Thursday, September 27, 2007

Roadtrip 1995 - Part 6: Glacier National Park

Glacier is a wonderful place. It is truly beautiful. When I arrived at the park and checked into my room, I went out looking for information for planning my stay. It turns out that the day before there had been a bear attack. An experienced hiker and researcher was up early and was bending over to photograph a flower when a bear came up behind him and attacked him. The researcher survived but he was in the hospital. The park was recommending not hiking alone. This was a little disappointing as I was alone and I wanted to hike.


The next day I got up early and drove to the Avalanche Lake trailhead. There was scheduled ranger-led hike up to Avalanche Lake and I figured this would be the best way to not hike alone. The hike was a good introduction to the park as the ranger explained the different types of plant and animal life we saw on the trail. The trail is 4 miles round trip with a 500 foot of vertical that ends on the shore of Avalanche Lake. The lake is surrounded by mountains and forest – beautiful. The group chatted with the ranger for awhile. He said he thought Glacier was the most beautiful place in the world until he worked a summer in the Canadian rockies (Banff and Jasper). I kicked myself, once again, for not driving through Canada. The ranger left us at this point letting us return at our own pace. I rested on a log soaking up the beauty of the place before heading back to the car.

I drove up the absolutely awesome Going-To-The-Sun road which cuts across the park from the southwest to the northeast. The drive is really unbelievable. It is one of the best roads to drive for scenic vistas. The visitors center at Logan Pass was closed due to renovation so I continued on. I would
visit here with the wife several years later. I had hoped to do a loop around the park but the road connecting the northeast exit to the east exit was closed so, after looking around a bit and seeing a mother bear with two cubs a ways from the road, I turned around and headed back down the Going-To-The-Sun road back to West Glacier.

The next day I drove along the southern edge of the park to East Glacier. From there I drove to
Two Medicine Lake. I was planning to hike up to Scenic Point but was concerned about bears. I found a ranger and explained my situation to her. She told me not to worry. The trail leaves the forest quickly as it gains in elevation and that if I made noise as I walked I probably wouldn’t be bothered. The weather wasn't the best with a little drizzle in the air. I decided to do a short trail down the road a bit to allow the weather time to clear a bit. The Running Eagle Falls nature trail took me a short distance to a river and falls. Most of the rock in the area was either red or green. I picked up a couple pieces of rock - one red and one green - and, remembering the Hawaii rock curse, asked the Lady of the Glacier her permission to take the rocks (I never got an answer but I didn't have bad luck either). Those rocks rode the dashboard of my car for several years until the wife and I returned to glacier and I had the opportunity to return the stones to the same stream bed that I borrowed them from. When I returned them I felt a strange feeling of satisfaction and closure.

I returned back to the Scenic Point trailhead and started up the trail. I was humming and singing badly as I walked through the woods. Any bears in the area probably ran away with bleeding ears. The trail goes through the forest for a short distance before it starts climbing. Soon you are above the tree line and away from the bears (to the relief of the bears I'm sure). The trail is about 6.2 miles round trip with a vertical climb of 2,350 feet. The day was really cloudy, overcast, and drizzly. The cloud layer was really low. As I climbed up the switchbacks, I decided to use the 20 minutes hiking – 5 minutes resting method for the first time. As I rested on the trail I passed the time pealing strips of dead flesh off my burnt calves (a result of my Mount Rainier hike).


Soon the trail entered the clouds. I was kind of bummed since I could only see about 10 feet in any direction. Some Scenic Point this would be. I almost turned around but decided that I’d come this far and I might as well finish it. Up I went. The trail narrows as it passes along the side of a
very sharp scree covered slope. Slip and down you'ld go. Of course it was so cloudy I didn't realize this. Then, all of a sudden, the trail popped up above the low cloud layer and my head poked up above the clouds. COOL! Mountains poking up through the clouds looked like islands on a white frothy sea. A flat layer of clouds as far as the eye could see. The view was amazing in a whole new way.

The trail eventually leveled off a little. The trail crosses what looked like a saddle. Then the trail turned up for the last leg of the trail ending on the edge of a cliff. I sat down and set up the camera to take a picture of myself with the layer of cloud behind me – a freaky picture (it was the only picture of myself that I took on the roadtrip and it is also the first picture of myself that I gave to the wife while we were dating).


After resting a bit I started back down. The cloud layer was finally breaking up allowing me some
views of the lakes and forest below. I also met the first hikers of the day. As I went through the forested part near the trailhead I thought I heard a crashing sound like something large moving through the underbrush. I never saw anything but my heart did skip a beat or two as I started to walk faster. When I got to the car I felt surprisingly well. I guess all the hiking on this roadtrip was finally paying off.

Glacier marked two things on this trip: (1) the mid-point of my roadtrip and (2) the start of bad weather. The rain and drizzle I ran into at Glacier wasn’t too bad but the previous two weeks had been dry and fairly clear. I was also getting a little tired of driving.


The next day I checked out and headed southeast. The day would be spent driving and ended at my next destination: Yellowstone National Park. Pictures are
here.

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