July 2017 - Five years and counting!

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July 2017 - Five years and counting!

Postby al_in_al » Sun Aug 06, 2017 8:44 pm

I was in the park this year from July 26 - August 2, my first visit during this timeframe. It was definitely hotter and drier than I would have liked - the trails were very dusty. This is also the first time I've traveled to GNP with anyone, my BF, R.

Wednesday

We flew into Kalispell on Wednesday afternoon, with an uneventful flight and rental car pickup. Our first stop was the Glacier Distilling Company. I'd previously sampled local beer and wine, and wanted to move on to spirits. We each had a whiskey sampler, and then purchased some North Fork Whiskey -small bottles to enjoy after a hike and larger ones to take home.

Requisite Apgar Beach shot

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After some hemming and hawing, we headed out to Lake McDonald Lodge where we stayed in a small cabin the first night. R wanted to watch a soccer final, but I didn't want to stay up late and drive after dark. It turns out that the lounge at Lake McDonald has a TV, and they were more than willing to switch to the correct station for us (in all these years, I never noticed the TV there - there is also a TV in the lounge at Many Glacier Hotel. Who knew!?). So that worked out surprisingly well for both of us.

Thursday

The next morning we ate breakfast in the dining room (the buffet, which I usually enjoy here, did not impress me as much this year), checked out, and headed to Logan Pass. Much to my surprise, the lot was full at 8:25 am! Traveling alone, I would have certainly been there earlier. Oh well. I circled a few times before I realized how futile that was, and decided we should try to get on the 10am St. Mary boat tour. R was interested in doing something ranger-led while we were here, so this was the day to do it.

My first time to Sun Point

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The boat tour and guided hike were nice - it was my first time hiking through the Reynolds burn area, which is really filling in with lots of growth now.

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There were a good number of people at St. Mary Falls, but no more than I'm used to seeing mid-day. We left the ranger and continued on to Virginia Falls. We had the upper viewpoint all to ourselves for a few moments, and were able to find a quiet spot for lunch.

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We easily caught the 3pm return boat, and were able to check in to our room at Rising Sun and eat an early dinner, before heading back up to Logan Pass. The parking lot at 5:30 pm was still far from empty, but we easily found a spot. We hiked up to the Hidden Lake Overlook, meeting lots of goats along the way. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately since we didn't have the time?) the trail down to the lake was closed for the annual spawning/bears, so another trip has passed by with me not making it to the lake.

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Friday

In terms of crowds, we went the polar opposite direction today, hiking to Lee Ridge. Using several references (including posts here), I easily found the Lee Ridge trailhead - and parked just beyond it at the '1 mile to Canada' sign. It helped that there were several cars already parked there - they were still dewey, so I assume they were backpackers. We saw a grand total of 2 other people on the trail that day, and we didn't see them until late in the afternoon when we were headed back. We appeared to be the only dayhikers there.

The trail is completely in the trees for the first 4.6+ miles. Some of the path is overgrown, the rest is just narrow. I was leading the hike in, and used my poles as defense against the 1 MILLION SPIDER WEBS that assaulted me. The price you pay for an empty trail.

We stopped for a break at mile 4.4 (just couldn't make it any further waiting for the trees to end), where there was a slight view of Chief Mountain. We were pretty happy when we finally emerged to some views. I took surprisingly few pictures - it was just hard to capture the landscape.

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The hike up to the top gets pretty steep - I kept thinking the next small hill would have the trail junction sign, but the hills kept coming - yes the trail really does go allll the way to the top. Enjoyed the view and watching this marmot during another break.

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Went a little further towards Gable Pass before turning around and heading back.

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Re: July 2017 - Five years and counting!

Postby toddnick » Mon Aug 07, 2017 4:55 am

Great so far!!!

Lee Ridge has some great views the last few miles, I have it back on the agenda for September.

Keep it coming...

:arrow: :arrow: :arrow: :arrow: :arrow:
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Re: July 2017 - Five years and counting!

Postby al_in_al » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:26 pm

I forgot about dinner - after finishing Lee Ridge, my intention was to stop at Two Sisters for dinner (but mostly for a huckleberry milkshake dessert). Unfortunately, the hike had taken longer than expected, and we arrived right in the middle of the dinner rush. Instead of waiting, we ended up at Rising Sun Pizza, where we were able to get a seat immediately. We had pizza, wings, and beer, and it all hit the spot.

Saturday

We had a room at Granite Park chalet tonight, so no choice but to get up early to hike! Or to drive... I had reserved the 7:30 am hiker shuttle from Swiftcurrent, so we checked out of Rising Sun at 6 am and drove to Many Glacier. We had time for breakfast at 'Nell's before the shuttle arrived (it showed up around 7:20, but made an employee run first, so it was probably 7:40 before we were on our way, but then we stopped at Many Glacier too...). We didn't have to wait too long at St. Mary - after a bathroom break and putting on a layer of sunscreen, we were all on a shuttle.

We started the Highline at 9:31 am. Later than I would have liked, but we actually hit it during a lull and had a fairly uncrowded trail until everyone converged at Haystack, it seemed. It was nice and cool on the shaded portion of the trail in the morning - the afternoon was pretty brutally hot.

Apparently all I took was pictures of the beargrass. There were some nice blooms between Haystack and the chalet.

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I did the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail for the first time, while R sat it out at the trail junction. He was able to pass some of the time watching bears playing down in a nearby valley that another waiting hiker had spotted for us. It took me 45 minutes to get to the top (pretty tough going), so I only spent 15 minutes enjoying the view. Apparently, I didn't go all the way to the top, but I think I enjoyed a nice spot, and didn't see or hear anyone for my 15 minutes, which made me pretty happy.

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We reached the chalet around 4:15, and made a quick run to grab water so I could finally get out of my boots! We signed up for an early cooking time to boil water for rehydrated beef stew and mashed potatoes, and reformulated our plan for the rest of our trip (to avoid a mutiny by R). After dinner we retired to the Room 1 "balcony" to enjoy the mini bottles of North Fork whiskey we packed in. After the coffee hour talk and sunset, we were ready for bed.

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Sunday

In the morning I tried to get a few sunrise pictures, and we took our time eating breakfast and packing up.

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We headed up towards Swiftcurrent Pass a little after 8 am.

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My original plan called for hiking to Swiftcurrent Lookout, pretty much my whole reason for booking a night at the chalet. But R was out, and we talked about him heading out later and meeting me at the trail junction, but it made me too nervous to have him out there without bear spray, since there wouldn't be many people out on the trail with him. And I'm a wimp and didn't want to add the extra miles to pick him up at the chalet after (the heat was getting to me). So I skipped it. Someday I'll get there.

R really enjoyed the hike down to Many Glacier, and I think he considers the Swiftcurrent Pass trail his favorite in the park so far. He liked seeing the glacier and watching the lakes. I enjoyed all the waterfalls. We saw 5 people headed up (and leapfrogged 3 backpackers on the way down a little bit), so the morning was pretty uncrowded. Unfortunately 2 of those people were on the trail by mistake - the woman of the couple asked if she was almost at the lake. What lake? You passed them all --- Iceberg Lake! I had to convince her that she was on the wrong trail, and told her there was a nice viewpoint just up the trail, but she should turn around after that. She walked away a little miffed saying there should have been a sign at the trailhead...

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We took a short rest at Bullhead Lake, and were the first to get to a nice spot, but were soon bombarded by a group of people getting in to swim. It was super crowded at the lake, and on the remainder of the trail, so we tried to power through it. Again, it was really hot on the trail in the afternoon.

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Back at Swiftcurrent, we stopped for soft serve ice cream at the camp store (disappointing), before heading over to Many Glacier where we had a balcony room for the night. I was worried about finding a parking spot mid-afternoon at the hotel, given the overcrowding issues, but there were a few open spots in the lot. Luckily we were able to check in early, just before 2:00. At first I was a little disappointed that the balcony was small and on the side of the building instead of the back, but after taking time to relax and enjoy the view, I decided it was pretty darn perfect.

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After some much-needed showers, we headed down for an early dinner in the lounge. Our server was terrible and likely had no idea we were her table, but we got water while we waited (from a busboy?) and our eventual food was pretty good. We wandered around and relaxed for the rest of the evening, and watched sunset from the balcony. I got up in the middle of the night to see the stars and try to photograph them (I think this shot looked better before imgur did something to it).

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Re: July 2017 - Five years and counting!

Postby PeteE » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:41 pm

Nice report al_in_al!
I liked your pics, especially the Grinnell Overlook pic and the chalet with Heaven's Peak.
You'll have "R" a Glacier Fan in no time 8)

pete :wink:
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Re: July 2017 - Five years and counting!

Postby al_in_al » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:01 pm

Monday

We had a pretty lazy day. Up for the breakfast buffet (I had to ask them to please put out the museli!) - early enough to get a prime window seat because I woke up starving - and then we just lounged in the room for a while, looking out the window. I watched the "antics" of people getting on the early boat tour (it was actually pretty tame - no one even seemed to complain about not making it off the waitlist and on to the boat). We checked out around 10 am and headed to Two Medicine.

Last view from the balcony. It just occurred to me that we never actually went down to the lake.

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I wasn't planning on hitting Two Medicine on this trip, but after looking at a guidebook at the chalet, it's where R decided he wanted to go on our rest day. When I told him we'd have to eat dinner at Serrano's (Mexican is his favorite cuisine), it sealed the deal. We had a small lunch at the camp store grill, walked around the lake a little, visited Running Eagle Falls (much less water than I expected this time of year!), and stopped by Glacier Park Lodge and the gas station to kill some time. The parking lot at Two Medicine was more crowded than I had ever seen it (we parked easily in the overflow area), but there didn't seem to be more people around, so maybe they were all out on trails.

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We were still super early for dinner, and waited a full 45 minutes for Serrano's to open, but luckily it was worth the wait. We were also ready to put our order in immediately, so we got our food pretty quickly. After dinner, we took Hwy 2 / 464 back to Many Glacier, my first time on that route. R loved seeing the plains. When we got back, we checked in to Swiftcurrent and headed out to Fishercap Lake to look for moose. And happened to find one.

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This was my first time staying in a cabin at Swiftcurrent, and it was interesting. It was an historic cabin with double bed and bathroom. What I didn't realize was that the bathroom "pieces" were in the living room, separated by curtains instead of doors. It did not afford much privacy. It was a shock at the beginning, but ultimately we got used to it. Still, I much prefer the motor inn rooms, and those would be my choice when traveling with someone else. Even though the cabin was probably larger, things were awkwardly arranged so it felt like there wasn't any room.

Tuesday

Last day, and potentially my favorite. After having a rest day, R was up for another hike! And so we headed out for Cracker Lake, an instant favorite of mine the first time I did it. I really like this trail. Even the horse poop doesn't bother me. We had hiked the Peekaboo Loop in Bryce 2 months ago, a horse trail that was pretty bad. This one is so much nicer in comparison.

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Early on the trail we turned around and saw this guy following us. We tried to let him pass, but he kept the required 75 ft distance. He just kept looking around around corners with his head bent, wondering why we were on his trail. Eventually we found a small rock slope to get up on, and of course he lept off the trail at a completely different spot.

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It was interesting how the Highline Trail had seemed much harder than I remembered, and Cracker Lake seemed pretty easy. It was a cooler day overall, and maybe that was the difference. The trail was way less crowded than I had anticipated. Only 2 people passed us going in the same direction (while we were taking a break at the water crossing), and 2 in the opposite direction (a solo backpacker and a really early dayhiker). More people arrived as we were hanging out, and we passed a few groups on the hike out as well.

Reflections on the lake when we first got there.

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My first time at the head of the lake. Last time I just hung out on the rock outcropping.

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R scoffed a little when I told him I wanted to spend 2 hours at the lake. But we easily filled the time there, and he enjoyed that he got to enjoy the destination.

We completely avoided meeting any horses on the trail by getting out early, and hanging out at the lake until the horse tour got there.

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The hike back was uneventful. After showers and an early dinner at 'Nell's (enjoyed our meals and got pretty good service before the crowds hit), we bought some beer and canned wine (it was actually pretty good) from the camp store and drove over to Many Glacier to relax on the back porch and enjoy an interesting sunset. We had no problems finding a parking spot or getting a seat outside. There was a grizzly on the hillside, and we had a lot of fun tracking it and trying to explain to other people where it was.

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Wednesday

As is usually my good luck, there was "terrible" weather on our last morning in the park. It had rained overnight, and there were lots of low clouds. I was glad I hadn't made plans for sunrise. We had a 12:30 flight out of Kalispell, so we checked out early and started the drive. We had breakfast at Glacier's Edge Cafe - I usually love their burritos, but tried their pancakes this time (really good, as I had heard). We headed across the Going-to-the-Sun Rd, with very limited views on the east side. Logan Pass was completely cloud covered, and STILL the parking lot was full (sometime between 9-9:30)! That was probably the craziest "crowded" moment I saw in the park this year. I did one loop of the lot because I couldn't believe it, and there were even people circling to find a spot. Not too far down from the pass, the clouds cleared up a little and there were pretty views along the drive (unfortunately I didn't take any pictures). Flight home was uneventful.

I'm sure I'll visit the park again next year, but I haven't decided when yet.
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