Many Glacier

20140719-_DSC0999July 19, 2014

At some point while visiting Glacier, one has to make a choice. It would take probably a whole season, a whole year, maybe even a whole lifetime to see the entire 1583 square acres of this park, or to visit all of the 700 miles of trails, or to visit all seven sections of the park.

In our case, I had made some choices for us, based on reading booklets about the park and deciding what was most feasible for us. Or course, the plan was more ambitious than we could handle, and of course Jason talked me into scaling it back. He told me that his back was hurting and he didn’t think he felt up to a hike of the lengths I had planned, but then later told me it was just an excuse because really he was worried about my ankle. I am not sure which of these I believe, but he did seem to be having more trouble with the altitude than we expected. Also, there were the bears.

My mind had already wrapped itself around the bear problem, but I also had done a lot more reading prior to this trip than Jason had.  When we stopped at a sporting goods store in Kalispell on the way into the park to buy bear spray, all of a sudden it got real for him.  (Plus, he kept questioning the necessity of this $40 spray, and if it would really be effective).  One of our weaknesses was the fact that it was just the two of us, since hiking in a party less than three  is not considered necessarily safe. The bears have not tried to attack a group of three or more hikers at the park.  This weakness was probably the number one reason why I conceded to his logic in making our plan for our first full day in GNP.

After some discussion, it became clear that Jason thought we should pursue the safety in numbers strategy, and also play it safe distance wise, by joining one of the ranger led hikes in the area.  Given that directive, we chose to buy tickets for the boat tour that left from the dock behind Many Glacier Lodge,  and take the optional short (1.5 mile) ranger led hike to Grinnell Lake.
There is an early morning ride that one can choose that gives you the option of a longer hike to Grinnell Glacier, which I really wanted to do, but as it turns out, that trail was closed anyways (I can’t remember now if it was due to weather or bear activity).  Jason didn’t think we should attempt a trail of that length (7.6 miles if you take the boat shortcut, eleven miles if you don’t).  After reading a story of a recent bear attack on that trail in which a mother grizzly with cubs was surprised on the trail by two hikers (a father and daughter) who barely made it out alive, I am kind of relieved we didn’t pursue this option, although I can’t help thinking about what we might have missed out on.

IMG_20140719_153124In the end, we made a compromise that worked for both of us. We drove to the old-fashioned swiss chalet style lodge in the morning and bought our tickets, but as we had some time before the ride started, we had time to walk around the lake on the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail, an easy 3 mile walk that gave us some time in secluded beauty, but also felt somewhat safe, as we regularly came across other hikers. This made me feel like we were at least getting to see more than the short 1.5 miles with the group.  Even thought we walked through what is known to be a moose habitat, we didn’t see any (although we were excited by the sight of a coyote in the woods on our drive in).

We attempted to hike up to Apikuni Falls nearby, but the elevation gain (700 feet over 3/4 of a mile) did Jason in, and we turned around before we reached the falls.
On the way back to the lodge from the trail to the falls, we saw a grizzly bear and her two cubs off a safe distance away. We were in our vehicle, and they were foraging in the grass at the edge of a woods in between the road and the lodge. There was a “bear jam” going on, of course, with everyone who happened to be driving by stopping at the edge of the road on both sides trying to get a picture or at least a good look.  We got the latter, and not the former.

We also saw a black bear by the forests edge on our way back to our campsite that night.  These four bears were the only ones, out of the 750 in the park, that we saw during our trip.
We ate a picnic lunch I had packed for us at a picnic table underneath shady trees while squirrels played around us, and hikers set off for points unknown from the nearby trailhead.  There was this lady on a bike who was cracking us up.  We saw her at the Apikuni Falls trail, and then again at this trailhead, and maybe again at the lodge.  Every time we saw her, she was wearing a different outfit, and she had this little daypack with her.  She looked worn and ratty but fit and intense, and she was just talking to everybody and joining in on groups.  She was one of the characters from our trip we laughingly reminisce about, just like “Bear Bells” from our little walk to Grinnell Lake.
IMG_20140719_144103When it was time for us to take the boats to the ranger led hike, we boarded the Chief Two Guns that took us across Swiftcurrent Lake. The water was choppy and the little waves were fascinating. After the short ride across, we all left the boat and walked about 400 yards (with an elevation gain that took us both by surprise) to board a second boat, the Morning Eagle, which took us across Lake Josephine. After this, we had the 1.5 mile hike, led by Tom (we think his name was), who stopped every ten minutes or so to point out something special about the rocks or the plants.  One highlight of the walk was the tension bridge that could only be crossed one hiker at a time.  There was a great view of a waterfall that rewarded hikers if they were able to handle stopping in the middle of the bridge to look.
When we reached Grinnell Lake, he left us alone, and we all had some time to sit for a while and reflect on the lake, then make our way back at our leisure to the other end, where the Morning Eagle would come at a specific time to take us back.  You could also walk to the waterfall if you wanted.
IMG_20140719_142003The water was absolutely beautiful in the lake, but very cold.  I tried to wade in it but that did not last very long.

Before heading back, we spent some time inside the Many Glacier Lodge, hands hugging a warm cup of coffee bought at the little deli downstairs.  Rocking chairs lined the porch, inviting guests to sit and watch a while.  It was quite windy, though, while we were there, so no one was taking up the invitation.  There was a gift shop with some fancy souvenirs in there.  The lodge itself on the inside reminded me of something out of The Shining.  I think it was the old style it was built in that made it a little creepy to me, although it was fun to walk around in.


I read a story on the information displays in the main level that has stuck with me about the engineer that was tasked with finding a pass to build the railroad through up here in the late 1900s.  It was an amazing feat, culminating in a night where he walked up and down a short track he made in the snow in his snowshoes to stay alive in 17- cold just before finding the pass, while his Indian guide nearly froze to death at the campfire he had left him at, when the Indian refused to go any further.

It made me realize what lengths the early developers had to to go through to open up access to the public to this area of the world.  I am so grateful to them for their sacrifices, because this part of American is a jewel that everyone should take the chance to explore.


Trails of the Cedars, GNP Montana

July 18 2014


Avalanche Creek crashes through a gorge, just feet from the boardwalk that composes the Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park.

This trail is really a short stroll (0.5 mile) that takes a person through first a cedar forest, then a grove of hemlocks.  Even though it is a highly accessible, wheelchair friendly stop along Going-To-The-Sun Road that draws many visitors, it still is a peaceful interlude and offers much natural beauty to contemplate.

First the trail takes you past a quiet section of Avalanche Creek, in which the crystal clear water runs along gray and pink stones through the forest. Then it leads into a forest area, where you see interesting trees, like the ones below.


I loved the fern/moss combinations along the later part of the trail. Soon, we reached an old hemlock grove. The most fascinating aspect of this grove is to think about all the history that has happened in America while these trees have stood here. The trees date back to 1517, and are approaching 500 years in age. Native Americans were the first ones to walk amongst these old trees, I imagine. They were already over 250 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed. They were over 340 years old when this land became established as the Montana Territory, and almost 375 years old by the time Montana became part of the United States. By the time the Going-To-The-Sun Road was paved just past the grove, these trees were already in their four hundredth year.
You should come visit them. You won’t regret it.



IMG_20140718_194035 There are roads, and then there are ROADS. On every road trip, there should be at least one of these epic roads that one has to travel.
At least, that is the rule that Jason and I live by. For us, in 2010, Beartooth Pass was THAT road, a road so epic that it was the destination itself, not the several national parks we stopped at on the way there and back. In 2012, the steep curves and sharp vistas of the Road to Paradise in Mt Rainier NP, and one could argue even the Tioga Pass that took us into Yosemite, were those roads. In this journey, the road trip of the summer of 2014, the epic road was Going-To-The-Sun, the fifty mile main artery of Glacier National Park.

This was probably the most anticipated of any of the epic roads we had traveled, as well. I had been dreaming about this road for years, maybe two to four. I had bookmarked the virtual geocache stops along it, traced it with the mouse cursor, showed Jason videos on YouTube of other people driving it, and plotted where we were going to stop and what we were going to do there. The names given to the various points thrilled me: Weeping Wall, The Loop, Siyeh Bend, Sun Point.

What I didn’t plan on, during all this anticipation, was how I would feel if weather rained, or in this case burned, on my dreams of stunning mountain views. There were wildfires in the neighboring states all around us during this ONE particular day that we finally made our way there. Smoke drifted for hundreds of miles and left a dark mist all over Glacier NP on July 18 of this year. It was a lesson for me in how to handle disappointment, that is for sure.

I wasn’t the only one, either. That night, when we made it to our campsite, I talked to a fellow traveler who came to the park from New York in an RV with her husband, and she said her husband was so pissed off about it that he wanted to pull up stakes and leave, now, even though they had driven for days to get here and meant to spend three days in the park. We meant to spend three days in the park, too, and luckily, by the next day, the smoke had moved out of the area and we were able to enjoy the views. We drove halfway back up Going-To-The-Sun and back to get to Logan Pass to go hiking, and it all worked out in the end. That first day, though, I had a hard time letting go of that lump of frustration that something I worked and saved so hard to be able to see was just covered up by a haze.

Here are some of the pictures that we did get along the way, all taken with my cell phone.  Jason didn’t even bother to get his camera out of the car. IMG_20140718_195609 IMG_20140718_195555 The road itself was not without its adventures, though, despite the smoke.  Making our way past the dripping Weeping Wall was fun, as well as the twists around Big Bend and some of the smaller bends.  The road got narrow, and there was enough snow and ice to keep things interesting. We did have lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge like I planned, but it was so late it was really more like an early dinner.

We decided to splurge and eat in Russell’s Fireside Dining Room, although in retrospect, I think I would have been happier just buying sandwiches from the deli mart and sitting by the shore to eat and watch the birds.  We walked up to the lake and identified answers to the virtual geocache there, marveling at the pink and gray rocks in the water. We stopped at a few viewpoints along the way, taking pictures to also claim those finds, and then took a short walk along the Trail of the Cedars.
The forest there was interesting enough to deserve its own post, so look for the pictures in the next entry.

A parting picture: IMG_20140719_101740

Hunt Falls

Priest Lake, Idaho
July 18, 2014

In the morning after camping in the Indian Creek section of Priest Lake, we decided on one more diversion before leaving the area. There was another geocache I had cherry-picked in the area called the Hunt Falls Cache.  The reason this one was special was because of the hide date: 6/25/2001.  I’ve been working on the Jasmer Challenge, which involves finding a cache hidden in every month/year combination, and I was missing a few, including this combination.  Now I am only missing January of 2001 hides, so if you know of any, please let me know.  I haven’t been able to locate any of these closer than Tennessee, and who knows when we will be traveling there!

Another reason this one is special is because it, like the Camels Prairie Stash, was hidden by Moun10Bike, a famous cacher. One of Moun10Bike’s claims to fame is that he created the very first geocoin. Also, though, he is an actual “lackey” working at the “lily pad”: he actually works for Groundspeak, the company that brings us He is also a Charter Member of, as I mentioned in the last post, and has been a member since Sept 2000, right at the beginning of this game. All of these give him revered status in the community.
Also, this cache has 15 favorite points, and leads to a beautiful hidden waterfall. Some logs state that this is exactly what geocaching is supposed to be about, and we love those kind of hides.
The reasons why this cache is one of my favorites now includes all of those things above, plus the experience we had with it. It turns out that logging road #23 was the road we were first on the night before, so the initial drive up, we had actually done before. Instead of continuing up the hill, though, we turned to the left and looped around, parking the car near where a walking path opened up along the creek. The banks along this path were covered with several different kinds of moss and ferns, as you can see in one of the above pictures, and this is an aspect of nature that thrills me to no end. I wished I could harvest some of this moss to make terrariums out of, but I didn’t think there was a way I could get it back to Texas alive. We were completely alone out here; no one else was traveling these roads or paths. We even split up from each other a little. Jason stopped to take pictures and I continued on the little footpath that lead off to the right of the waterfall, once we got there, to go find the ammo can that was well hidden under piles of moss. We were still very much in the wilderness that we were in last night, with the thrill of running into bear or moose at any moment adding the edge of excitement to the hunt.

On the way back, I was by myself for bit, and stopped in a clearing just off the trail. As I looked around, taking it all in, something whizzed past me and then stopped, hovering, and stared right at me. It was a hummingbird, and he was either extremely curious about me, or wanted me gone. I had never been stared down by a bird before, and I took notice of his coloring before he flew off. I looked up which species this was after, and it had to be the Rufous Hummingbird. Apparently these little guys are quite territorial and don’t mind trying to even scare humans off of their areas. That was a special birding treat for me, since as far as I know, I have never seen one of these before or since.
This stop was worth the half hour to an hour side trip, but then it was time to actually start making our way to Montana. We made our way south to Highway 2, then headed east. The road curved up at Sandpoint north to Bonners Ferry, then crossed into Montana. Neither of us remember if we had breakfast before we left the campground – if so, it was probably a bar or these dried breakfast pouches I had brought – so about mid-morning after we crossed the Montana border, I made us some ham and cheese croissant sandwiches that we ate as we walked to a cache maintained in memory of a fallen cacher. Our goal was to make it to the eastern edge of Glacier National Park by lunchtime, but there were slowdowns. Road construction, some kind of delays, a little bit of rain, frustration, and stopping for supplies in Kalispell lay in between. Next post, though: Going-to-the-Sun Road, and our first day in the park.