Day 27 – July 5, 2016
Mileage – 79,358
Hiked – 7.4 miles
Flathead Lake, MT
There are a few iconic National Parks, Glacier is among them, we can see why Glacier is among them. Entering the park Glacier still holds its secrets close to the chest, looking beautiful with broad lakes, stream and forests, but the true beauty and ah factor lies higher up as you drive the Going to the Sun Road. The glacier carve valleys open up from the floor to tall spired snow capped mountains with flowing waterfalls and a lush green coat. The closest thing Jenney has seen to it is the Alps; WOW! The pictures we post for this park, don’t do it justice.
Ok I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Our day, we started the morning by dragging Tess, Logan and Teryn not so willingly out of bed at 7am with a goal of getting a reasonable start to the day. Elise Everrett, famed bacon maker, didn’t disappoint with a rationed 1.5 pieces each the bacon was the centerpiece to breakfast. For the vegetarians among us, the blueberries and raspberries kicked off the day with a mouth popping in season yum.
Once again special thanks goes out to Dodger and Sally Newhall for their hospitality. We couldn’t have imagined a better July 4th on this cross-country treks. It will chalk high up among the best July 4ths ever.
Breakfast and showers under our belt we head off to Glacier. Arriving around 10:30am we decide to check availability of an in-park camp site to allow our focus to be on our adventures instead of where we are going to sleep and we luck out. Accommodations secured we head to the visitors centers for the shuttle and Junior Rangers book.
Bummer here – we end up waiting 45 minutes in line at the visitor’s center and over an hour and fifteen minutes for a park shuttle. Word has spread and the park has been crushed with a 30% increase in visitors in the early season. There infrastructure, which is much smaller than we have seen in other parks, just isn’t set up for the influx.
Finally on a shuttle, we head to Avalanche Lake. Though the trail markers recommend bear spray, which we did pick up for here and Yellowstone, we can’t imagine how anyone could surprise a bear here. There is a significant stream of people on the trail, it is after all the parks most travelled hiking route at only 2.5 miles with a big payoff at the end. No mind, we still see a beautiful buck on the trail and a bear in the distance on the adjacent mountainside. It’s nice to be in the woods. Avalanche Lake is beautiful; tropical blue surrounded by tall peaks with at least 6 streaming waterfalls. Later we learn this is known as a circ basin, a carved round valley created by a single glacier, but more about that later.
We are inspired, but little do we know what is coming next. Nearing 4:30pm, we march at a hastened pace to get the shuttle to the Logan’s Pass. Our goal is to get another 3.0-mile hike in at the top before the last shuttle at 7pm. This time around the shuttle is quick. The majority of the crowd is heading down the mountain, while we are going up.
And this is were the awe factor comes in, the road to Logan’s Pass, Going to the Sun, brings you into the center of the park and clearly unfolds the views that set Glacier apart from the other parks; as we have said in earlier posts, there are no two parks alike.
We twist and wind up from the valley floor to the Alpine. Kevin gets a front seat and chats non-stop with the driver. Jenney and girls sit in the back wowed by the views. Jenney thinks the whole way up that this park shuttle just might have saved their marriage; no twisty, windy, narrow driving for Kevin, with Jenney utterly terrified of the 100 drops begging him to get to the center of road. There isn’t much more you can say, other than to true understand the magnificent nature of this drive, you have to see it for yourself.
At the top of Logan’s pass we catch a bite to eat and watch the big horn sheep lounging just across the road on the hillside. Huge rams with curled horns facing off to each other, with other munching and still more sleeping in the meadow. Check big horns off the must see list.
We start the hike up to Hidden Lake overlook. The trail terminates at 1.5 miles out due to bear activity. According to the rangers, the fish are spawning in the lake below providing a fabulous feeding ground for the black and grizzly bears, which for everyone’s safety is left untouched for this part of the season. The hiking here is through soft spring like snow punctuated only briefly by a few wooden boardwalks which lying in the sunnier spots, which have emerged from their wintery coat. Uphill and slick, the hiking here is slow. We set our watches for 45 minutes so we are sure that we turn around with enough time to catch the shuttle. We are promised by the downhill-hikers a view of mountain goats at the top of the trail. Unfortunately, we have to turn around what we learn is only a few 100 feet from the terminus of the trail and the sunning spot for the goats. Noble effort, but it’s a long hike down if we miss the shuttle. We will look for goats another day.
The hike down is fun, slip sliding away in what feels like a deeper base than we had all last winter in Vermont. In fact we saw skiers making their way up; there definitely is enough snow. The girls put on their rain pants and give sliding on their bottoms a go.
We make the shuttle with room to spare. It gets us to the campground in time to attend the evening ranger program, an exploration of the geology of the park. We come to realize that Glacier is more than the view; its status as a national heritage site has to do with its geology. Essentially the park was created by: silt, lift, slide and glide. Ten thousand feet of silt built up when the area was covered by a large tidal water mass. The tectonic plates in along the cost came together causing the silt to lift up and created enough pressure it to fracture lifting one 10,000 foot section up and then it glided to rest on top of the other. This glide created a sandwich with the oldest silt layers resting on the bottom and in the middle of the stack. Similarly the newest layers rested on the top and in the middle just below the oldest layers from the top stack. Glaciers then formed and cut the valleys and rock formations into various shapes (circ basins, horns, etc.). It also eroded the top layers of silt exposing the oldest layer at the bottom of the top stack and just under it the youngest layer. This layering of sedimentary rock, with oldest on top of youngest, is of geologic importance and makes Glacier unique.
Needless to say the ranger packed all that and more into her 45 minute lecture. As Teryn said, “she used a lot of words and the program was not designed as a junior ranger specific program for the little kids.” That said, the girls really enjoyed it. Because many of the concepts weren’t new, they had heard them at other parks in the canyon region, they were able to follow along. That said, they were not excited to help Jenney remember, by singing along, the song to the Row Row Row your Boat tune that they ranger made up to help folks remember the process. In fact, the seemed embarrassed to walk with her. We have definitely entered a new phase of development.
At the end of the program, the girls completed their Junior Ranger process and were sworn in then hiked back to the campsite, where Kevin had been diligently preparing the RV and dinner. Now after 9pm, the crew scarfed dinner and ice cream and soon folks were off to well deserved sleep.
One thing was evident, to coincide with the 9:30pm sunset, we are all still on west coast time.