Monday, December 4, 2006

My first time cross-country skiing in Montana

Monday, December 4, my hiking group and I went cross-country skiing in Glacier National Park. Since everything is now covered under many inches of snow it was time to switch from hiking to skiing.

This was my first time cross-country skiing, not counting a brief attempt by an ex-girlfriend to teach me. It seems as more often than not snow in Minnesota is not conducive for cross-country skiing. The wind blows the powder away leaving an icy crust.

Joyce's son had skis and boots I could borrow and they fit me perfectly. In the beginning I had a problem with one boot that kept slipping out of the ski. I then learned there is a right ski and a left ski. I switched skis. Still the 'problem' boot kept slipping from the ski. Finally I angled and jammed the boot and was able to get the boot to go over the three small pins before I clipped the ski onto the boot. My skis never slipped off again.

After a long absence from our hikes, Gary joined us today for skiing. So our group was: Gary, Joyce, Bill, Sue Ann and I.

We started out at 10:45 am and got back to Gary's truck at 4 pm. We skied 13 miles. Not bad for my first time.

For everyone but Sue Ann this was their first ski outing of the year. We decided to ski on the Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier as it is relatively level. On skis I learned the road is not as flat as I thought it was when driving in a car.

We parked at the Lake MacDonald lodge parking lot where the Sun Road was gated shut. We skied to the Avalanche Creek / Trail of the Cedars area 6 miles up the road. This is the same area we hiked to when we checked out the flood damage November 10. This time we returned via the road and did not take the trail like we did when hiking.

One other car was in the parking lot when we arrived. As we skied we noticed a lone, skinny tire, bicycle track in the snow. One track. Whoever rode on the road hadn't returned. This guy did finally return as we were loading the skis back into the truck at the end of the day. He come riding up the road on a 25+ year Italian bicycle. A Fiorelli. It was so old it had the friction shifters on the down tube. The bicycle looked well for being so old.
"Not a terribly great frame but there is one thing going for these - Fausto Coppi rode some Fiorelli bikes.
Aside from the funky factor, these frames are not terribly sought after. Figure price to be based mostly on parts value. In the early to mid 80's Fiorelli bikes in the U.S had nifty cut-outs, fun bright paint, and descent workmanship. For these bikes in full Nouvo Record (the classic Campagnolo parts group of the '70s and early '80s. Some of the parts in this group, particularly the derailers, were different from the previous "Record" group; others were the same.) figure perhaps $600."
As the 40 to 50 year old bicyclist rode he pulled a snowboard behind. It was attached to one of those retractable dog leashes so that when he rode downhill, and the board was catching up to him, the leash would retract and not get tangled in his bicycle.

The bicyclist said he rode until the Sun Road got steeper before the Loop area. He left his bicycle then hiked a few more miles on the road and got above the Loop before coming back down on his snowboard. It was a long way to go - at least 10 miles - to snowboard but the scenery along the way was gorgeous.

Before we started skiing we all ate the pumpkin muffins I had baked for the group. Bill didn't realize I was bringing muffins and he brought a pound cake his wife had baked. We ate his cake when we returned back to the truck after skiing. With this group we eat good! Bill's cake was delicious!! Everyone brings home baked food to share with the group.

In the beginning having skis on my feet felt odd. I also concentrated on not falling and to keep moving along to keep up with the group. I skied in the back as I told them I didn't want them to get too distracted laughing at my skiing form.

As time went on I improved. I surprised myself at how well I was doing by the end. In the end I was skiing in the front, and Gary and I got back to his truck well before the others. Joyce commented that she thought I had a good skiing gait.

Gary likes to climb mountains and we made plans to climb Mt. Reynolds and some other mountains next summer, including Mt. Thoma which I have this obsession to climb. Hiking, skiing, climbing... I need to remember I have fences to rebuild and paint next year.

Although we never saw anyone else other than the bicyclist, we did see old ski tracks in the snow. We weren't the first to ski on this road. The ski tracks went past the Avalanche Gorge and on the trail to Avalanche Lake. We didn't take that trail as our 13 miles was plenty long for our first ski outing of the year.

Sue Ann and Gary took the short steep trail down to look at the horse bridge the flood water has wrecked in November. On the way down Sue Ann hit a snow covered log and crashed. She got snow in her hair. The rest of us decided not to ski down to look at the bridge. We all saw it last month after the flood waters receded.

I dressed warmed as the temperature was in the low to mid 20s with no change predicted all day. It turned out I over dressed as my exertion worked up a sweat. Soon I had my coats unbuttoned and unzipped, and my hat and gloves off.  And I was still warm. Guess I didn't need the long underwear!

Other than a faint breeze when we returned, there was no wind. It was a perfect day for skiing as everyone was very happy to be outside skiing. To think, in the old days in Minnesota I would be sitting inside a large building on a Monday in a windowless office. Now I ski in the snow covered mountains on a winter Monday. Life is great now!

I had a fantastic time skiing!! I can't wait to do it again.

Now lots of photos...

MacDonald Creek. To the south is where the creek enters Lake MacDonald. The second view is to the north.

Skiing along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The next photo is the first of several side trips off the Sun Road. From this shortcut we reached the bridge where the earlier views of Lake MacDonald could be seen.

Here are views of MacDonald Creek which parallels the Sun Road. Notice the water level is back to normal after the flooding last month.

The last photo is of a swampy area next to the road. Moose habitat.

The following are photos from skiing the Trail of Cedars boardwalk.

What... about a foot of powdery snow you think?

The following photos are of one of several mossy green rocky areas... in the summer. Winter doesn't mean the end of water seeping out of the rock.

The second photo is of the Avalanche gorge. Compare this photo to the later photo taken one month ago before the snow fell. Sure looks different!

The "green' photo was taken November 10. I included it to show you how Avalanche Creek looks like without the snow. The first (snowy) photo is partially obscured as snow was falling from the trees as I took the photo. You can see snow falling into the gorge. The snow was falling so frequently it wasn't hard to get a photo of it falling.

The smallest of branches held lots of snow. I had to duck a number of times so as not brush the branches and get snow down my neck.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Old Flathead River Ranger Station

Date: November 17, 2006
Group: Bill, Arnie, Joyce, Sue Ann, and me

Total length: 12 miles or more

Elevation gain: minimal

Time: 10:25 am to 3:30 pm or so

Temperature: mid 20s F, warming to the mid 30s

Destination: Old ranger station, then the end of the trail

Where we ended up: who knows?! Certainly not at the ranger station

We started our hike near where the raft is shown on the following map. We hiked along the Middle Fork of the river to where it "T's" with the North Fork of the river. Then we went north.

The above "map" is certainly not to scale so I included the Park's map below.

The 'end of the trail' (we now realize) is at the "T" intersection of the rivers as shown on the map. When hiking we didn't realize this, and after seeing the side trail to the north, we followed it for at least 1.2 miles, and probably more. As the elevation was for the most part level, the 4.8 miles to the "T" did not seem like 4.8 miles to us and we felt the trail went further until its end. Besides we hadn't seen the old ranger station and felt it was down the side trail.

We walked and walked and walked. Where were we going? Still no ranger station and by now we were sure we had hiked over three miles. Joyce and Bill consulted their watches and suggested we turn back. They wanted to make sure we got back to the car before dark.

I convinced the group to go down the trail a little further as it was curving NE, a direction favorable to us. A short distance later, when the trail turned NW, I too agreed it was time to turn back.

It is difficult to tell on the map how far north we hiked. I think the final "NW" bend may have been near where the road (west of the Park) goes from paved (solid black) to gravel (white). I doubt the NW bend in our trail was near where the red "13 mi" is located.

We started our hike where the trail splits to go up to the Apgar Mountain lookout. If the distance from there to the end of the trail on the map is 4.8 miles, then we may have hiked another 4 miles before we turned around. It didn't feel like we had hiked near 18 miles, but on level ground it could have been more than the 12 miles we all estimated.

It was a chilly morning when we started our hike. The tip of my nose felt cold for the first minutes until I warmed up from the hiking. It wasn't long before we entered a burn area from the 2003 Robert fire.

Near the start of our hike we crossed a stream. This stream signified the end of a possible drive by car. (The trail was barred at the beginning). The bridge over the stream was a small foot bridge off to the side of the main trail. The old vehicle bridge was long gone.

The following photos are about the same view. The one on the right was taken near the beginning of our hike in the morning when it was cloudier. The photo on the right was taken late afternoon when we returned and it was partly sunny.

Near where I took the preceding photos, I took the following two photos of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. This river is the Park's southern boundary.

The following photos were taken near where the Middle Fork and the North Fork of the Flathead River join. The photo on the left is the North Fork as it comes from the NW. The mountains in the background are the Whitefish Range and not in Glacier Park.

In the photo on the right, see the yellow rock a short way down from the top? The hiking group knows I sometimes like to collect a souvenir rock from each hike and Bill and Arnie suggested that rock. That rock is neater than what the photo shows. It was tempting. I looked and looked at possible ways to reach the rock, if just for the idea that I could reach it. Bill, Arnie, and Sue Ann said they would hold my ankles if I wanted to go over the side. To humor them I entertained the thought and kneeled by the edge. Joyce had a fit and wouldn't watch. I never made a serious attempt to reach the rock. Later Joyce and Sue Ann shook their heads at Bill, Arnie, and I and said "Boys!"

Photo 1: Looking over the edge.
Photo 2: Another view of the North Fork river. In the Whitefish Range in the middle of the photo you can see smoke from a fire.

Here are a number of fire and rebirth photos. You can see how all the small lodgepole pine trees are sprouting up like grass after the 2003 fire.

We had lots and lots of deadfall to hike over or around.

Many years ago the trail used to be an old road. Still, it was odd to see the road closed sign here in the middle of nowhere. A little further were two metal posts on each side of the "road". The cable that formerly ran between the posts to block vehicles was no longer there.

Lunch is wherever there is a place to sit. This was an open area after we crossed around the swamp and before we found the road/trail again.

An oddity... the bark is all that remained of this tree.

Front and back of a remaining part of a tree. It is connected to the ground by only a small section in the middle.

Even though it was late afternoon, water was still frozen.

The trail/road went into water. I don't know if it is because of recent wet weather, or if a swamp reclaimed part of the road. As the group is adventurous they (or most) readily agreed when I suggested we try to find a way around the water. We had a bit of hiking to do so, but the way through the forest had no deadfall, unlike the road/trail. So the way through the trees was easier in some aspects than taking the road/trail.

The following photo is when we came back and had to bushwhack around water again. This time we tried to find a way around the east side of the swamp thinking it would be shorter.

Arnie and Joyce found a fallen log and balanced across it. Sue Ann, Bill and I decided to keep following along the water as we felt that on the other side of the Arnie's and Joyce's log would be more swamp.

We eventually found the end of the swamp and headed around it to find Arnie and Joyce. After some calling back and forth we located them on the road/trail. They said there was no more swamp after they crossed the log.

The hike back.

We never did find the old ranger station.