My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Guided Hike to Inspiration Point

While in Grand Teton National Park, Bob and I decided a hike with a ranger would be fun - especially since we could continue on a longer hike into Cascade Canyon.  So we showed up at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station before 8:00 A.M. on Saturday to claim a spot.  Our ranger was the park geologist so we got to learn a lot about how the Teton range came to be.

The day was cloudy and foggy at first, but most of the fog lifted before the afternoon clouds moved back in and reattached themselves to the mountains. But the overcast skies made for a lovely, cool hike.

View of Jenny Lake taken the day before
Our hike included a boat ride across Jenny Lake to save two miles of mundane hiking and get everyone to the beautiful Cascade Creek, the Cascade Creek Falls, and then finally up to Inspiration Point. The trail was pretty easy, except for the last climb to Inspiration Point. And we had three or four rest stops to listen to the ranger and ask questions.

Boat trip


Ranger Erica at one of the talking stops

Cascade Creek

Me on the trail - picture by Bob


Narrow portion of the trail

Taking pictures of the view from Inspiration Point

Enjoying Inspiration Point

 After the tour ended with the ranger leaving us at Inspiration Point, Bob and I continued our hike down Cascade Canyon, sometimes walking along the creek and always having at least parts of mountains in view.  The tops of most of them were covered in clouds for the first part of the trip.  There were still a few clouds clinging to the mountains when we finished our hike. But I thought the cloud-draped mountains were beautiful.

Dead but still beautiful tree and roots

Sumac berries

Mountains wrapped in clouds

Trail view

Cloud Cradle

Bob walking across Cascade Creek

Mountains in the fog

After the hike, Bob and I went back up north and explored the northern part of the park, before spending some time at Jackson Lodge to use their wireless.  We ended up eating supper there when a rain storm lasted through the early evening.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Road Trip Begins

Bob S. had barely gotten back to Houston when Bob G. arrived to share my adventures for a few weeks.  Our first stop along the way was the Grand Tetons where we spent a few fun days.

Our day started with a beautiful dawn over  the Mission Mountains.

Mission Mountain Sunrise

Soon we were headed east and then south.  We were going to get to Grand Teton National Park by first going south along the back side, then coming in via the town of Jackson.  On the way we  stopped at Camp Fortunate, the Lewis and Clark camp where they were able to get horses.  Bob and I took turns taking each other's pictures in the dugout before eating our lunch there. 

Me in a model of a Lewis and Clark dugout
By late afternoon, we had arrived in Jackson. We stopped for a few minutes and took pictures under a set of the piled up antlers, 

First view of the back of the Tetons before we reached Jackson

Bob in one of the elk antler archers in Jackson

Jackson street scene
Our next stop was the Moose Visitor Center in Teton National Park. I loved this quilt. We didn't have time to do the center justice, so planned to come back another day.

Bob wanted to camp at Jenny Lake campground but that one fills up early. We checked it out and decided that it wasn't that  pretty and we would go to Signal Mountain Campground the next day.  I already had two free sites in mind.  Bob didn't believe my GPS so we ended up going the long way, through the Gros Ventre Valley, to a forest service camp.  We found a mundane campsite with several people in it, but followed the directions to continue up the forest road.  We were rewarded with a beautiful camp site directly across from the Tetons.

View of the Gros Ventre River near sunset

We got our camp set up and ate supper, then sat out to watch the full moon rise.

Moon rising behind our free campsite
 The Tetons were dark by the time we got to the site, so I was up early the next morning to catch the first light on them. From our vantage point, we could also enjoy Mt. Moran.

Grand Tetons

Mt. Moran in the morning
 We decided to go back to Jenny Lake and check out the area before heading on north to the Signal Mountain Campground. The shortest way back was across Antelope Flats, where the bison hang out and where the Mormon homesteads are located. We stopped to take the picture of the famous barn with the Tetons as a backdrop.  And then we were stopped again by bison crossing the road. We both took lots of pictures but I got the biggest kick out of the momma bison butting here baby across the road.  No lollygagging allowed.

Barn and Tetons

Get along, son

Closeup view of the gneiss rock that makes up much of the mountains in the Grand Tetons

Bob and I had a few more days of fun and adventure in the Tetons, then spent yesterday afternoon, night, and early morning at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.  I met my boss for next summer and enjoyed one of the primitive camp sites there. Currently, we are visiting friends in Bozeman and will drive the Beartooth Highway tomorrow, before leaving the following day for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

So I have lots of stories and pictures with more to come.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hike to Grinnell Glacier

If not for an argument over a campsite, I would not have gotten to go on this hike. And our new friends made the whole experience more fun.

It all started about 7:00 A.M. after Bob (my friend who had flown from Houston especially to fish at Glacier NP) and I had quickly broken our commando camp in the Lewis and Clark National Forest near Cut Bank Campground,  and rushed on up to the Many Glaciers Campground. Cars were already driving around, looking for an empty campsite.  I finally realized that you had to find a campsite with today's day on the post slip, and then pay for it, while the people that were leaving were still in it.

So Bob and I found a campsite, talked to the people packing up, and then went to get our reservation envelope.  But just as we were putting it up, another couple drove up and told us that they had already purchased this site.  But, they added, the next site over is also going to be available.  So we filled out the paperwork for that camp site.  However, somehow, I managed to read the number as 52, rather then 102.  And about that time our original antagonists were back, and this time were asking if they could just park in our campsite driveway,  since they slept in their vehicle.

We agreed to let them, and started chatting. I told them Bob wanted to go fishing.  Karen said Tim loved to fish and had his gear with him.  I really wanted to go climb the Grinnell Glacier trail but Bob wasn't comfortable going off by himself to fish so I had planned to go with him. Karen said she really wanted to climb the same trail so the obvious idea was to let the guys go fishing together while Karen and I climbed the trail.

We agreed to get ready and Karen and Tim went off to breakfast.  Bob and I decided to go eat breakfast at the little restaurant also, as soon as we met with a ranger and straightened out my mistake on the number of the campsite.  We immediately saw Tim and Karen and joined them for breakfast and spent a short, but enjoyable time getting to know them.

Then we went our separate ways. Karen and I had a wonderful time walking the trail. This trail can be shortened by taking two tour boats, but we walked the entire trail.  We figured we had done about 11.5 to 12 miles by the time we came back and done 1840 feet of elevation gain. ( or only 1660 feet - the information differs) The trail distances are never exactly what you walk because there can be up to a half mile or so of walking before you get to the official trail head sign.

Karen near the trailhead

View from early in the hike

Looking over a pond to Lake Josephine and the tour boat

Most of the time the climb was gradual

The alpine meadows were still in beautiful bloom

Looking back at hikers contemplating coming through a shower

To the left is the falls and to the right is a drop off - and that water is COLD

View water falls coming off the glacier

More wildflowers

Close view of Salamander Glacier - it used to be the top of Grinnell Glacier

Karen enjoying the view near the end of the trail

Me with Grinnell Glacier and its lake in the background

Karen by Upper Grinnell  Lake - note the ice floes in the background

Lower Grinnell Lake, Lake Josephine, and Swiftcurrent Lake (from near to far)
Grinnell Glacier and Salamander Glacier used to all be one big glacier. But now Grinnell glacier is 90% melted. A ranger told me that they expect all the glaciers to be gone by 2030.   So get your visit in soon.  This trail usually doesn't open until around mid July.  So, if you want to hike it, come later in the summer.

Karen and I got back to camp to find the guys talking with a volunteer ranger. She said that we had taken down a new paper and put up ours and two girls really owned this site. But someone else had left late and there was still a campsite available. We hadn't put up our tents and they were soaking wet.  Bob had just hung them to dry when we found out we couldn't have the site. But we rehung them and they were soon dry and we got camp set up.

The guys had a lot of fun fishing, although they only caught little bullhead trout,  and they also enjoyed each other's company. That evening, we  all took some snacks and went to the Swiftcurrent Inn and had beer and snacks on the front deck, while watching the sun go behind the mountains. There, we met another couple that had chatted with Karen and Tim the night before, when they had camped in the hotel parking lot. We had a good time visiting with all of them.

Bob and I were tired enough that we came back to camp around nine o'clock and were very soon asleep.  It was a wonderful day.  I love solitude, but also love company.  This was the first time I'd had friends on any of my excursions up here, so this was a very special day.

On the personal front, I'm getting ready to leave for about a month.  Bob the Second is riding a Greyhound bus up to Missoula and I'll pick him up early Wednesday.  I planned to go help collect bugs for the  biocontrol  of  spotted knapweed, but that collection has been rescheduled for Thursday.  So Bob and I will probably leave either today or real early Thursday morning, heading to Grand Teton National Park, and points east.  I'll spend two weeks in the Boundary Waters with  Bob of this blog, my best friend, Natalie, and a friend of Bob's before heading back here for a few more weeks to work at the Roundup and the Big Sit.

So expect spotty blogs until after September 24.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Virtual Hike on Avalache Trail, Glacier National Park

My last big hike in Glacier was on the Avalanche Trail.  I had pretty much raced over to the Avalanche Campground without stopping - or barely stopping and only taking sixty pictures or so - from Two Medicine so I would be able to get a camp site in Avalanche.

My ploy worked so well, that I had to tour the loops a few times, waiting for people to leave, and  also to find an empty site that also had hammock trees, a requirement for me. Grabbing my trekking poles, water, lunch, hat, and camera, I set off.  There was a linking trail from the campground and I was soon on the main trail.  This trail is so popular that is is very worn and I felt sorry for the trees whose roots were trying to exist in the trail.

The trail is mostly flat or has small elevation changes so any climbs don't last long. 

Mid morning light on the trail

First view of the waterfalls

Longer view
 The trail was mostly shaded by this kind of a forest.

To the left was the creek for part of the way, while to the right the forest was a series of moss-covered  bumps under the evergreens.

 While the exposed roots made a beautiful pattern and texture, I felt sad for the struggling tree.

Hoary Marmot eating decomposing log next to the trail.

After a few miles, I reached Avalanche Lake and saw all these logs piled at the entrance to the creek.

View  from further up the lake

View back towards the creek  from almost  the far end of the lake

There were hundreds of people enjoying the trail and the lake

At the back of  the lake, a huge set of mountains rose, with a few waterfalls.  But the area was back lit and I desperately wanted this picture.  So I decided to hang out, eat lunch, cool my dogs and wait another hour or so.  I ended up rearranging the little rock dam just upstream to make the water run different ways. Very entertaining.

Brrr!  AHHHH!

The source of the water in the lake and the creek

A closer view of one of the waterfalls

Back to the creek
 I still had a little energy left when I got back, so continued around the accessible trail, The Trail of the Cedars, which connects to Avalanche Creek Trail.  This is the view from the back bridge. After taking the full loop and enjoying reading the descriptions of the area written in Haiku, I was ready for a hammock session.

I just found the description while trying to remember the name of the accessible trail. A great trail that even small children could enjoy.

Trail Features:
Lake, Waterfalls

Trail Location:
Avalanche Creek

Roundtrip Length:
4.5 Miles

Total Elevation Gain:
730 Feet

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:
324 Feet

Highest Elevation:
4031 Feet

Trail Difficulty Rating:
5.96 (moderate)