Sunday, July 11, 2010

Glacier National Park - Day 1

We started the day early. Jared woke Greg and I up at 2:00AM with his incessantly loud snoring. It was terrible. He even woke up the two neighboring sites who grumbled about his snoring as well. When we actually woke up there had been a hard freeze. The windshield was iced and there was frost on our tent. It was freezing. We got cleaned up and headed to the visitor center to get our maps. We still had to check in at our campsite but it was only 7am and you can’t do so until 8 so we took some pictures by the St. Mary River first. We checked in with the Ranger at check-in regarding good hikes. He suggested the Iceburg Trail but told us that we should bring bear spray. We’ll go to that tomorrow I think.
Back to today… we had 5 hours to do the Going to the Sun Road. It is a spectacular road that is under reconstruction for WPA part II (Stimulus Package). There were many nice outcroppings along the way up to Logan Pass. When we were almost there we came upon part I of the construction. The road is one way as they rebuild it. Following the construction we passed through a tunnel and soon emerged at snowy Logan Pass. We stopped in at the visitors center which had just opened on July 1. They had to remove over 400 inches of snow from the parking area in order to open and that takes quite a while – especially since they received most of their snow in April. The Ranger shared with us that all glaciers will be gone from the park within 15 years. He discussed how global warming plays a big role as does ash from Mount St. Helen’s and decreased precipitation patterns in the park.
The only trail open on the pass was to Hidden Lake. We decided to give it a go even though there are 5-40 feet of snow covering the pathway. It was a blast and made me want to ski down it as some others had done. We took tons of pictures as we trekked up through the snowy paths in shorts and t-shirts. Very fun and surreal. There were snow bridges along the trail that we were routed around. A snow bridge is formed when snow melt pools into a stream and travels under the snow. It is dangerous because it could collapse and you could fall through into a 32 degree torrent of water. Once we got most of the way up, we chickened out. Walking in sneakers without poles on snow pack didn’t seem safe when there is a 80 degree slope adjacent to the snowy path. So, we turned around and headed back to the parking lot. It worked out well because we got stuck in a ton of traffic on the rest of the (beautiful) Going to Sun Road and ended up just making it to the Montana Rafting Company in West Glacier, MT on time for our 2:00 departure.
It was a good thing that we cleaned up our body hair situation because no shirts were allowed under the life jackets. Our guide was a hilarious college kid from GA who seemed like a huge stoner. He also knew his stuff and steered us right into the best part of each of the 9 rapids that we ran during our 2.5 hour float. We had a really good time, but these rapids leave you wanting more. They just get good and they are over. We’ve been told that if we come back in April, we’ll experience some intense runs! Maybe in the future! We went down the middle fork of the Flat Head River. The guide told us of a historic flood that ran 65 feet over average levels (nearly 20 times the current state) as well as a fire that burned so hot back in 1917 that the destroyed trees were preserved by their sap and remain in state to this day. Towards the end, he offered that anyone who wanted to could jump in the river for a swim. Greg took that opportunity and went in first. Jared pulled him back in. Then Jared jumped in. He had a bit more trouble getting back in the boat and the guide had to help him. The technique for this is that the guide bobs him three times then pulls him back on the boat, landing on the guild. It looked quite funny. Then the guide pushed Jared back in the water after he stood up and I got to record the whole “rescue” again. Towards the end of the float, the guide showed us some good place to cliff jump into the river. We didn’t end up doing it but it would be fun to do sometime.
Somehow – perhaps by wearing the same socks and boots for 4 straight days – Jared has gotten a pretty bad dose of athlete’s foot. Its nasty. We stopped at the West Glacier Mercantile (grocery) to get some spray but they don’t carry that. They sent us up to Hungry Horse, MT which was a cool little town, though probably overrun by meth, where we went into a grocery store that looked like IGA from 1989. I great time lapse – the prices were pretty modern though! Jared got some athlete’s foot spray and we headed back through the Going to the Sun Road. Jared took about a picture every 10 seconds for the duration of the gorgeous drive while Greg incessantly made fun of him for doing this.
Some of my favorite features of this road were Weeping Falls (a section of waterfalls which crash directly onto the road) the many ridgeline to valley falls, the natural snow bridges that were formed over some of these falls, the hanging valley, and of course the amazing scenery looking out into the huge seemingly mirror valleys on each side of Logan Pass.
Due to all of the late-season snow, the High Line trail was closed. We would have loved to have done this trail as it takes you along a ridge line up from Logan Pass to look down on the valley. What we saw here instead was a mountain goat. On the way back through the Going to the Sun Road we saw Big Horned sheep in the parking lot. They look a lot like white deer with big horns.
The sun sets incredibly late here – around 10pm and it stays light enough to see until 11pm. I am not sure why this is but it’s a great feature. Jared has been dying to have a campfire and finally had his chance tonight. We cleaned the car and organized for our ride to Banff tomorrow afternoon and then he was rewarded with his nice fire. I am sitting by it now as I write this. However, I am trying to avoid the odor since I don’t want to smell like fire for the next day or so. He thinks that’s dumb. Greg’s hiding from the smell in the tent.

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