Saturday, July 16, 2016

Glacier NP, West Side Story --- Marmots and Goats and Deer, Oh My!

Roger here...  So much fun getting close to the wildlife in their natural habitat!  Marmots, and Goats, and Deer, Oh My!  We hope to see even more of this when we move on to Canada --- maybe even an elusive bear?

GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD, a day later...

What a difference a day makes.  We drove back to Logan Pass, only this time instead of gray clouds, fog, and partial mountain views, the skies were bright blue, the clouds were alabaster, and the views were spectacular.  We actually seemed to be going to the sun on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

BTW.  The drops on the windshield are from a waterfall.
Even though visibility was excellent, the drive was still a bit treacherous.  The ever-present slow-moving bicyclists seem to encourage motorists to take risks on a twisty road, where one small mistake could easily cause a fatal accident.  Please do not misunderstand, I get it.  The challenge of riding a bike up along an iconic roadway (if you were in good shape) would be hard to pass up.  However, the risks for everyone seem too great for the glory.  My opinion.

We did not photograph the tunnel yesterday because we could hardly see it.  

The impressive triple arches in the photo below were, likewise, difficult to see.  The construction of this roadway was truly an engineering marvel.

Ok, one more picture, this time of a waterfall next to the road at Logan Pass Visitor's Center, and we can move on.


Our main activity at Logan Pass was to hike the Hidden Lake Trail.  The trailhead was behind the extremely crowded visitor center.  We were certainly not the only ones on the trail, but the scenery was worth it.  The in and out total distance was only three miles; however, nearly all of it was uphill.  It turned out to be a far more difficult hike than the much longer trek to Avalanche Lake, due to the ascension and one more thing --- walking/sliding in snow.

The picture below shows the first 90 percent of the trail as it traverses board walks and snow.  The teeny black ant-like dots  in the snow are people.  Looks like hiking poles are in order.

The initial steps of the hike traversed an endless uphill boardwalk.  Even though this was continually uphill, the even surface of the boardwalk made this the easy part of the hike.

It seemed to go on forever.  It would have been very nice, if it had.

The wooden poles along the way served as trail markers during the times that the wooden surface was covered by feet of snow.  

Uh Oh.  It looks like we have found a place where the boardwalk is still snow-covered.

The majority of the hike was through the snow.  Every step in the slick snow required digging one's shoe heel into the snow to make a divot for stable footing.  It did not always work.  The hiking poles were extremely helpful, but I did fall one time when the snow shifted under my feet.  Dianne did not fall at all.  In the photo above, look at the whiter and smoother line of snow at the right of my left hand.  This was a butt-print from a guy who literally slid (without benefit of a sled) on his rear end to the flatter section below.  

Why am I smiling?  Because, I am near the end of this particular snow pack.  And, because Dianne told me to smile.

When we weren't watching our feet in the snow, the views of the terrain next to the trail took our minds off the exertion.  Well, it took my mind off the exertion.  Not too sure about Dianne.   (Dianne here:  I was huffing and puffing as usual climbing uphill in the high altitude.  Our way back downhill would have been much easier if not for the s-l-i-c-k snow pack.   Going back down was definitely more difficult in the snow.  I would have paid $50 for a pair of cleats....)

Crystal-Clear Cold Water Stream
As we eventually neared the upper section of the hike, we  sloshed out of the snow banks.  Small streams full of snow-melt rushed through the green meadow in every direction.

Dianne stopped to take a picture of these yellow flowers next to the boardwalk.

Exhilarating, cool, clean air --- a sense of accomplishment --- and views like this made the next day's sore muscles worth the pain.

The pine trees ahead in the photo below signaled that we were approaching our view of the "hidden lake."

However, before we arrived we noticed a group of people staring up at the cliffs to our right.  Oh wow.

Photo doesn't really show just how high up the goats were!
Look! There's one right by the trail.  The goat did not seem to notice all the people photographing him.

As we tore ourselves away from the goats, the first view of Hidden Lake became visible in the valley below.

I especially like this close-up view of the lake with reflections of the snow banks on the water.

A circular boardwalk loop presented a variety of stunning views, as well as more interesting wildlife.


And, more mountain goats!

Mama and Young One

The downhill walk back to Logan Pass was not as easy as you might expect.  Going downhill in the slick snow presented quite a bit of slipping, sliding, and in my case... falling.  


We were both pretty worn out when we arrived back at the still very crowded Logan Pass Visitor Center.  We sat on a bench and ate energy bars as we discussed the possibility of attempting a portion of the iconic Highline Trail (which also departed from Logan Pass)

Hey!  We have bear spray!  You don't need to warn us again :-)

We decided that we could walk as far as that tiny yellow sign in the picture on the left.  We could then say that we walked a portion of the trail.  I know.  Very misleading.  My conscience would not allow this, and Dianne seemed willing to go a little farther.

The trail descended.  Descended?  Now that is a first.  We knew not to go too far because the walk back up would be painful on already-sore legs.

At the bottom of the descent we turned a corner and....

Just ahead we reached the portion of the trail that I really wanted to do.  This is also the portion of the trail that I knew Dianne would hate (fear of heights).  In the photo below you can see the ledge  that was cut into the face of the vertical cliff.  You can also see the trail ahead as it fades into the distance.

A green cable provided some security along the narrow trail.  The only problem occurred when meeting someone coming the other way.  Who was going to let go?

I loved this view of the Going-to-the-Sun Road below us:

We truly never intended to walk all 7.6 miles (one-way) of the trail.  Unlike the Rubicon Trail at Lake Tahoe, this time we turned back after a reasonable time.  I was pleased that we walked far enough to experience the ledge that I had heard so much about.  What a memorable day this was.


We had no specific plans the next morning, other than we needed a break from hiking.  Retama friends Mike and Sandy told us about an interesting drive to an interesting and isolated general store in Polebridge, Montana.  The drive would be an hour in length along sometimes paved, sometimes gravel roads.  Why not?  We knew it was going to be a good excursion when we spotted these deer peeking around a corner in the national park.

The road took us past extensive fire damage from a 2007 fire.  This picture shows how mother nature recovers nicely from what would seem to be a disaster.  

The mercantile at Polebridge was an interesting little place ---  no electricity (other than from solar panels and generators), no cell phone service, no phone service (other than from a pay phone that frequently does not work), no trash service (carry everything back to the car).

The mercantile was built in 1914.  It is full of interesting merchandise...

... including a bakery.  Dianne ate all of her bear claw before we could get a picture.

The mercantile was not the only business in town. There was a produce stand....
... a thriving lemonade stand....

.... and a saloon that serves meals after 4:00 p.m.

There was even a restroom for Dianne.  

This little excursion turned out to be a very pleasant way to spend a low-key kinda day. 

Tomorrow, we hit the road into Canada.  You will soon hear from us again, if we have wifi.

I will close this post with a photo at the front of Polebridge's Northern Lights Saloon.

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