A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

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here-we-go
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A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Hi there. I just looked it up and I joined this board in 2008 (pardon the stupid name, my real name is Eileen :) ). I suppose I joined after our family trip to Yellowstone/GTNP in 2007, thinking this would be our next "big" trip. Well as it turned out, it took a few years. ;) . My husband and I actually took trips to Yosemite/Big Sur and back to Yellowstone/GTNP for our first big "sans kids" trips and Glacier got on the slate again this year, finally. I can't thank the posters here enough for sharing their knowledge and experience. It's immensely helpful.

So here goes. I'm going to start at the beginning even though we don't get to Glacier until Day 2. I guess you never know what might be helpful to someone, even in regard to transportation. Which brings us to Day 1:

Friday 8/4:

PLAN: Travel from Raleigh to Spokane on Southwest, Arrive at Midnight PDT, stay at Spokane Airport Ramada

(side note: after looking and looking at airfare to Kalispell, someone on Trip Advisor pointed out that airfare and car rentals were cheaper to Spokane. Our flights were $384 compared to high $600s to Kalispell and the flights STILL didn't get us into Kalispell until very late on Saturday or required a full day of travel on Friday. We opted to go with SW/Spokane and our rental car was a fair amount cheaper too. We DID upgrade to "early bird check-in" so we could get decent boarding positions and that helped given that we'd be at Sperry when it was time to "check in" for our return flight. I think it was $30/ticket and WORTH IT)

ACTUAL:

Off we went to the airport around 4:30pm for our 6:20pm flight to Spokane with a layover in Denver (traveling Southwest Air). We kicked off our vacation with a beer at bar after checking our luggage and getting thru security. We noticed lots of flight delays but that's not surprising for later afternoon flights in the summer.

Ours was originally not delayed but soon became so. While we waited I checked the status of our DEN-> Spokane flight and realized that was delayed already as well so we had no concerns about missing connections.

During our flight west, it seemed like the plane slowed just after passing over Kansas City (I love how you can use your Google Maps to find where you are even in Airplane Mode) and then we realized the sunset was on the other side of the plane and then back to "correct" side. Hmmmmm. A bit later it seemed to happen again (this time it was the moon).

Here's our flight path via Flight Aware.

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

Anyway -- a LONG flight made longer by a ground stop in Denver due to storms and we arrived in Denver around 11pm (I think) and you'd have thought it was 5pm as crowded as it was. Barely able to get "dinner" before the last place serving food closed. We didn't take off until 1am, didn't get into Spokane until 2am local time, didn't get into our room at the Ramada until 3am local time -- which was 6 AM Raleigh time. Meaning we'd been up for 24 hours! Perhaps this Spokane idea wasn't so great.

We fell asleep immediately and I set my alarm for 10am local time just in case we "overslept" (ha).

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by toddnick »

Great start....looking forward to more!!!

Especially the Sperry "adventure"...

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

And I messed up in putting this in the wrong forum. If someone could move to Trip Reports, that would be awesome!

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by dpratt »

here-we-go wrote:And I messed up in putting this in the wrong forum. If someone could move to Trip Reports, that would be awesome!
:wink: Done.

Looking forward to the rest of the report.

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Thanks for the forum move!!! :)

So, on to Day 2:

Saturday 8/5:

PLAN: Travel from Spokane Ramada to Village Inn at Apgar, take shuttle to Avalanche Lake trailhead and get in a hike

ACTUAL:

Despite our concern we might sleep in, we woke up around 6:30am local time and decided to start our day. Ate the free breakfast at the hotel and then packed up and moved on.

(A note about the Ramada at the Spokane Airport. It's a great place if you are flying in/out of Spokane very late/early and it really IS walking distance as advertised. The rooms are perfectly fine/nice, though there seemed to be construction on the stairwells and if there was elevators no one pointed them out to us (it's only 2 stories). We didn't mind the stairs obviously, but we had big suitcases and I'm sure we made more noise than one would like at 3am.)

We stopped at the Super Walmart in Spokane Valley at which point I realized I didn't have my glasses. I had my Rx sunglasses (actually 2 pairs) but couldn't find my glasses. I called the hotel front desk who said they didn't have them, they transferred me to the restaurant to see if they had them but I had to call back after they checked. So we picked up our sandwich supplies, some snacks, sodas, and a small cooler and then I called back. Still no one had seen my glasses.

We decided to head back to the hotel so we could check the hotel room. I hated wasting time doing this, but I really didn't want to go a week w/o glasses even though I'm just slightly near sighted (and for the first time ever, I didn't travel with a back up pair or contacts). Our key worked on the room even though the maid he already cleaned it. No glasses. Back to the restaurant and the desk...no glasses. I was baffled as I KNEW I'd worn my glasses from the airport and we hadn't gone anywhere else.

A little dejected, we headed out again and I decided to try a Hail Mary and call my eye Dr network and see if they could send my contact Rx to a Vision Center in Kalispell. It took a few calls and a very determined lady in Raleigh and I had 2 pairs of contacts waiting for me at Lenscrafters in Kalispell (free to boot!). More time spent detouring but I had 2 pairs of contacts to wear on cloudy days or for stargazing.

After all our detours, we headed east -- the whole way smokey (it was smokey in Spokane as we landed as well and you could smell the smoke). The drive seemed long, but I'm sure that's because we were lacking sleep, but we managed just fine and enjoyed driving along places we'd never been before. We arrived at the Village Inn much later than planned and we opted to stay put enjoying the view (we stopped at the West Glacier store and got bear spray). We decided to ditch the idea of hiking to Avalanche lake because we had far less time and we wanted to just relax and enjoy the view from the Inn since we were only there for 1 night.

edit: Oh, I forgot we stopped at Kalispell Brewing and got a "sampler" (I think that's what they called it, locally they call them "flights" when you get small samples of various beers). We picked up a Tshirt for our college age son (we have come to getting him brewery Ts from our travels). It was a nice little stop because it seemed like we'd been "traveling" for 24 hours at this point and hadn't really done anything vacation-like.

We dined at Eddie's, my husband Gregg fished in the outlet creek, we played Farkle on the table/chairs outside our room and went back to Eddie's for a late dessert before calling it a night after a long day. We slept well. It was a lovely evening and the last one w/o a hike for the rest of the trip.

View from outside our 2nd floor room, it was a bit windy but lovely.


ImageLakeMcDonald by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Day 3

Sunday 8/6:

PLAN: Travel from Village Inn to Swiftfurrent Cabin over GTTSR, stopping wherever we wanted, and making the short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook.

ACTUAL:

Woke up before 6am, opened the curtains to see the lovely view outside our window. I recommend staying at the Village Inn if you are coming to the Park from the West. Just a perfect place to start your Glacier experience.

ImageAPGAR by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We got up, organized things, then took a walk along the shore taking photos and enjoying the quiet morning. Breakfast was a granola bar. I think we headed out just before 7am and took our time getting to Logan Pass around 8am -- able to find a spot easily.

We took our walk out to the Overlook taking our time and oohing/aahing along the way. The macro and micro visual feast is great. Dramatic large peaks and sweeping views and lovely delicate flowers at your feet. Perfect. We saw a mama/baby goat up on the hillside, but later got treated to one walking towards us on the path. Even at 8:15am, the trail was fairly busy with people. Crowded at the Overlook but waited our turn for a spot along the railing before heading back and stopping in the Visitor's center briefly. The lot was full when we made it back to our car and a family lurked (after asking nicely) for our spot. I couldn't believe how many cars and people were pulled over and walking up to the visitor center as we left Logan Pass.

ImageGoat_Hidden_Lake by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

ImageHidden_Lake by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

Made our way down the East side, again stopping wherever we liked and got to the visitor center before we knew it. Seeing there were no picnic tables, we backtracked to the Rising Sun picnic area and had our lunch while watching the folks who had biked over from the West side (as part of the Backroads Travel group -- we saw them every day).

We made stops in Rising Sun and St Mary to try to find contact solution and lens case (was dumb to not get them from Lenscrafters). Found the solution, and a staffer in RS suggested I get condiment containers with lids from a restaurant if I couldn't find anything else...brilliant!

We got to Swiftcurrent and were lucky that our cabin was ready, avoiding a full parking lot so we could just park at our Cabin. We took a brief nap and then walked down to the MG Hotel for a beer on the deck and a look around (we'd be staying there in 2 nights). The amount of cars along the road between MG hotel and Swiftcurrent convinced us that walking was the only choice. Also checked in with the Marina staff to find out what time to be at the dock and where to park for the guided Grinnell Glacier hike the next morning.

We made our way back to the Cabin and then decided to walk down to Fishercap Lake -- but who did I see in the Parking Lot? Pete!! I called out and we had a really nice chat with him and then he, already having hiked 14+ miles, agreed to walk down to the the lake with us, suggesting that it was probably too early (he was right) for Moose. (We had asked someone at the desk what time was "the best" and she tried to convince us "anytime" -- guess they aren't in the prediction business). It was nice to get a visit in with Pete, I've enjoyed his posts so much! We said our goodbyes and then went back to our cabin for a bit (pulled our chairs outside).

iphone photo:
ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr
Imagesc_cabin by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

Later went back down to the lake and enjoyed seeing a cow moose deep in the water for a bit.

Imagemoose_fishercap by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We had a late dinner at Nell's so had no wait for a table. Back to the cabin for the night.

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by toddnick »

Loving the report as I count down the days (currently down to eight) until my 16 night stay...

I love driving across the GTTS road after arriving at the airport and then arriving at my favorite place, Many Glacier... I spend the first several nights and last several nights there every year...with 5 or 6 nights in the middle of the trip at Sperry Chalet or Apgar or Bowman Lake...

Must have been a special day doing that journey for the first time...

Pete always turns up when you least expect it...but it is always a good time seeing him...

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Day 4:

Monday 8/7:

PLAN: Take the Ranger guided hike to Grinnell Glacier


ACTUAL:

We also had to switch cabins since I'd made a mistake on my original reservation and had to grab another room when I figured it out. Anyway, we had to move our car anyway, so we just drove down to the hotel. After dragging our suitcases into the Ramada in Spokane and then the Village Inn, we decided at Swifcurrent that we'd just grab what we needed from the suitcases and leave them in the trunk. We didn't take them out again until we were back at the Ramada and had to re-organize in order to check them for the flight home.

Today went as planned. We grabbed breakfast at Nells (it was fine) and headed over to the Hotel. We enjoyed Diane as our Ranger for the guided hike. It was a sunny day with no clouds (over us anyway) so I quickly realized we probably needed to monitor our water situation. I did have a Sawyer Mini, but was unsure of where we'd be able to filter (the pouch is better with running water/streams). We stopped at the benches for our lunch and got to see Big Horns up on the mountainside. That was exciting as I'd not seen males before. Wish they where closer, but we had good binoculars. The glacier area is massive and we really were in awe. I have to admit that a lot of the geology talk went over my head (or maybe I was just enjoying the view while catching my breath), but her story about the day Al Gore came to the park and how hot it was and who she'd hiked with (press with HUGE early 90s cameras) was very enjoyable.

Imagemorningeagle by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

iphone pano
ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

The group splits up on the way down and we did stop to fill our sawyer pouch (there was a bit of a back up for this stream coming thru the rocks and they were filtering into many bottles, so we just filled ours and put the lid on it and then just drank thru the filter when we ran out of everything else). On the way down we were alerted by some other hikers that there was a bull moose below the trail, so we got to watch him for awhile. And when he decided to take off, he moved QUICK, almost leaping over deep brush. Amazing to watch something that big move so quickly. Another checkmark on the list of things we hoped to see.



We got back to the boat dock around 3:15 or so and couldn't fit on the 3:45 boat. With the heat and how we felt we just hung out until the 4:15 ride for the guided trip hikers. Most of the people on our hike were out of water at this point. Lots of tired folks, us included. :)

It began to thunder (in the distance) and ended up raining on our crossing of Swiftcurrent. There was a cow moose with baby across from the hotel so we swung by her on the way back (didn't see the baby). There were folks out in canoes/kayaks who got pelted by the brief downpour.

ImageMoose by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

I'll say this. We did not feel great back at our cabin. I'm sure it was dehydration in hindsight, but at the time, I was questioning my fitness level for what we had planned for the week. My feet were killing me and I just felt crappy. Both of us did. We thought about changing our Iceberg hike the next day to something smaller in length. The wait at Nell's was insane so we just ordered a Pizza to go (I'm not picky but it was pretty poor). We grabbed a few beers from the store and I finished one when the pizza arrived. I went to the recycle trash can and proceeded to drop my FULL beer into it. I took that as a sign I needed to just stick with water! :-) It ended up pouring rain for awhile and we just hung out at the cabin, watched something I'd downloaded on our iPad (had to use the close captioning since the rain was so loud) and called it a night.

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by Jay w »

Great moose photo and a great report so far. Hope the glasses show up kind of like Pete.

Jay
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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Day 5:

Tuesday 8/8:

PLAN: Iceberg Lake hike and relocate to Many Glacier Hotel


ACTUAL:

Today also went as planned. We got up and took a walk down to Fishercap Lake around 7:30am or so to see how we felt. We felt MUCH better than expected but were still unsure what we should choose to do. We had Fishercap lake to ourselves (surprisingly) and the cow Moose noticed us and then looked further down the shore. We wondered if there was a calf but didn't notice one...at first. After watching mama for a bit, we walked down the shore to the next path up to the main trail and quickly noticed the calf about 50 yards further down the shore, but up in the trees. We retreated to our original spot but the calf was keeping an eye on us. S/he walked down to the water's edge. It was as if s/he wanted Mama to do something about these observers, but she didn't seem to care. We left them alone and made our way to breakfast.

Terrible iphone4 photo because I said "I'm not taking anything down because that'll increase our odds of seeing something to capture". It worked. :)

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We decided to go ahead with the Iceberg hike and boy am I so glad we did. The trail is easy and the day was a little cloudy so it wasn't nearly has hot/tiring as the previous day (and no water issues). I opted to lighten my load and leave my DSLR behind and just take my iphone. It was also 'cloudy' enough (although I wouldn't call it a cloudy day) that I wore my contacts all day w/o swapping them out to put on my Rx sunglasses.

Iceberg lake was gorgeous! We missed any swimmers (though someone said that there had been swimmers earlier and everyone got nervous because the guys had decided to swim out to a far 'berg and as they got farther and farther they got slower and slower -- and the observers knew they wouldn't/couldn't risk going in to help -- but crisis was averted when no assistance was needed). We did walk out into the lake to say we did and I broke off a chunk of ice so G could ice his knee (which was holding up pretty well so far).

iPhone SE photo
ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

Perhaps it was just the hiking conditions, but we both loved Iceberg Lake over Grinnell (if we HAD to choose only 1 hike). The last mile before the Lake is gorgeous on its own. We noticed so many people returning from the lake in that last mile or so and they were all bundled up. We finally asked someone and they said it was much cooler at the lake. I think perhaps the sun came out before we got there because we were baffled at how we didn't even think about adding a layer to our short sleeves. I guess conditions change rapidly.

We made it back, moved our car from the Swiftcurrent lot over to MG Hotel and checked in. We had a Lake side room with a balcony and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon/evening. I think I made 2 trips back to the car for forgotten things on this trip. That walk to the parking lot is no fun when you're already tired, LOL.

iPhone SE photo
ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We split a burger from the Bar and I realized I'd had a few too many glasses of wine on the balcony so I powered down glasses and glasses of water before bed. (My personal crisis, a hangover, avoided).

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Day 6:

Wednesday 8/9:

PLAN: Drive back over GTTSR to Lake McDonald, hike up to Sperry Chalet via Sperry Trail


ACTUAL:

Another day as planned, we're on a roll (after our dehydrated freak-out on Monday night)

Got up and out early as we had to drive over GTTSR and make the hike up to Sperry. We did stop in St Mary to take/make a few phone calls, and then ate breakfast in Rising Sun (good). We got on the trail later than planned but I was trying not to fixate on those kinds of things. We waited until we got the Lake McDonald parking to "reorganize" and pack our backpacks for the 2 nights at Sperry. Despite making a list on the drive over, I/we managed to forget a few things (like a clean shirt...headlamps...ugh). I think we left around 10:30?

Anyway, that hike is no joke at first (and last). The first hikers coming down from the Chalet said it was that steep the whole way (we encountered them in our first mile I think). What? I have no idea why they'd say such a thing because it seriously bummed us out until another guy said we'd catch a break in the middle before the switchbacks at the top.

We had 2 runners pass us. One was a young lady who had bear spray...in the back of her hydration pack, somewhere she could not reach it w/o taking off the pack. We encountered the guy at Sperry having pie before continuing on Gunsight, and I guess the young lady continued on Gunsight Pass before we made it up.

It was another hot, cloudless day, so that upper part really kicked our butts. We were carrying too much (we were nervous about water so had more than enough, and also each had 1.5 L of wine) -- I put my Canon DSLR in my pack with an extra lens and G had some heavy binoculars. We also had extra jackets we could have done w/o (but....we were prepared)!

We passed 2 families (1 family of backpackers with HUGE packs) and we knew they were struggling. I honestly think one part of a different group must have turned around because we never saw them again and they only had 1 bladder between the 2 of them. They were quite heavyset -- just felt bad for them. Never saw them again. I'm wondering if this was a "day hike" for that group and boy if it was, what a bad choice. The family of backpackers took 2 hours to go the final mile.

We stopped for lunch at some point in a shady spot and got to the chalet around 3 I think?, "checked in", had the lemonade and then laid down in our cool room for a little nap. We ended up at the "2 person table" for dinner and in hindsight that kind of hinders the uniqueness of Sperry. (We have stayed at Mt Leconte Lodge in the Smokies, which is the same concept so we expected to be with other hikers at dinner.) We'd been with each other 24/7 since we arrived and we only had ourselves to talk to at that point, LOL. I'm as chatty as they come, but ours was the quietest table by far. During the intros, one of the other guests were a couple taking a 10-week honeymoon across the US in their pop-up trailer. There weren't a ton of people outside after dinner (or before dinner for that matter), so we enjoyed a few glasses of wine and called it a night.

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We had VERY loud people across the hall from us (2 couples in one room). They didn't even attempt to whisper, just chatting it up for quite awhile before they finally quieted down.

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Day 7

Thursday 8/10:

PLAN: Hike up to Comeau Pass, spend 2nd night at Sperry

PART I


ACTUAL:

Up early (does anyone "sleep in" at Sperry?) and at breakfast with everyone else. People had suggested we get an EARLY start to hike up towards Sperry Glacier, so we decided to take their advice.

I have to admit, I was a little leery of the trail up to Comeau Pass. Since you can see it, it looked to me like a goat trail. A lady convinced me before dinner yesterday that she was older and less fit than me with a healthy fear of ledges and she did fine (after being convinced), so off we went. It was a LOVELY hike! Shortly after we started to ascend (just out of the woods near the Sperry Chalet junction) we saw 2 deer bucks with big racks. As we watched them from above, one walked into the woods....and then came CHARGING out. We were so curious about what had him spooked so we waited to see if a bear came out, but nope. The deer didn't move THAT far away, so we figured they'd have moved father away if it was a threat. They ended up walking up the trail and headed toward the chalet.

Farther up, we encountered a goat at a blind turn (better than a bear) and we backed down but they went over the side anyway.

all iphone photos
ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We did not go thru the steps at Comeau Pass, but found a nice rock to sit on next to Akaiyan Lake (?) and enjoyed a snack and the total quiet (once above the water falls it was nearly silent). That was the least amount of people we'd seen on our hiking so far. I think we saw none on the way up, then a family of 3 hiked past as we enjoyed our rock time, then a man hiked down. So it was a bit of a change of pace (literally) that we really enjoyed. G was a little nervous of the Sperry Trail downhill on his knee the next day so we decided to not go further and I was a little leery of the gathering clouds. We passed maybe 5 people on the way down (they going up). On the way down while we were still near the lakes, we passed another small goat and it was so quiet, we could hear the little noises he was making. Very cool.


ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

It was a bit overcast the whole morning but we were also shaded for part of the hike, so it did not seem at all too hot. It really shows how the weather conditions can make a big difference as to how you view a hiking experience. Once again I lightened my load, in fact I didn't even take a pack. We just put our lunch/snacks and water in G's pack. That might make a difference too, lol.

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr


It did start to rain (big cold drops) on us on the way down, and of course, our rain jackets were back at the Chalet, but it never poured and we were dry for the most part when we got back.

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We had our lunches back in the dining room (it seemed silly they charged us for lemonade, but whatever), and really enjoyed a quiet afternoon watching people arrive or pass thru.

We did have one "complaint" or question. Why do they not have chairs of any sort to use outside? We only had 1 director's chair in our room and it just seems strange to not have something other than steps or rocks to sit on. Is that just us? Are we just old folks who don't do well rocks or concrete steps after a week of hiking?

Anyway - G went down to ask if he could take a folding chair from the dining room (nope) but someone said there was a director's chair on the dining room deck that he could take up -- so he did. We used the 2 chairs happily that afternoon. Given that we were back from our hiking by early afternoon, it would have been a LONG afternoon w/o chairs imo.

We had a more festive dinner this evening as we were better rested and were seated with another couple. They were from Cincinnati and we spent a lot of time talking College Football with them. Lovely folks who were making their 2nd trip to Sperry and had arrived that day (for 2 nights).

I'll stop here for this day, as the next comments are kind of my stream of consciousness (and recollection) concerning the storm/lightning/fire.
Last edited by here-we-go on Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Day 7 Continued

Thursday 8/10:

PART II


Both days we found the dining room pretty hot, but I did notice this evening that it was getting breezy and cooler as dinner progressed. By the time dinner was over at the end of the introductions, the Manager mentioned the arriving storm and how we welcome rain (but not lightning). We left thinking we'd go get our chairs and enjoy the evening but it was clear a thunderstorm was imminent. Some of us just stood in the "lobby" of the chalet and watched the raging storm for awhile. Eventually G and I went to our room and played a game of Farkle. The lightning and thunder were very close at times and the wind was crazy (it blew our window open). By the time we were done playing, the rain and wind had finally subsided and the thunder was further away.

We walked outside, G going to the right, me going to the left to peek around the building to make sure the "storm" was far enough away for my liking. When I turned back toward the view, I noticed small puffs of "clouds". And I thought -- but those have a black tinge. So I turned to G (who was further away) and said "wait, is that smoke?" and he said "that's what we were all just thinking". And then we all stood there wondering. Then the mgr came up from the dining room to confirm that the park service had confirmed a fire in their drainage. We were warned that Sperry trail was likely not an option the next day and that the plan was to evacuate everyone over Gunsight the next morning. If someone did not believe they could make the hike, they were working on "other evacuation methods".

Everyone was very calm, but I imagine everyone was freaking out a bit under the surface (guests and staff). The next hour or so was just a series of "what did you hear?" "what do you think?" between guests and staff. People that were in the dining room following dinner (reading, playing games) said when the Mgr made some sort of motion or word to the staff (playing cards) that they moved so fast that one of them knocked over a chair and they thought someone must be hurt. Then they heard them say "fire".

We heard people making noise for bears on the trail below and later started observing their headlamps. It turns out they were backpackers who were hiking up and had been on the trail during the storm and were making their way up. They ended up camping near the bathrooms (with permission) after finally making it up.

There were 2 couples camping in the campground, 1 was the newlyweds who'd joined us for dinner, but the other couple rode the storm out in their tent. They came down after it was over and said it was terrifying -- I believe it.

A little later, we were told to ready our gear and fill our water bottles in case something changed, but the Park service felt we were safe in the Chalet. They confirmed we would have breakfast and bag lunches per usual in the morning (we were down to like 2 granola bars, so getting lunch was key for us). During one of the chats with the Mgr, the Naturalist there for the week suggested that people get in groups to hike out to help/encourage each other etc and the Mgr agreed.

We could also see someone (or a headlamp anyway) up on Lincoln Peak. They were part of the trail crew and went up to see if they could see the fire better.

By 1030 most people were in their rooms, uneasy about the "glow" over the ridge. After a group of 4 sisters and their nervous laughter died down, the place was SILENT. No talking, no snoring, nothing. It was literally silent for a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG time. I suspect it may have been the quietest Sperry Chalet has ever been. Everyone in bed, no one sleeping (or snoring). I slept in clothes because I didn't want to have to get dressed if something changed (and used the 'if I prepare, nothing will happen' mindset). I actually felt a little comfort when I heard the first snores, like "we can do this thing called sleep". We all joked the next day that whenever someone got up for the bathroom during the night, we wondered if it was the staff coming to wake us up to get moving.

I eventually did go to sleep, but I think I saw 1:15 on my watch before finally actually sleeping. Every time I woke or stirred, I made sure to note if it was windy or not, because I knew wind would be bad, but it was always very still thankfully.


Edit: I thought of another anecdote. While it was finally getting dark and several of us were standing outside along the railing looking at the "glow" pulse darker/brighter/darker/brighter, the "ranger" (I was later told he's not the ranger but more of a maintenance guy that works with the water, whatever that means) came walking by from the direction of the campground, he didn't even stop but said "if any of you wake up and see flames, feel free to knock on my door". We were all like "whaaaaa?" It was such a blasé comment, he didn't stop walking until someone asked him a followup question. It just seemed...weird. Like we had no idea who was watching the fire, what the means of formal communication to him were, and the only person wearing a uniform (again, didn't know his role at the time, but he LOOKED like a ranger) sounded like he was going to bed.
Last edited by here-we-go on Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Jay w
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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by Jay w »

Quite the story. I can imagine the mood was quite tense as compared to the normal "I'm having the time of my life" kind of mood. Staff freaked out...why yes.

I look forward to hearing about the hike out.

Jay
The NSA...the only people in the government who listen.

here-we-go
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Re: A First Timer's Trip, August 4-12

Post by here-we-go »

Day 8:

Friday, 8/11:

PLAN: Hike down Sperry Trail to car at Lake McDonald Lodge, drive to Spokane, shower and dinner and early to bed since our flight was at 6am

ACTUAL: NOT ANYTHING CLOSE TO THE PLAN :)


Morning found the view much clearer than the prior night but our hopes were quickly dashed that there was any chance of getting out on the Sperry Trail. I was surprised that not EVERYONE was at breakfast at 7am sharp, but I think most people were there. The manager spoke as everyone ate and confirmed that Sperry trail was closed, but that if people wanted to stay an extra night (to rest or wait out another mean of evac) we could. She also announced that the Naturalist and her family were going to meet and leave from the dining room at 8:30am if you wanted to hike with a group. We were asked to sign out and guess what time we'd be at Logan Pass.

It was while waiting for our food that I stepped out on the porch of the dining room (someone told me you could get cell service there) and decided to look here, at the forum. Toddnick had already posted about the fire and posted the trail status. I was confused for a minute (about Gunsight being closed) but there was a kitchen guy out there and he quickly explained that was just for incoming hikers, which made sense as far as public postings.

During and after breakfast we compared notes with people and got more feedback about the Gunsight trail and even took a photo of a map that someone had (not that you really need one, but it was nice to have). As we were headed back to the room to gather our things, we passed the "Ranger" who said to a few of us "I'm going to give an update at 8am". We all were like "the manager already did, most people are getting ready to hike". We didn't bother to go back to hear his information, thinking there wasn't much he could add. Again, why did he wait until 8am to update guests when breakfast started at 7? (Personally, I would have been happy if they'd moved breakfast back 30 minutes or an hour to give people an earlier start, but no one asked me.)

We were on the trail toward Lake Ellen Wilson by 8am. A few couples were out in front and we never saw them again. It was shady/cloudy between Sperry and Gunsight Pass and we actually stopped near the campground to put our light jackets back on because it was super windy and cool. Two groups (a couple and a family) caught up to us on the climb up gunsight pass and it was actually nice to have some camaraderie. We leapfrogged them back and forth a few more times. The family of 5 (3 teens) had just hiked in the prior day over Gunsight, so they were doing that hike 2 days in a row. We actually like having them ahead of us as the teens did a great job of yelling for bears.

It was about 7 hours of hiking before we emerged on GTTSR. The only time I was down was when we popped out at the parking area NEXT to the Jackson Glacier Overlook and I didn't realize the shuttle stops were just up the road. I thought we'd somehow made a wrong turn and came out in the wrong place. The idea of walking back down that hill and back to the trail was depressing. Some kind folks pointed out it was just up the road. :)

It's too bad we weren't taking this hike on purpose because we just felt so hurried because we had that drive back to Spokane ahead. It's gorgeous. We can't decide what direction would be "harder". I think having that flat/downhill at the end for us was far easier physically at the end of a long hike, but the uphill at the Pass was hard. Of course, I hated the 1.3 uphill to the road, it was really hot by then and I was just over the whole thing. Anyway, I think hiking out is easier. My DSLR was packed away and I barely took any iphone shots. Again, our mindset was to keep going.

This photo is looking back at the only crossing that made me a little nervous the whole trip (at the bottom before you start hiking up the pass). It was fine, but it was also a healthy fall if you slipped (and how windy it was just made if feel different).

ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr



ImageUntitled by Eileen Francis, on Flickr

We never saw the "8:30 group" even when we looked back from climbing the pass. One of the guest/hikers that caught up to us at the shuttle stop said that the couple from Tokyo has been very nervous and ask that they not be left behind. So, I'm guessing the Naturalist group brought along the tail end of hikers. Given the fitness of her family, I really expected them to catch us, but I think they likely went slowly to help everyone. IMO, she was a real hero in the situation.

Right as we got to the shuttle stop, we heard and saw a helicopter go overhead. We joked that it was going to get the remaining guests and we'd just spent the last 7 hours hiking out instead. We have no complaints, we knew we were capable and it was really only a time inconvenience on our part.

I wrote about the long wait for the first shuttle (6 more people emerged from the trail) and the hour at Logan Pass. We were SO impressed with one fellow evacuee who made the hike out on a knee that had been replaced a mere 7 months ago! She was part of the 2 ladies that sent up duffle bags on mules and were told they might not get their bags back until next year! Anyway, we passed the time chatting with our fellow evacuees (G got knee advice from the lady with the replacement!) and were at least off our feet and able to refill water.

I *think* (but could be totally wrong) that the 3 people that stayed behind were a gentleman who'd ridden up on a horse the prior day and a 2 women, one of whom had a bad knee and wanted to wait. From what I've read, they helicoptered the 3 remaining guests that afternoon/evening, so clearly the idea of guests staying over changed.

The Logan shuttle staff knew to expect Sperry evacs but, I'm not sure why they needed to know. The seemed to count us, but the count wouldn't be accurate of anything anyway because a few people had just hiked IN via Gunsight so their cars would be parked there and no need to use the shuttles. Maybe we were cranky folks, but it was a little annoying to wait so long. The chalet mgr said they'd put their "chalet shuttle" in play to help us get back to our cars, but we never saw one and I'm not even sure what a "chalet shuttle" is or does in the normal course of business.

Other people waiting for shuttles asked about us (since the staff was asking for the Sperry evacuees) and were very nice, offering to put kids on laps in order to get more people on the shuttle. They wouldn't allow any child older than 2 on laps. I do think the shuttle driver UP to Logan broke some rules when our group begged, letting people sit on the floor, stand, and older kids to sit on laps.

We made it to our car a little before 6pm and headed out. We didn't stop for hours and finally stopped at a gas station and took baby wipes into the bathroom to finally do a little cleanup! When I got a Big Mac in Coeur d'Alene it was the greatest tasting thing I'd ever had.

We arrived at the Spokane airport Ramada around 10pm (gained an hour) and lo and behold, my glasses were at the desk. WHY they weren't at the desk a week earlier I have no idea. The guy said I left them on the desk when I checked in. Hmmmm. (I have to wonder if someone thought they could use them, they are nice Ray Ban frames that seem WAY looser than when I "lost" them).

Anyway, showers, repacking everything and about 4 hours sleep before heading off to the airport.

Day 9: Flights were on time (early actually) and we were doing laundry by 5pm Raleigh time!

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