Glacier National Park Visit, Part II

Wednesday August 3 - After arriving at the Glacier Park International Airport, we got a rental car and drove to the park. In retrospect, we should have swung into town to find a market to get some fruits and other food items. As it was, we had the items in our baggage which included instant oatmeal from Trader Joes and some dinner items also from Trader Joe (see here) and a couple of freezed-dried food packets. In the end, we only ate one of these items as they were less than appetizing. I suppose if we were really hungry we would have eaten the other one too but we weren't *that* hungry! 8-)

We arrived in the westside of the park at Lake McDonald and dropped off our stuff at the Apgar Village Lodge. We an early dinner at Eddie's right next door. We had rainbow trout and salads. We were introduced to the ever-present huckleberry. In this case, huckleberry vinagrette salad dressing.

We talked to the ranger and she recommended we do the Avalanche Lake trail which was 2 miles one-way with 500 foot gain. She thought we might get some nice views with the setting sun lighting up the falls that feed the lake.

On the trail to Avalanche Lake, we half expected the Ewoks to march out or to hear Elvish singing ...

Avalanche Lake!

We came back in time to get ice-cream at Eddie's before it closed for the night.

Thursday August 4 - The park is famous for its "Going-to-the Sun" road that connects the west and east sides of the park with Logan Pass being the highest point on the road. We stopped here and there and took some pictures but the late morning haziness had set in and the views though spectacular weren't very photogenic.

We drove to the St. Mary's Ranger Station in the east-side of the park where we picked up our backcountry permit for Cracker Lake which we would stay at for Friday. We also watched the required backcountry video giving information about bears, mountain lions and other dangers of the backcountry. While doing this, we met a young couple who were also going to the backcountry in the Many Glacier part of the park.

We then set out to buy liquid fuel for our stove. Unfortunately, the store only sold 1/2 gallon containers. While at this store we met the male half of that couple we met previously while watching the video. He was in the store trying to buy fuel also. He decided to head back to the ranger station figuring he could figure out the fuel situation up at Many Glacier as he didn't want to miss the shuttle bus.

We went down the street to find that other market the clerk at the first market thought might sell smaller sizes. Of course, they only had 1/2 gallon lots of the fuel also. We bought it and headed back up to St. Mary's Ranger Station wondering if the couple were still waiting for the bus. Indeed they were. We filled their 22 oz. MSR fuel bottle and wished them a good trip.

We set up our tents at St. Mary's campground. My friend, Leonard, had a Talus 23 while I had a Rock 22 which are both from North Face.

Hiked part of the way up to Siyah Pass from Sunrift Gorge which, if we completed it, would have been 5.6 miles one-way with a 3440 feet gain. As it was, we went out about 3 1/2 hours and decided to turn back.

While hiking, was always in awe of the mountains and waterfalls and open spaces. But sometimes, I would look down to see the beauty of what lives amidst the big things.

After getting beaten by the Siyah Pass trail, we took an easy trail to see the Barring Falls, a mere 0.6 round-trip with a 250 foot drop. The water is really cold!

Friday August 5 - We drove to the Many Glacier Hotel trailhead. From there we hiked 6.1 miles (1400 foot gain) to the backcountry campsite at Cracker Lake. One can take a day-trip on horseback for $115 to Cracker Lake.

While at the trailhead, we saw two rangers gearing up to go. Jessica and Jack were setting off to check on an ailing backcountry camper at Cracker Lake. One member of that party hiked out in the morning to get help.

The trail to Cracker Lake takes you through lots of stuff: switchbacks, creeks, areas with broken up rocks, wild flowers, lush greenery, trees, berries, a little bit of everything. Well, 4 hours of slow but steady hiking, we were there! None too soon as I was getting quite tired in the last hour and with the heat, I had consumed my 2 liters of water.

We met the 2 rangers and 3 campers just as we arrived at Cracker Lake. The ailing member of the party looked tired but was on her feet hiking slowly. Glad the situation seemed in hand.

We set up our tents. There are 3 spots for pitching tents. The two tents on the left were for 3 guys, two from Wisconsin and one from Sacramento. Our two tents were a bit farther away and closer to the lake.

We then went to our first order of business which was to filter some water. We filled up 4 one-liter bottles and a two-liter Camelback with this MSR pump. The cholorine drops did give the water the aroma of swimming pool water but it adds a measure of safety to the water purification process.

We cooked up our dinner and re-hydrated. We went back down to the lake to pump some more water so we would not have to in the morning.

We explored the rocky mountainside of the lake a bit before we headed back to our tents. I wanted to stay up to see the stars so I started reading The Magician's Nephew, book I of the Chronicles of Narnia. I'm looking forward to the movie coming out later this year.

The sun sets a lot later up in Montana and by 10 pm it was still dusky looking with no stars. I was tired and called it a night.

Saturday August 6 - We took down all our stuff, packed them away, had our oatmeal breakfasts and started hiking back out of Cracker Lake.

Here is a photo of me with the backpack and Cracker Lake in the background as the sun began to directly light up the canyon where the lake is. The lake has that striking blue coloration because of the minerals in the glacier-melt that feeds the lake. In the lake are bull trout which are endangered and as such there is no fishing allowed at the lake.

We made the return trip in a little over three hours. We drove to the Many Glaciers Campground which fills up fast in the summer! We probably got the last available campsite. It was probably the least favorite site as there is a man-hole cover on the edge of it! But we were happy to take it because the other option would have been to go back to St. Mary's which was a 45 minute drive. We set up camp and lounged around as my body was beat up by the backpacking. It was so nice to get a showers at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn! Tokens are sold at the gift shop for the public showers behind the store. $1.28 gets you one token for 8.5 minutes of shower! By the way, the other location we heard showers could be obtained was at the Rising Sun campground between Logan Pass and St. Mary's campground.

Refreshed, we drove to the Candian side to visit Waterton Lakes National Park.

The Waterton Lake is huge and I couldn't fit it into my wide angle lens!

And overlooking the lake is the Prince of Wales Hotel.

We drove to Cameron Lake and then we drove to Red Rock Canyon. Along the motor route were many trailheads leading off to various other lakes and hiking destinations.

Upon returning to Many Glacier, we had dinner at the Italian Gardens restaurant next to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Sunday August 7 - While dining the previous night, we saw a placard for a Sunday morning non-denominational worship service. Thus, after a quick breakfast at our campsite, we attended a worship service hosted by A Christian Ministry in the National Parks at the Many Glacier Campground. Five young people who are seasonal workers at the park and volunteers with ACMNP hosted the service. A young woman played guitar, one of the guys led the liturgy which included a reading of the Apostle's Creed and Psalm 121. One of the waiters from the previous night's dinner gave the message. He shared about how Jesus took time to get away from the crowds. He also quoted from Henri Nouwen. In particular, he dwelt on Nouwen points out that success and activity is not necessarily equal to usefulness in God's sight.

It was a nice way to start the morning.

We went on a hike to Iceberg Lake, 9.8 miles round-trip 1200 feet gain.

It is called Iceberg Lake ... because the glacier that feeds it occasionally breaks off and small icebergs float around on the lake ... obviously, eh?

As you can see the water was so crystal clear!

We decided to hike to this lake because we heard about it from the other backpackers back at Cracker Lake. The guy who makes a living being a chef gave such a positive description of it! Thus, we had to try it even though by that Sunday morning, I had two blisters on my left foot (one on the side of the big toe and the other on the bottom of my feet). But I put some Moleskin on it and figured, I'm here in Glacier National Park and I don't know when I'll be back again, just keep going. To reduce the pressure on my blisters, I abandoned my hiking boots and wore my Columbia sandals instead!

Dinner was once again at Italian Gardens. We caught a Ranger talk at Many Glacier Hotel about glaciers and mountains. What were the three forces at work to make Glacier NP? Sedimentation, uplift and glaciation!

The ranger giving the talk was a seasonal ranger who teaches science in the other months of the year. He did touch on the topic of global warming. He mentioned that in the history of the earth there were warming and cooling trends. Indeed, at one time, the Glacier NP area was an inland sea in a very warm phase a very long time ago. And, of course, the way it looks now is largely due to the last ice-age when glaciers covered much of North America. During the ice-age, the entire park with the exception of the tallest mountains would have been covered in 3000 feet deep glacial ice. The valleys and the lake are formed by the glacial carving and recession. He mentioned that if the current warming trend continues, the last of the glaciers in the park may be gone by 2030. And of course, somewhere farther in the future, a cooling trend could occur again and an ice-age could once again cover the area under glacial ice.

A human lifetime is truly just a vapor!

Monday August 8 - As we packed up our stuff, a couple pulled up in their SUV asking if we were leaving. Indeed, we saw many vehicles circling around the campground looking for a prized spot.

These two were from Georgia. They have a second home in Montana and make the trip to Glacier every summer.

As they were setting up their tent, I asked them if they used liquid fuel for their stove. They said they did and so our fuel container found a home. The guy said, thanks and we will be sure to pass it along when we don't use up the whole thing too!

We drove back to Kalispell with a stop at Logan Pass to visit Hidden Lake Overlook for a leisurely 3 mile round-trip 460 feet gain hike.

Lots of wildflowers ...

Some wildlife ... in this case, a mountain goat!

We also saw a marmot and two big horn sheep but they were too small or too far away for me to capture on film.

We arrived at the overlook and saw the Hidden Lake.

Stay tuned for part III, a Kalispell postscript.

Part I
Part II
Part III

UPDATE: Click on the image below for a larger version of this image of Cracker Lake!