Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 2 @ Glacier

Greg and I woke up 5 times between 1 and 3 am due to Jared’s snoring in the adjacent tent. He was louder than the guy in Yellowstone that he’d previously made fun of. Greg got so angry he unzipped Jared’s tent to go wake him up. This freaked Jared out and he says that he elevated vertically from the ground while lying down because he was so scared that Greg was actually a bear entering the tent. And then he kept right on snoring. In the end Greg and I moved to the car and slept in the front two seats. We all woke up late (around 7) and the tents were soaked from a heavy dew. Once we were packed and Jared had completed taking advantage of his “connectivity” we headed out to the Many Glacier part of the park where we hiked the Iceburg Lake Trail. The road out there was in miserable shape. But, once we got there, we really liked the many glacier area. First, they have a very fairly priced store there. But, more importantly there are a couple of nice lodging options there that don’t involve sleeping in tents. We took note for future visits with the girlfriends who should be wives by our subsequent visit. They’d probably prefer this type of lodging.
Onto the trail! We got started about 9:30am. The trail is 4.9 miles each way so it was quite a healthy hike for us! We gained a good deal of elevation as well, eventually rising to the tree line. The ranger did inform us that we needed to carry bear spray and gave us a brief introduction on how to interact with bears in the wild. Unfortunately we did not get to see any bears.
The hike starts out in a wooded valley and then rises into intermittent patches of beautiful wild flowers and forest. Though I have never sat through Sound of Music in its entirity, our scenery matched the movie. About halfway up we hit a 100 foot waterfall. It was nice to emerge from our trail into a more open area with such great scenery and a gathering of people. This meant we could stop yelling “hey bear” every few minutes in order to alert any bears ahead of our presence. The most important thing to preventing a bear attack is letting them know that you are there. They will almost always scamper.
A few minutes after the waterfall, we stumbled upon a pit toilet. I’d never used one before, but I must say it was a welcome sight and the experience was not at all negative. Onward and upward, we passed an area of thick cover with lots of flies and even a stump which looked like it had been ripped open by a bear to eat the bugs. However, no bears there today. We then hit open country. We could see the entire valley opening on our left side. It was one of those sights that you just can’t capture with a camera. It can only fit in your mind and memory. On our right side, red sedimentary rocks rose up almost 2000 feet to the skyline. There was snow near the top feeding copious waterfalls. There were literally falls of varying magnitude every few hundred feet. The final stage of our ascent was our entry into the snowfields. There were alpine evergreens up here with stunted growth and a beautiful alpine stream rushing towards a waterfall lower in the valley. Near the top we saw a huge deer cross the pathway right in front of us. Then we crested a small hill and below us was aptly named Iceburg Lake. There are small icebergs floating in it which were cleaved from a pathetically small glacier hanging above the crystal blue lake. This iceberg will likely be gone in less than 5 years so it was a good thing we saw it when we did. Greg was exhausted from not sleeping last night and we were all dehydrated. We drank our puny `16 oz waters, took some pictures, and headed back down.
As we began our descent, we were told that there was a mother and two bear cubs playing in the snow about 100 feet from the trail. Jared responded with “great, just what we need a mother and cubs, the most aggressive of situations.” I kind of wanted to see them, and Greg kind of just wanted to get back to the car so he could hydrate and nap, But sadly, we did not see the bears. They had retreated down into the valley by the time we arrived at their former location. As such, we ended up hurrying down the rest of the way. We did get lucky enough to come across a big horned sheep within about 15 feet of us along the trail. He posed for a few photos before scampering back into the cover of the woods.

We were all pretty beat when we got down to the parking area and enjoyed some waters and the best tasting plums I’d had in years. Well actually I have not had plums in years. Then it was time to hit the road to Canada! A quick stop for Jared to check in with work and me to take a look at hotel rooms in Calgary got extended when we discovered the cheapest rate is $150 for the night I am dropping them off at the airport. As a result, I decided to gamble and see what I can find for rates on Saturday.
The crossing into Canada was very easy. About 3 questions, a request for us to take off our sunglasses, and there we were… into Alberta. There is absolutely nothing in Alberta until you get to Calgary. I did stop and get $40 of Canadian money out of the TD bank on the border town.
Calgary is a beautiful modern city. We had dinner at a nice Greek place called Opa.It was amazing to finally have fresh vegetables after a week of eating out of the cooler. We also noted that almost everyone in Calgary is in nearly perfect health. You’d think you were in San Diego, rather than a town that gets 9 months of winter. Certainly puts Maine’s population to shame on the attractiveness meter. As I write this, we’re ascending into the Canadian Rockies from the plains. They are a bit more jagged than Glacier’s mountains but there is a similar rock color, striations, and tree lines. It is 9pm and the sun is still high in the sky. This bodes well for our 945pm arrival time. We’ll be able to set up our tent in daylight again. This is the site with the electric fence on the perimeter. I guess there are a lot of bears in the area. We’ll see!

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