could handle the elevation (2,242 ft.), if I took it slowly.

I got up early on Friday morning to take pictures of the landscape around my campsite, before the sun got very high.  By a little after seven o'clock, I was starting up the trail.  I had it all to myself, for the first couple of hours, so called to whatever bears might be in the area and carried my bear spray.

The trail starts of innocuously enough with hardly any elevation gain and through a small forest of conifers. About a half mile up the easy trail is the spur to Appistoki Falls. The falls is only a hundred yards further.

Piece of cake hike for now
Appistoki Falls
 After enjoying the falls a few minutes, I backtracked and started up the trail again.  Within a few minutes, I was out of the tree line and starting a steady climb.  But the absence of trees made for tremendous views in three directions as I followed the switchbacks along the Mount Henry trail. One switchback took me way to the south and it took several switchbacks to get back to the north for views of Two Medicine Lake. For the first hour or so, I was hiking in the shade with the views getting every more bright. Many of my pictures were really strange looking due to this huge difference in lighting.

This is the least strange of several self portraits - lots of running involved
I found a spooky forest of dead trees and what I thought of as tree boneyards. These whitebark pines were killed by white pine blister rust, a disease accidentally introduced from Europe.

A few of the dead trees
Do you see an octopus?
Several switchbacks later, I found myself in a rocky alpine meadow with lots of flowers blooming.  Long views were getting better and better as more and more of Two Medicine Lake appeared and the views into the Appistoki Valley, Mt Henry, and the mountains around Two Medicine Lake were from an ever higher perspective.

Appistok Valley to the right and  Mt. Henry ahead of the trail

A trail side view later in the day

A golden-mantled squirrel that entertained me for several minutes

Alpine flowers along the trail
Fireweed framed by dead trees
High view of beaver ponds I'd passed on the previous hike

Some kind of penstemon- bees loved it
I was in the alpine meadow section of the climb, when I heard voices and looked back to see a scene from the Sound of Music. Five girls, who I think were Amish and who said they were from Pennsylvania, were hiking up the trail. I suspect they were in Rumshpringa. They definitely added interest to the mountain scene.

Hiking girls
Several other groups of hikers passed me, including a family with a grade school age boy, a group of women who were on a guided trip, and a few couples, all who were lots younger than me.  Finally I was passed by a group of people who looked as though some of them could be retired and at least in their 50's.  I was beginning to feel really slow, but I suspect it was mostly because I took over two hundred pictures.

Trail still winding up

Just another view
The day was getting hotter and brighter and it was now around eleven o'clock. I stopped having fun and felt like I was doing work, so I decided to turn around and go back to camp. My feet complained all the way back that my shoes were too short - I'm going to buy them a bigger pair -, and my little toe complained that my boots were pinching it and making it blister.  And I sweated - a rare event up here.

Almost as high as the top of this mountain

Same mountain from camp level
 As I got back to the parking lot, the family arrived back - they were the third group I had seen but the first to return.  We chatted a minute and found that they were from Bozeman and were also camping next to me. They planned to go swimming to cool off but I couldn't stand the bright light and decided to eat some soft huckleberry ice cream for my lunch along with my breakfast coffee which I had never gotten around to making and couldn't buy before I left.  I hung out in the air-conditioned store and browsed books until I was sure my hammock was in the shade.

Then I read for a couple of hours and waited until around five o'clock to go and mostly just sit it the wonderfully cold water. It was a great treatment for all that ailed me from the hike. After that and washing my hair, I felt like a new woman, although I was ready to go to bed early.  I had plans to get up early and drive the Going-to-the Sun Highway to the Avalanche Campground.  I knew I would have to be there before around nine o'clock in order to get a campsite. And I also remembered that there were several places where I wanted to take pictures in the morning light.

But that's a story for another blog. 

Highest view of Two Medicine Lake
If you can make it to the top, you'll be rewarded with a view of the whole Two Medicine Valley, and Upper Two Medicine, Two Medicine, and Lower Two Medicine Lakes. You can see to West Glacier and beyond. But I was happy with the views I saw.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Two Medicine is Good Medicine

The first time I visited Glacier National Park, I visited Many Glaciers, a little of St. Mary, Going-to-the-Sun Highway, and  Bowman and Kintla Lakes. The main area I missed seeing at all was Two Medicine, even though I had gotten glimpses of some of its mountains.

This time, I was sure I wanted to visit Two Medicine.  I toyed with the idea of driving on up into Canada but decided I wanted more hammock time and less car time. I left home around 5:30 A.M. which made it possible for me to get to Two Medicine around 9:00 A.M., just in time to get one of the few open campsites. (Campers start leaving about 6:30 and start filling back up soon after 7:00 A.M.) If you are coming from a long ways off, plan to camp in a nearby National Forest campground, and then rush in the following morning. (I checked the huge campsite at Agpar this morning around 8:00 A.M.,  and found only 3 campsites in four loops. One or two more families were packing up.)

Two Medicine was all I thought it would be. I took one of most of the most beautiful hikes I've ever taken while there.  But that will be a subject of another post.

On my first day, I got a neat little campsite that  was very private and only had campers on one side. And they were gone all day and into the late evening, so I barely saw them.  I was able to hang out in my hammock after setting up camp and wandering around the camping and day use area in the morning. I waited until late afternoon to go on a short, (4 mile) hike up to Aster Park Viewpoint.

Here are a few pictures from that day.  I waited until the following morning, just before the sun came over the horizon to take the pictures of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Sinopah Mountain glowing in first sunlight

Morning Coffee on the best seat in the house - view of Rising Wolf Mountain

I loved these striations at the top of one of the mountains

This mountain showed gauges from ancient glaciers

Trail to Astor Park Viewpoint

Asters - there were still lots of flowers blooming

One of several beaver ponds - good moose habitat but no moose
Aster Creek from under the bridge

Aster Creek Falls

Beautiful rocky ground at Aster Park Viewpoint

View from Aster Park Viewpoint

I had several pretty intense days of work before I left, including a full nine hours of working with two MCC groups.  We had an awesome day, with the kids getting to see both sexes of big horned sheep, having a pronghorn antelope follow them up to High Point, seeing a bear, in addition to having the bison close to their camp, so they could really enjoy the antics of the bull in the rut.

Our big excitement on Wednesday happened when one of the MCC kids managed to get bear spray on his hands, then his eyes, while riding in a van.  We were about 45 minutes or more from the bunkhouse. We put him on the ground and poured most of our water, including a few quarts I had for the bees,  on him, fighting him to get him to open his eyes.  Then we put a wet bandana over his eyes and rushed to the bunkhouse where he took a full shower. He was already improving when he arrived at the bunkhouse and was fine after a shower and having his shirt dried.

MCC kids off to hunt bees. Bighorns were lagniappe.
So I did need this good medicine and I feel much better now, albeit a little guilty because I calculated that today was Sunday and I was supposed to have worked.  Fortunately, all three of us work on Sundays and that is one too many.  I've already worked for Kyle so I just have to make it up to Will. And also fortunately, I didn't realize this until I'd had a pleasant morning hunting and finding harlequin ducks, checking out fishing spots, and looking for National Forest campgrounds near Glacier so Bob and I can go up at night and then have most of the first day to play. In fact, I was trying to match my folders of pictures with the number of days I was supposed to have been in Glacier, when I realized I must have been there four days instead of three. But everyone knows I'm blonde and senile so I'll probably be forgiven.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Visit to St. Ignacius Mission

The second day I was at National Bison Range, I went on a guided tour all the way to High Point, which, of course is the highest hill on the refuge.  From there we can see the town of St. Ignacius, as well as the St Ignacius Mission which really stands out against the rest of the town because it is the only reddish building and is much larger than the rest of the buildings.  I was told it was very beautiful and historic and had fresco paintings inside it.

The entrance

 So, one day in late May I took the short trip over to see it. It was pretty amazing inside.  Built in the 1890's, it has 58 original paintings by Brother Joseph Carignano on the walls and ceilings.  That alone makes it remarkable but this church was established to serve the Indian tribes in the Flathead Valley and are still closely associated with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

The pulpit area

Picture at front left of the church

The view to the back of the church

Closer view of part of the wall

One of the small pictures on the walls
One of the many windows
Salish Madona
 There is more history outside on the grounds. Two cabins remain that housed the first sisters and the priest.

Original cabins dating from 1854

The cabins can also be visited

I loved the graphic look of the roof shakes and moss

Pictures documenting the lives of local Native Peoples are in the cabins

I'm not sure what this statue is of - but I don't think its St Ignacius
 I wouldn't travel far to visit churches or most museums, but I do enjoy visiting different attractions in the area in which I'm working.  I also learn things I wouldn't learn otherwise and understand the history and culture of the area better.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Virtual Hike from Sunrift George

Twice, while driving on Going-to-the-Sun Highway, I stopped to do short hikes.  One of them was at Sunrift Gorge.  This hike is best done by first hiking up a short set of steps to see the actual gorge.  Here, snow melt has carved a narrow cleft in the rock and spring melt rushes through it. This is the beginning of Baring Creek

Short climb to Sunrift Gorge

The Gorge

Water drips off the walls of the gorge

The water turns a corner here and then you have to go downstream to see more

Climb back down and continue on the walkway that goes under the bridge. Looking upstream, you will see the bottom of the above feature. 

This was the first falls I saw because I climbed the steps last
The stream continues down the hill, boiling and making other water features.

Foaming hole just downstream of the bridge
A visitor enjoys the stream on the down stream side of the bridge
This picture is looking downstream just a little down from the last picture
The trail just keeps going and near the bridge, you find that you can visit four falls. And you can also join other trails and probably walk for miles and days.  I decided to go on down to Baring Falls.  On my way there I saw a very strange sight.  I caught a glimpse of four legs behind a woman hiker coming towards me, and at first though she was leading a llama.  But as soon as I saw the entire animal, I realized it was a deer. I stepped off the path so they could pass and the deer stopped to grab a bite of thimbleberries.  Then she hurried to catch up with the lady.  As the lady passed me, she whispered, " It seems to like me."  The deer nonchalantly passed me, still seemingly intent on following the lady.  The hikers in back were also thrilled and stopped to ask if I'd ever seen anything like it.

One of these hikers is not like the others
Shortly after the deer encounter, I took the side trail that led to Baring Falls.  I found several lovely flowers, including Mariposa lily and yellow columbine, growing along the trail.

Mariposa lily trio

Yellow mountain columbine
The sounds of Baring creek had receded a little, but, after I took the side trail, they increased in volume.  I soon came to a footbridge over the creek.  A roar was coming from upstream and the path across the creek curved upstream.   In only a few steps, I got a glimpse of the falls.


Baring  Falls

Lushly growing flowers on cliffside next to falls.

After enjoying the falls a few minutes, then taking the time to show another couple the best spot from which to see it, I started back to the car.   I decided I had enough light to make the hike to St. Mary's falls, which is on another path leading from the same rest stop. 

But after you have heard about one hike, the rest in the same area are pretty much the same.  Just more oohs  and ahas and lots of stops to take pictures of pretty little waterfalls, colored rocks, the big mountains, wildflowers and to try to get photographs of bees and butterflies. 

I put all the pictures from Going-to-the Sun highway in a folder on Flickr. I added titles and captions to help you understand them.  Enjoy as many of them as you can stand. 

Most of Glacier is only available to backpackers and many of the hikes into the interior start along Going-to-the -Sun Highway.  I wish I could still enjoy the solitude found at the end of a long hike but I'm only able to do day hikes now. But if you still can, consider backpacking in Glacier.  And for sure get out of your car to explore short distances from the highway.  Better yet, jump on and off the shuttle, especially if you must visit during the middle of the day.