Wednesday, July 30

Bears & Meeses

The trail to Red Rock Falls Thursday July 10, 2008

Thursday's hike was just a short hike to a nice set of falls with plenty of wildflowers along the way on a relatively flat trail. The falls was 2 miles from the parking lot in Swiftwater with an elevation gain of only 200' . An easy hike after after the 10 mile Iceberg Lake hike. We did the usual breakfast in the canteen, picked up lunch and headed out. The trail started easy but in short order we ran into some returning hikers who said that there was a ranger up ahead and the trail was closed because of bears. We debated what to do and decided that maybe this was our chance to see some bears so we headed on. Ran into another group who told us the same thing and then we came to a trail on our left that ran down to Fishercap Lake. My guidebook said that it was a small lake with minimal views, but being a good redliner ,(no trail left un-walked), we took a chance and headed down.Bull Moose Feeding in Fishercap Lake And lo and behold when we got to the lake there was a bull Moose feeding in the middle of the lake. He was walking along, sticking his head under water and feeding and then coming back up for air. We watched until he got to the other side of the lake. Then we went back to the main trail to the falls. We never ran into the ranger nor did we see any other wildlife on our way to the falls.
View along the trail to Red Rocks FallsWe were up on top of the falls around 1 pm. Ellen took a break and I walked on to see how far the next lake was. I came back and told her that I thought we could make it there in about 15 minutes, but she decided it was time for lunch, so we went back to the the bottom of the falls, for a much better view, and enjoyed the water falling down the rocks. Soon some more hikers joined us and told of their bear sighting just up the trail. A Grizzly and her cub crossed the stream and headed up the mountain. We were beginning to think that we would never see any bears while we were in Glacier. After lunch we headed back, planning on the great dinner we were going to have later , when all of a sudden Ellen screamed "Did you see that moose?", Nope, never saw it, even though it crossed right in front of us and headed down the slope toward the lake. There was a man up in front of us who said that he was practically run over when the moose crossed the trail. So when we came up on the Fishercap trail again, we took it to the lake, passing a white tail doe and her fawn, (no big thing we see them at home all the time). At the lake the cow moose was out in the lake eating the bottom grass just as the bull had been doing that morning. And shortly after that another cow and her calf came out of the bulrushes and into the lake. It was very windy so the calf did not venture into the lake, but mama did. She heard some noisemakers up on the trail and started towards us, perked up her ears, but then moved into feeding.

Fishercap mooseIn our family one moose is a "Moose". 2 or more are "Meese". Like 1 goose is a "goose" and 2 or more are "geese". Over the years we have talked about Meese but this is the first time that we have actually seen them. So on the trail we have seen 2 cow, 1 bull and 1 calf Meese, mountain goats, a black snake, and a coyote. Surprisingly we did not see any hawks or eagles soaring around the peaks. We watched the Meese for a while and then headed back to Swiftwater for some more Huckleberry ice cream and then back to the Many Glacier Hotel for a short nap before dinner.

Monday, July 28

Iceberg Lake Trail

View to Iceberg Lake
Wednesday July 9, 2008.
When we made plans for going to Glacier National Park, one of the the things we really wanted to do was a day hike. There are a lot of very short trails(nature trails) and a lot of very long trails,(backpacking overnights), but not a lot in between. I was looking for a trail with some elevation gain and more than 1 or 2 miles long. In the Many Glacier area the only trail that met the elevation profile was the trail to Iceberg Lake. 1,200' of elevation gain with a one way distance of 4.6 miles. Ellen had never hiked that far before, so she bought a new pair of boots and we started hiking around home before we actually went. Wednesday morning we got up early, had breakfast and bought sandwiches for lunch at the canteen, and headed off to Swiftwater for the beginning of our hike. We had asked at the desk about trail conditions and were told that on Saturday the lake had still been frozen solid, there was snow still on the ground in the vicinity of the lake and there were several other places where we would have to cross snow areas. But the ice bridge that we had read about before we came, had melted and it was safe to now get to the lake. I had picked up a can of bear spray in Missoula and it was at the ready in my pack. Bears, Moose, Mountain Lions, Deer, Mountain goats, Big Horn Sheep are all a big part of being at Glacier. All promotional literature at Glacier has sections that are devoted to what to do if,(when), you encounter a bear on the trail. Bear spray is a last ditch, if all else fails, item, but at least one person in every group we met had a can on their belt or readily accessible, like me, on their pack. The bear spray industry must be really raking in the money at $34. per can. It's only good for 30' and should only be fired downwind, because if it blows back in your face or eyes you'll need to get to a hospital quickly. We never used ours and Sean now has a can for his hikes.The other thing that you should do when you are on the trail is make noise, talking, singing, whistling, yodeling, anything human to make sure that the bears hear you so they can run away. Bears don't like people and want to know when they are in the vicinity. We were told that bear bells do not work. I don't think that the bear bell industry does as well as the bear spray industry, but there were a lot of people with bells on. The bells are a lot cheaper than spray at $8. per bell. . We did not have bells, we talked we sang, Ellen Yoo Hooed a lot. We did not see any bears on our hike to Iceberg.Wildflower Field Wild flowers we did see.We picked a good time to come to Glacier. The wild flowers were in full bloom as this picture shows. The white flowers are Bear grass and the red Fireweed. Both flowers bloom in areas that have had fires. There were many other varieties that we saw as we hiked along.

Ptarmigan Falls was the halfway point in our hike. We had decided that when we got there we would decide whether or not we would go all the way to the lake or call it a day.The first part of the trail is the hardest because you hike up 200' in a very short distance. It wasn't vertical, like some of the trails in NH but it was steep. After that it was a gradual elevation gain to the falls. So we started at at an elevation of 4,960, jumped right up to 5,200 and then a gradual increase over the next 2.5 miles to 5,680 at the falls.Ptarmigan Falls Bridge We were concerned about breathing in the higher altitude , but did not experience any difficulties. Took a break at the falls and decided to keep on going. You can hear the falls, you can sort of see it thru the trees as you approach but there is no where you can stand and look up at it. At least not from the trail. So we headed out and bumped up another 400 feet in about a mile and after that with one large snowfield to cross, down a hill and and the across the snowfield just before the lake, we arrived there at 1:30pm. There were a lot of open stretches of water and it was Coold. We sat on the rocks and had lunch.Ellen at the Lake It certainly was well worth the effort as the views were absolutely spectacular.After lunch and a rest we headed back with a little hike up to the trail. The snowfield going to the lake, judging by the trees, was a least 6-8 feet deep. The trip back to the trail head was uneventful. We did see some mountain goats way up high on one of the mountain faces and heard stories of a Grizzly sow and her cub who passed thru an area we had just crossed. We would see bears before we left Glacier though. After coming off the trail, a little after 5 pm, we treated ourselves to a little huckleberry ice cream.

End of trail

Thursday, July 24

Glacier National Park

We left Sean & Nicole's on Tuesday morning, Picked up the rental car, (Ford Focus), and headed north to Glacier National Park. We drove up alongside the Mission Mountains and then along the east side of Flathead Lake. We checked out the motel in Woods Bay where we were going to meet Sean & Nicole on Friday and continued to head north, passing the Flathead Brewery,Bigfork and onto Hungry Horse and the entrance to the park. The Highway to the Sun road had only just opened the week before we arrived. Montana had a late snow fall and there had been a lot of snow on the roads. The Highway to the Sun crosses the park from the SW to the NE side, sort of diagonally and crosses the continental divide with only one switchback. The drive is spectacular going alongside the mountains and through the valleys. The stone guardrails were being rebuilt in a number of areas, so in places there weren't any and the road had been damaged by avalanches during the winter. As we headed up for the continental divide we were in the lane next to the mountain. There was plenty of roadway on my side of the road, (driver's side), before the valley drop offs, however after we left Logan pass and started down we were on the outside of the road and Ellen had the best view. A Ford Focus will not figure as one of our future cars, as there are no grab handles above the door. There were signs that said we should expect up to a 4 hour delay in crossing the park, but we lucked out and got in on the tail end of a group that had already been waiting. It was one way traffic for a couple of miles.
When we reached Logan Pass on the Continental divide there was still snow on the ground. In fact the trail to a lake that we had wanted to go to was impassable without crampons, which we of course did not bring. From Logan pass we headed to Lake Saint Mary and the end of the road. We then traveled out of the park and drove north to Babb and re-entered the park and headed for our hotel.
The Many Glacier Hotel is located along the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake with panoramic views of Grinnell Point and Mt. Henkel. It was built in 1915 by the Great Northern Rail Road and has 208 rooms.
This view of the hotel was taken from the parking lot. In the 3 days we were here, the daily hike to the parking lot was the hardest climb I had to make. I never made it up in less than 3 stops to catch my breadth. The view from our room looked right out on the lake and the mountains beyond. We were right on the first floor, a short hop to the lobby. With only one uncomfortable chair in our room the lobby, with a huge fireplace and plenty of comfortable seating, turned out to be a great place to read in the evenings. As an aside, it would also be a great place to have a USCGAA reunion!! I can't figure out why they have this absolutely beautiful hotel in the middle of a grand National Park and have mediocre dining. I mean there was really no place else to go. It was the only disappointment in the trip. Our dinner waiter on Tuesday night recommended a restaurant in Babb for a great place for steak. After our long hike on Wednesday we ate in the bar and on Thursday we ate in Babb. On Thursday I was looking forward to a great meal and a nice cold draft. When we arrived at the restaurant we found out that it was on the Blackfeet reservation and because it was the time of their Pow Wow no alcohol was being served. The steaks were only so-so. Sean & Nicole took us to a much better Steak House in Lolo. We had good lunches while we were hiking and breakfasts were from the canteen-coffee and egg Mc'Muffins. A little protein to start off the days hike. There always seemed to be good crowds going to breakfast in the dining room, which we skipped because they only offered a buffet. Lunch's we purchased in the canteen and ate on the trail. We never could figure out what all the people did for dinner. I have decided to split our stay at Glacier into our arrival and our hiking, so this will be the end of this post and the next will cover the hikes.

Saturday, July 5

Rafting on The Blackfoot River

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We arrived in Missoula after 2 uneventful flights from Boston. What a difference traveling on a holiday. No crowds and no lines. We went thru check-in in about 3 minutes. Hardest thing was taking off and putting on our shoes. We were picked up by Sean & Nicole who then took us home and put on a great fourth of July barbecue - ribs, chicken, fresh coleslaw, the works. We played stump in the backyard and watched the Missoula fireworks shows from Mount Jumbo, which is the mountain alongside their house.

Saturday morning, we got up early,(sort of) met up with Elliot,(the Guide) Caitlin, and 2 of their friends, Nick and Madeline, loaded the raft in the back of Elliot's car and the cooler in ours and headed off for the Blackfoot River. The Blackfoot was the river that the movie "A River Run's Through it" took place on. Although I have been told that it wasn't actually used in the movie. We dropped off the raft and Elliot and Nicole took one car down to the take out place, and we started pumping up the raft. Elliot gets the raft from Univ of Montana where he is now a guide for freshmen trips. By the time they got back we had the raft pumped up and our life jackets on and ready to go.
The trip we took was about 11 river miles long with 4 sections of rapids, Ellliot said they were rated 2-3 and the river was moving along at about 4mph. We stopped for lunch just before the Clearwater river and just after we had gotten soaked in the rapids. Lunch was Barbecued ribs, chicken and peanut butter cookies. The whole package of cookies disappeared. We put back in and drifted down the river with one more long set of rapids before we took out at Roundup. It was a great day and lot's of fun.

Sunday we had a quiet day. Sean & I did a short hike up in the Blue Mountain recreation area. Nice views from the top looking back towards Missoula from the West.
If you enlarge the picture and look to Sean's right there is a large brown hill with a white spot in it. That is Mount Jumbo and their house is just below it.

Today was a rest day, work in the garden and Ellen & I are going for a short hike up in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area and then on to Glacier tomorrow. We will be back in touch in a week. Make sure you check out our Blackfoot river rafting adventure in the Link section.