Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hikes, Waterfalls, Bears, Icebergs (St. Mary, Mt)

So we moved to St Mary, MT  on the east side of Glacier last Friday.  We're camped at the Johnson's of St Mary Campground.


The campground is a little spartan but really quite adequate.  It sits way up on a hill with some very nice views.

After getting settled and having some dinner we drove north to the Many Glacier area of the park.  Our goal was to see some wildlife (we didn't), enjoy the scenery and check out the Many Glacier Hotel.  It's another of the hotel facilities built throughout national parks in the early 1900's.  These hotels were built by the Great Northern Railroad to encourage tourism and use of the railroads.  Many Glacier Hotel resembles a Swiss style chalet and was built in 1915.

It has  214 rooms - I think that's right.  The hotel sits on the east bank of the Swiftcurrent Lake.  The sun sets behind the mountains beyond the lake creating dramatic evening views.

Debbie and I strolled the hotel and grounds then cruised home. Along the way we stopped to enjoy the fabulous views along the lake at dusk.

Commentary:  I've heard many people speak of the fact that the glaciers of Glacier NP are rapidly disappearing.  True.  Park literature says all the glaciers will be gone by 2030. But in my mind this does not diminish the spectacular, OMG beauty of the park in any way!  I understand that the disappearance of the glaciers is and will continue to negatively impact the habitat.  That's unfortunate.  But lets just enjoy the park for what it is and behave responsibly.  End of commentary!

Saturday we returned to the park to hike to multiple waterfalls.  We hiked from the Sun Point trail head.  We were on a series of well worn trails that don't seem to have names, only destinations. As soon as you leave the parking area you encounter views of the Saint Mary Lake as you walk the shore.

Rapidly thereafter you're in deeper woods with a delightful mountain stream.  Then in no time you're at Baring Falls.

Just keep going, it just gets better as you approach Saint Mary Falls,


 and finally you arrive at Virgina Falls.

During much of the hike you're adjacent to a robust mountain stream that is home to many splendid smaller waterfalls that by themselves would be worthy destinations.

It really was just one photo op after another.  I personally never tire of waterfalls!  Now it's time to turn around.  We're at 3.7 miles.  Round trip should be 7.4.  (Debbie's GPS watch is losing it's charge so we take note.....we want to pat ourselves on the back when we get done.)  As we're about to wrap up our hike (we think) we decide to take a little spur, 1.2 miles round trip to Sun Point.  Off we go.  It's a beautiful rock outcropping with endless views of the mountains and lake.

We soak up the panorama and head back.  Then, there it is!!!!  He's right in our path.  He's enormous, furry, huge head.  Yes,  you're right, it IS a man eating mule deer. 

See him?  We didn't either at first.

After taking a good look at us, he casually strolls away.
Well, we laughed after we gasped!  We're a bit on edge with the bear subject so maybe our thinking was a little clouded.  That's my excuse for the moment.  As I think about it I realize all of our rock clapping, singing, etc. didn't alert the deer so why should we believe we're scaring off the bears?  But our day is not done.  We move on down the trail thinking we're at about the end.  Not true.  We (mostly this is my responsibility) miss our turn back to the parking area and only realize this after we are exiting the trail at the wrong trailhead.  So let's add another mile to get us back to the correct parking area.  If my math serves me, that's about 9.6 miles.  What a GREAT day!

Sunday was low key.  We did very little until early afternoon.  Finally we piled into the truck and moseyed up the road to the St Mary Visitor Center.  Afterwards, we walked around the iddie biddie town.  This  represents our leisurely approach to our travels.  We're grateful!

Monday we went international! We traveled about an hour north, into Canada to visit the Waterton Lakes National Park.  After stopping in at the Visitor Center we went to see what is likely the most photographed feature of the park.  That would be the Prince of Wales Hotel.  If you're looking for a barren knob of a mountain, topped with a spectacular hotel overlooking an expansive lake rimmed with a backdrop of mighty mountains, then this is the place. 

The hotel is another of the facilities built in by the Great Northern Railroad.  It opened in 1927.  It's smaller then some of the other lodges with only 86 rooms but has quite a distinctive style.

Coincidentally, the hotel was scheduled to close for the season the next day so we were happy we didn't put off  our little day trip. The hotel overlooks Waterton Village.

So after enjoying the hotel, we walked the grounds and then drove a fraction of a mile into town.  We spent some time promenading the perimeter of the lake at the base of the hotel mountain and then made our way into town where we did our own walking tour.

Waterton is a seasonal community centered on the Upper Waterton Lake.  We understand that the place is mostly a ghost town during the winter.  Eventually we had some lunch then walked to Cameron Falls which is located just outside of the "downtown" area. 

We then took a scenic 20 mile drive to Red Rock Canyon in the park.

You may recall Red Rock Canyon in Utah is where we recently spent 2 months volunteering.  Although this was pretty, it didn't quite compare to "our" Red Rock Canyon.

We crossed the border at a location that is only open this time of year from 9am to 6pm so we had to be mindful of our time.  But on the way home we had a great wildlife moment.  There on the side of a small mountain was a large black bear.  He was maybe 200 yards away but with  binoculars we could easily watch his behavior.  He was a little too far away for any great photos with our basic point and shoot camera, but that doesn't mean we didn't try.

Very enjoyable.  Got home safely.  Another great day!

Tuesday was like a Sunday drive.  That's mostly all we did.  We drove about a 100+ mile loop from St Mary to Browning to East Glacier to Two Medicine inside Glacier then home.  We saw a hint of fall color.


At East Glacier we stopped at the only real attraction which is the Glacier Park Lodge.


This was built by you know who, opened in 1912 and has 161 rooms.  It's another great example of a Tudor Brown (that's the paint color) structure built with massive timbers.

The 60 vertical timbers in this particular lodge are significantly impressive. It is estimated that they were cut from trees 500-800 years old.  They are 36-42 inches in diameter, 40 feet long and weigh about 15 tons!  Imagine man handling these hummers with the technology/equipment available in 1912.  Impressive!!  By now it must appear that we have some sort of fetish for these buildings.  The bottom line is that they are beautifully unique structures located in beautiful places.

Wednesday was a day of great hiking!  We reported to the Swiftcurrent Motel in the Many Glacier area at 8:30am to hook up with a ranger led group.  The hike was 9.8 miles round trip to Iceberg Lake.  This trail is often closed due to excessive bear activity.  Consequently, it made great sense to us to go with a group to minimize our chances of being eaten by a bear. There were 16 people on the hike. 

The ranger stopped frequently to discuss plants, rocks, global warming and all things related to bears.

It was good.  The hike was only moderately difficult and the scenery was.....well you know, SPECTACULAR!

Iceberg lake was a beauty with a dramatic backdrop of mountains, pristine water and floating snow bergs (the ranger told us they aren't icebergs because they're snow, not ice). 

We didn't see any bears but we did see some mountain goats off in the distance.

Today we'll do some laundry, get this behemoth posted and prepare for our Friday departure in the Beetmobile.  Saturday we report to "Beetville."  Maybe we'll see some Beetniks or the Beetles.  You know we'll have to Beet It  (Michael Jackson- keep up).  The Beet Goes On (Sonny and Cher).  I'll be looking for Beetle Bailey.  Debbie, aka Beetrice, is excited - not!  OK, I'll stop.

Migrant Worker Duane