Gunsight Pass

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Gunsight Pass

Postby KBClimber » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:51 am

I have not been back to the Park since the Sprague fire. I was hoping to take my boyfriend this summer over Gunsight pass (he's never been to Glacier before), but I was unsure of how much of the trail burned. Was it mostly just from Sperry Chalet to Lake McDonald? Do people think a one day trip starting at JOE, staying at ELL and exiting at the Lake McDonald lodge is worth it for a newbie to the park?

We are hoping to do a short backpacking trip and a few day hikes in August.

Thanks for your opinions in advance!
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby llholmes1948 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:16 am

I am not into the campsite abbreviations and I don't know what JOE is or ELL, however, if ELL is Lake Ellen Wilson as I suspect, it is definitely worth it. It is a wonderful place to camp.

My understanding is that the Sprague fire burned the western part of the trail from Sperry Chalet toward Lake McDonald. I don't think it burned the eastern part of the trail east of Lincoln Pass but corrections would be welcome.

Hope you have a great trip and will post a report of your trip.

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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby mattB » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:53 pm

I think Jackson Overlook to Lake Ellen WIlson and then out to Lake McDonald lodge would be two pretty long days.
And the second day will probably be mostly in burned over areas all the way from the SPerry Chalet site down to Lake McDonald Lodge.. Although the fire may have opened things up some on that section of the trail so the views might be a bit better.

As Lyman mentioned, the section from Lincoln Pass should be a gorgeous section, and Lake Ellen Wilson is a great place to camp.
But if it was me, I'd make it a 2 night or maybe even 3 night trip, camp at Gunsight Lake, Lake Ellen Wilson, and Sperry. You may even be able to fit in a hike up to Sperry Glacier..

ALso, starting at Jackson Overlook and ending at Lake McDonald Lodge, you'll need to figure out the logistics for where to leave your vehicle, how to get to the trailhead to start, and how to get back to the vehicle..
Last edited by mattB on Wed Mar 27, 2019 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby Fairbanks142 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:24 am

If you're both in really good shape, experienced with backpacking, and you get an early start on your first day....this is a lot for a 1-nighter, but definitely do-able.

Here's a "My Own Frontier" episode with Joey Coconato and friends (making it look easier than it is) going from the Jackson Overlook trailhead to Lake Ellen Wilson on the first day:
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby paul » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:02 am

I did it as a one night trip from the opposite direction and camped at Sperry. I tried to get Ellen Wilson instead of Sperry but it worked out fine the way it was. If you can get Ellen Wilson, it would be great. It's one of my favorite spots in the park.
We are in the mountains and the mountains are in us. - John Muir
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby sperryKev » Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:06 pm

Careful, I feel a rant coming on.

As a seasoned hiker of the Sperry trail with ample first hand experience of the before and after of the Sprague fire let me give this advice to anyone considering a hike through a burned area:

Do it! It’s beautiful!

I hear from so many park visitors that are so very concerned about the aftermath of wildfire. “It will ruin our vacation to see all the burned trees” “It will be so ugly, we want to see something better.” “Is it worth it?” No matter how Park savvy they are, these are people that have never made a complete appreciation of wilderness.

The first time I hiked over Gunsight Pass following the Reynolds fire I was stunned to discover that vistas had cleared out and there are now viewpoints that let you see a vast sweeping range from the continental divide at Gunsight Pass all the way to the plains beyond the foot of St. Mary lake. The pesky forest was blocking that particular view before the fire.

I discovered the same thing on the Loop Trail following the Trapper Fire. Wow, new vistas! Who knew that the loop trail could be so beautiful?

As for the current state of the Sperry trail, is it different now? Yes. Are there blackened trees? Yes. Is it still an amazing trek through some of the most awesome wilderness hiking that North America has to offer? A resounding and unequivocal YES!

A trail through a burned area is an amazing thing. Fresh on the heels of the burn there are some very stark visions in a black and white landscape. And this is so beautiful because of how rare it is to see the park this way. You can see things that no other human has seen or will see in this park. And immediately in the spring, within days of your first hike in that area, the forest will start to heal itself, to turn from black to green. I was amazed to see all the growths coming out of the black ground on my second trip up the Sperry Trail. By the third and fourth trip it was easy to see where the fire was super hot and where the forest was merely singed just from the state of the undergrowth.

I have hiked the Sperry Trail hundreds of times in my life. I know it as well as I know my own living room. I can’t believe the number of amazing and beautiful things I saw for the first time on the Sperry Trail last summer. There were new vistas to Lake McDonald and Sprague Creek that were never before visible. There were black backed woodpeckers. The fireweed blooms were rioting. The way the forest was healing itself before my very eyes. Hiking that trail was one of the most profound experiences of my hiking career.

Everyone that avoids hikes in burned areas is missing out on visions that only they will ever have the chance to see, the forest changes so quickly as it heals. They are missing out on a communion with nature and the first hand experience of healing growth. There are creatures from snails to morels to black woodpeckers that only appear in a burned areas. There are new vistas and new landscapes to discover. Do it! Go see these things. You will only be disappointed if you let your expectations exceed your appreciation for what nature actually is.
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby calicotraveler » Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:23 pm

Loved watching the video! So glad you posted this....
The mountains are calling and I must go.
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby mattB » Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:14 pm

sperryKev wrote:Careful, I feel a rant coming on.

As a seasoned hiker of the Sperry trail with ample first hand experience of the before and after of the Sprague fire let me give this advice to anyone considering a hike through a burned area:

Do it! It’s beautiful! .....

Thanks Kev, Great perspective on the park and the fires, and excellent advice!
Thank you!!
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby PeteE » Thu Apr 11, 2019 4:18 pm

Terrific post Kevin!
Thanks for reminding people of the good that came from the fire that burned the chalet.

The fire will open up the forest for new growth.
Same as the trail(s) along St Mary Lake, Baring Creek, etc. after the Reynolds Fire.
The Sperry trail as well as the trails to Snyder Lakes and Mt Brown will be much more fun and interesting.
I'm going to hike up towards Snyder Lakes first chance I get for pictures.
Maybe Saturday if the rain ever stops.

pete :wink:
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Re: Gunsight Pass

Postby daveparker » Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:47 pm

Fire gives the wild areas of our country a whole new life and beginning. I have been hunting, camping, fishing and hiking since I was very young in life and it is always amazing to visit an area the next year after a fire, to see things that you have never seen before and probably will never seen again. There is no reason to avoid a fire area when you are hiking, it is a true eye opening experience and well worth doing.

New birth is something to witness in a wild setting, it shows you how well the forests come alive again and how quite they do it. Every time you visit the area after fire, will be different, you will see the new birth of the area, I am amazed at how things have changed in the area of the Moose, the Roberts, the Trapper Creek and the many other areas that have burned since I have lived in Montana.

We visited Yellowstone close after the big season of '88 and over the years have watched things change a lot since then, it has been great to watch that park as well as Glacier heal its wounds.

So never be afraid to visit because of a fire, fire is something that happens on a regular basis in the forests of America and has for millions of years and it is needed and a new improved modernized version of Sperry is on its way, it will have all the updates it needs and still retain that old world charm, ya it is always sad to say goodbye to a friend, but just think of the joy of meeting new friends.

So please don't avoid because of the fires, enjoy the experience and remember it is a part of our natural system.
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