Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Full moon ride on the Sun Road

Monday night Colleen and I rode our bicycles on the Going-to-the-Sun road under the full moon. Riding the Sun road on a bicycle under a full moon is a common and popular activity by the locals. I've always wanted to do this, and when I found out Colleen also wanted to do this, and that the full moon was the next day, I suggested we do the ride and she agreed.

We estimated the full moon would rise around 10:15 pm. Sunset was sometime after 9 pm. Even with a long afterglow it would be dark by 10 pm.

Hmmm... how long would it take to ride six or seven miles uphill at a constant 6% grade? Also add in driving time to reach the Loop where we planned to start.

Colleen came to get me at 6 pm. She brought me several pieces of a huckleberry cake she had made earlier that day. Oh god, it was good. Larry and Curt... you thought the huckleberry ice cream you had, or the huckleberry jam I had made was good, you haven't tasted good huckleberry food until you taste Colleen's huckleberry cake.

At the Loop we felt we had a little time so we walked on the Granite Park Chalet trail a quarter mile to the first stream. This section of the trail gives a good view of the burnt trees from the 2003 Trapper fire that swept up this mountain side. This is where I have taken each year the photos of the burnt trees and new growth that are on my blog's sidebar.

Before we got our bicycles from Colleen's pickup we spoke to a father and son next to us. The son had just hiked the Highline-Granite Park Chalet-Loop trail. About 12 miles. He strongly disliked hiking the four or so miles down the mountain through the burnt trees from the chalet to the Loop.

I learned the son had climbed Reynolds Mountain the previous day and we discussed the route he had taken to the top. I want to do that climb.

Then we started out on the ride to Logan Pass. The sun was sinking red in the west/NW. The smoke plume from the fire near the Talley Lake area I had seen earlier from Rebecca Farm was drifting NE and across the sun. The sun lit the smoke plume red.

Colleen did great riding up the steep road. I think we only stopped a couple times for her to get a drink of water and a few times for me to take a photo.

Little traffic was on the road, but cars still passed occasionally. It seemed as if lines of cars stacked up behind a slow driver when going down the mountain but not for cars going uphill.

It was dark by the time we reached Logan Pass. We stopped in the parking lot to rest and drink water. The temperature had been warm but now was dropping and a breeze was at the Pass. It wasn't long before I put my t-shirt on and also put on a windbreaker. Colleen put her windbreaker on also. We huddled together to keep warm.

Within minutes the moon rose over the mountains to the SE. We could see a pointed mountain peak against the moon as the moon first came up over the line of mountains. Then the moon crossed a smoke plume from the fire near Hwy 2 before rising into the clear and starry sky.

After a bit we decided to ride down the mountain back to the Loop. I discovered my bicycle light did not work now even though I had replaced the batteries this afternoon and it worked then. Colleen had a head mounted light which we struggled to figure out how to turn on in the dark.

"Where is that switch?!"

Colleen shined her cell phone's light on the headlamp. We still could not find a switch.

A car drove into the parking lot and I asked the driver if I could use the lights from his car's headlights to find the switch. The driver had a powerful flashlight and using that we found that you had to twist the light to turn it on. I tried earlier to twist it but not too hard as I was afraid I would break something in the dark.

Down we rode. I wore the headlamp and shone it before us. The moon had not risen high enough yet to light the Sun road.

It was very windy as we started our ride. Between the wind, our speed, and braking my mountain bicycle developed a shimmy which made aiming the light harder. A mile or so below the Pass the wind quit. And so did the bicycle's shimmy.

As we raced down the mountain we would encounter warm and cold air pockets and quickly zip through them. At one point a large bird flew off the road as we approached. We think it was an owl.

We began to meet other bicyclists slowly riding up to the Pass. We both called out "Hi!" and "Hello!" as we zoomed downhill past them. They all would merrily reply "Hi!" and "Hello!" back to us. At one point we encountered a group of eight riders. We couldn't see the riders other than by their lights, but from their voices many were women riders.

When cars came from the opposite direction their headlights would light up the road then drown it in darkness after they passed. We felt blind, then our eyes readjusted to the darkness and my headlamp light.

Then Colleen hit, with her rear bicycle tire, a rock that had fallen on the road. Flat tire!! By now we thought we were close to the Loop and began to walk. Hmmm... not around this bend in the road. Nor this bend. Or this bend. Going downhill the road seemed far longer than going uphill. But then Colleen and I had chatted away while riding uphill. At one point two men we passed by on our uphill ride, and who were taking photos of the mountains lit by the setting sun, complemented us on having the ability to talk while riding up the steep road.

Finally I had enough walking, and in the moonlight that now lit up the road, and using the headlamp for light, I took Colleen's tire off and switched her bad tube for a new one. A good thing as we still had a ways to ride to reach the Loop.

Next to Colleen's pickup were two men preparing to begin their ride up the mountain. We suspected it was them who left the two empty beer cans in the bed of Colleen's pickup. It was just after midnight now. A few riders had returned to the Loop's parking lot from their ride downhill and the women especially were whooping it up in their excitement from their ride down the mountain.

It was a great ride and Colleen and I plan to do this ride again. Next time we will start later and ride up the mountain in the moonlight.

We drove home slowly savoring our successful ride. I never got home until 1:40 am.

First photo: Mt Oberlin in sunset light and Logan Pass to its left.
Second photo: the moon from Logan Pass.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Grinnell Lake with Brian

Saturday July 21, 2007 Brian and I traveled to the east side of Glacier Park and the Many Glacier Valley to hike to the Grinnell Glacier.

Because our destination was on the far side of the Park we woke up early. I decided to pick some raspberries from my garden to add to my breakfast. While doing so I heard cattle mooing. My cattle were invited by my neighbor Jim to eat his pasture grass down as he was concerned about tall grass and fire later in the year. I looked out and could see my cattle in his field so I went inside to eat my breakfast.

A short time later Jim's wife came over to tell me a few of the cattle got into their northern neighbor's (John's) field. Three cattle made the jailbreak. I grabbed a pail of a few treats and made my way to join Jim and John who were unsuccessfully trying to get the three jail breaker's back to Jim's field.

I found the cattle had gotten through a loose section of fence in the far NW corner of Jim's property. I opened the small gate between Jim and John's fields and herded two cattle through the gate. The third heifer ran past the open gate to the section of fence she had originally crawled through. She crawled back through the fence to join the herd. Her actions confirmed where the jailbreak occurred.

I offered to fix and improve Jim's fence but he said he would take care of it so that Brian and I could go on our hike. Even so, I gave him a small roll of barb wire to use to fix the fence. He did so and there were no more jail breaks through the fence.

So much for our early start to the day. We started at 10 am.

In Glacier Park we stopped at 'The Loop' to walk along the trail to take photos of the burned trees from the 2003 fire. I got another photo to add to my yearly collection.

At Logan Pass we noticed a bighorn sheep off the side of the road.

At Siyeh Bend we stopped to take photos back toward where we had hiked to Eden Overlook a few days ago.

It was 2 pm when we finally arrived at the Many Glacier hotel. As we crossed from the parking lot to the Many Glacier Hotel Brian encountered a pair of bighorn sheep.

In order to save us 3.4 miles (round trip) of hiking Brian wanted to take the boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. Otherwise the total distance would be 11 miles.

The boat ride cost $15. I had arrived at the boat's ticket booth below the Swiftcurrent Lodge well before Brian. I waited for Brian and the boat waited for us. After I paid for my ticket, and Brian was paying for his ticket, I noticed a small sign n the corner of the ticket booth's window saying the trail to Grinnell Glacier was closed.


I was told only the last half mile to mile of the trail was closed. A mountain goat had fallen onto the lake when it was frozen. The ice had melted and the goat floated in the water. Because the Park feared the dead goat would attract a bear the trail was closed at the end.  Eventually the Park employees moved the goat to the lake's shore to hurry the time a bear would find and eat the goat's carcass. That still had not happened.


Well... we had already bought the tickets, so we got on the boat. We found only a few people - about a dozen - were on the boat.  Usually these boats are filled with people during high tourist season.

I was not happy about the Grinnell Glacier trail being closed and the boat company not mentioning it when I bought the tickets. I wanted this to be a great hike for Brian and I may have been more disappointed than he was. Poor Brian had to endure my grumbling about this for quite a while until I got it out of my system.

From the boat, here is a view back towards Swiftcurrent Lodge.

This photo shows the southern and western valleys of the Many Glacier area with Grinnell Point dividing them. Today's hike was towards the southern valley. Logan Pass is beyond the far mountains in the southern valley. The western valley was where I lost my hat as I descended the those mountains from Swiftcurrent  Pass.

The first photo shows our tour guide.

The boat went around Swiftcurrent Lake to a boat dock at the other end. From here it was a .2 of a mile walk to Lake Josephine and a second boat for a short ride to the boat dock on the other side of this lake.

The following photo shows Lake Josephine and the mountains (Angel Wing [in the foreground] among them) at the far end of the lake.

From the boat dock at the SE part of Lake Josephine, here is the view if we traveled to Grinnell Glacier. The glacier seen in the background is the Salamander Glacier. Grinnell Glacier is to the left of the Salamander Glacier, hidden from this view by Angel Wing.

Instead of hiking to Grinnell Glacier Brian and I decided to follow boat captain on a one mile walk that she led to Grinnell Lake. While she made a few interesting comments along the trail we soon left the group as they walked so slow. It is hard to walk so slow.

The following photo is of Grinnell Lake with part of the Salamander Glacier seen above Grinnell Falls.

It was very windy at the lake when we arrived. As you can see in the following photo, the wind blows often and to some effect on the trees.

We walked along the shoreline a bit looking for a trail around the south side of the lake. The path eventually petered out in the shrubs. A small group of 20-something men and women were lounging near the lake close to where the path petered out.

When we returned back to the main trail the group from the boat had arrived and were now on the lake shore. Brian and decided to return to Lake Josephine. On the way back we hiked .2 mile side trail to Hidden Falls and checked out the view.

During the boat ride back to the Lodge one of the boat employees noticed my "Coors Classic Bicycle Race" t-shirt. He used to live in Colorado and attended the race when younger.

The Many Glacier hotel was built in 1914-1915. It is old with small rooms. A person was playing classical music on a piano in the lobby area.

After we left the Lodge we encountered numerous vehicles on and along the road. A grizzly bear was above the road. Many people had stopped and were watching and taking photos. The Many Glacier Valley is one of the better areas of the Park in which to see a bear.

Seeing a bear continued Brian's string of 'always seeing a bear' when he visits Glacier Park. He didn't think he'd see a bear this visit as usually he would have seen one by now. Brian made a big deal about seeing a bear and not really wanting to see a bear, and he moaned and nashed his teeth over this. But I could tell he was pleased to see a bear so as to keep his string of bear sightings alive.

The bear moved along the road and higher up on the mountain side. Following the bear's progress cars moved and leapfrogged one another along the road. Brian was the only person to leave the road as he climbed up a little of the lower mountain side to get a better view of the bear moving up on ahead of him.

"Brian, what happened to being afraid of bears?"

Brian took a few photos and had returned to the road before a Park Ranger came and chased everyone away by walking down the road and having everyone leave. Good thing Brian had returned to the road before the ranger arrived. The ranger said the bear wanted to cross the road to reach the stream below the road. It had been hot all week and the bear wanted water.

Later we stopped at a store near the Rising Sun campground. Inside I found a great t-shirt: "Let someone else climb the corporate ladder." The shirt had a small drawing of two hikers hiking up and along a mountain ridge. Even though I loved the t-shirt, I have too many t-shirts now, so I did not buy it.

Outside the store, as I waited for Brian, I talked with a Minnesota girl and her boyfriend (darn!) at Rising Sun campground while they waited for a shower. We talked about Glacier, Minnesota, and some of the trails in the area.

As we drove back along St Mary Lake we saw a few cars along the road. Yup, another bear. This time we saw a brown bear between the road and lake.

The sun getting lower in the west sky as we drove on towards Logan Pass.

Photo 1: St Mary Lake
Photo 2: Mountains
Photo 3: Reynolds Mountain at Logan Pass.

At Logan Pass we parked in the parking lot and took a break to walk a half mile or more on the Highline Trail. The trail is right over the Going-to-the-Sun Road in many places near its beginning. A rock pushed off the trail could easily fall on a car below.

Photo 1 shows the Highline trail, Going-to-the-Sun road, Flattop Mountain, and the Garden Wall. This is the west side of the Garden Wall. If you climb a side trail to the far "notch" on the right above Flattop Mountain, you can look down on Grinnell Glacier.

Mountain goats were on the trail. We also saw big horn sheep below on the road. One sheep ran down the road ahead of a car who wouldn't wait. There were also deer and a fawn along the road.

Back at Logan Pass I spoke with a woman who bicycled up the road and was checking out the sights before riding back down. She was in the middle of moving from British Columbia over to Ontario Canada. When she had lived closer to Montana she used to ride down the Sun road during the full moon rides. I had never ridden down the Sun road in the moonlight, but little did I know that in less in a month I would meet Colleen and we would ride down the Sun Road on our bicycles under a full moon.

Here are views of the sunset as we walked along the Highline trail.

We drove down the road in the dark. A group of bighorn sheep were on the road.

We got back home around 11:15 pm. Another late night. As I walked to the house from my mailbox I discovered deer were in my fruit tree and garden area. I could not see them but it sounded like they tried to jump my chain link fence and failed as I heard the fence rattle after unsuccessful attempts. Eventually the deer jumped the barb wire fence along the road and left.

Busy sightseeing with Brian

I've been busy sightseeing the past days with Brian. Glacier Park, Dragon's Tail, East Glacier, Two Medicine, Polebridge, Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, the North Fork. All over the Park.

Tonight we got back home before dark for once - but just barely.

Tomorrow we plan to visit the Many Glacier valley. The goal is to get an early start as Many Glacier is several hours away on the eastern side of the part - and here I am up late again!!!!

Lots of photos. I hope I can remember the details and write it up later as it is a crazy time now.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two Medicine and Cut Bank with Brian

On the afternoon of July 19, 2007 Brian and I traveled to the Two Medicine area of Glacier Park.

As usual we got a late start to the morning, and after running a few errands, we headed over the continental divide via Highway 2 to the Two Medicine area.

In the East Glacier townsite we stopped and I checked the locations and took photos of a few hotels for Thersea who is planning to visit the Park in September. Brian and I also stopped and checked out the East Glacier Lodge.

It wasn't the ideal time of day to visit as the valley is viewed looking to the west. That means in the afternoon, looking towards the sun. It also was extremely windy with huge gusts of wind coming off of Two Medicine Lake.

Brian and I stood on the lake for a while before leaving. We didn't hike on any of the trails. Brian was still recovering from our previous days hikes.

We also visited Running Eagle Falls. The distance from the parking lot was only .3 of a mile on level ground.

The Falls is pretty neat as it appears to come out of the rock wall. Apparently during the Spring when the water level is high it also flows over the top of the rock.

We hung around the Falls for a while taking photos and enjoying the scenery. Eventually three Native American adults and two kids came.  The male adults and one kid climbed the rocks past me up higher and closer to the Falls.

The heavy set male was high overlooking the pool below the Falls and the skinny male was below me. The skinny male yelled up at the heavy set male. We couldn't hear him over the roar of the Falls so the skinny guy then motioned for the heavy set male to jump into the water. The skinny guy appeared to have had a few drinks in his belly.

The heavy male was hesitant and kept looking and looking at the rocks and the pool below so the skinny guy climbed up and with a quick run launched himself out past the rocks and into the water. I was surprised as I didn't think this was the safest thing to do. Apparently the pool drops off quickly and is deep at that point.  Soon the skinny guy popped up and made his way to shore.

Once he made it to the rocks the skinny guy again yelled and motioned for the heavy set guy to jump and with a few steps he did. And was successful in getting out past the rocks.

The males jumped in a few more times and the young boy also jumped in, though from a lower rock closer to the water. The female adult and the other child waded in the stream and near the shallow end of the pool.

After seeing this Falls, and being pleasantly surprised by its uniqueness, we decided to also visit Appistoki Falls on the south side of the Valley near Two Medicine Lake.

The distance to this Falls was .6 of a mile, but definitely a harder walk as the distance was mainly a climb upwards. This Falls was a disappointment, especially after seeing Running Eagle Falls. Appistoki Falls was just like a number of other tall falls in the Park, and one couldn't get close to it and had to view it at a distance.

The trail continued up on up to Scenic Point. This was another 2.5 miles. This was more hiking than Brian was up for this day so we didn't go far. I was able to convince Brian to hike up the trail another half mile to a mile so we'd get a better view of the Two Medicine Valley, and an idea of where the trail went to reach Scenic View.

While we were still on the side trail to the Appistoki Falls overlook, Brian and I heard a woman on the Scenic View trail above us. As she hiked down the trail she called out "Hey, bear! Hey, bear!" over and over. She was an older woman hiking alone as her husband and son were behind her farther up the trail. She was so afraid of meeting a bear she was constantly calling out.

"Hey, bear. Hey, bear." became Brian's and my catch phrase for the rest of his vacation. Whenever we were hiking and there was a lull in the conversation, or we were thinking about bears, or met someone else who was worried about bears, Brian and I would call out, "Hey, bear. Hey, bear." and laugh.

Instead of returning home via highway 2, we decided to drive up to St Mary and return via the Going-to-the-Sun road. I also wanted to check out the Cut Bank Valley as I had never been there. We had to exit highway 89 and drive back into the Park.

At the intersection with highway 89 is a sign indicting the times a daily shuttle bus passes by to pick up travelers between East Glacier and the Canadian border. This is a handy feature for hikers and backpackers on the east side of the Park. Each leg of the journey in 2007 was only $8, which was reasonable.

On the drive back to the Park and the Cut Bank trailhead we encountered a number of cattle roaming free range on the Blackfoot Reservation. One could also see the Park boundary as a clear straight line ran through the forest.

The campground at the Cut Bank trail head was primitive but the scenery was gorgeous. Even with the west sun the view was beautiful. I hiked up a bit from the trail head to a broad view and vowed I would return to hike this valley.

In 2006 was the Red Eagle fire, which burnt many acres in the Park and on the Blackfoot Reservation. The drive to St Mary was through miles and miles of burnt timber on each side of the highway. The sun was setting in the west and made for a beautiful sunset. The last photo of the following four was taken from near St Mary and shows the continental divide and Logan Pass in the background, our destination.

We had a hundred mile or so drive through the mountains. Another late night before we got home.