Monday, July 28
Iceberg Lake Trail
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. 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. 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. 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.