Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Hidden Avalanche Bear

Thursday Brian and I didn't leave for Glacier Park until the afternoon.

When driving along Lake McDonald we seen a Park ranger had stopped a teenage girl on a bicycle. She was bicycling in a no bicycling zone at 3:30 pm. Along Lake McDonald bicycling is not allowed from 9 am - 4 pm. From the Avalanche area to Logan Pass bicycling is not allowed from 11 to 4 pm. I didn't see any "no bicycling" signs east of Logan Pass.


The main purpose of visiting the Avalanche area was for Brian to re-shoot some photos of the Avalanche Gorge. Since we were here he decided we should hike the 2 miles (one way) to Avalanche Lake. The lake has a great view as one can see along the cirque seven waterfalls that eventually make their way to Avalanche Lake.

After a short stop at the foot of the lake to rest and take photos we continued on the trail to the head of the lake. We met a bicyclist in full dress. I asked where his bicycle was. Of course bicycles are not allowed on the trails. He had left it and his clipless shoes at the start of the trail. He was hiking in a spare pair of shoes. Now this is my way to travel: bike and hike.

At the far end of lake were two men, a woman, and one of the men's young son. They were all fishing for cutthroat trout or Brookies in the lake. At least that is what they told me. They cast and reeled their fishing lines and never got anything. The dad had taken his shoes and socks off in order to cross one of the streams (the SE one) to go to fish where the east stream entered the lake. He carried his son across the stream with him.

The son, typical child, wasn't sure where he wanted to fish and had to jump smaller streams between the larger ones as dad was too busy fishing to stop to carry his son over the smaller streams. The boy was able to jump the streams without getting wet - somehow.

At one point the woman tried to use her cell phone. *sheesh* We are in the middle of Glacier Park, between tall mountains at the far end of a narrow valley at the bottom of a cirque and she thinks a cell phone will work?

Brian took his shoes off to ford the streams to get various photos. I sat on a huge tree trunk and watched everyone. Sometimes it is nice not to have a camera.

After Brian's photo taking I convinced him to hike on the unmaintained trail past the lake. This trail goes past the pine trees and comes out near where the snowfields and streams from the waterfall pass. Brian was reluctant and I had to keep with the encouragement as the trail went up and down and over fallen trees. Just when Brian wouldn't go further I came out the end of the trail into the open area.

I had hiked this same trail with Francis's wife, Linda, last year when the snow came further down the cirque. We were able to hike to the snow. This year there was less snow and the small deciduous trees created a barrier between us and the snow.

As I looked at the trees then the waterfalls Brian exclaimed excitedly that he saw a bear. Part way up the cirque between two streams and near a snowfield a bear was wandering. It was probably a quarter mile away, too far to make out if it was a black bear or a grizzly.

Brian has almost always seen a bear when he visited Glacier Park in the past while I only seen one bear in all the times I visited the Park. Brian has no interest in seeing another bear and grumbled that 'he knew this would happen'; that it was a mistake to hike on this trail past the lake.

While he told me this he also asked me to hold this camera's lens cap while he took photos. I asked if he could tell what type of bear it was from his telephoto but he couldn't. He quickly took photos while I watched the bear move. That is why the photo is a little out of focus.

After taking a few photos Brain quickly put his camera back into its bag. Brian wanted to leave - immediately.

The bear was slowly wandering NE along the rocks so I didn't feel the need to leave so soon. I wanted to watch the bear some more but Brian wouldn't leave without me and was very nervous staying here so we left.

At the lake Brian and I told the people about the bear. When one guy got his binoculars to look for the bear that is when I remembered I had my binoculars in my small backpack with me. I forgot I had them with me.

We couldn't see the bear from the lake. The view wasn't quite the same as from the end of the trail, and the bear may have wandered into the scattered trees that grew near where he was when we had seen them.

It was getting later now so we skipped eating and drove directly to Logan Pass. During the drive to Logan Pass we noticed the large rock that had been balanced at the edge of a snowbank along Going-to-the-Sun road was now on the side of the road. It appeared the Park had used a machine to get the rock down before it fell on someone, a car, or damaged the road. Brian and I had been watching the rock each day to see how long it remained on the melting snowbank.

All day we had seen less than the usual amount of cars and people and Logan's Pass was no different. It was a little after 7 pm so the visitors center was closed and the rangers were collecting the trash and locking up.

A male bighorn sheep on was on the stone steps to the visitors center and was licking the wet steps. People were buzzing about in order to get photos.

Turns out the Park had washed the step with water and bleach. While sheep and mountain goats lick anti-freeze to no ill effect, the Park doesn't want them to do so. A male and female ranger came back and shooed the sheep off the steps. The sheep did not move far and would move to return to the steps when the rangers backed off. Finally the woman ranger shouted forcefully and clapped her hands and the sheep wandered off.

Before the rangers started to chase off the sheep Brian told the male ranger we had seen a bear. The ranger was interested and asked for us to tell him more after he chased the sheep away. After the sheep left a woman came up to the male ranger and asked him where the bears were. She pointed, "Over there?" Some people...

More people asked him dumb questions, then he had to put something away. I told Brian the sun would be setting soon and if he wanted to return before dark we needed to get a move on. He agreed and we left. The next day Brian found a ranger and reported the bear we had seen.

The trail to the Hidden Lake overlook was entirely snow covered. The sun was behind high clouds, and while it was near 90 F in the Valley, it was very cool here. I came prepared and put on my flannel shirt then light coat. Over my shoes I wore rubber overshoes to keep my feet dry. "Ready? Let's go!"

Shortly we met a young couple with southern accents. Not only had they hiked the 1.5 miles to the Hidden Lake overlook, they also hiked down to Hidden Lake, which was another 1.5 miles. They both looked very tired, especially as they had done another 6 mile hike earlier in the day.

Then we met a middle aged man with a "Maybe it wasn't such a good idea" tshirt. I asked if that applied to this hike. He laughed and said maybe.

From below I could see four people on the narrow bend with the steep drop-off. They were moving slowly crouching low with one hand on the upper snow bank. When we encountered them I found the two men and two women looked and sounded Japanese.

On the steep bend we met a young man and woman. The woman told us with wide eyes about the mountains goats further up the trail. She afraid of them and their horns and thought they got too close to her. She said she tried to hide behind small trees while he took photos but they would follow her.

They were the last people we seen on the trail. We had the overlook to ourselves - except for the four or five mountain goats roaming the boardwalk and overlook. The small one was already shedding her winter coat. At one point she rubbed to get more fur off. She then laid down and tilted her head back to use her horns to scratch some more.

I set my small bag down to get food to eat as I looked over the partially frozen and snow covered Hidden Lake. I left my bag to look for the sign with the distance to Hidden Lake. Then I walked over the snow covered trail to look for the point where the trail left the mountain saddle and started down the valley to Hidden Lake. There was lots of snow, and past the overlook the Park had not stuck markers in the snow to show where the trail was.

I saw a marmot wandering around a green patch of land. I noticed the snow had melted away from the very large rocks along the trail - even on the north side of the rocks. Eventually I quit and returned to the overlook.

When I had left the overlook I shouted back at Brian to watch my bag so no mountain goat got it. He hadn't heard me, but while taking photos of the goats he saw several go for my bag and he rescued it. Brian took lots of photos of the goats. I even posed by a few of them.

Having taken his photos Brian didn't want to linger longer. He didn't want to hike back in the dark. He also had plans on getting up early the next morning to take sunrise photos of the mountains.

Shortly after we started back it began to lightly rain. The end of June and we were walking over a large snowfield in the rain.

Near the visitors center the bright yellow wildflowers covered the green meadow areas where the snow had recently melted. They were partially curled up as they were in the shadow of Mt. Oberlin.

It was after 9 pm and Brian's car was the only car in the parking lot. The bighorn sheep was back licking the steps. As we walked by he jumped up off the steps and moved a short distance away. He returned to the steps as we went to the parking lot.

Even with the light rain the clouds over the mountain tops to the NW were a little pastel pink. Pretty.

It rained all the way home, sometimes heavier than others. We got home at 11:30 pm. Late, as Brian planned to get up in time to drive to the park to catch the sunrise. I wasn't going since it was too early for me.

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