Over Hill And Under Hill
02 September 2016
Glacier National Park. The portion of our trip we were excited about from the moment we started planning. Thanks to our mechanic friends in Billings we managed to arrive at the park on schedule in the early afternoon, September 1st. Like all other days on our trip it was glorious, sunny, and dry. The landscape was so beautiful that we had taken our time on the road leading to the park because there was view after view of the mountians we were apraoaching. By the time we got to the park a lot of campsites were closed and so we booked it in to the Rising Sun campground to get one of the last and windiest campsites. We also found a huge pile of bear poop which only reaffirmed all we had been told about bears being a constant threat to hikers and campers here. You are required under penalty of a $50 minimum fine to dump your food waste down a flush sink so bears aren't attracted to the campgrounds.
After setting up, we jumped back in the car and drove back up the Going-To-The-Sun-Road to see some stops we had wizzed by earlier. The mountain and valley views were stunning everywhere you turned. And when we turned around and drove back down the road passed Rising Sun, we saw the view from Wild Goose island which with the sun headed for the horizon was perfect. We also found a short hike further down the road that led us through a huge section of forest that had burned. There will little plants sprouting up all over the place and the burnt bark was peeling back on the standing trees revealing the untouched wood on the inside. When we returned to the car someone had spotted a moose in the lake below and we stopped to watch it eat through our binoculars.
The night was much colder than we were used to and neither of us slept very well. Still we got up with the sun, put on our sweatshirts, and headed out to see what we could see on the Going-To-The-Sun-Road. If you don't know, this road is the main road through the park, built in the 1920's, that takes you past many major features and provides a unparelleled scenic vista. The first thing we ran into on the road was a traffic jam because about 15 cars were stopped to watch a baby grizzly that was eating berries just off the road. It was adorable and moved frighteningly fast. Once we got by the bear traffic jam, we stopped again at the Wild Goose island view hoping for the sun to light it up. The sun was mostly obscurred by clouds but with some rain to the west we were treated to a rainbow that stretched right across the sky in front of us.
From here my luck must have run out. As we drove west, the weather got worse and worse. It was expected with the mountains, but we still hoped for the nice weather they had the last few days. The rain picked up and turned to hail as we approached the continental divide and the rain continued until we had reached the Sprague Creek Campground where we wanted to camp for our second night. We were not able to see much along the way. Everything was covered by clouds sitting low on the mountains. So we headed for the campground and picked a great site right on the water. We hadn't been there for 10 mintues when the couple drove up and the guy got out and told us he had reserved the site this morning. Since the campground host was there when we paid for the site and this guys tone could be described with any of the words Red Sox fans use for the Yankees, we told him there was no way, he is full of it. But again, no more luck, and indeed the campground host had made a mistake and we had to move. In Massachusetts, you ain't reserved it until you mark your spot with something and this guy hadn't left even a crumb to mark his spot. Oh well.
Since the weather had cleared up a bit on the west side of the mountains, I decided to go for a hike with the hours I had left in the day. There was a trail head close by that led up to several different length hikes so I chose that one. Having mostly sat in a car for the last week and a half I was excited to finally be on my feet for more than 30 minutes. It was a very steep climb for the first 2 miles, but I managed to keep about a 3mph pace. Which for me, slow walker, runner, lifter, etc, is pretty good. When I got to the split where a few trails led off in different directions, I took one that was only a mile more to a small lake because I had to turn around in about 20 minutes. The trail flattened out and became darker and pretty creepy. With every step I was whipping my head around looking for a bear. Soon the sun was visible again throught the trees and I saw a break in the trees ahead and there was a small mountain lake. Perfectly flat with lilly pads everywhere, it looked a lot like a Monet painting until the sun lit it up. On my way back as I was nearly sprinting down, I ran into a couple from Colorado who had hiked the 10 miles (my hike was 6 miles total...about 2 hours) up to a Glacier today on the trail I wanted to do. They said it was disappointing given the weather but still worth it. Much like the Pinnacle trail in Acadia National Park, I must go back and hike that trail!
That night was even colder, making for a worse nights sleep, but the weather report for the next day was better so we hoped to see some of what we missed in the clouds. It was not as good as we hoped, but we still headed back up to the continental divide on Logan Pass to see what we could see. Indeed some mountains that were compeltely enshrouded by clouds were more visible today. Meaning we could see the bottom half of them. Up at Logan Pass we waited in the parking lot for about 30 minutes to see if there would be an opening in the clouds. It was about 38 degrees up there so we were sitting in the car with the heat on. A few times the clouds parted and we were able to see a great view of the mountains east of the pass. We also could almost see a peak nearby that was covered in snow.
On the way back down from the pass we were able to see much more of the Garden Wall than the day before and some views from the road that were blocked the day before. The Garden Wall runs along the mountain side of the road and refers to the mountain side that is covered in a variety of plants making it look a lot like a wild garden. There is a trail a couple hundred feet up from the road that is another one that makes me want to come back again. Sadly, we were very tired at this point, the trip was finally wearing on us. There was not much more we could see anyways and so we decided to haul on out towards Seattle.
Glacier National Park, I will be back.