Hiked out to Tamassee Knob late yesterday afternoon and ran into a group of five hawks. On a couple of occasions, these birds were so close to us you could actually hear the air "whooshing" across their wings. I had never heard that sound before, and it was surprisingly loud. I wish the video could have picked it up.
It just goes to show; you don't need to travel hundreds or thousands of miles away for great hiking. We have it all right here in our backyard.
Our last night before leaving the Many Glacier area, we took a one mile walk down to Fishercap Lake. Everbody had been talking about the wildlife there, so we thought we would check it out.
We arrived at dusk, and one other couple was present and photographing a deer in the small lake, so we joined in and tried to take some shots.
Star's shot: Not too Bad with a 10X zoom Sony Digital
While the photographer kept shooting the deer, we decided to walk toward the other end of the lake. Suddenly a moose appeared from the woods. So, at the same time there was a deer drinking on one end of this tiny lake and a Moose drinking at the other end.
Typical stream bottom. Yes, there really is water flowing across those stones.
Final Hiking Tally:
Grinnell Lake 5 miles, 200 ft
Iceberg Lake 10 miles, 1,500 ft
Siyeh Pass 9.5 miles, 1,900 ft
Highline/Ahern/Swiftcurrent Pass 22 miles, 1,700 ft up and 3,900 ft down
Fisher Cap Lake 2 miles
Aster Park 4 miles, 750 ft
We hiked a grand total of 52 miles with over 6,000 ft. up and 8,200 ft down. Not too bad for the "Over the Hill Gang."
While waiting on the train, we talked to the woman in this video. We asked if she was taking the train, and she responded, "Naw, I live out here and like to come out and greet the train."
On Sunday (our off day), we decided to explore the area around Granite Park and headed a short distance into some of the deepest wilderness Glacier has to offer. We approached Ahern Pass, taking the relatively flat but breathtaking mountainside trail above the treeline and just below the contintental divide. The flat table top mammoth of Fifty Mile Mountain was a constant centerpiece to a ring of snow capped peaks reaching all the way to the Canadian Border.
At the recommendation of one of the Granite Chalet staff, we also attempted to directly access the Swiftcurrent Glacier by climbing a goat trail. Typical of our past freelance attempts, we ultimately lost the trail (or maybe we never found it) and ended up in the brush on a steep mountainside. Ultimately, we abadoned that attempt, but managed to get a good look at it from a spur off the Swiftcurrent trail not far from the Chalet. All in all, we managed over 6 miles on our "off" day.
After a second night at Granite Park, we woke early, ate some breakfast, and headed for Swiftcurrent Pass before 8am. Although the skies were clear, we didn't want to be caught on the head wall as afternoon storms come rolling in.
Grouse on the trail to the Contintental Divide
Hmm, I wonder if they taste like chicken.
We have just crossed the Continental Divide at Swiftcurent Pass. It's slightly out of upper right corner of the photo.
We are just before dropping along the Swiftcurrent Glacier Head Wall at this point. It's both uplifting and depressing to stand here and clearly see the once great glacier clearly dying. Less than 100 years ago, it filled this entire basin. In less than 20 years, this glacier will be gone.
Look closely and you can see where the trail takes a sharp turn and drops just before reaching the waterfall.
We ain't skeered, lol.
Note the piles of rocks: Some helpful park rangers must have been working to keep the trail from spooking Star, but they missed a few spots.
The end of a switchback, one of many
One Last Look Back
Even though we have now left the Head Wall, we still need to drop 1,000 more ft. and hike 4 more miles to reach our car at the base of the last mountain. We will pass both whitewater and the shores of these beautiful lakes. Once again, the area is considered grizzly country and an advisory was posted.
After 6.5 hours of mostly downhill hiking, we arrived back at the car, and went straight to the Swiftcurrent Restaurant for burgers and beers. There's nothing more satisfying (well, only a few things). Ben says I have to take credit for this statement, which seems perfectly obvious and correct to me! (Star)
We arrived back home from our layover in the surprisingly beautiful city of Minneapolis just two hours ago. As we wrote yesterday, we are especially determined to complete the next two entries of our truly "once in a lifetime" 3 day hike.
Everybody nowadays seems to have their "Best of" hiking lists, and The Highline Swiftcurrent Pass Hike ranks high on most of them. In fact, the "Best Hikes" website ranks the 65 mile Great North Circuit of Glacier as Number 6 in the world and the best in the Rockies. On this hike, along with the Iceberg Lake hike, we covered almost 32 miles of the Great North Circuit.
After a night when we both dreamed of being ants along the first steep portion of the hike (seriously), called the Garden Wall, we started out at 7:30am on Saturday morning at the Swiftcurrent Village parking lot, where we left our rental car and caught a shuttle to St. Mary Visitor's Center. From there, we waited for a second shuttle, which took us to Logan's Pass and The Highline Trailhead. Star likes to make fun of my OCD like planning of these trips, but leaving the car at Swiftcurrent basically ends the hike at our car 3+ days later.
Obligatory trail sign photo
We are off and running on our 76 hour backcountry hike! The crowds were surprisingly light despite the easy trailhead access to the Going to the Sun Road. Within a short distance, the people started thinning out, and we were suddenly moving along a sheer rock face that continued for a quite some time.
So, Star, you say you're scared of heights?
Looking back at Logan's Pass and where we started, you can see the Going to the Sun Road. Within the next mile or so, it drops out of sight below us. The area is incredibly lush with trees, meadows, and waterfalls all around.
As we leave the Garden Wall behind, we are headed for the snowfields below the continental divide with Swiftcurrent Pass in the distance.
Star crossing a huge snow field sporting her Spittono fashion shirt.
Looking ahead to Granite Park Chalet in the distance
In the right corner of the photo is the beginning of the rise up to Swiftcurrent Pass and the Swiftcurrent Glacier, which we will be taking in two days.
We passed this grizzly bear shortly before Granite Park. There were about 8 hikers with huge cameras along the trail taking pictures. I told Star we could easily outrun them all because of the equipment they carried. Thankfully, this was the only Grizzly we actually experienced, but it did make me think of the two young women who lost their lives very near this spot in 1967.
From Star: I was actually glad to get down this low, which gave me the opportunity to look around some. While we were teetering on the cliffs, I concentrated on Ben's hiking boots, which seemed a much better view than the drop only inches from my left side. Afterwards, I discovered that crossing the occasional suspension or log bridge presented no difficulty.
Here we are on our arrival at Granite Park Chalet, our wilderness accomodation for two nights. The Chalet can accomodate up to 40 guests in about 12 rooms. Ours was set up with 3 sets of bunk beds, arranged carefully so that there was no way to put two mattresses together. Our next door neighbors shared some homemade wine they had packed in, and we all attended the nightly staff presentation. This one included an original poem by Zack followed by some interesting facts about birds in Glacier National Park. At dark, the staff distributed earplugs and flashlights before we left for a restful eight hours of listening to some phenomenol snoring from all corners and levels of the chalet. Nightly emergencies were an adventure that involved finding the bear spray and flashlight and making our way downstairs and across 100 rocky yards to the privy.
Most of the guests departed after breakfast, but we stayed the next day. We discovered that the Chalet is a favorite drop-in for hikers, who can purchase important staples like granola bars, water, candy, and hot cokes. Four Clemson students even showed up late in the afternoon.
We will try to post the last segment tomorrow, including our harrowing hike from Granite Park down the 2,400 ft. Swiftcurrent Glacier Head Wall.
When we say Glacier is in the wilderness, we mean it. There is no internet nor cell phone service (well, maybe if you hold your phone just right in the just right place). This applies to all areas outside of the park as well. I posted the first blog from a far away private campground laundry mat where we washed clothes. As soon as the manager realized I was using his precious internet, he started making comments about it being only for campers use and he shut me down.
So, here we sit in the comfy confines of the Minneapolis Weston Hotel finishing what we intended to be a day to day journal of our latest kooky hiking adventure.
We will not give up until every hike has been documented throughout cyber space.
So, without further ado, I give you perhaps the best day hike we have taken through the years, Siyeh Pass via Preston Park. It's a 9.5 mile round trip with a 2,000 ft. elevation gain through flower filled meadows to an incredible mountain pass to the edge of Sexton Glacier.
After a 1,500 ft. climb through a forest, we came upon Preston Park, where the flowers put the wild in wildflowers. Make sure to click these photos to full size. This is also supposed to be grizzly bear country, but luckily we didn't see one on this day.
Rising the final 500 ft. from Preston Park to Siyeh Pass
Rising above the pass to the edge of Sexton Glacier. Suddenly, it's about 20 degrees cooler and the winds are ripping.
Returning from the Siyeh back to Preston Park, you can see Piegan Glacier in the distance.
It's Tuesday, and with no news on our camping gear we decide to venture out on a long day hike to Iceberg Lake. With clear skies and temperatures in the 60s, we head out for a warm up 10 mile hike on a beautiful day.
Our destination is in the large cirque in the background
Profusion of beargrass
Icy cold Iceberg Lake underneath a portion of the 3,000+ ft. cirque wall. We saw two different people jump into the lake during our visit. Uh, no thanks.
Star at our picnic spot. The lodge will pack you a very nice box lunch for $8.95.
Upon our return from Iceberg Lake, we had a nice surprise. Star went to the hotel manager to check for our box and THERE IT WAS! It seems Glacier had it stored in the mail room of another hotel the entire time. I will give the Glacier folks complete credit for sticking with the search until completion. Yippie-aye-yay, now we can proceed with our plans to head deeper into the Glacier Wilderness. For the first time it feels as though the planets have aligned for our vacation.
Park Cafe is worth the twenty mile drive out from Many Glacier Park. It doesn't look it, but the food is fantastic. If you're ever here, make sure to try the avacado burger and salmon tacos...yum! The razzleberry pie is a speciality and leaves you looking for a nap. Now, we are all ready for Thursday's trip to Siyeh Pass, and the Sexton Glacier via Preston Park.
We took a side trip today to the Going to the Sun Road, where you can view everything the park has to offer from your car. Star did a great job taking this little movie of one of the park's many creatures.
Ben looks at me and he says, “This could be a disaster.” And he wasn’t kidding. So we went hiking. We knew we couldn’t do a long hike since Disaster #1 was a train wreck named AMTRAK. As one co-boarder hurried his distraught wife into their 6 X 6 cubicle noted: "It’s not the Taj Mahal." We decided to be good trainers and go to sleep, lulled by the champagne our steward gave us and the motion of the train. The champagne might have worked if the train didn’t stop every 20 minutes or so. That was a disappointing harbinger of the rest of the trip, where the train slowed down and stopped, sometimes for half an hour or forty-five minutes with a series of excuses and explanations: the track is hot, there’s a freight train coming, and (finally) the truth. We had a “little problem” with the engine. We scurried at speeds alternating between 45 and 0 to East Glacier Park, arriving only seven hours late.
We were too tired when we arrived at Many Glacier to ask about our 41 pound box of hiking equipment. It was a good thing we waited until the next morning because we couldn’t have slept. There was no box. No one knew where the box was. Maybe they could find it by Wednesday or Thursday. So we went hiking.
This was fun. Waiting on our train at a roof top bar in downtown Minneapolis.
Riding Amtrak across North Dakota at a snail's pace. At least they have plenty of alcoholic beverages.
As Star mentioned above, we were not going to be detered by our 2:15 Monday morning arrival. Without any gear except bear spray, we headed off into the Glacier wilderness early the next afternoon for a little 5 mile warm up hike to Grinnell Lake. It's a competely different experience to walk straight into the teeth of these great mountains on an almost dead flat trail. The snow above the waterfalls in this picture is actually Grinnell Glacier.
So, we ended Monday still without our box of camping gear According to the hotel manager, there is now a full scale "park wide search" for our box. What a hoot!
By the way, we had to drive 20 miles from the park in order to find some decent internet service to send this blog. I certainly hope it's worth it, lol.