Friday, May 25, 2007

Lupine Lake with Bill

Friday May 25th Bill and I hiked the Lupine Lake trail in the Tally Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest. The core group was still on vacation or busy elsewhere.

We were scheduled to hike around Two Medicine Lake in Glacier Park on the east side of the Divide. However Thursday night it rained almost an inch and snowed at elevations above 4500 ft. Friday morning brought partly cloudy skies in my part of the valley and westward. East against the Swan Range and towards Glacier Park the clouds were stacked against the mountains. While the weather forecast called for clearing skies, I doubted we would see any sun if we went east.

Bill wanted to cancel hiking but I convinced him to hike the Lupine Lake trail. This trail was located in the Salish Mountains west of Kalispell. It was mostly sunny in that direction and I felt we had a chance to escape any afternoon rain showers that would occur from the day's evaporation of the moisture on the ground.

Neither of us had ever hiked this trail. This trail was one of the trails mentioned as a candidate for being free of snow when I spoke with the Tally Lake ranger last month.

I picked Bill up in my car and I drove to the trail. There are two ways to get to the trail:
  1. north from Talley Lake and Star Meadows area
  2. south from Marion, MT.
From the map it appears the southern route had more paved road, so that is the way I drove. Red and solid gray meant paved roads; green was improved forest service roads and could mean gravel or paved, but usually gravel.

On the map, Lupine Lake trail is below the circled 5 at the top of the map. Below the circled 5 you see a red 210. that is the trail number. Follow that trail from Lupine Lake down and over to the green road near the lower right tip of the light tan area. That is where I wanted to drive.

Marion, MT is in the lower right corner near the red line that indicates Hwy 2.

Approaching Marion I could see snow near the tops of the mountains. *gulp* Still, I didn't worry much about snow as I felt the Lupine Lake trail lay in a valley and would be snow free. The ranger did tell me this was one of the trails that opened early after snow melt.

Marion is an odd town. I never saw the core town. A quarter mile off hwy 2, and among open space and some homes, was a newer post office building. No other business nearby. Odd. A short drive further and a sign pointed west along a mainly empty road to the public library. And perhaps a school as one building looked like a school. Where is main street and the businesses?

According to my map the paved road ended a little over a mile past Little Bitterroot Lake. The pavement ended at the end of the lake. Okay... A little over a mile we saw a paved road lead east off our road. Hmmm.... the map says we continue relatively north so I did so.

The gravel road was in very good condition with only a couple potholes. Up and around a mountain side I drove. I later learned this was Haskill Pass. A great view of a lake in the large valley below could be seen on the other side of the pass. I later learned this was Dahl Lake and that we were in Pleasant Valley. We saw several large birds - hawks or an eagle I am not sure.

I had estimated that the Lupine trail would start about 8 to 9 miles from where the pavement ended. On the map each square is one mile across. At 9 miles no trail. Hmmm... I kept driving. We came to Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge.

Wikkepedia: Lost Trail Refuge
Official Lost Trail website

I couldn't find the refuge on my map. Where are we?! I kept driving. After 4 miles we came to the refuge's headquarters. A refuge truck was on the side of the road so I stopped to ask directions.

"Where are we? Where is the Lupine Lake trail?"

The truck's passenger was newer and didn't know where Lupine Lake trail was located. The truck's driver did know, and using my map, showed me where we were and where we wanted to be. We were a long way off. Where we wanted to be was on the north side of a mountain range.

We had to backtrack back over Haskill Pass, back to where I saw the paved road to the east. That was the road we wanted to be on.

Back I drove. *sigh*

At the top of Haskill Pass a scree pile of mostly flat and colored rocks came down from the mountainside to the road carved from the side of the mountain. Both Bill and I like collecting rocks, though his tend to be on the smaller side. I stopped and we both scrambled around gathering rocks. He was looking for some medium size flat rocks. Me? Anything that caught my fancy.

As the car was right there I didn't have to carry the rocks far and therefore wasn't limited too much in size, though I did leave a few interesting larger rocks better carried in a pickup. Bill and I ended filling a third to half of my car trunk with rocks. We had a hard time quitting. When we did, several times we found more interesting rocks a short drive further.

I figured the correct road's pavement would end relatively soon. To our surprise the pavement continued all the way to the trail and beyond. What a pleasant surprise.

The trail head had a large sign marking it and a decent area off the road to park one's vehicle. One other vehicle was already parked there.

Since we left hwy 2 at Marion, and even accounting for my 13 mile wrong turn, we had seen less than 5 vehicles. Not a heavily traveled road.

We walked past the other vehicle looking for the trail head. Where is it?! A couple that looked to be in their late 40s or early 50s came riding up the paved road on horseback and showed us that the trail head was behind my car. Oopps.

The couple were on two horses with the longest legs I have ever seen. Beautiful horses and ones I would want if I had to travel through deep snow drifts.

I learned this couple was from Columbia Falls and had spent the night camping off the road a short distance away. They were out for a day or so of camping and trail riding. They camped out the previous night and, while I had rain in the Valley, they watched large snowflakes fall. To me an ideal camping situation: in the mountain outdoors with decent temperatures and falling snow among the tall pines. All the more reason to cuddle up with one's sweetie to keep warm.

He works as a ski instructor at Big Mountain over the winter. They had come here several years ago after living in New Mexico. Prior to that they were from Texas. I commented that they were a long way from Texas, and it was my understanding that Texans love Texas and prefer to live there. Not them! They couldn't wait to get out of Texas. Both had a slight Texas drawl that was pleasant to hear.

Their horses had small saddlebags; he wore a gun on his hip; and they had a saw they used to cut dead fall that sometimes lay across the trail. This was great as they cleared the trail ahead of us, as on horseback they traveled faster than we did on foot.

This is another reason I like Montana. One meets interesting people with life experiences who have moved here because they want to, not just because of a job. In Minnesota the people I mainly met went to college then got a job at IBM or the Mayo Clinic. Their life experiences consisted of college and work. Their goal was a good paying job. Most of these people had little in the way of interesting life experience.

The sign at the start of the trail said Lupine Lake was 2.5 miles. That differs from the Tally Lake brochure that said it was 4 miles. One could also continue hiking to Ashley Mountain which was 5 miles away.

Bill and I were very pleasantly surprised to find a great and roaring waterfall in a deep canyon below. The waterfall was on Griffith Creek. And what in the world is such a short deep canyon doing here?

An overlook jutted out over the creek far below and it sloped downward. No way was I getting close to the edge! From one side I could see the falls to the south. To the NE I saw the creek far below. This led to another series of waterfalls that we reached once the trail crossed the creek.

The canyon with the creek and falls was narrow and deep. The slides were vertical solid rock walls. It is amazing the creek cut such a deep area through the rock. Below and at the end of the steepest part of the canyon was a large rock half as tall as the canyon. Growing out of the rock on the side near the top was a pine tree. Out of the boulder! I wish I had a camera.

We hiked down to where the trail crossed the creek. The couple on horseback were having trouble as their horses refused to cross the creek. She rode back up the first switchback then he came up also. I suggested they try again after I crossed the bridge to the other side.

"Perhaps the horses will cross once they see someone on the other side."

That worked. Seeing me on the other side, both horses crossed with no problem.

After crossing the creek the trail mainly climbed. Prior to our crossing the creek the trail was constantly downhill. I am glad it wasn't all downhill as we had to return.

The trail was fantastic. We hiked through pine forests with occasional open areas. We started to see occasional areas of snow off the trail. Then more and more snow until the trail was the only partly snow free. That changed as we then had a thin layer of wet slushy melting snow on our trail.

The pines were draped with melting snow. Beautiful! One did have to be careful when a clump of melting snow fell from a branch. I hadn't worn a hat and once I got hit on the top of my head by a glop of snow that fell. "Who's throwing snowballs?"

The moisture freshened the air and the pine smell was strong. "Cool mountain pine" is not just a slogan to sell air fresheners. I was in heaven. This was my favorite hike so far this year and I didn't want to be anywhere else.

We had seen footprints in the snow off and on, and after hiking a while through the snow, we encountered paw prints. They were large. If they were from a dog we would have seen them earlier when we saw the footprints. Maybe they were wolf tracks! Where is Darrel when you need him? We didn't know, but we decided they were wolf tracks. Later we saw smaller tracks. "Wolf pups", I said.

At the lake we found three women sitting and three dogs frolicking about. Darn. They weren't wolf tracks after all. The largest dog was a giant poodle. A poodle made those tracks no less!

The women looked to be in their 50s. They usually get together to hike once a week and also would hike to Lupine Lake each year. One woman made small pads for them to use to sit on to keep warmer and drier. I offered to join their group so I could get a pad also but they laughed.

The branches were damp and they were unable to start a fire in the rock fire ring others had used for fires. Bill got talkative as he enjoys talking with women. After a while they left to return to their vehicle.

This area was made by Mother Nature for us to enjoy the lake. A large rock that split cleanly into several sections jutted against the lake. We stood on the lake and surveyed the lake and environment. Ashley Mountain rose east / SE of the lake.

Pine trees rose from the lake shore on up the mountain side for most of the lake. Across from us was a similar rocky area where the trees were thinner. Snow lay on the trees. The rock area across the lake, shaded, was snow covered. The lake water was clear. Even under the cloudy skies the lake reflected the various colors of green from the pines and also the white of the rocky area.

Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous!

We ate our lunch there.

After lunch I convinced Bill to continue on the trail a bit towards Ashley Mountain. There was too much snow to make it desirable to climb all the way, but I wanted to go a little further.

We saw where the horse prints left the trail. We came near another creek that gurgled as creeks do when they are running full and through the forest. When we left the creek Bill decided to turn back. The snow was getting heavier and we were closed in by the pine trees. He returned to the lake to wait for me. I just had to go a little further.

The snow continued to be a little more and a little more. It was melting and wet and a number of times my snow footprint would stick to the sole of my shoe until falling off in a clump before the next step.

I came upon a small open area on the side of the trail near where it started a bend for a switchback. At the other end of the opening I saw a carved rounded piece of wood sticking in the ground. It looked like a grave marker. I walked over and brushed the snow from its top.

In Loving Memory of
Beloved husband
Richard V. Bain
Nov 5, 1978

It looked like this could be a grave site. It was unusual that there were no trees here. It was a very beautiful and peaceful spot to be buried. Ideal. This would be a spot I would be happy to be buried. Among the trees deep in the forest in an area that probably would never be developed into houses.

I continued on a bit but the switchback went steadily upward. Time to return to the lake and Bill.

On the way back I saw the couple and their horses. He had tried fishing but had no luck.

During the walk back Bill and I took a short side trail that led to an overlook of a valley and the mountains beyond. The only sign of man was the various sections and heights of trees where they were growing after being clearcut in years past.

I also found an interesting decent sized rock that I decided I must have. So much for getting rock collecting out of my system earlier. I was happy to have both hands free as I needed both to carry the rock the 1.5 miles back to the car. It was certainly easier to carry the rock downhill than the final uphill climb to the car.

When we recrossed the creek I took a few minutes and walked along the creek up to the lower falls. The water color reminded me of northern Minnesota. The color was yellowish from the rock sediment, not clear like the water usually is around this area.

The brochure also mentions that we gained 1100 feet on the trail. That seems a bit high for me. While we did climb I wonder if the elevation change really was 1100 feet. Maybe the up and down did add up to 1100 ft? Maybe my enjoyment of the trail distracted me from the true elevation gain.

My car sure felt weighed down by the rocks when I drove home.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fishercap, Redrock and Bullhead Lakes

Friday, May 18, I went hiking with my hiking group. Several regular members were missing due to vacations and other commitments. So it just was Bill and I from the regular group. Joining us were Wendy and Cheryl, sisters.

Wendy attends the same church as most of the hiking group and has hiked with the group a number of times over the past few years before I joined the group. She had hiked to Snyder Lake the previous week - the hike I missed when my relatives were visiting me. Apparently that trail was still covered in snow for half of the 4 mile distance.

Today's hike was in the Many Glacier area on the east side of the Park. This is my favorite valley in the Park due to the lake and all the mountains.

From the Swiftcurrent Trailhead we hiked west up the valley, along Swiftcurrent Creek and along the lakes: Fishercap, Redrock, and Bullhead. Bullhead Lake is the long lake below the switchbacks that lead up to Swiftcurrent Pass.

The elevation gain to Redrock Falls is only 100 feet and I doubt we climbed much higher than that to Bullhead Lake.

Because we had to drive to the east side we all met at 8 am in Columbia Falls. Wendy had to be back by 3 pm because of something with her grandson. So she and Cheryl drove in their SUV while I rode with Bill.

At the Goat Lick on Hwy 2 we saw a number of goats. Then shortly after that Bill, Wendy and Cheryl all saw a black bear. I was looking elsewhere and I missed it.

At East Glacier we took the Hwy 49 shortcut over to Hwy 89 now that Hwy 49 is open (its closed over the winter). On Hwy 89 we drove to Babb then into the Many Glacier Valley.

As we drove we had beautiful views of the mountains from the east side. All were snow covered.

Here is a view of the Two Medicine valley. This was taken by Peter and Edwina the previous weekend.

While we ran into high clouds when we reached Marias Pass on Hwy 2, and had clouds much of the way to Many Glacier, once we drove up the Many Glacier Valley we left the clouds and again had a clear sky.

We noticed most places in St. Marys were still closed, including the Park Cafe. No pie this trip!

Only one other vehicle, a RV, was in the parking lot when we arrived. We later met the couple on the trail. They sounded like they were from a Scandinavian European country.

We walked down to Fishercap Lake to look for moose. No moose.

Then halfway to Redrock Lake Bill saw a moose on the mountainside across the creek to our south. We had to use his binoculars to get a good look at it.

There were two falls around Redrock Lake. I am not sure which one was Redrock Falls. Both were beautiful. The water was very clear so one could see the rock below the falls under lots of water. I wish I had a camera so I could have taken a picture of my own.

Continuing on we made it as far as the creek that flows into Bullhead Lake near its head. The swing bridge over the creek had not been put up this year, and due to the melting snow the creek level was too high to wade across.

We had been hiking on snow off and on after leaving the falls, and snow partially covered the trail beyond the creek. The snow was red in areas from the red rocks that were about. So we stopped and ate out lunches as it was around noon.

We estimated that we hiked 3.5 miles before we were stopped at the stream.

There wasn't a bad view no matter where one sat or which direction they faced. We all speculated where the trail climbed up the mountain wall to reach Swiftcurrent Pass. I watched clouds form and then dissipate as they came over the side of Swiftcurrent Mountain.

I'm not sure where Bill took this photo.

Although Wendy drove in order to get back to the Flathead Valley by 3 pm, she might have forgotten the time as it was 2 pm when we returned to our vehicles. We never got back home until after 4 pm.

I had only gotten 5 1/2 hours of sleep the night before, and after a 7 mile hike and then a warm car, I fought to stay awake to keep Bill company on the drive back. Between a Canadian radio station that played a variety of opera and easy listening music and Bill's CD of piano music (once we were farther from the border), the music didn't help me stay completely awake. I was awake enough to notice a newer band playing swing jazz music in the style of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Horse Bridge in Glacier

Before my uncles, aunts and I left Glacier Park we stopped along McDonald Creek to see how the rains during November 2006 damaged the horse bridge that crossed the creek.

Larry and I took photos. The second photo is the view downstream of the bridge.

Trail of the Cedars with my uncles

Earlier when we were in Apgar, as I came out of the ranger station, all my uncles and aunts humorously told me they couldn't go hiking because each one had a different aliment.

The Going-to-the-Sun road was closed at Avalanche Creek. Along Avalanche Creek is the Trail of the Cedars, a level boardwalk that is less than a half mile long. I had to do some persuading to get everyone to walk on this trail. Diane (especially) and Cathy were nervous about bears and Larry and Curt didn't help matters any by occasionally making growling noises as we walked.

Then I would hear "Are we there yet?"

After crossing the bridge over Avalanche Creek I was able to persuade Diane, Cathy, and Curt to hike up a little bit on the Avalanche Creek trail to get a look down on Avalanche Creek as it went through the gorge. The full two mile hike to see the waterfalls at the end of Avalanche Lake was out of the question.

Then it was back to the car.



McDonald Creek with my uncles

Here are the views of McDonald Creek in Glacier Park when I took my uncles and aunts to the Park Tuesday. Curt was surprised this was called a creek and not called a river.

Lake McDonald with my uncles

Today my uncles, aunts and I drove along Lake McDonald in Glacier Park to Avalanche Creek where the road was still closed to vehicle traffic.

View of Lake McDonald from Apgar village.

This was taken along the lake and looking NW.

Lake McDonald lodge as seen from the lake side
Snyder Creek that runs by the lodge

The following photo was taken from Lake McDonald lodge. Along the lake from right to left is where we drove on a small road that went around the northern side of Lake McDonald. Looking at the road map earlier you can see a grey line that curves a little around the north end of the lake. Along this road are quite a number of private homes that were grandfathered into the Park when Glacier Park was created.

The following two photos were taken from the north end of Lake McDonald.

This photo was taken on the road that goes around the northwest end of the lake. As you can see the road is not very wide. Certainly Curt and Cathy's RV wouldn't fit on the road. They had me ride those miles on the back of the minivan to watch for narrow trees. After all, it was my idea to drive on this road.  (just kidding)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Tally Lake Overlook and Stovepipe Canyon

Friday, May 4, Gary, Joyce and I went hiking. Bill was ill and Sue Ann had other plans.

We decided to hike some more in the Talley Lake area. Thursday's rain meant snow in the mountains, and all the mountains, even the lower ones, were frosted with snow. Our plan was to hike Stovepipe Canyon, then see if the Talley Lake Overlook was snow free.

To get to Stovepipe Canyon we drove on Forest Service Road 2924 as seen in the lower left of the map. From the dotted lines you can see the road formerly went further but now large rocks and a mound of dirt block the road where the dotted line starts. The road we drove on was one lane and gravel/rock/dirt. Large puddles of water from Thursday's rain were across the road in a few spots. We were glad we were in Gary's pickup.

When the Stovepipe Canyon trail (trail 196) leaves the abandoned section of road the trail goes mostly downhill. The elevation change to the lake is 400 ft. The change didn't seem like much, but maybe that was because the trail went down a narrow canyon with little opportunity to see out to get a sense of the change. Or maybe it was because we were distracted by conversation.

The trees here are very tall. A number of them are large, especially some of the old logs laying on the ground.

Even though we hiked down the bottom of the canyon I don't recall hiking next to a creek though the map says we hiked along Tobie Creek.

On the trail we walked by a large and very tall dead pine tree with few branches left. At the flat top was a very large nest that stuck out larger than the tree. In the nest stood a large bird squawking at us. We couldn't decide if the bird was an eagle or an osprey as we had no binoculars.

After 1.4 miles we reached Talley Lake. The shoreline was a few large rocks, logs and clear water. Nothing was developed. We had a nice view of the SE part of Talley Lake. I didn't feel the water - I knew it to be cold.

When we returned to the abandoned road Gary and I hiked to the end of the road. Small pine trees were growing up in the road and were still wet from Thursday's rain. I could not avoid brushing against some of the tree branches and getting wet. We also had to watch where we stepped as there were lots of elk droppings on the road. We also found the partial remains of an antler.

At the end of the road there was no trail. There were lots of tall trees and no ground cover. One could hike any which way over the dead fall. Even the animals couldn't settle on a single route and make a trail.

We then drove back to Forest Service Road 913 and then 9 miles up to the Talley Lake campground at the NW part of the lake. Along the road was a sign listing the length of the lake at 3.5 miles. Talley Lake is the deepest lake in Montana at 492 feet. Mountains are all around the lake which is why the river that flows into and out of the lake are relatively close together at the NW part of the lake. The river enters the lake at the campground then exits the lake on the north side.

The campground host's travel trailer was already set up in the campground. They even had their portable DISH network satellite dish set up. Nothing like roughing it!

There were two other trailers in the campground along the lake. Even though the trees' leaves have not budded out yet, this isn't a bad time to camp. The lake scenery is nice and there are no crowds.

The Talley Lake Overlook trail is trail number 804. Again the road ends at the green area on the map as large rocks block further travel where the dashed lines are shown. My neighbor Bob remembers driving that road in the old days to fish where the river exits the lake. In the old days when logs were transported to the mills via rivers, there was a dam on the river so the loggers could release the water in the Spring and float the logs down the river. I guess the dam no longer exists.

We parked at the end of the road then hiked back a quarter mile to start on the trail. While the Stovepipe Canyon trail was marked with a sign listing the trail number, the overlook trail had no sign until we climbed a short distance up the mountain. Then an old weathered sign told us we were on the correct trail.

The elevation gain listed for this trail is 200 ft. Instead the elevation change seemed almost as much as the 400 ft on the Stovepipe Canyon trail. That may be because this overlook trail had views where one could see out to notice the elevation change.

Along the way we came upon several caches of the remains of nuts and pine cones. All the caches were quite large. The size was larger than a king sized bed. The squirrels ate well this past Winter.

Later we came upon a large grouse. A blue grouse perhaps. It was sunning itself on the side of the trail against a medium sized rock. It walked further off the trail then flew to a low dead tree branch up ahead. It sat on the branch and watched us as we slowly and quietly passed by.

Again there were lots of very tall and large trees on this trail. A mix of pine trees and Western Larch. The Larches' pine needles are starting to bud out now.

The trail was listed at 1.2 miles long. At what we felt was that distance we reached a so-so overlook of the lake. Though the trail continued we felt that since it was starting to go downhill that maybe the trail continued on the the campground's entrance. We debated on whether to continue. We decided to return to Gary's pickup. But moments later Joyce mentioned she would like to continue on the trail if I'd join her. Gary could pick us up after he got the pickup. I said I'd continue on the trail and Gary decided to also continue.

A short time later we came to another overlook of the lake - a far nicer one. We stopped and enjoyed the view of the lake.

Seven large hawks were riding the thermals and winds. They went up and down below and above us. They moved from our side (north side) of the Valley to the south side. We all mused at how we'd like to be able to fly.

On this rocky overlook Gary and I found a few interesting rocks to add to our rock collections. Me more than him, and my pack got weighed down.

A short way further up the trail we came to the end and the best overlook of all. The large two level rocky area had open views of much of the valley and most of the lake. Here one could see how the mountains rose high from all around the lake. The valley was mostly lake with just room for a road on the lake's south side. All mountains were thickly treed with pines. More than one mountain meant curves, varying distances across the valley, and an undulating horizon with at least one saddle where I believe trail 800 climbs over the mountain. All this had a mesmerizing 3-D effect. While I wished I had a camera, I also realized that the 3-D effect mostly likely could not be captured in a picture.

The weather this day was all sorts. The clouds came and went, grew, rained and moved on. We had a couple of very brief sprinkles, and once even had 20 seconds of snow. Most of the rain came over the mountains to the south then moved out over the lake. It was quite beautiful to see the white curtain flow down from a blue/gray cloud and lengthen as the cloud moved from the mountain to the lake. Sometimes the white rain/snow curtain would slip over the saddle and obscure part of another mountain. Then the sun would come out for a time.

If one couldn't have a clear blue sky, this was the next best thing. The constantly changing clouds and cloud colors made the view dramatic, as if the view of the lake wasn't enough.

The overlook also had an area where the rock dropped straight down a ways. It made Joyce nervous when Gary and I stood at the edge to look out or down. We looked down at the tops of very tall pine trees. A few dead and weathered trees were around the overlook. Most had green moss growing on the dead branches. This all added to the view.

We lingered and enjoyed the view, even though we had spent time and also ate our lunch at the previous overlook.

During the hike back Gary and I spotted his pickup below us. Joyce continued on the trail as Gary and I bushwhacked straight to his pickup down the steep mountainside. I was carrying a large rock so Gary made sure he wasn't below me as we scrambled down the mountain. I never lost my balance or the rock.

Near Gary's pickup more rocks caught our eyes until we realized that Joyce probably was waiting where the trail met the road. She was.

All total we hiked 5.2 miles this day with a plan to hike the Talley Lake overlook trail again someday.

The drive back to Kalispell was nice as we traveled on the Farm to Market road and had a different view of the Swan Mountain Range across the valley. Much of the mountains were still frosted in snow. It was good we didn't hike around Glacier Park as Badrock Canyon was filled completely with clouds. But then looking back towards Talley Lake the clouds looked ominous also.

As we drove along the Farm to Market road I noticed that many houses used rocks in their landscaping. This West Valley area is rocky.