Friday, August 17: Glacier
A wonderful hike
We didn’t much care for the restaurant at the Grouse, so when we got up, we just packed up our stuff and checked out, looking for breakfast elsewhere. Michael wanted a breakfast-burrito, so we stopped at a Burger King and got him one. A bit later, we ran across a diner that looking promising, so we stopped there for Amy and myself. It was a good call. It was slightly quaint, and the food was very tasty.
We were thinking of heading north along the west side of the park, but we were not sure. We didn’t know if we would see enough to make it worthwhile. But our first stop was at Apgar on Lake McDonald. There is a little community there, which I’m guessing predates the foundation of the park. There were several stores, some lodging, and a visitor’s center.
There was also a boat rental booth. Michael wanted to rent a power boat, but we talked him down to a kayak. Amy didn’t want to kayak, so we settled on him and me in a double. My plan worked out, as Michael paddled for a short while and then ran out of steam. So I ended up doing most of the paddling for the next hour. We passed by a bunch of houses that looked privately owned. I don’t know if they were for staff, grandfathered into the park, or what they were.
After an hour of paddling, we met up with Amy and found a surprise in the car. The bears were expanding!
Some background is needed here. We wanted to bring one of Michael’s stuffed animals with us, and he chose Growlf, a polar bear. In Yosemite, he picked up a baby black bear as well. That bear disappeared (we think it fell out during a stop) around Capitol Reef. We couldn’t find a replacement bear. In Dinosaur, he found an “adult” brown bear that he wanted instead, so we got that.
I really had gotten fond of the baby black bear, so when we got to Yellowstone, I got one. We were now up to three bears in the car. I guess Amy felt left out, because while Michael and I were paddling, she got another baby black bear for herself. This one was more cinnamon-colored (brown with black highlights) rather than the traditional black. So now we had four bears in the car!
What we’ve found throughout the trip is that when left “alone” in the cars, the bears tend to get bored and somewhat rambunctious. For example, Amy and I will be out taking pictures at some stop, and when we return to the car, we’ll find one bear belted in to the driver’s seat, one bear trying to use the steering wheel, and baby bear trying to run the gear shift.
Back to the day’s events. After meeting the latest bear, Michael declared that he was hungry and it was time for lunch, even though it was only 11:30 and we hadn’t eaten breakfast that long ago. So we stopped at a small diner at Apgar and had lunch. Mike and I both had buffalo burgers, which the waitress recommended, while Amy got a fish sandwich. For dessert we shared a huckleberry cobbler.
Then, around probably 1pm, it was time for the day’s “main event”--hiking at Logan Pass.
We drove up there, passing along the road cut into the cliff with shear drop-offs. They were doing road construction on parts of it, so the pull-offs were often blocked off and filled with equipment. As a result, we were somewhat limited in our picture taking opportunities.
The ridge running north from Logan, which is also the continental divide, is called the Garden Wall. There is a trail that runs parallel to that, but lower than the top. For a stretch, it looks like it was cut into the cliff as well. We planned to hike a stretch of that, as Michael would probably enjoy it.
Amy and Mike got a head start, as I was filling water bottles. Just as I was catching up to them, they were walking a short distance into some brush to look at some animal. I overhead another hiker saying that there was a mom and two babies there. I didn’t hear what kind of animal it was and assumed it was a bear. I thought that getting within 10-20 feet of a mom grizzly with cubs was a really bad idea.
However, it was really a mountain goat with some young ones. A bit further on, we got a view of 4 or 5 on a steep slope across the meadow under the roadway. Later on we saw more, until we were almost sick of seeing mountain goats.
Past the meadow, the trail came to the wall. There was a cable attached as a hand-hold on the inside wall. It was covered with a garden-hose, which I guess was a cheap reasonably weather-resistant plastic covering.
I was not happy crossing this stretch, which went on for rather a while. I pretty much just stared at the path and rock wall and didn’t look around. My fear of heights can be a real pain.
Eventually I got to the end of the cable. There was still a very steep slope running a couple of hundred feet to the roadway below. I figured that the cable was stopped because a fall from this stretch of the trail would just maim you and not result in certain death.
Walking along this stretch, without the cable, was also very nerve-wracking. After a short while, I decided that this was not fun, I had met my goal of traversing the cliff, so I turned around and returned to the meadows. There I took more mountain goat pictures while waiting for Amy and Mike.
After Amy and Mike returned in short order, we hiked back to Logan Pass. Then we started on the hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. This turned out to be far my favorite hike of Glacier. I really like hiking through alpine and sub-alpine meadows, much more so than through lower woodlands.
The Hidden Lake trail crosses the meadows, rising a hundred feet or two, initially on a boardwalk to protect the terrain. It has good views of Mt. Oberlin and Clements Mountain. It looked like there was a trail, which does not show up on the normal maps, that climbs to the top of Mt. Oberlin. That looks like it would be a neat hike, although it would be more strenuous than what we would be looking for. We could see the trail going traversing a talus slope and then making a switchback just before a snowfield. I imagine that there would be great views from Oberlin, and probably not a little exposure on the trail.
But our trail ascended much more gradually. We could see several snow fields, some further and some closer. They were melting, causing little streamlets to run down the hillside and cross the trail. At one point, there was a snow field that ended right at the side of the trail, where the meltwater stream went under a little bridge.
There were lots of wildflowers on the meadows, although not too much of a variety. It was reminiscent of the meadows at Paradise on Mt. Rainier, but not quite as nice.
At several places, we saw mountain goats, mostly on the snow fields, but once crossing the trail and moving across the meadow.
At one point, at a bridge over one of the melt water streams, Mike decided that he was tired, had gone far enough, and that he would wait for us there. We said OK and proceeded on with just the two of us.
I had thought that the trail was basically like an upside-down “V”. That is, we would ascend the Logan Pass side, reach the top, and then we would look down the other side and see Hidden Lake. In reality, once we finish ascending the sloped meadows, we reached a stretch that was roughly level. This went a ways with a small pond in the middle (which Amy initially mistook for Hidden Lake). Then the trail crests a small rise, and then you get to the boardwalk which ends up being the viewpoint for Hidden Lake.
You can climb down and ahead to the edge of a rocky cliff for a closer view, or you can go another 1-1/2 miles down a trail to reach the exit of the lake. But we did none of those things. We enjoyed the view and took lots of photos. Then we found that there was a marmot about 3 feet off of the trail, so we got some pictures of that.
Just as we were leaving, we found Michael coming up the trail. He got bored waiting for us, so he hiked up (which was good for him, otherwise, he would have missed half of the good stuff). Unfortunately, the marmot had since wandered off elsewhere.
We hiked back down as a family. When we got to the snowfield next to the trail, I stopped for some waterfall pictures, while Amy and Mike continued. The sun had dropped just below the top of the falls (if I got low enough), so that the very top of the falls were backlit, and the rest of the falls were in shadow.
I happened to be in the right place and the right time. Just as I was setting my camera up for a shot, I saw a goat come to the edge of the falls for a drink. This meant that the goat was itself backlit, so it sort of glowed. I grabbed as many pictures as I could (I hope they came out OK) before the goat moved on.
I caught up with Amy and Mike, and we continued to the end of the trail at the visitor’s center. Not surprisingly, it was much faster and easier to go down than to go up. The only danger is that the boardwalk had occasional steps that were not particularly well marked. If you were going fast and weren’t careful, you might miss one and step off into air, then go crashing down onto the next level spot. I didn’t do this myself (in case you were wondering), but I could see how someone might do that.
At the visitor’s center parking lot, Amy noticed a lot of telescopes being set up. She found that in honor of the new moon, they were having an astronomy petting zoo that night. She got a ticket for it. It started at 9 and it was then 7, so we had to hurry a bit.
We zoomed down the mountain, checked in and got a key to the cabin, then got some dinner. We didn’t have time for dessert or for unpacking. Instead we zoomed back up and got to Logan Pass just before 9.
They gave us little light sticks to wear. Without them it would have been total chaos. It was still an hour before dark, so they broke us up into four groups based on the color of the glow sticks. Until dark, our group’s astronomer told us things about the night sky, answered questions, and pointed out constellations. They had some bright green laser pointers to point out stars and constellations. Shining up into the air, you could barely make them out, but when they shined against the mountain across the road, they made an impressively bright spot.
Eventually, it became dark enough for the telescopes, so the groups broke up and it was a free-for-all for the telescopes. There were in theory lines for each scope, but in some cases, particularly at the start, it was more theory than practice. Some of the scopes were (to my mind) huge, more like trashcans. One was maybe 12-16 inches in diameter and maybe 4 feet long.
Almost immediately Michael decided that he didn’t want to hang out with us, despite our explanations that we should stick together as it was hard to find people in the dark. So he wandered off. We figured we would let him have his space.
Amy and I visited several scopes. One showed a fuzzy globular cluster. Another showed “ET”, a micro-constellation that made a stick figure of the movie character “ET”. A third showed a binary star; although without observing it over a long period of time, I don’t know how you would know it wasn’t just two random stars that appeared to be near each other in the sky.
At one point, I thought a guy called out my name, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t recognize him, and he didn’t repeat it, so I figured that I had misheard him. Later, another person was calling my name and Amy’s name, so we approached them. They had Michael, who (not unexpectedly) could not find us and was getting very nervous. He was rather tired and stressed.
They didn’t want people leaving early, because the car lights would screw up people’s night vision, so we put Michael in our car to doze. That alone was a bit of fiasco. When you unlock the doors with the fob, it turns on the headlights to help you find the car. I tried unlocking the door with the key rather than the fob, but that set off the car alarm. To turn that off, I had to unlock them (again) with the fob, which turned the headlights on. I then figured that the best solution was to open the car door (which in this case was already open), immediately lock the doors with the fob (which turned out the lights), and then unlock them again from the controls inside the car, which did not set off the alarm or turn on the headlights.
Amy liked the whole thing. I thought it was just OK. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to have left Mike and myself at the room and have Amy go up by herself.
We did a little more looking through the scopes after that, but we did eventually leave about a half hour early. We just used our parking lights until we left the parking lot and got on to the main road. Unfortunately, when I tried changing the headlights to just be parking lights, I screwed up and again momentarily flashed my headlights.
It was slated to run until midnight. We left around 11:30 and got to the cabin around midnight. The windows in the cabin had been left open, and as we had gotten in so late, it was rather cool.
I tried taking some star pictures, but due to the time, I only tried for 2-5 minutes, which didn’t result in anything. (I later found that I did get a few small tracks.)
The cabin was very small and plain. It was a small room with an even smaller bathroom with a tiny shower (no tub). It was definitely a step down from the cabins at the lodges at Bryce and Zion. There was no lodge at this location--there was just the “motor inn” and campground. It was a far cry from the Grouse, but it was a lot cheaper and in the park. But still, there were a lot fewer amenities as compared to the lodges.