The Beartooth Scenic Highway opened to automobile travel in 1937, and is a National Scenic Byway, 68 miles in length winding through southwest Montana and northeast Wyoming. We left West Yellowstone early to avoid the traffic in Yellowstone and drove through the Park to the northeast entrance at Silver Gate where we stopped at the Log Cabin Café for a fabulous lunch. Then on to Cooke City where we went through the Cooke City Montana Museum that opened in July, 2014. It presents permanent exhibits on the history of the three communities of Colter Pass, named after the famous mountain man John Colter, Cooke City, and Silver Gate as well as exhibits on the Beartooth Highway. Not much else to see in Cooke City so we drove on over Colter Pass where we happened upon a black bear by the side of the road. Then we came to the sign marking the beginning of Beartooth Highway, it has been called “the most beautiful drive in America”, and the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October, because of heavy snowfall at the top. Continue reading
Hanging out at Missoula’s best brewery…Kettle House
We left Columbia Falls RV Park today heading for Yellowstone NP. We stopped in Missoula and Bozeman for a few days and sampled some of the best breweries in the area. We went up to the Lolo Pass, (5,233 ft) in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains, for a beautiful scenic drive and explored the Lolo Pass Visitor Center at the top. The Lewis and Clark party crossed this Pass, Sept. 13, 1805, westbound for the Pacific after a long detour to the south. We stopped at Big Sky, MT, sitting at the base of 11,188 ft. Lone Mountain, gateway to Yellowstone NP. The Big Sky Resort is both an alpine skiing and golf resort, and is marketed as the “Biggest Skiing in America”, it has over 3500 skiable acres and with 4100 feet of total vertical drop ranks as one of the most in the US. Many notable residents live in Big Sky including Warren Miller during the winter. We also hiked the Ousel Falls Trail, a 1.7 mile beautifully built, out and back trail. We crossed a footbridge at the bottom of the canyon over the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River on our way up to the falls. Finally, we arrived at the Grizzly Yellowstone RV Park in West Yellowstone, where we are staying for 3 weeks.Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading
My First Backpacking Trip
We left St Mary KOA and drove through the forest fires on Route 2 toward West Glacier, and arrived safely at Columbia Falls RV Park to visit with Kevin and Ericka in Kalispell.
We met Kevin, Ericka, Harper, Linda and Panda at Whitefish Mountain Resort this morning to take Harper on her first hike. She started in the backpack on Kevin’s back and we began hiking up the Danny On Trail, which extends 3.8 miles one way from the base area of Whitefish Mountain to its summit. The Danny On Trail was dedicated as a memorial to Danny On, a renowned nature photographer, conservationist, and avid skier on the Big Mountain. He died at the young age of 55 in a skiing accident on the Big Mountain. Harper was content to stay in the backpack for a while but soon she wanted out. She put on her own backpack and took off up the trail. We followed behind at a very slow pace and Kevin figured we would be turning around soon to go back down. However, Ericka had different plans and was determined to get to the summit. Bob put Harper on his back for the rest of the way to the top and Harper was happy to be on Grandpa’s back, she was so high up above everyone. After 4 hours we all made it to the Summit House where we had a bite to eat and enjoyed the 360 degrees views of alpine wonder. Kevin had to take Panda back down the trail and the rest of us took the chairlift down. At the bottom we took a ride on the Alpine Slide, I took Harper in my sled and we raced down the slide controlling my speed through straight-aways and around banked curves. She loved it! She certainly is a trooper and when we got back to the car Kevin and Panda came racing down the trail. Linda took the Harps home for a sleep, while Kevin, Ericka, Bob and I went into Whitefish for lunch at Casey’s Bar, and we ate on the patio on the roof. Continue reading
This is considered the best backpacking trip in Glacier and I was able to get permits at 7am on Monday for 4 nights at some great campsites along Kintla Lake to Bowman Lake. Mike Harrison went out of his way on his birthday to meet us at Polebridge and drive us to the Trailhead at Kintla Lake after leaving our car at the Bowman Lake Trailhead where we will finish our hike in 5 days. A big thank you to Mike for driving us and taking most of his day to take us to the trailhead. The hike today was only 6.3 miles and we started about 1pm but there was not much elevation gain, as the trail winds around the north lakeshore in a forested valley. We arrived at the campsite at the head of Kintla Lake and found a great campsite up from the lake with our own private beach front. We took a dip in the lake and settled into our camp chairs to dry off. When we went to the food-prep area for dinner we met a father with his son and daughter from Houston, and a guide with a father and two sons from Minnesota. We shared lots of stories while eating dinner and then bed at sunset. The views across the lake of the sunset were spectacular as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. Continue reading
Three days, 2 Passes, 32 miles in the heart of Glacier NP
We were fortunate to get back country permits for 2 nights from Many Glacier to Poia Lake and over Redgap Pass to Elizabeth Lake and back over Ptarmigan Tunnel, for three days of backpacking. We had all our gear packed and ready, we drove to Many Glacier and parked at the Swiftcurrent Lodge, then we were crazy enough to walk the 2 miles to the trailhead for Poia Lake back along the road, instead of hitch hiking. It’s 6.4 miles from Many Glacier Road to Poia Lake and we just added 2 more miles to our hike. As we ascended the trail Lake Sherburne appeared visible in the valley below, then after 3 miles the trail passes the shore of Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake, where we stopped for a break.
Bull Moose in Elizabeth lake
From this Lake the trail descends into the Kennedy Creek Valley, where the trail crosses a series of beaver ponds set among the large aspens. We started to wind our way upward for the final 1.5 miles through gravelly rock gardens to Poia Lake, suddenly we spooked a moose down by the creek and she went running up the mountain on the other side in a flash. When we looked back we could see her hiding in the trees watching us go up the trail. We arrived at Poia Lake very tired after 6 hours of endless walking through the woods. We set up camp in one of the campsites, that sits on a wooded knoll at the foot of the lake, and went to the lake to relax in our camp chairs on the beach, swim in the refreshing water and read. The lake is deep and cold and is surrounded by blocky cliffs on both sides. There were two other groups of campers here: 3 guys from Brooklyn and a young couple from Columbia Falls, who passed us on the trail. The food prep area is a community affair, we all sit together cooking over our jet boils, telling stories and eating our camp food dinners out of bags. After dinner we hang our food bags from the 25 foot high pole so the bears don’t come into the camp and eat our food. As the sun was setting it was time for bed, after a walk on the beach to see the glow of the setting sun it was back to the tent for the night. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading
We woke up to rain today, which is a blessing because of the forest fires in this Park. The Going-to-the-Sun road is still closed due to the Reynolds Creek fire. We decided to go to the Two Medicine Lake area of the Park in the southeastern section of the Park. All the way there it rained but when we arrived at the Lake the weather was beginning to improve, so I booked us on the 1pm tour boat of Two Medicine Lake. We were able to stay inside the lodge while we waited for the boat to keep warm eating our lunch. We boarded the tour boat called Sinapoh, which is the name of the prominent mountain that rises above Two Medicine Lake.
Our guide on the Sinapoh was very knowledgable, and we learned that the mountains of the Two Medicine area were known as the “Backbone of the World” to the Blackfeet Indians, who used the area for vision quests as well as hunting and gathering. From the boat we had awe-inspiring views of the towering spires and sheer cliff walls at the lake’s edge. Mount Sinopah stood out at the end of the Lake and Rising Wolf Mountain rises dramatically above the Two Medicine Lake to the south. The Blackfeet consider the Two Medicine region of the Park to be sacred ground and their name for this peak means “The way the wolf gets up”. This mountain is part of the Lewis Overthrust which is a geologic thrust fault structure of the Rocky Mountains unique to Glacier and Waterton National Parks. They are the oldest rocks in the Rocky Mt. A group from the boat walked with the guide to Twin Falls, passing through an area thick with ferns, thimbleberries and huckleberries. About 3/4 mile up the trail the 7620-foot Pumpbelly Pillar comes into view, the glacially carved, cone-shaped Rock is named after Raphael Pumpbelly, a leader of the Northern Transcontinental Railway Survey party in 1883. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading
We are leaving Canada today to begin our trip south, and the first stop is Glacier National Park in Montana. We crossed the border into the States, and found out that anything that grows in the south is not allowed across the border. I gave the guard only some of my food, as we had just stocked up before we left Canada. We are staying at the St Mary KOA for three weeks while we explore the Park.
Our first hike on Wednesday, Aug 5th was to Grinnell Glacier, a 10.3 mile round trip hike, and it is the most frequently visited glacier in GNP. We drove to Many Glacier Hotel to see if we could catch the tour boat to the upper end of Lake Josephine to shorten the hike. However, the boat was full so we drove to the Swiftcurrent picnic area and parked the Jeep, and hiked along the Swiftcurrent Lake and the North Shore Lake Josephine Trail to the Grinnell Glacier Trail. Then the elevation begins and the views keep getting better as we climbed through the subalpine firs. Finally we had a bird’s eye view of Grinnell Lake with the tall cliffs of Angel Wing towering above, and we could see the lake’s incredible emerald color, which is caused by suspended “glacial flour”, rocks ground into a fine powder by glaciers. We ascended several steep switchbacks on the southern flank of Mount Grinnell, emerging into alpine meadows high above the turquoise pool of Grinnell Lake and the beautiful waterfall at its head. As the trail gains altitude, panoramic views of the many peaks could be seen, including Mount Siyeh, Cataract Mountain, the Garden Wall and Mount Gould. As we arrived at Upper Grinnell Lake, we could see the fissures and ice caves of Grinnell Glacier. The long narrow glacier above and to the north, called “the Salamander” clinging to the cliffs of the Garden Wall, was once connected to the main glacier until recently. And the tiny glacier high on the shoulder of Mount Gould is called Gem Icefield, formerly a glacier but has fallen victim to the climate change like many others in the Park. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading
The rain from yesterday cleared the sky of the smoke from the fires, mostly from Washington, and the Going-to-the-Sun road opened back up today. We decided to take this opportunity to drive this Road to see the damage from the fire and the magnificent mountain views. There is still construction on the road and we were stopped in traffic for some time. As we started to move again a black bear cub came running across the road in front of us. We were able to capture some photos of him as he looked back with curiosity at us, and then he was gone. The road went right through the middle of the burnt out area and the devastation was immense. We were not allowed to stop anywhere along the road until we passed the fire damage. The blue sky was dotted with puffy white clouds and the mountain vistas were beautiful to see again. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading
Monday, Sept. 15th. Bob and I had a nice breakfast at St Mary Lodge and Resort before driving to the trailhead to hike to St Mary/Virginia Falls. The trailhead is located about 10 1/2 miles from the St Mary Entrance to the Park. We arrived about 9:30am and parking can be an issue now, and we were lucky to get the last parking spot for the trail. They are doing major work on the road on the east side of Logan Pass so there is a lot of construction and one-lane traffic. But when it is completed in 2016 it will be a first class road. We started down the trail and immediately had spectacular views of the surrounding snow capped mountains, the tallest Little Chief Mt at 9541 ft to the south. We passed through a canopy of dense forest and soon we could hear the thunder of water crashing over the rocks. Following this stream we came to St Mary Falls that drops 35 feet in three separate tiers. From the bridge over the St Mary River the two largest falls are easily photographed even in the shadows. The incredibly beautiful aqua-green color of the pools below the falls was spectacular and the water crystal clear. Continue reading
Sunday, Sept. 14th, Pat and Harry left today and headed to Coeur d’Alene. And Bob and I drove over the Going-the-Sun-Road to Many Glacier one more time, to the Iceberg Lake hike, a 9.6 mile hike round trip. As we approached Logan Pass there was a lot of snow by the side of the road and on the mountains. The Going-to-the -Sun-Road was closed for several days due to the amount of snowfall lately, it opened up yesterday. On the Many Glacier dirt road there were cars stopped by the side of the road and as we got closer we could also see the most beautiful grizzly bear that I have ever seen. Probably the only grizzly I have seen. From the open roof of the jeep I was able to get a great video of this magnificent animal, who was perfectly content eating berries or leaves in the bushes. We continued on but soon we stopped again when we saw several black bears frolicking in the grass across the river. Continue reading