Friday, June 30, 2006

Start of Brian's Glacier 2006 visit

Tuesday afternoon after I finished cutting the fallen south pasture tree Brian and I drove to Glacier National Park.

After I bought an annual pass to the Park we visited Apgar village to check out the canoe rental prices and to view Lake McDonald and the mountains.

Then we drove past Lake McDonald to the Avalanche area for a walk on the Trail of the Cedars to see the waterfall at Avalanche Gorge. The water flow through the gorge seemed to be a little less than last year at this time when Francis and Linda visited but still impressive.

We stopped at a number of places along McDonald Creek to view the rapids and waterfalls. One stop, where a person can walk right down to the rapids, was different. The earlier high water had left a pile of logs in a debris pile. This made it easier to get to the rocks by the river as one could now walk on these logs. In previous years one had to either balance walking across a large log over a crevice between two rocks, else go up and down the rocks from another spot.

Then on to the "Loop" area. This area was partially burnt during the 2003 forest fires in Glacier. Where tall trees once blocked sunlight from the forest floor now stood dead black trees. Sounds bad, but actually quite beautiful. Now that the sunlight could reach the ground there is lush green vegetation growing under the black tree trunks. This year a number of the trees were shedding their part of their black bark to show white trunks. Instead of merely green, black, and blue sky, we now see white in the color scheme. I have photos from 2004 and 2005 on my blog's sidebar.

We walked a short distance through this burn area to the stream rapidly running down the mountain. As Brian took photos a man came up the trail holding a very nice camera. He walked across the bridge and behind me. After a bit Brian noticed he might have moved to be in the photo this guy was talking and asked if he messed up his shot. "No. ..actually, yes, as I was trying to just get him and his shirt." I was wearing an old "Calvin and Hobbes" t-shirt.

I offered to stand still if he wanted to take another photo of my shirt's back. Instead he wanted me to stand as I currently was facing him as we spoke. I was leaning on the wooden bridge railing and holding a small collection of rocks I had gathered while Brian took photos of the stream and mountain. My white t-shirt also had a small drawing of Calvin and Hobbes on the front.

I was wearing sunglasses and the photographer asked if I was surfer as he said I looked like one. "Nope, born and raised in the Midwest. Live out here now."

After he took the photo he showed me a copy of the photo he had just taken. I asked if he could send me a copy of the photo to my email account. "For my mom." He promised that he would. (He never did).  We talked a bit more and learned he was a California photographer on vacation. He had flown here from California this day. He said it was nice to take photographs that he wanted to take rather than what he was paid to take. He was here visiting a friend of his, who also was a photographer. That guy was just down the trail taking photos of the black trees. Brian drooled over their cameras claiming they cost as much as his car. You know, since he was professional photographer, I should have asked him more about why he wanted a picture of me. Well, if you ever see a photo in some magazine of an older surfer looking dude in a Calvin and Hobbes t-shirt that may be me.

When walking back to the road Brian pointed out an interesting group of trees. As he walked backwards to get into position to take a photo he slipped off the side of the trail. Fortunately the trail side wasn't extreme. Brian was able to protect his girlfriend's camera from getting damaged by his fall. He did get his photo. I think he said his girlfriend would kill him if he wrecked her camera. It is a nice camera.

Later, on one of the pullouts along Going-to-the-Sun road, we talked with a middle aged couple with a couple of nice looking bicycles on bicycle rack on the back of their SUV with California license plates. The man had ridden the Ironman in Coeur D'Alene Idaho last Sunday. He said half the field of over 2000 participants dropped out. The temperature was around 100 degrees F. He said he finished. He looked to be in good condition considering the event was on Sunday and this was Tuesday evening.

We also spoke with a Missouri father and son driving to Alaska for the first time. They were pulling a travel trailer on their journey. The father complained that Glacier Nat'l Park didn't have enough developed sites for RVs. He said the Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park was more to his liking in this regard. Someone else must have been the navigator as he couldn't quite explain how he was getting to the Al-Can highway from here. I think he was going to travel east of the mountains and north of Edmunton, Alberta to reach the highway.

Lots of water flowed over the Weeping Wall. Some drivers tried to avoid getting their vehicles wet and other drove as close as possible to the side of the road to get as wet as possible.

While snow was along parts of the upper road, I noticed there was a little less snow on side of road than when I visited at the same time this year during Francis and Linda's visit.

The last pullout just below Logan Pass naturally had a number of mountain goats, including a mother and baby goat. I watched a marmot below the observation deck; that is until a family with kids came. Their noisy active movement drove off the marmot.

While the temperature in the valley was near 90 F, here with the snow, a breeze, and higher elevation, I was getting cold waiting for Brian to take photos of the goats. Brian takes color and back and white photos with two nice cameras with multiple lenses and filters. His photo taking takes longer than when using a point-and-shoot camera. This was fine as I spent my time looking at the scenery since I didn't have a camera.

We reached Logan Pass after 8 pm. Too late to hike to Hidden Lake. The sun was already behind Clements Mountain. 99% of the trail was under a thick layer of hard packed snow. We decided to hike the Hidden Lake trail another day.

In the parking lot were several bighorn sheep walking around licking the pavement for spilled pop and anti-freeze. People were moving here and there to get closer photos of the animals. Their horns were quite large, long and curled. The sheep ignored people in their search for items to lick off the pavement. While I usually see mountain goats in the parking lot, this was the first time I seen bighorn sheep here.

We drove down east side as far as Siyeh Bend before returning. No sense going further east below the Divide as the sun was below the Pass and the road was now in shadow. Back on the west side of the Pass, as we drove down the road, we watched the fading light on the west sides of the mountains as sun set.

There is one short side road off the Going-to-the-Sun road below the Loop. Packer's Roost. It is a .6 mile gravel (and rock) single-lane road cut through the forest. Tall trees were immediately on each side of the road. I convinced Brian to drive down the road even though he had doubts as it was starting to get dark. Slowly he drove taking care to try to avoid the rocks and the ruts. He kept expressing his doubts and I kept encouraging him to go on. Besides it was too late to turn back. He still insists the road is more than .6 mile long.

At the end of the road was a good sized wood building and a small gravel and grass parking lot in which a pickup was parked. Two small signs were on the side of the building. I was about to get out of the car to read the signs when a pickup came down the road and turned into a parking space next to the parked pickup. It was a park ranger. Brian turned his car around and before we left I got out to ask the ranger what the purpose of this road and place was. He told me - as he swatted at mosquitos that flew in his open pickup window - that this road was for the stock (horses and mules) that were used to supply the back country's Granite Park Chalet. Without this location the stock would have to be unloaded and assembled at the Loop's parking lot.

He followed us as we drove out. Brian was happy he was there as he had visions of breaking down on this isolated road. Not likely as Brian has a new car.

It was late when we got back home. Or I should say late for Brian as he is an early morning person. Not late for me.