Saturday, July 26, 2014

Swiftcurrent Lookout

Saturday July 26 Patti and I hiked up to Swiftcurrent Lookout in Glacier Park.  She had never been there and I was there once in the mid to late 1990s.

We hiked to the lookout from the Loop on the Going-to-the-Sun road.  The round-trip distance was 12.3 miles with about a 4300 ft elevation gain.

We started mid morning and barely snagged a parking spot at the Loop.

Here is a view of Heavens Peak (left) and the Heavens Peak Lookout as seen from the Loop.

We passed a few people on the trail and a father/son duo passed us.  We later met them coming down from the lookout as we got near to it.  Just before reaching the Granite Park Chalet we were passed by a man on a horse.  He was only going to Swiftcurrent Pass before heading back down to his horse trailer at Packer's Roost.

As usual there were quite a number of people at Granite Park Chalet where we had a lunch break as it was noon or a little later.

People were hiking:
  1. Logan Pass down to the Loop
  2. Over Swiftcurrent Pass to Many Glacier Valley (and more than I expected the reverse way)
  3. Up to the lookout
So plenty of people were on the trails.

Beargrass was in bloom.  Heavens Peak is in the background.

We could see the lookout before we reached Granite Park Chalet.

Looking down into the Many Glacier Valley as we climbed to the lookout. Mt Grinnell is in the middle background.

We got closer to the lookout but it looks farther away.

Some clouds were forming and passing by as we continued on to the lookout.  It also got windier.

We spent an hour or more at the lookout.  Bob was the lookout stationed there and he was outside and chatty with everyone.  We forgot to bring a map but Bob pointed out to us: Rainbow Peak, Vulture Peak, Longfellow Peak and Paul Bunyan's cabin.

The wind made it cool, especially when the clouds covered the sun.  Patti and I, and others, sat in the protected side of the lookout to escape the cool breeze as we snacked on food.  Plenty of people came and went. Many more people hiking from the Many Glacier Valley than I expected.  Later I compared our route to the Many Glacier route. Our had less miles but a little more elevation gain.

Views all around.  360 views.

Many Glacier Valley.  From the top: Lake Sherburne, Swiftcurrent Lake (where the Many Glacier is located), Fishercap Lake, Redrock Lake, Bullhead Lake, and Windmaker Lake.

The lakes.  (Red marks our hiking route.)

From the middle of the photo, at the 7 o'clock position you can see the white roof of the Granite Park Chalet just above a narrow stretch of snow.

We also looked down on the Heavens Peak Lookout (the 'bump' to the left of the word Lookout)...

Hiking back to the Loop we saw lots less people near the Granite Park Chalet as we passed it.  We saw more people hiking on the trail.  We also came across a deer.

Getting closer to the Loop we passed through burnt trees from the Trapper fire in 2003.

For more photos and info:

Follow this link to see a video from near and at the top where the lookout is located:

Follow this link for lots more photos from my hike to the lookout:


Friday, July 18, 2014

Mission Falls

On Friday July 18, I hiked to Mission Falls with Steve and Larry.  Mission Falls is on the Flathead Indian Reservation in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness near St Ignatius.  Non-tribal members need a tribal permit to hike on the reservation.  The permit in 2014 was $10 for three days or $17 for the year.

You can see the falls when driving on Hwy 93. It is near St Ignatius when you come from Missoula up Ravalli Hill.  Actually, you see Elizabeth Falls which is above Mission Falls.

From Kmart in Kalispell, the distance is 83.8 miles with a drive time of 1 hour and 48 minutes.

The road is paved almost to Mission Reservoir, then it is gravel for about 3 miles.  The gravel road is in decent condition with a few potholes to slow a vehicle down.  I drove my car which has a low clearance, and as long as I drove slow I had no problems.

The highlighted red dashed line is the trail to the upper falls.  The lower falls is near the parking lot at the trail head.

Larry's GPS unit tracked our route.  Larry and Steve remained at the Upper Falls (Lap 2) while I attempted to reach Lucifer Lake (far right in photo).  Larry had misread the map he had and thought we were at Elizabeth Falls and that Lucifer Lake was less than a mile away.  Wrong!  So from Lap 2 to the end of the red line is my attempt to get to Lucifer Lake.  As you can I wasn't even close by the time the "trail" disappeared.

You can't see the Upper Falls from the trail head.  You hike for a quarter to a third of a mile (give or take) before you get a clearing where you can see the falls. I zoomed in for the second photo.  The top falls is Elizabeth Falls.  The lower falls is Upper Mission Falls.  We hiked to the top of Upper Mission Falls.

This is about the only view of these falls from a distance you get.  Most times you are in trees with views south across the valley.  You do get lots of views of the falls on the South Fork Mission Creek halfway up the valley and on the south side. The creek comes from Sonielem Lake high up the mountain and unseen.

Even though it was July the water was flowing high and fast.  I don't know if it was because of all the snow this year, or whether the Falls usually have lots of water.

The Lower Mission Falls

Larry and Steve at the Upper Mission Falls.

One has to take care at the Upper Falls.  The wet rocks are very slippery.  The rock somewhat forms a bowl and with the fast water it may be the reason a number of people have been swept over the falls to their death.

Mission Falls can be deceivingly dangerous, according to Tom McDonald, division manager of CSKT’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation. The trail, which includes three steep sections, takes you to a pool atop the falls that couldn’t look more serene.
“A light film of algae grows on the rocks, and people who wade out into the pool can slip and go over the falls,” McDonald says. “It’s the only trail in the Mission Mountain Tribal wilderness we’ve had fatalities on in my time here.”
The trail continues another 3 to 4 miles to Lucifer Lake. It is extremely steep, not maintained, and doesn't offer good vantage points for viewing Elizabeth Falls, which it passes.

According to Larry's GPS tracking, the hike to the Upper Mission Falls was 4.62 miles (round trip) with an elevation gain of 1,595 feet. The main elevation gain is concentrated in a little of half the distance. Larry's GPS then had us climbing at a rate of 1,200 vertical feet per mile,which is very steep.

I attempted to hike to Lucifer Lake and failed. I ended up hiking 5.23 miles (round trip) with an elevation gain of 2,449 feet. The extra 854 ft elevation gain in .3 miles made it seem like I had hiked more than the extra .61 miles.

The 'trail' was steeper than it looks.  Climbing to Lucifer Lake.

The trail to the Upper Mission Falls is apparently mainly maintained by horse riders.  The route to Lucifer Lake is too steep for horses and is only used by campers and fisherman, so it is not maintained.  The initial route up from the Upper Mission Falls is clearly defined but after the trail levels off above the rocks in the photo the trail goes through a rocky and grassy area before going back into trees.  Or maybe it does, as I lost the trail after it went back into the trees.  Perhaps the trail goes up more before going into the trees and the 'trail' I followed into the trees was where other hikers got lost?

On the way back down to the Upper Mission Falls I met two backpackers with a dog hiking to Lucifer Lake.  One guy had hiked to Lucifer Lake eight times.  He says he still has trouble following the route.  He said I was over an hour from the lake.

For more photos of the falls,

For a video of the falls:


Friday, July 11, 2014

Baldy Mountain

On Friday July 11 Jim, Steve, Larry, Jeff, Glen and I hiked to the top of Baldy Mountain, which is located between Hot Springs and Plains, Montana.

Steve and Larry thought Baldy Mountain is on the Flathead Indian Reservation so we all bought Flathead tribal permits for hiking on their lands.  However I suspect Baldy Mountain itself may not be on tribal land.  We found two Indian reservation signs indicating the boundary and each time we saw the sign it was on the right side of the road when we were at a fork in the road.  I believe the second time we saw the sign it was right of the right fork when we took the left fork.

Steve knew someone who lived in the Hot Springs area and could provide us with directions on how to reach the summit from Hot Springs. Apparently many people reach the summit from the Plains, MT side, but that meant a longer drive to reach Plains, then the trail head.  The Plains, MT route *may* be a better way to go as the drive on forest service roads from the Plains side is suppose to be much shorter.  Our drive on a forest service gravel road took one hour fifteen minutes to reach the trail head.  The road had potholes and bumps.  Jim's Prius car made it all the way to the trail head but he had to drive really slow so as not to bottom out.

Steve's friend took us on the road to the first major fork (take the right fork) out of Hot Springs.  Then he gave us a map he drew and directions.  One thing missing from the map is that there are two Indian Reservation signs.  The reservation signs are wooden and old and faded and tucked in among the trees at forks in the road.

Larry had a GPS device and mapped our route.

Here are the elevation statistics from Larry's GPS data.

Another indication Baldy Mountain and the trail to it was not on tribal lands was this sign at the trail head.  These are national forest signs put up by the Plains/Thompson Falls ranger district.

Also, from the sign you can see the distance to the top is 2.9 miles.  I believe the trail to the top is shorter from the Plains side.  But then if you want to go to Baldy Lake you would have to descend.  Our route took us to the lake first (where we ate lunch) then up to the top of the mountain.

Here is the view of Baldy Mountain (the one with snow) from Hwy 28 just east of Hot Springs.

At the top of Baldy Mountain is the remains of the living quarters for the people who manned the old lookout.

This was the location of the old lookout (with the living quarters remains in the background).

On the east side of the mountain top is this stone structure.  I imagine the former lookout residents gathered and arranged the rocks in their spare time from all the rocks in the area.

Looking down on Baldy Lake.

The temperature in the valley was around 90 degrees F.  That accounts for the hazy views.  Since we were just above the snow field I believe our temperature was in the low 70s F.  Very pleasant temperatures on the hike.  At lower elevations on the trail we were in thick trees and shade and it remained cool.

Here is a short writeup and photos from another web page:

More photos from our hike can be found at this link:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Buffalo Lakes

On July 2 I went on a hike for the first time in a long time.  Tammy didn't like to hike, and didn't like me hiking with my group because the group included women, so I didn't hike much when she and I were together.  Now that Tammy has left I can get back to hiking.

My neighbor Jim is in a hiking group of mostly guys and they hike during the week. I have never hiked with them.  On Wednesday July 2 they planned a short hike to Buffalo Lakes near Marias Pass along Hwy 2 and next to the Blackfoot Indian Reservation.  Larry S. had hiked to this lake before and there were hopes the wildflowers would be in full bloom.  We did see wildflowers but it appears we missed the full bloom by about a week.

Our group was eight people.  All men except for one couple.  All retirees except for me with the ages (I believe) in the 60s and 70s, except, again, me.

We met up at the Columbia Heights park 'n ride area.  Several other hiking groups were there also.  Another group of men were hiking to Ousel Peak and a group of women were hiking to the Scalplock Lookout.  Wednesday appears to be a popular hiking day.

The trail head for Buffalo Lakes is along Hwy 2 on the south side just east of where the trail head is for Firebrand Pass.  The trail head parking area is a small pullout along the highway.  I think it could only fit three vehicles.  No signs about the trail or the lake.

The route

Glacier National Park mountains.  Center and left of center is Calf Robe Mountain.  Just right of center is Firebrand Pass.

When we reached the route and clear cut of the natural gas pipeline we took a left and left the trail.  We hiked up to the ridge at the horizon, then followed the ridge line to the right.  This gave better views than if we stayed on the trail.  Later, after we reached the lakes we hiked back on the trail.

Two freight trains meeting.

We saw several signs of bear activity from the ground torn up in several places in search of roots and grubs to teeth marks in the plastic marker.   No recent scat though.

At the ridge line is a fence marking the Blackfoot Indian reservation.  This is the view east onto the reservation.

What's going on?

They were all looking at this mushroom.

Some wildflowers.

Walking the ridge line towards the lakes.

Lakes are seen in the distance (middle of photo).

Another view of the Blackfoot Indian Reservation.

One of the lakes is at left as we continue to climb the ridge line.

Buffalo Lakes.   We ate our lunches up here where there was a slight breeze to keep us cooler and keep most of the bugs away.  I and a few others did get bit.  I noticed some small flies on my legs and ankles. They didn't appear to be biting but then I noticed blood and bites.  I just didn't feel them until they started itching some hours later.

Half way up the mountain on the other side of the lakes we heard and seen a few cattle.   On the walk out from the lakes we saw cow manure on the trail.

Coming down the ridge to the lakes.

We crossed the lakes on a beaver dam between the lakes.

 Then walked along the lakes.

The ridge line we walked on earlier is on the right.

More wildflowers and lichen.

Hiking back to the cars.

Lady Slippers, which made Larry's day. He took lots of photos of them.

In all we hiked 3.3 miles.  The elevation gain was 890 feet.  Several people had GPS on their smart phones or watches. Everyone's totals were slightly different.  The mileage and elevation was the consensus.