Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Trip West - Glacier National Park (4 of 4)

     So, I did decide not to take too many camera lenses with me on this trip because, changing lenses (in the field especially) is a pain in the arse. Plus, you risk dirt, dust (there was a lot of dust there), and exposure to the innards of your picture taking machine. I mostly opeted to use my 55-300mm lens it has a decent zoom, not heavy, and I could still get some scenery. But man, the mountains in Glacier are a whole 'nother story, they would take up all the space in a frame and make it hard to capture the world around us in Glacier.
     Luckily, in this day and age, we all have cameras in our pocket so I resorted to my smart phone for wider frames to shove all that gorgeous scenery into. And bonus? Panorama settings! So, I don't want to leave out all these landscapes, many with me in them for comparison and for record that I have been there once. So enjoy some gorgeous scenery with a nerd tossed in every once and a while...

Along the Going to the Sun Road, we stopped to view an avalanche chute. This is a channel down the mountainside. Avalanche chutes are great habitat for grazers- as avalanches can sometimes keep those areas clear for grasses and wildflowers to grow without trees in the way to block their sun source of energy.

Really stoked to see a mountain with snow, while I am sweating in the 90+ degrees it is out there.
Morning haze from fires west pouring over and past St. Mary Lake. I could see Bob Ross painting this...

The sign... which has a far older picture on it...

Because these glacier are a heck of a lot smaller :(

Stoked for my first glacier sighting in Glacier National Park. One day this photo might be in a museum when climate change has claimed all the glaciers here and elsewhere.
So the cool thing about that mountain, carved to be so skinny at it's top-- that's the result of glaciers moving right alongside it, shaping the slopes to be that way.

Can't beat these lunch views! St. Mary Falls. Glacial flour makes that water that unreal hue of blue. 
The forest, burned from a fire in 2015, new growth already happening at Lake St Mary.
Lower Two Medicine Lake off of Rt. 49/
Only problem, this sign should also include squirrels. Unfortunately people don't fully read signs. Even feeding the smallest creatures poses a risk to their health and well being.

We never truly ran into any bears on our hikes. It is important to be bear aware and take specific precautions when visiting areas where bears are abundant.
We did some clapping, whistling, conversing about life, and even sometimes a simple "We are coming down the trail, if you are there bear, we are here too!"

To give an impression of how cloud shrouded Logan Pass was at the start of our hike, even in a space not so vast, you can feel the presence of cloud. 
Then the clouds began to dissipate and the scenery was all brand new for the hike back!

Hi, from a nerd feelin' like they are on top of the world!

Oh yeah-- word of advice, Logan Pass can be just as hot in the sun, but also on a cloudy day or start to the day- it's flippin' cold.
This is Hidden Lake that we opted not to hike down to, because we knew we'd have to come back up... and we had a horse appointment to make!
All I could think about is how these trails are constructed and appreciative of those who work on and maintain these trails. After working on the Colorado Trail crew last summer, I have a new found appreciation for the people who tame the wilderness so we can experience it first-hand.

From the Logan Pass overlook... This is my panorama.

What we saw!

Each of the mountain tops were so unique in their features and so beautiful.

Big sky and big smiles, always!

Noticed a lot of rocks with ripples... Glacier used to be an ancient seabed in the Precambrian-- that's 500+ million years ago. I touched the ripples just so I could touch the ancient sea. This is a sedimentary rock, made from ancient sediment at the bottom of that sea. Rocks are nature's history books and Glacier has A LOT of rocks and many stories to tell.

The only rain we felt were a few stray drops after our horseback trail ride, like literally 4 drops were felt. The place was bone dry.
The scenery of Hidden Meadow from Polebridge.

Giant tree at Hidden Meadow.
Whitefish River.
The result of driving on all gravel roads to Polebridge and Hidden Meadow trail.

Sunrise over St. Mary Lake.

Hiking to Iceberg Lake.

Ptarmigan Falls.

For this 10 mile hike, I invested in a Camelbak Water bladder for my day pack. It was a good choice. My daypack had the spot for it and held my sippy straw in the straps perfectly.

Approaching Iceberg Lake.

Not Iceberg Lake.. but flowers!

NOW we are at Iceberg Lake!

DO NOT swim in Iceberg Lake it's really really really cold!!

Hiking boots and good socks are a must for all these treks!

Another VERY helpful tool was a book I purchased, Glacier is for the Birds, it had great birding insight, advice for seeing other wildlife, plus great descriptions of trails, hazards, and helped me feel prepared in all the best ways. Even if you don't like birds, it is a comprehensive guide to the trails, and could help you see more wildlife by clueing ou in to common species and unique species by trail and area of the park.
A walk to Avalanche Lake through the very lush forests.

Sunrising over Avalanche Lake.

One of the many things to see and experience along Trail of the Cedars.

At the Continental Divide, and ready to hike a little bit of the High Line Trail.

Highline views are pretty superb, which is why this trail is incredibly popular for hikers and even families for a quick in & out hike.

If steep slopes are not your thing- don't worry there is a rubber line to hold onto if you are not sure of foot.

Lots of fireweed.

Lots of striations and layers in the rocks, containing so much natural history in each layer.

Straight up from much of the path... and also, many times feeling straight down from the path you're walking on.

Some unreal flowers-- Explorer's gentian is the species.

Some of my recommendations for visiting:
- If you rent a car, get at the very least something with 4-wheel drive, especially if you plan to visit the Polebridge Area, the gravel reads can be gnarly.

- We rented a cabin from Trapline Cabins, the owner Laura was amazing and sweet. She is a hiker and had great recommendations of where to go for your hiking level. Her cabins were neat, new, and comfortable. Great for a couple or a small family. 3 adults slept comfortably in there and she provided cookware, clean linens, and a comfy place to sleep, right near the park as campsites fill and hotel rooms can be pricey.

- Birding the park? Like I said, grab this book, Glacier is for the Birds, a trail guide to birding Glacier National Park. It was helpful even beyond birding.

- Follow Glacier's Twitter account. They are pretty up-to-date about filled lots, traffic conditions, closures, and fire conditions. Just following them a week before our trip, gave us some ideas and inspired us to get up and out early.

- Eat some fresh Huckleberries. Pull over to one of those roadside stops, grab some fresh hucks and enjoy them alone or toss them into your yogurt, they are so good. If you don't go fresh, then at least grab a slick of huckleberry pie- I swear you won't regret it, with all that hiking, you can let loose a bit.

- I am a glutton for ice cream. We liked Sweet Peaks in Whitefish. Unique flavors, homemade, and fresh!

- Bear Spray. Some insist on having it. But also in my reading and research, it's really best to just be bear aware and take proper precaution to avoid even needing to use bear spray. We found that everyone had a holster of the same brand of bear spray. We found those can for $40 a pop. They must make a killing on selling spray. We would have never had to use it as we never ran in to a bear. We made sure that at blind corners and thick forest we were loud, clapped every so often, and made our presence known. We also traveled in a group and never went off trail. Unless we were camping, I'm glad we didn't buy the spray, it would have been $40, never used, an accident waiting to happen (which is usually what does happen with bear spray), and you can't bring it on the plane.

Before your visit, surely do some research and be prepared. It's a beautiful place with so much to offer. Respect the wildlife and the rules of the park, leave nothing but footprint and take nothing but picture. Happy trails, I look forward to my next National Park Adventure. For now, it's back to my urban adventures!