Monday, July 18, 2011

Trip report #3

After arriving in Helena, we drove into Glacier itself, where we stayed at the lodge on MacDonald Lake for two days, and then stayed at the Glacier Park Lodge on the eastern side of the park a night as well. Although we didn't actually stay in the Many Glacier Lodge, we went there, and poked around the area there, which was actually one of my favorite and most scenic sections of park, as well as nearby St. Mary's.

Because of all the rain and snowfall, even in late June we weren't able to go all the way across the park, across Logan Pass, the Going to the Sun Road, and the Logan Pass visitor's center. The center portion of the road was buried in over eight feet of snow, although I never did hear definitively if it was snowpack, or avalanche fall that covered the road, or both. But regardless, we still had plenty to do for three days. Not enough--I'd love to go back and see more of the "American Swiss Alps"--but enough for me to really enjoy my time there. We did several hikes, including the Trail of the Cedars, the Avalanche Gorge, some other falls, and a few others. We couldn't go to Avalanche Lake because the trail had been washed out by spring floods, and we couldn't do two other waterfalls because trails were closed due to "bear danger." We later asked a ranger what that meant exactly, and he said that a deer carcass had been found on the trail. Because they don't move them, there was about a 100% change (his estimate, not mine) that the carcass would be scavanged by bears, or mountain lions, or some other dangerous animal that hikers probably don't want to have a face-to-face run-in with, so we weren't able to do them.

We also spent some time horseback riding in neighboring Kootenai National Forest, and rafted on a river that is the border between the national park and the Flathead National Forest. The river rafting was interesting. Because the water levels were so high, many of the rapids were effectively "smoothed out" meaning that much of the ride was actually really tame. My mom probably appreciated that, because she was pretty traumatized by the concept of going in the first place.

The scenery in Glacier is absolutely magnificent. I've spent some time in spectacular mountain ranges before; in Rocky Mountain National Park, in the High Uintahs National Recreation Area, up around Mt. Ranier and neighboring peaks in Canada. I'll no doubt do so again, because I love mountains. But Glacier was probably my favorite to date. Absolutely brilliant scenery. I wish the climate had cooperated with us just a bit more, though. While all the rain and snow made for a very lush, green experience, it also meant we couldn't see everything I would have liked. I'll definately have to come back, and I want to make sure I do it before I'm too old to enjoy it. My parents are already kind of on that verge; they don't really enjoy the hikes as much, and after they do them, they're beat.

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