Sunday, January 31, 2010

Got outside for some fun in Glacier

I finally got outside for some fun this Winter.   Thursday I cross country skied 11 miles on the Old Ranger Station trail in Glacier Park and Saturday I hiked to Snyder Lake (9 miles round trip and again in Glacier Park).  Yes, I said 'hiked'.  While I brought my snowshoes along I didn't need them as the trail was packed down to hard snow.  On some parts of the trail, stepping "off trail" meant sinking into snow up to my knees, and in one case almost to my waist.

Late Saturday night and Sunday it snowed. Officially at the airport we had 1.3 inches of snow.  But at my place I am sure we had closer to 3 inches.  Anyway, the new snow made it pretty and white again, as with no wind, the snow fell straight down and blanketed everything.

Here is the view of Lake McDonald when I hiked Saturday.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snyder Lake in January

Saturday, January 30, Patti and I hiked up to Snyder Lake in Glacier Park.  Yes, I said 'hiked'.  We had brought our snowshoes along but found that for the most part the snow on the trail was packed down hard enough to walk on.  I ended up carrying my snowshoes on my back the entire way.

When we started quite a number of cars were in the Lake McDonald lodge parking lot near the trail head.  Next to us was a young couple getting ready.  Next to their car was another couple part of the group.  They were going to backcountry camp that night as Avalanche Lake.  That meant cross country skiing on the Sun road almost 7 miles to the Avalanche Lake trail head, then ski and snowshoe the two or so miles back to the lake.

The men were loading plastic sleds with the tents, sleeping bags, and supplies, to pull behind them. The men had their work cut out for them as they had a lot of stuff.  I asked how many nights they planned to stay?  Just one.  One woman said that extra nights just mean a little more food, that's all. 

The first part of the trail, the part that also goes to Sperry Chalet and is steep, was under a thick tree canopy; and with this year's lower than normal snow amount, was packed to a hard icy sheen.  In some spots it had melted a little and was icy.

I was able to get up the steep trail but walking on the side of the trail where there still was some snow to get traction on.  Patti put on her YakTrax and then was able to get up the trail.

Once the trail split off to Snyder Lake it wasn't quite as steep, but higher up and not under as thick of a tree canopy, had more snow.  This photo was taken shortly after we started on the Snyder Lake section of the trail.  Later the track got sunk so deep in the snow we felt like we were walking in a bobsled or luge run.

I was able to make it all the way to Snyder Lake just using my shoes, but I had to take care not to step on the sides of the narrow trail as then I would sink down into the snow.

One time one off balance step led to another and soon I was in snow up to my hips. I was glad I had worn my gaiters.  On the last mile of this trail Patti put on her snowshoes as with her little feet she began to sink into the snow even when on the trail.  With my bigger feet, as long as I stepped lightly, I didn't sink.

The only people Patti and I saw on the trails were one young couple as we came back down the Sperry Chalet part of the trail after visiting Snyder Lake.  This couple had hiked up only as far as to see the view of Lake McDonald in the photo below.

Lots of snow, and with little no no wind, it fell straight down as seen in the photos.

Finally in the last mile of the 4.4 hike to the lake we could see the mountains ringing the cirque.






As we neared the lake we could see the blue ice from a number of frozen waterfalls. Here are photos of a few of them.


At the lake I crossed the stream leading from the lake and checked out the campsite and the outhouse. The previous week a couple camped here. They had to shovel out the outhouse in order to use it.


No... that is not an outhouse for midgets.


The campers also had shoveled snow from an area to make a place to sit and enjoy the mountain views. It was so quiet and beautiful up there.  Here is where my snowshoes came in handy... as something to sit on so as not to get a wet butt from the snow.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Old Flathead Ranger Station xc ski

Thursday, January 28, 2010, Joyce, Kendra, Greg and I cross country skied on the Old Flathead Ranger Station trail in Glacier Park.

This was the first time I got out this Winter for either skiing or hiking.  It hasn't been much of a Winter for snow but I found the snow on this trail was ok for skiing.  It wasn't fresh, but also not crusty or icy.

The road to the trail head was closed near the horse corrals and we had to ski about a mile to the trail head. The Flathead Ranger Station trail is near the Apgar Lookout trail.

We saw Apgar Mountain as we skied to the trail head.

Apgar Mountain

We skied over the bridge where McDonald Creek enters the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Once we were on the Ranger Station trail we began to encounter fallen trees across the trail. This area had been burnt in the 2003 Robert Fire.  The Park left the burnt trees and over time they fall. Because this is a popular trail for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, I feel the park should have gone over the trail one last time in the Fall to clear the trees that had fallen across the trail.

New and old life after the Robert Fire.

While not steep hills, the trail had hills nonetheless.   Skiing down them was a challenge due to the lack of snow for snowplowing, curves, and the occasional fallen tree across the road.  I think I crashed at least once on each long downhill.  I had carried my camera in my right rear pants pocket and after a couple falls - each fall landing me on my right side - I moved the camera to my left pocket. The snow was relatively soft but I was taking no chances with my camera.  My last fall was on hard packed snow so I was happy I had moved my camera.

We had to take off our skis to get down a steep hill to cross a creek.  On the return trip the bindings on one of my skis had froze and for a while it looked like I may have to go up and down the steep hills on one ski.

I had hiked this trail in the past and never saw signs of the location of the old ranger station.  Naturally under the snow I didn't see signs this time either.

I did see lots of animal tracks.  Elk tracks and dropping were common.  I also saw signs of several perhaps coyote tracks.  Dogs are not allowed in the Park and the Flathead River and the remote location reduced chances that dogs would come here on their own.

We skied along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

We skied all the way to the North Fork of the Flathead River where it joined the Middle Fork of the Flathead.  At the steep bank overlooking the North Fork I found what looked to be the same trees eroding and overhanging the river bank as when I was last here in 2006.

In the sun's warmth small rocks were loosened from the river bank and rolled noisily down, many to the river.  Probably not a good idea to stand close to the edge to look at eroded trees.

As began to ski back we saw a guy down below skiing on the south side of the Middle Fork of the Flathead.  With the water level low he was able to ski on the snow covered parts of the dry side of the river bed.  That didn't last too long as in less than a quarter to half mile there were no more areas to ski in the river channel.

While we had only skied 11 miles Kendra was exhausted by the time we got back to Joyce's car.  Kendra and Greg haven't skied with us since.