My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

That Going-to-the-Sun-Highway

No matter what else people do in Glacier,  they all travel the Going-to-the-Sun Highway.  The first time I traveled it, I was told it would take about two hours.  Actually it took me a day and a half to finish it.  Since then I can sometimes restrain myself and make it in under three hours.  But I got to see it several times since Julie and I took it across the middle of the park to reach our northeastern camp site at Many Glaciers, and then we went back to take her to the airport and I was on it to try to hike the Highline Trail and again, very early on a cloudy morning as I left to go home.

The Thompson fire has just gone through the eastern part of it and will make for very different viewing and make views of St. Mary Lake more open in a lot of places.

I think it is one of the most spectacular areas in the country with only the Beartooth Highway even being in competition.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from this trip.

The west end of McDonald Lake at sunset

The road runs against cliffs in most places

The view of a stream coming down the mountain and crossing the road

A view along St. Mary's Lake

A view near Logan Pass after a snowstorm 

Another view after the snowstorm

Bighorn sheep on the mountain across from the Logan Visitor Center parking lot

Clouds playing with mountains

Fall colors, with mountains and clouds

Detail of the rocks on the cliffs along the road

The mandatory Wild Goose Island picture - in St. Mary Lake

If you want to see views of my first trip, click here. And I have already been back to see Beartooth Highway and will eventually have a blog on it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Second Try to Hike Highline Trail

Highline Trail is supposed to be a wonderfully scenic trail that starts along a "wall" where there it is a narrow trail along a cliff with long views to other mountains and where one can often see mountain goats, big horned sheep, and bears. I made a special trip to see it last year, and found Logan Pass covered in a dense, wet fog. So I just turned around and went back to the refuge that let me have a room for a couple of days.

I was determined to do the trail this year.  But my left foot was hurting too badly to start a long hike, and I was tired- after all I was the oldest one there and had been running madly for a couple of weeks trying to finish my work and get ready to play.  So when the rest of the group went, I sat out. The following day, they planned to hike to Grinnell Glacier.  I had already hiked that,  so I got up early and caught the last of a marvelous sunrise coming up to paint the mountains across Swiftwater Lake. Then two ends of a rainbow appeared in the sun painting, causing me to stop several times to capture the amazing beauty.


Sun painting the mountains across the lake

Clouds and sun painting

One end of the rainbow

The light continued to be beautiful as I started up Going-to-the-Sun Highway.  But as I got to Logan's Pass,  the clouds started swirling back into their beds in the valley, and again, it was almost white-out conditions in the pass area. The temperatures had fallen, and the winds were howling.  I was not willing to try to hike in those conditions, so I took myself home and had to take a nap in the tent, because it was raining off and on.

I loved how the clouds added mystery to the mountains

I think this was Jackson glacier

The clouds left the valleys all colored while the top of the mountains went to black and white

The clouds swirling down to the tunnel that is just before Logan Pass

Close up detail of the rocky cliffs along the road

Oncoming clouds

I stopped to take a picture of this little waterfall and the amazing view of the stream making it

I also stopped along St. Mary's Lake on the way back

The Thompson fire had just burned through the east side of Going-to-the-Sun highway and was still active when I left for this trip but some shrubs are already resprouting. 

There are colors in the rock and also from niches of plant life

Another beautiful view

 I was blessed by the views and hardly missed the hike. And I'll be coming back to Montana  in a few years and that hike will still be on my bucket list.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hike to Iceburg Lake

Most of what we planned to do in Glacier National Park was to hike.  So the first full day the whole group was present, we decided to hike to Iceberg Lake. The trail head was only about quarter of a mile from our campsite, so we started the trail there. This made the hike about 10.5 miles long. And the elevation change is 1200 feet with only a very short first section seemingly at all steep. So it is easy, beautiful and has the potential for seeing wildlife, making it a five star trail in my book.

I think this trail is one of the very prettiest trails I've ever been on.  The occasional sumacs were turning red in the yellow fields of shrubs. We saw both bighorn sheep and mountain goats along the trail.  Julie and I lucked out in that we met another hiker and hiked with him a while while he explained some of the geology and flora of the park. He told us we were looking at sedimentary rocks pushed up from an ocean bottom before there were fossils. And when we asked him about the beautiful blue and red rocks we were seeing, he told us they contain the exact same minerals but one of them is made in the presence of oxygen and the other under anaerobic circumstances. He even told us their names, but of course, I remembered almost nothing.

Tracy hamming it up with Julie and Carol at the trailhead

Getting underway

I took pictures of adult big-horned sheep and then found these guys in my pictures

Just another view along the trail

Julie tasting the tiny mountain stream that crossed our trail

Tracy and Dutch on a bridge over a larger stream at the top of a long waterfall

Julie on the trail - see how flat and easy it is?

A patch of read on the gray rocks and Julie

Julie looks like she is cross country skiing

A very long view of a group of mountain goats above Iceberg Lake

Our first view of the lake

 A closeup of the ice across the lake from us

We had our lunch at the side of the lake

This little guy was begging for food at Iceberg Lake

The day was turning cloudy - and we had light rain on the way home -
 but it just made the reds and yellows prettier

I loved watching the clouds come back down

This was at the bridge but was too bright to be pretty on the way out

The fantastic mix of stones we found in the washes

This hike is supposed to be more dramatic in the early summer when there are lots of ice floes in the lake.  I thought it was even prettier than the Grinnell Glacier hike, which I missed because I wanted to hike the Highland Trail. But I did that hike earlier in the year and you can read about it here.

I'm putting this out a day early since I'm getting my Wi-Fi fix at my favorite coffee/bookshop/cafe in Gardner, the Tumbleweed Cafe and Bookstore.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Glacier Park Adventures: Travels with Julie

When Tracy was making plans to come to Glacier, way back in the early spring, before I migrated to Montana, she asked me if I would be willing to get them campsites.  I told her I would, then told my boss that I would have to leave by September 10 since I was booked after that.

When Julie joined the group, I told her I only had the one obligation - to make SURE everyone had a camp site.  So I hauled her out of bed after she had be traveling - or mostly waiting in various airports - for 21 hours and we quickly broke camp and headed across the Going-to-the-Sun Highway to its terminus at St. Mary and then continued up to Many Glacier.
Map showing Glacier National Park including Going-to-the-Sun Road, and all the campsites I write about. Apgar  Campground is on the west end of Lake McDonald

Julie's not a birder but she knows I am and thought this sign should represent me

Almost to Logan Pass

Julie on an old snow pile at Logan Pass

View Somewhere along St. Mary's Lake

We stopped as little as possible – but it is IMPOSSIBLE to not stop along this highway – and finally got to Many Glacier about 10:30A.M. Most of the sites were already taken, but we threw down a piece of camping gear at every empty site we found. We picked one that was really nice for ourselves and started to set up. THEN we noticed, that while there was no gear in the site, it had a reserved sign on the post. So we continued to look for sites and finally found four that were close together.

We had to fill out envelopes and pay for all the sites, then go back and try to retrieve all our gear. After one false start, when Julie collected someone else's gear, we got all our gear back and set up our own camp site. I had (amazingly enough) had a thought about how our friends would find their sites without us having to hang around and wait on them. While I had phone service, I called Tracy to tell her that I would tie the chairs to trees or something on their sites.

Black bear on mountain near Many Glaciers

Wild horse on route to Two Medicine - part of a heard

That meant Julie and I were free to go play until supper time, about seven. I really love Two Medicine so we decided she should also get a taste of that area. We grabbed a light lunch and took off. We got to Two Medicine to find that the winds were getting stronger, and the temperatures were falling. So, although, I had planned to let Julie paddle my canoe in the lake,  we did only a short hike and a drive around the camping area, then another stop for a short hike to a dramatic falls.  

View Across Two Medicine Lake from North Trail

Julie enjoying the lake waves
Julie hiking back from Two Medicine Lake

Running Eagle Falls - named for the only female Blackfoot warrior - click link for the rest of the story

Julie and I also spent an hour or so at the Many Glacier Hotel  which overlooks Swiftwater Lake, watching the mostly non sunset.

Julie on the deck of Many Glaciers Hotel

 Julie and I had one other small adventure on the way to take her back to catch her plane. We stopped at Logan Pass and did the short hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook.  This is usually an easy hike on mostly boardwalks, but the area had gotten a snow storm a day or two before and the walk was slippery.  Julie made it all the way to the overlook, but I missed getting there by about a quarter of a mile.  The day was cloudy so the snow covered mountains were outstanding.

Julie walking fast to make it to Hidden Lake and back in time to catch her plane

In a little snow field. We walked beside the boardwalk on the way back until we got to where it had more melted spots

I'm so glad to have another totally kindred spirit in Julie. We'll be doing more things together in the future.

On a personal note, I've made it back to Red Rock Lakes and will soon wash my clothes, take a shower, and fall into bed. Tomorrow I'll pack up my clean clothes and more food and head off to Yellowstone to meet another friend.  I'll try to get a few more blogs ready to post before I go but may not have Internet access for most of the time I'm there. Then I'll be back here to pack to leave around September 30 and head for visits in Texas and Louisiana on the way to my new assignment in North Carolina.  Posts will be spotty until I get resettled.