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.
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
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
Monday, Sept. 8th, Pat, Harry, Bob and I drove up to Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road to hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook, 2.8 miles. The entire hike features panoramic views across alpine meadows and rugged peaks. From the west side of the Logan Pass Visitor Center we started the hike on asphalt and turns into a boardwalk through the alpine meadows known as the Hanging Garden with a carpet of wild flowers. Directly in front of us stood the impressive view of Clements Mountain, 8660ft, and hanging out on the slopes were several big horn sheep. In the opposite direction stood Mt Reynolds, 9125ft. Continue reading
Sunday, Sept. 7th, we got up early and left at 8 am with Harry to hike the Highline Trail. We drove to the Apgar Transit Center in Glacier NP and took the shuttle bus up to Logan Pass arriving around 9:30 am. The Highline Trail leaves from across the road at Logan Pass and follows the Continental Divide also known as the Garden Wall ridge for most of the way to Granite Park Chalet, 7.6 miles. We walked along the famous ledge of the granite cliff, hanging like a shelf on the Garden Wall only 4-6 feet wide and a drop of 100 feet or more down to the Going-to-the-Sun-Road way below. There are hand cables along this stretch of the trail incase you have a fear of heights. From here the Trail continues to hug the cliffs and slopes of the Garden Wall and with every turn there are spectacular panoramic views of the mountains, such as Mount Cannon, Mount Oberlin and Heavens Peak to the west. We rested in the beautiful glaciated-carved valley between Haystack Butte and the Garden Wall before beginning the climb up to Haystack Pass at 7,024 feet. What amazing scenery to sit and pause for awhile and enjoy the panoramic scenic beauty surrounding us. Bob saw a berry bush by the side of the trail and ate one of the berries thinking it was a Huckleberry, it tasted very bitter. Harry and I tried one as well, it was definitely bitter and unpalatable. I took a photo and showed it to the Park Ranger later, to find out that it is called Twinberry (Bracted Honeysuckle) and can be mildly toxic or poisonous to humans! Beyond Haystack Pass the Trail continues a gradual climb along the Garden Wall reaching the highest point on the hike at 7,280 feet. Continue reading
Saturday, Sept 6th. A beautiful sunny day for a bus tour. We got up early to take the Red Bus Tour to Many Glacier, and we were picked up at the KOA at 8am. The Red Buses are a great way to see and learn more about Glacier National Park. The vintage 1930’s buses are part of the historic heritage of the Park. The roll-back tops are perfect for viewing the spectacular mountains and wild life, as we pop up like prairie dogs to take photos of all the magnificent sights. Since 1936, Glacier National Park’s fleet of 33 Red Buses, built by the White Motor Company of Cleveland, OH between 1936 and 1939, have been providing tourists unforgettable experiences touring through one of the most spectacular parks anywhere. Continue reading
Friday, Sept. 5th we decided to explore the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the highlight and a must see for any visitor to Glacier NP. This was our first time driving west to east through the Park, it is a beautiful sunny day so the views are spectacular. The road followed Lake McDonald and McDonald Creek for several miles, after leaving the dense forest we had our first view of the Road winding up the side of the mountain called the Garden Wall. Everywhere we looked there were views of towering mountains, and many places to pull off the side of the road to get photos. Continue reading
Tuesday, Sept. 2nd, we arrived at the West Glacier KOA, what a beautiful Park. We watched the Wildlife Presentation by Tom Ulrich, the photographer, and there were some wonderful wildlife photos. Pat and Harry Koehler our friends from Calgary arrived on Weds and we spent a great evening together.
Thursday, Sept. 4th, we took our first trip into Glacier National Park, established on May 11th, 1910, and we hiked the 4.6 mile Avalanche Lake Trail. driving along the Going-to-the-Sun road to the trailhead. We started on the Trail of the Cedars until we reached the beautiful Lower Avalanche Gorge and began up the Avalanche Lake Trail. We followed the Avalanche Creek and after about 2 miles we arrived at the Lake that sits at the base of 8694′ Bearhat Mt rising 4800′ above the lake, which is fed by waterfalls at the end of the lake. There is a spacious beach where we sat on a log and had a snack enjoying this breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Pat stayed at the log setting up to paint the spectacular sight before her, and Bob and Harry and I continued to walk 0.7 miles along the lake’s shoreline. The lake was like a mirror reflecting the clouds and mountains surrounding it. When we returned to Pat she had finished the painting of Avalanche Lake, what a great work of art. Continue reading