August 2019

Well, tell us how your trip went. We all want to hear about your special experience.

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August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Wed Aug 14, 2019 8:23 pm

I was in the park July 31 - August 7 this year for my seventh annual trip. I brought R with me again for his 3rd trip - he did well, but I hiked him out and he chose to sit out the last day. This was my first trip in early August - we lucked out with great weather and only a little smoky haze, though I could have stood for some cooler temperatures.

This year my new experiences were: Apgar Lookout, a Logan Pass Star Party, Hidden Lake (got to the actual lake), Dawson Pass as an out-and-back, crossing the outlet stream at Grinnell Glacier, and hiking to Swiftcurrent Lookout (a really unexpected bonus).

=== Wednesday, Flight in =====

We had a super early set of flights and arrived in Kalispell earlier than scheduled, sometime before 11:40 am. The rental car (Thrifty, now on-site and located with Hertz) was originally reserved for a 12:30 arrival, but we had no problem picking it up early. We also stopped at the Glacier Outfitters location in the airport to rent bear spray - it was an easy process. We were out of the airport by noon.

Up next were two quick stops for supplies - the Super 1 for a few groceries, and Glacier Distilling to replenish my stash of Northfork whiskey.

Luckily we were able to check in to our room at the Village Inn at Apgar when we arrived, even though it wasn’t even 2pm yet. We sat and evaluated our options since we had such an early arrival - originally I had planned to drive to Polebridge (and maybe even Bowman Lake) to eat and enjoy the scenery. But I was way too tired, and the drive sounded very unappealing. Instead we decided to eat lunch at Eddies, take a short rest, and hike to Avalanche Lake to help us “wake up” finally.

We headed up to Avalanche and arrived just before 4pm. The hike to the lake was pleasant. It was a hot day, so I started out in shorts, which is rare. There were still hikers out, but the trail didn’t feel too crowded. It was my first visit to the lake in the afternoon, and the light was pretty nice looking at the mountains across the lake. It still doesn’t compare to my first visit at the end of June, with some lingering snow and lots more waterfalls. But still a very worthwhile hike.

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On the way back we were told a black bear had just been spotted - we kept a lookout, but didn’t see it. We stopped at Avalanche Gorge on the way out, but late afternoon is definitely *not* the best time for this feature.

We stopped at the lounge at Lake McDonald Lodge for a light dinner - it was full when we got there, but a seat at the bar opened up soon. We didn’t stay too long, as I was ready to shower and go to bed! We watched sunset from the chairs outside the room and called it a night.

=== Thursday, Apgar Lookout =====

Since Apgar Lookout isn’t a super long hike, we didn’t set our alarms. I was still up early enough to catch sunrise, and we made it to Eddies to be first in the door for breakfast at 7 when they opened (5 minutes late).

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The drive took 15-20 minutes on some gravel roads - driving over the Quarter Circle bridge is neat. There is a fairly large parking area at the trailhead, and only 2 cars there when we arrived. The trail was very uncrowded - we ended up seeing 2 groups on the hike up, 2 groups at the Lookout, and passed 2 groups on the way down. No animal sightings to speak of - another pretty warm day.

The first section of trail is pleasant, but wooded without any views and not much in terms of wildflowers at this elevation. Once you start climbing there are some nice views of the surrounding hills to the west and south. You can hear the train pretty well most of the hike.

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After a pretty steady climb, you finally pop out at the tower.

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We rested in the shade for a while, and then spent about 30 minutes in front of the webcam trying to get a screen capture. It was a little hazy, and the light is probably better in the afternoon, but I enjoyed looking down at Lake McDonald and surrounding areas.

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The hike back down went quickly. We made a stop at the Apgar Visitor center to use the restrooms and purchase our Star Party ticket, and it was a zoo (around 1:30, I’d guess). I let R out and circled for a while looking for a spot, eventually pulling into a long RV spot that was shared with another car.

We decided to head out to Polebridge to eat, since we had skipped it the day before. I found the road to be worse than the last time I visited - very washboardy and dusty. We stopped at Home Ranch Bottoms to eat. The ‘menu’ is 4-5 sandwiches written on a board behind the counter when you enter. We got pulled pork sandwiches and beer - it was good, but nothing special - I doubt I’ll return. We did continue on to Polebridge to make a stop at the Merc - we got a huckleberry bear claw (it was excellent!) and pizza roll for later.

We then started the drive back to the GTTSR on our way to Rising Sun for the next 3 nights. We pulled in to Oberlin Bend; I hadn’t been in a few years since I’m rarely passing by in the afternoon (it’s full of people walking up to Logan Pass in the morning). We walked the boardwalk and watched some mountain goats eating beargrass. We watched a ranger try to shoo away a goat that was stuck in the parking lot licking up something someone had dumped out of their car. *Don’t* dump anything out of your car - even liquids you think will ‘wash away’ are still considered littering and endangers the animals.

We checked in at Rising Sun (Motor Inn room), relaxed outside in our chairs, ate our Merc goodies, and went to bed.
Last edited by al_in_al on Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Wed Aug 14, 2019 8:56 pm

=== Friday, Siyeh Pass Loop and Star Party =====

Up at 6am and first in line at Two Dog Flats Grill for breakfast at 6:30. Our goal was to be at the Sunrift Gorge parking area by 7:28 am so we could catch the first shuttle up to Siyeh Bend. We had no trouble finding parking, and the shuttle came around a few minutes after the scheduled time. It was standing room only, but the driver let us on. It was an easy ride up to the bend, and we were on the trail by 7:45. We passed 2 other groups, but were mostly alone for a long time.

There was about a mile of trail packed through with beargrass before the Siyeh Pass trail junction, and lots of great flowers in Preston Park.

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It was a great morning to be out on the trail. The switchbacks up to the pass seemed endless, but the trail is nice. We saw a large herd of bighorn sheep in the distance, but none close to the trail.

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Amazingly, the pass was not windy at all. We were able to pause and take pictures at the large rock cairn and eat lunch without having to run off due to the wind.

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We watched a very fat marmot eating flowers for a long time. It approached the rock where we were eating lunch, and we had to shoo it away. It looked like it might be good at getting into packs.

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Everyone on the trail seemed to converge around the pass, and we were rarely alone on the trail for the rest of the day. We switch-backed down the Baring Creek drainage, and the wind picked up a few times in the afternoon. There were great flower displays on the way down; at one point they were color coded - purple and blue together, then only yellow and orange.

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And some nice beargrass in photogenic locations.

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No additional animal sightings on the way down. We reached the Reynolds burn area and were really missing the shade at that point. We were happy to get back to our car and rest our feet.

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We headed back to the room to shower and kill some time before Rising Sun Pizza opened. We again were very pleased with our meal here, and thought the service was good.

Back at our room we set our alarms and got in bed for a nap. Tonight was the Logan Pass Star Party, and we planned to be at Logan Pass from 10-Midnight. We left around 9pm to make sure we wouldn’t be late. I stopped to snap a sunset picture at Wild Goose Island Overlook, but the lighting wasn’t too interesting. The interesting clouds and color were in the other direction when you turned around.

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We arrived at Logan Pass to a bit of a disappointment - increasing clouds and haze. The program was going on as planned however, so we got a schedule of the evening and took a seat with everyone else in front of the visitor center. The program was supposed to start at 10, but we waited until 10:15 to let late arrivers park (even though we were all warned to be early). Eventually they closed the lot and turned people away. We began with a video presentation about Glacier and dark sky parks and what we might see tonight. After, we were supposed to divide into groups for a “sky tour” with a laser pointer and questions with an astronomer, but the sky was still too cloudy, so they had the Blackfeet storyteller share some stories to kill some time (she is usually a separate “station” to visit during the evening).

A little after 11pm, they paused to allow people to leave en mass if they wanted to. Many took this opportunity. When we turned away from the parking lot to preserve our night vision, we noticed that the sky was clearing to the west and we could see stars! We walked up behind the visitor center and were treated to a great view of the Milky Way. We were super glad we stuck it out and decided to stay. We missed most of the sky tour they eventually did because we didn’t want to leave our spot, but we headed back down to the parking lot where telescopes were set up to take a look. We saw some star clusters, Jupiter, and Saturn, before heading back up behind the visitor center for a last great view of the sky before driving (carefully) back to Rising Sun to get some sleep.
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Re: August 2019

Postby PeteE » Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:37 am

Nice report Jessica.
Looks like you lucked out on the weather other than it being hot.
The views from Siyeh pass looking down both the Boulder Creek drainage and Baring Creek Valley are two of my favorites.
The bear grass looked spectacular.
Next time you go up to Grinnell Glacier and cross the outlet creek, keep on walking across all those terraces towards that saddle between Mt Gould and Angelwing.
Cross over the saddle and then it's just a walk up the back of Angelwing to the top. Incredible views back towards Many Glacier.
Well done

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Re: August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:30 am

PeteE wrote:Next time you go up to Grinnell Glacier and cross the outlet creek, keep on walking across all those terraces towards that saddle between Mt Gould and Angelwing.
Cross over the saddle and then it's just a walk up the back of Angelwing to the top. Incredible views back towards Many Glacier.


Yes, every time I hike Grinnell Glacier I go incrementally farther, so this is a possibility for next time!

Hope to post some more tonight.
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Re: August 2019

Postby tibber » Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:37 am

I really enjoyed your report and the photos were very nice. The wildflowers photos were awesome.
The Beargrass lined trails were sure a special treat this year over in the Belly River as well.
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Re: August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:55 pm

=== Saturday, Hidden Lake =====

Since we didn’t get to sleep until 1am, we didn’t set an alarm. We knew we would have to take the shuttle up to Logan Pass, and decided to just go with the flow and not have any sort of timeline for the day. We had breakfast at Two Dog Flats Grill again, and it was not crowded, even though it was sometime during the 8:00 hour.

We waited for the shuttle for a while. Two east- bound shuttles arrived before a west-bound one showed up. It was full of people who got on at St. Mary, but the driver squeezed us on (at least 10 more people), though it took a while to convince the people in the back there was still a ton of room back there. There was a lot of shuffling at each stop as the standers got off and on. We were able to grab a seat at one stop, and sat for part of the ride.

We arrived at Logan Pass around 10am, and began our hike. It was overcast and a little cooler today, so I kept my long sleeves on. There were lots of people on the trail, but not completely overcrowded. The Highline was open, as well as the trail down to the lake, so that helped people spread out a bit. We encountered a few mountain goats near the overlook, but no sheep or marmots on the way in.

The trail between the overlook and lake was great - beautiful views and great flower displays, including more picturesque beargrass. Lots of people were headed down, including people who had no idea where the trail even led.

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Then I had a bear spray incident. The holster popped off my hip belt, fell to the ground, and immediately punctured. I physically touch the bear spray about every 10 minutes while hiking to make sure it’s secure, so I was totally shocked when this happened. The hard plastic holster did not cover the entire container, and I assume it hit a rock, but I guess it’s possible the holster caused the puncture (I will probably only use fabric holsters in the future with a closed loop to attach to my belt strap). Luckily, there weren’t a lot of people nearby, and the wind was blowing off-trail. I warned some people about what had happened, then picked up the container and pointed it towards the ground to try to contain the spray. R carried it a little farther off-trail until it was done. We had an empty plastic bag to put it in to contain further leaks. I felt (and still feel) very stupid that this happened. Luckily, no one seemed to have been affected.

We continued down to the lake, but did not cross the outlet stream to explore like we had planned.

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We sat at the lake to have a snack, but didn’t stay super long because of the bugs (and the number of people - though no one was being particularly annoying).

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Our hike up was uneventful. We eventually saw a marmot and some bighorn sheep on the way back to the trailhead.

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We arrived at the shuttle stop as an east-bound shuttle was loading, but it was a small one. About 20 minutes later everyone who was waiting was able to get on the larger shuttle that arrived. Overall, I thought the shuttles worked quite well this trip, but it helped to know what to expect. We never had excessive waits, but we were packed in the shuttle (which I prefer to waiting). It definitely takes longer than driving, but eliminates parking issues. And it’s definitely not a tour bus.

After showering, we headed out to Two Sisters Cafe for dinner. Even though it was a little early at 4:30, there were a lot of cars in the parking lot - but still tables open inside so we were seated immediately. I enjoyed my salad (it wasn't super fancy, but ingredient quality is good), and really enjoyed my huckleberry milkshake!

On the drive back to Rising Sun we spotted a coyote bopping through Two Dog Flats, pretty close to the road. I hadn’t seen a coyote since my trip in 2013, so nice to know they are still there.

I stopped at the Rising Sun camp store to buy a new bear spray ($49.95), and we also got Huckleberry Spritzers to try since they don’t sell beer singles anymore. It was nice to try, but I probably won’t buy those again. After enjoying them in the chairs outside our room, we were done for the night.
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Re: August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:08 pm

Ugh, I just realize I made all my pictures too wide, so they’re cropped on the right. I might try to fix them later. Or not. [I think I fixed them - hard to tell because it's mostly showing me the cached versions.]

=== Sunday, Dawson Pass =====

We decided to visit Two Medicine on the day we transferred from Rising Sun to Many Glacier. We started with a 3rd breakfast at Two Dog Flats Grill at 6:30 in the morning, with the goal to leave at 7am for the drive to Two Medicine - we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there for our 9am boat tour reservation, since we didn’t know what the road construction situation would be.

On the way, we saw a herd of elk at the far edge of the Two Dog Flats meadow! I was excited - I knew there were elk in the park, but had never seen them before.

Since it was 7:30ish on a Sunday morning, no one was working at the construction site on Hwy 89, so we didn’t have to worry about delays. We did have to travel a little slower than usual through the construction zone, though, which was many miles long. On Hwy 49, it looked like they had patched all but 1 of the potholes/slumps in the road, so it wasn’t a bad drive (and easier since not many people were out on the road at this time). We arrived at Two Medicine Lake a little after 8 am, in plenty of time for the boat, so we rested a bit in the car before getting ready for our hike. The lake was super calm, so I got some good morning reflection shots.

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The 9am boat wasn’t full (though there were a good number of people on the tour), and there were only 3 of us on the ranger-led hike to Dawson Pass. The ranger said he usually gets more people on his hikes (even Dawson Pass - he gave the disclaimer that it’s the hardest guided hike the park offers) - but the benefit of doing a ranger-led hike in Two Medicine is that they are generally less crowded. At the beginning of the hike, he gave us a visual reference - we would be hiking as high as Pumpelly Pillar today. Yikes!

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The pace was fast(ish) in phase 1 (the relatively flat part). After the first uphill section of phase 2, we paused at the junction to No Name Lake to snack/pee/apply sunscreen. The trails were pretty quiet today, and we hadn’t seen any other hikers until we’d been at the junction for a while. As we were getting ready to continue on the trail, we noticed some bighorn sheep coming our way. We tried to let them pass by giving up the trail, but they were nervous. After lots of back and forth, they finally went by and we continued on.

More moderate uphill, and then three steep sections. We talked about how the trail designers could have done a better job. About halfway through the 2nd steep section, we were stopped again by bighorn sheep on the trail. We tried to let them pass by stepping off trail, but they weren’t having it. Eventually they went up on a small cliff, and we got some really great sheep pics. I always have great sheep sightings in Two Medicine, and this year was no different.

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Once we made it to the pass, it was amazingly still pretty calm with only a breeze. I don’t think this is the norm. We snacked, rested, and looked for animals in the valley below (only managed to find a few rocks and a shadow). It was a bright blue day, but we could see some haze, and particularly smokey haze in the direction of Reynolds.

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I had been to Dawson Pass once before when I did the Dawson/Pitamakan Loop three years ago. I found it to not be a highlight, since I’d been seeing the scenery already on the ridge walk, and I was pretty tired by the time I started the downhill portion. I wanted to visit the pass again from the other direction to see if it was better this time, and I think it was - I enjoyed the upper portion of the trail and the views from the pass are really spectacular. Still, I think I might like the Pitamakan Pass side better overall. But using the boat for Dawson certainly makes it a more manageable hike.

Uneventful hike on the way back, and it went quickly. We stopped to smell the flowers. And eat a few huckleberries (just starting to ripen).

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Since the ranger was pretty sure the 3:15pm return boat would be full and require a 2nd trip to get everyone, we took a detour and visited Twin Falls. This isn’t my favorite falls in the park, but a nice stop if you’re in the area. Unfortunately, there were a lot of bugs (flies), so it was hard to really relax.

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When we got back to the boat dock we saw the boat leaving, and people still waiting for a ride, so we were in luck! The boat came back a little after 4pm, and we all made it on. There were several people waiting who were riding one-way back - they were let on and were asked to pay at the boat dock when we returned.

After our hike there was no doubt where we were headed - Serrano’s Mexican in East Glacier Park. We arrived a little later than usual, about 10 minutes before opening. We joined the line waiting to get in, and got a seat when they opened at 5:00. It appears that the restaurant has been sold (I know it had been for sale a year or two ago), but the menu was basically the same, and the food tasted great. They were short a host/waitperson, so it was a little hectic at first, but everyone was doing their best.

We headed out to Many Glacier through Browning and up 464 (Duck Lake Rd) to avoid the 89 construction, and have a bit of an easier drive. We checked in to the hotel a little after 7pm. I was quite incredulous when we were given the exact same room again for the 3rd year in a row. How can that even be possible?! She looked for another room, but couldn’t find one in the same category for 3 nights. So off to #258 went.

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It has its advantages (right near the elevator, close to the lounge/dining room) and disadvantages (people sound like elephants walking up and down the stairs on the other side of the wall). But I was hoping for some variety this year. One thing that doesn’t change - no one in the adjoining room ever seems to use the balcony! So we basically had a private balcony for 3 days.

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We could see that some wildlife spotting was going on, so we went to the back porch (the building blocks the view of the hillside from our balcony). There was a black bear and a grizzly on the hillside, so we watched them for a while.

We retreated to the room for showers (finally!) and some time on the balcony before going to bed.
Last edited by al_in_al on Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:10 pm

=== Monday, Grinnell Glacier =====

We ate breakfast in the Ptarmigan Dining Room when they opened at 6:30 am. I was super impressed with the “continental” buffet this year (the cold items table only) - and it’s not a bad deal because it includes coffee and juice (though I skip the juice). I got greek yogurt with amazing mix-ins - blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, dried cranberries, dried apricots, figs, cocoa nibs, and hazelnuts! I also made a small peanut-butter-and-banana croissant sandwich. It kept me full for a while.

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We were out of the dining room by 7am, but not on the trail until 7:30 (which was good enough for me). We were alone on the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail and Josephine North Shore trail for a while. We saw a moose on the shores of Lake Josephine.

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It was a nice morning, but hot, which made for a more strenuous hike.

I love these rock formations on the right, but had a hard time getting a picture that really captured how mesmerizing they are.

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It looks like we were too late for some of the beargrass along the trail, but there were some patches left as we got higher up. We saw no sheep or goats on the way up, and only a fleeting look at a marmot.

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There were a decent number of people on the trail in the morning, but we had whole sections to ourselves, which was nice. We took a short rest at the picnic area/pit toilets to prepare for the final push uphill. I feel like they’ve added extra switchbacks over the years, it seemed to take forever to get to the top. But we made it! And had a few moments to ourselves to take pictures without others getting in the way.

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Those big rocks on the iceberg were just amazing!

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R wanted to get closer to the glacier, so we headed out the network of trails leading there. There were some people sitting on a large rock at the edge of the glacier - we headed towards them, but really didn’t feel like scrambling on the ice and rocks. So we found a great flat rock right up next to the glacier ice (it was black and ugly, for the record) and relaxed for a while. It was soo crowded closer to the trail end, I was really glad we went farther and escaped that mess. We hung out for a long time, listening to water falling from Gem, and hearing (but never quite seeing) the glacier calving small pieces.

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At the beginning of the hike down, we encountered a lot of people - including the ranger-led group heading up from the picnic area (which was really crowded at this time). But once we were half a mile or so from the overlook, the crowds thinned out. We saw a mountain goat and baby eating near the side of the trail, which bunched some people up.

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We passed by as quickly as possible to give them room. We didn’t encounter too many people hiking towards the glacier in the afternoon.

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We saw another moose on a different part of Lake Josephine on the way back - the people waiting at the boat dock would have had a good view, but we were still pretty high up.

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We booked it at the end to make sure we finished in under 8 hours. It definitely took us a full day, though we went farther than the overlook (12.4 miles RT) and rested for nearly an hour.

We ate dinner at the Lounge - we shared a cheese plate appetizer and I got the Cobb salad, which I enjoyed as usual, though it had the smallest croutons I’ve ever seen in my life. We got beers to-go so we could sit outside with them and relax. We moved indoors since we were in direct sun, and didn’t want to put on sunblock, and scored seats next to the window with a view of the hillside so we could search for bears (I don’t think we saw any this afternoon). We were also treated to the Hootenanny being performed by the Many Glacier employees. I’d seen one a few years ago when they held them at lake level, and many more people participated back then. This year it was just two guys singing - I enjoyed the entertainment, but it wasn’t quite the same energy as before.

We woke up in the middle of the night and checked the sky for the Milky Way, and sure enough, we could see it.
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Re: August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:13 pm

=== Tuesday, Swiftcurrent Lookout =====

R decided he was done with hiking for this trip, so I had some decisions to make! Originally, the plan was to go to Cracker Lake, my absolute favorite (and a hike I know he enjoys, too). But now I had the opportunity to do something new (although taking a rest day, too, sounded pretty appealing). I eventually decided to do a hike I never thought I would consider - Swiftcurrent Lookout from the Swiftcurrent Pass trailhead. I looked at three different references and came up with some stats I thought were manageable - 16-17 miles and 3500-4000 ft of elevation gain. (It ended up being 16.7 miles and 3,900 ft gain, according to my GPS watch track.)

I was a little sad that I didn’t get to Cracker this year, though.

After another great breakfast buffet yogurt meal, I drove over to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (plenty of parking, though there was a long line waiting for a spot at the campground - at least 15 cars) and was on the trail by 7:15 am.

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I sped through the first 3 miles with the goal to get through them in an hour (goal achieved, but barely!) - after passing a few people before Fishercap Lake, I was totally alone on the trail until past Bullhead Lake, where I did encounter some backpackers at the bridge before the switchbacks start.

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I did pass what appeared to be fresh bear scat, so I made a lot of noise. The other hikers warned me of a moose “somewhere up there”. I saw it when I turned the first switchback. It was heading directly down the mountain with no regard for the trail. Luckily, the trail took me the opposite direction of the moose and I could eventually see it below me, so I knew I wasn’t in danger of being trampled.

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Later, I caught a glimpse of a second moose on the top of the grassy ridge above me, but never saw it again, or where it went.

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I encountered a few hikers on the way down the trail, but not many. One group was stopped to look at a ptarmigan - I encountered three this day (one jumped out in front of me on the trail first thing in the morning, and another was blocking my path to the pit toilet at the lookout). Otherwise, not a lot of wildlife on the trail after the moose.

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This was my first time hiking up to Swiftcurrent Pass (both other times had been coming down from Granite Park Chalet), so it felt much longer than usual - my mind had conveniently forgotten several parts of the trail. But eventually I arrived at Swiftcurrent Pass, where I ate a snack while looking up at the lookout - it looks so close!

The side trail to the lookout starts just past the pass, not too far. While I was resting, I could hear a couple of people start to head up, making bear calls along the way. The trail up is pretty interesting, with some dead trees, some small stands of live trees, small patches of flowers, and lots of rock. The trail itself was pretty nice, too, no super steep scree sections (like on the Grinnell/Garden Wall Overlook trail). It was still a tough enough climb, but great and changing views the whole way.

There are lots of great views of Heaven’s Peak on the way up, and distant mountains, but there was a haze in the air. I could even see some concentrated brown smoke in the vicinity of the Lake McDonald valley. Things were still pretty clear in Many Glacier that day, though.

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What a relief to make it to the top - again, it turned out to not be a very windy day.

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I sat and rested while some bees buzzed around me, but they never got too close (or I was too tired to care). My lunchtime view was pretty nice.

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I saw a super-crazy trail runner come up and make it all the way down before I even got up to leave! I walked around to see the view from all angles, and filled out the hiker register.

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On the way down, I made sure to stop at the pit toilet. It’s just hanging out there, on the side of the mountain. Probably the best view I’ve ever had from a pit toilet in my life (though I hear one or two on backpacking routes are pretty good).

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The hike down from the lookout goes by fast.

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Back on the Swiftcurrent Pass trail, the views down the valley were much better in the afternoon (since you’re not looking into the sun), with the reds really showing in the mountains, and the lakes a nice blue.

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There were fewer people on the trail than I expected between Bullhead Lake and the trailhead - it’s been packed some days. I didn’t make any scenic stops this time through.

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I was happy to make it to the car and rest my feet. There were spots available in the Swiftcurrent parking lot, but I was still dreading the Many Glacier lot. And of course it was full (around 3:45). I circled for about 10 minutes - lots of people were walking from their cars to the hotel. How? Where did they find these spots that didn’t seem to exist?! Finally, I was in the right place at the right time, and an older couple directed me to their spot as they were leaving.

We went to the Lounge again for dinner instead of waiting for the dining room to open (I might have been a little hungry). We grabbed a spot in the lobby to hang out for a bit, and then drove back over to Swiftcurrent to check out Fishercap Lake. We lucked out and found two moose there, feeding in the lake. There were also some bears in the distant hills - eventually I saw one, but they were very hard to find. I’d rather watch the moose right in front of us. We also encountered a deer on the trail on the way back.

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We enjoyed our balcony and some cloud watching before going to sleep.

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=== Wednesday, Flight out =====

Since we had a 12:13 pm flight out of Kalispell, we targeted 6:30 am to leave Many Glacier to give us enough time to have breakfast, drive the GTTSR, and get to the airport in time for our flight. We were mostly packed the night before, and woke up just before 6am to finish up. We were ready early, so we sat on the balcony one last time to enjoy sunrise (which was really just watching the low clouds move around and slowly reveal mountains behind them).

After checking out and a drive down the bumpy Many Glacier road (with plenty of cattle to negotiate), we stopped for breakfast at Glacier’s Edge Cafe. We were the first customers, and we were out in half an hour, well ahead of schedule. We drove slowly through the Two Dog Flats area, but didn’t note any wildlife this morning. Since we had the time, we stopped at Wild Goose Island Overlook and Sun Point. The low morning clouds were clearing and mostly gone by this time.

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It was pretty smoky in the Columbia Falls/Whitefish/Kalispell area - not a pleasant day to be outdoors there. The air in the park was much better that morning, but the smoke seemed to be headed in that direction.

Returned the rental car. Retuned the punctured bear spray (I didn’t know how to properly dispose of it, so I just took it back, double wrapped in ziplock bags - the woman at the counter seemed like they’d never had a puncture occur before). We checked our bags, and relaxed before our flight. Another fun and successful trip was over.
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Re: August 2019

Postby Badgerhiker » Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:35 am

Great trip report and very nice pictures! That bear grass looked amazing this year. If a person is fit enough the view at the top of Swiftcurrent lookout is one of the best in the park. Thanks for writing this up. I really enjoyed reading it.
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Re: August 2019

Postby Chip » Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:11 am

Thanks for your TR. I was in the park during your trip and your pics and descriptions have added to my trip memories. I would love to do the hike to the lookout the way you did it, but those hikes are more than I can do now. I did it the easy way Chalet to lookout and back then next day to Swiftcurrent. It was my 8th trip. FYI Single beers are sold at the grocery store in St Mary. Not sure why Rising Sun doesn't as the other park stores do.
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Re: August 2019

Postby al_in_al » Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:05 am

Chip wrote:Thanks for your TR. I was in the park during your trip and your pics and descriptions have added to my trip memories. I would love to do the hike to the lookout the way you did it, but those hikes are more than I can do now. I did it the easy way Chalet to lookout and back then next day to Swiftcurrent. It was my 8th trip. FYI Single beers are sold at the grocery store in St Mary. Not sure why Rising Sun doesn't as the other park stores do.


It's definitely a lot easier to get to Swiftcurrent Lookout from Granite Park Chalet! I tried to do that twice - once the weather didn't cooperate, and the next time R wasn't interested in the extra elevation. So I just decided to do it the hard way after all.

We looked at the St. Mary grocery store, but didn't notice any beer singles (it's possible my eyes skipped over a big Budweiser or something). I also checked Heidi's without luck (they used to have them). Didn't make it to the Swiftcurrent camp store this year. They all used to have them, but seemed to go to six-packs only last year. Not sure why.
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