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.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sun Road Avalanche Trail return

Here are more photos from my Nov 10 hike to see the high water on MacDonald Creek in Glacier Park. These photos are of the Avalanche gorge, then the hike back to Lake MacDonald Lodge and Sperry trail head via the Avalanche Trail.

Group: Me, Bill, Joyce, Arnie, Sue Ann

Mileage: 5.7 miles

Time: 1 pm to 3:30 pm

We had walked on the Sun Road 5.7 miles until we reached the Trail of the Cedars. I suggested we walk along the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Gorge to see how high the water was running through it.

The walk along Avalanche creek was cold! I hadn't been wearing my gloves this morning and now my hands were getting cold. The others were cold also.

The group stayed at the bridge across the creek at the foot of the gorge and I went up upstream and above the creek to get more photos. The creek was higher but not as high as I expected it to be.

While it seems as if everyone who visits the Park is worried about bears, the most common way to die in the Park is by drowning. Last year a young woman fell in and went through this gorge and surprisingly made it through alive (though barely).

While checking out the creek upstream I noticed a trail through the forest that headed back to Lake McDonald lodge via John's Lake. Walking on the pavement is hard on one's legs, and I suggested we take the trail back to Bill's car. The group agreed as none of them had ever been on this trail.

Sue Ann's sense of direction was messed up and she had trouble understanding the direction we were going. While women tend to travel via landmarks and right/left, and men go by north/south/east/west, even Joyce understood where we were and where we were heading.

Sue Ann went over-and-over trying to make sense of where we were. Each of us tried to explain it to her but it wasn't making sense to her. Part of the problem was she was using right/left in describing how we walked along the Sun Road and how we were walking back. Right/left is subjective on which way a person is facing, and changes when one goes in a loop. That is why north/south is better to use. We all took turns walking near her to explain it, and turns walking in the back of the line to take a break from explaining it to her.

After we left the Avalanche Creek area the temperature got warmer; so I and the others took our gloves off. Bare hands certainly made photo taking much easier for me.

As you can see there was snow on some parts of the trail. There were also a number of trees across the trail. They were recent as the Park hadn't cleared them from the trail yet. We went over or under them as required. Can you believe Arnie (in the blue coat) is over 81 years old? That is what a life of hiking in Montana can do for you.

The trail had quite a number of good sized and/or interesting cedar trees along it.

The trail was a bright combination of green and orange cedar needles. Every so often there was a some area - usually a circle - of snow. The upper foliage was open enough to let the snow fall through but not open enough to let the sun melt the snow.

Even though the day was now overcast - and a random snowflake or two made its way down through the trees - the trail was brighter than if we walked along the Sun Road. The greenery made the hike bright.

We also seen some small signs indicating an underground telephone cable. The sign had the old Bell company logo so this had to be from long ago. We were mystified that the Park hadn't run the phone line along the Sun Road in the ditch.

It turns out the group had hiked part of this trail before. They had hiked to John's Lake earlier this year, then back to McDonald Lodge. Earlier they weren't impressed with John's Lake, calling it John's Pond. Today the lake was larger, and initially they didn't recognize the lake. Only when Joyce spotted the odd tree (and also found a sign saying this was John's Lake) did they accept it.

Near John's Lake was this interesting tree and several large rocks that looked out of place.

Eventually we reached the horse stables near the parking lot. All the animals were gone for the winter.

While the trail was very nice and it was an enjoyable hike, the return trip seemed to take far longer than when we hiked on the Sun road. Arnie had timed it and it took us almost the same amount of time each way.

Sue Ann had baked and brought brownies and we all ate one as a reward for our hike.

The following photos are of artist's conks. A conk is "fibrous but sometimes fleshy fruiting body of a wood-rotting fungus that has a definite form and structure".
Fungus invades tree through wounds, kills the sapwood of some species, and causes white rot of sapwood and heartwood in roots and trunks of a wide variety of forest and landscape trees. These form semicircular conks that are 2-30 inches wide and 1-8 inches thick. Upper surface of conk is brown and the lower surface is white, but turns dark when scratched, hence the name artist’s conk. Stalks are absent. Fungus can spread through natural root grafting. Conks are usually found near ground level, but columns of decaying wood can extend as far as 15 feet above and below the conk.

The difference in these photos is that I took one photo with the camera's flash on and the other with the flash off.