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Saturday, July 27, 2013

An Overnight Hike to Sperry Chalet, Glacier National Park

On Wednesday after we arrived in Kalispell, we gather information on Glacier National Park to try to decide what interests us.  One of the items we found was an article on two mountain chalets in the park - Granite Park Chalet and its sister chalet, Sperry Chalet.  Both are very popular, and reservations for nights' stays in the two chalets sell out in MINUTES after the reservations open each October for the next season.

As it happened, Sperry Chalet had one opening on Friday night, and we jumped on it.  We got the reservation and, after making our preparations on Thursday, headed up the Sperry Trail from Lake McDonald Lodge on Friday morning.

The hike to the chalet is 6.5 miles - all uphill, with an elevation gain of 3500 feet.  Nevertheless, the hike is gorgeous.  Here's Kathy enjoying the primeval forest on a beautiful, sunny morning:

As the hike progressed, the trail opened up out into the sun, with views down to Lake McDonald and up toward the chalet:

Our first view of the chalet came when we were 2 miles from it.  You can just see it perched on a rocky point in the upper left corner of this photo, overlooking a beautiful, green amphitheater:

The chalet was built in 1914 by the Great Northern Railway.  It suffered devastating damage by an avalanche in 2011.  In the process of planning the rebuilding, it was discovered that the chalet also had significant failures in its septic system.  All of this resulted in a repair and reconstruction that cost millions of dollars.  But the chalet retains its historic structure and charm:

The dining hall seats 40 and meals are served restaurant-style.  For dinner, we sat with two couples we had met earlier in the day after our arrival at the chalet.

The view from the chalet is striking, with a peek at Lake McDonald in the distance:

After a refreshing lemonade and a rest when we arrived at the chalet, we decided, on the recommendation of one of the very friendly young staff, to hike up toward Sperry Glacier, one of the few remaining accessible glaciers in the park.  The entire hike would be 7.5 miles round trip, which we couldn't complete before dinner, so we just hiked about halfway up, to some small tarns in a morain boulder field below a headwall beyond which lay the glacier.

As we set out on this 4 mile dayhike, one of the hikers we met offered to take our photo in front of one of the many glacial waterfalls that spill down into the cirque or bowl over which the chalet is perched:

Here is a photo looking DOWN on the chalet (on the right in the middleground of this photo) from our trail around the cirque after we switched back up toward the glacier basin:

When we got to the first headwall, we encountered some spectacular waterfalls splashing down the vertical face of the headwall:

By this point, we were at 7500 feet, above treeline, and we encountered some patches of snow:

We rested our sore feet overlooking a little glacier tarn, with the chalet in the far distance below and Lake McDonald yet impossibly further away and below:

We had encountered some mountain goats on our climb up, and in one case had had to scramble up some rock scree around the trail, which had been occupied by a mother goat and her kid.  However, on the way down we had at least four intimate goat encounters (if you could call them that).  Here was one of them, with two young mountain goats playing around on the rocks:

Their momma rested placidly on a large rock while they gamboled and their older brother (sister?) tried to emulate the mom.  Dad was busy digging in a crevice by the trail.  We had to pass him.  Here's a photo of dad:

We found the goats would just not move out of our way.  On the other hand, they weren't aggressive, and they either let us pass, or occasionally finally left the trail as we approached.  We even had a chance to get up close and personal with a mother goat and her little one - close enough to get this short video.

Back at the chalet, we had a hearty dinner and good companionship with the other hikers, sharing our various stories from the day's hikes.  We lingered until sunset, which lent a colorful hue to the sky over Lake McDonald to the west:

The chalet bedrooms were unlit and unheated, but we had big windows (which we left open because of the warm evening weather) and plenty of warm blankets on the beds.   Before we knew it, dawn came and we were up at 7:00 am for breakfast.

As we walked back from breakfast, Kathy spotted a hoary marmot perched on a rock below the chalet.  He kindly posed for a profile photo:

We bade a reluctant goodbye to the chalet and its very friendly staff and started our trek down the mountain.  About a mile into the hike, we ran into this chubby little hoary marmot, who, while he didn't like us near him, would not leave the trail.  Finally, he reluctantly let us pass and offered us a pose for our camera:

The rest of the trip was uneventful.  We stopped by Great Northern Brewing Co. in Whitefish, sampled their beer, then brought home some luscious Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager, some Good Medicine Imperial Lager, and Fata Morgana, a Belgian strong ale.  We're enjoying a bit o' the Good Medicine as we write this blog entry!  Slainte!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

First Visit to Glacier National Park

Hi Blog!  Today is our first full day in Glacier National Park, otherwise know as "logistics day."  Our first stop was the West Entrance and the Apgar Visitor's Center.  We picked up maps, brochures and loads of information from a park ranger.  Next, we went to see the Backcountry Office to see about backpack permits.  The young woman ranger was slow to warm up, but she eventually gave us several good suggestions for backpacks.  

When we arrived in camp yesterday, we picked up a lot of tourist newspapers and brochures from the camp office.  One article in particular caught our attention.  It was about two high alpine chalets in the park.  One is the Granite Park Chalet, which operates like a hiker hostel (bring your own food, bedding, etc.).  The second one, Sperry Chalet operates like a full hotel.  They provide bedding, dinner, breakfast and bag lunch the next day.  We quickly checked the websites only to find that Granite Park was booked through August.  However, Sperry had limited availability on Friday night only.  We sent in our email request and found out this morning we got it.  So, we are planning our hike up to Sperry Chalet tomorrow.

The trailhead for the Sperry Trail is across the street from the Lake McDonald Lodge.  After the Visitor Center, we drove up the Going to the Sun Road. Luckily, Great White is allowed on this part of the road.  The highway is closed to large vehicles just beyond the lake.  We'll be taking shuttle buses to a number of our destinations.  After finding the trailhead and figuring out where to park Great White overnight, we retired to the Lake McDonald Lodge.  This 1914 Swiss style chalet is on the National Register of Historic Places.  That didn't impress us as much as their selection of local craft brews.  Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager - yum!

After lunch, we strolled through the lobby and then the grounds.  Here is Kathy standing next to the Christmas tree in the lobby.  Turns out, July 25th is Christmas in July!  The story goes that on July 24, 1939, guests at the Old Faithful Inn were snowed in by an unexpected blizzard.  In order to entertain the guests, the hotel staff got out their Christmas decorations, baked cookies, sang carols and took folks on sleigh rides.  Thus was born the tradition of holding Christmas in July.

It was chilly this morning, so there was still a fire in the fireplace.  As you can see, the piano is all ready for the caroling to begin.

One of the original tour boats is still in operation and for a few dollars, you can take a spin around this beautiful alpine lake.

As we drove back, we stopped a couple of places just to enjoy the views.  The water was so clear, you could see through to the bottom.

We are really looking forward to hiking back into Sperry Chalet.  It will be a seven mile hike, mostly uphill, but we are told the views are amazing.  So, stay tuned.

Chat at you later.

Eddie and George Wake Up in Jail in Kalispell, Montana

Eddie and George woke up in jail this morning, but they can't remember what happened last night.  I guess that can happen when the drink knocks the stuffing out of you.

But, once released, a good cup of coffee can at least salve the hangover and help them forget what they already forgot.  So there's still time to enjoy the beautiful countryside around Kalispell:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Evening in Kalispell

All the Latest Crime News from the Flathead Lake Area

These items from the police blotter as reported in the July 24 edition of the Flathead Beacon:

Tuesday, July 16

- A Kalispell man requested that a stray 7-year-old boy be removed from his yard.  He also complained that his garage was covered in paint ball splatter.

- A Kintla Way resident came home to find his front door open and all of his computers unplugged.

- Two teenage girls were seen tossing swings over the top bar of a swing set.  A deputy determined that nothing illegal had occurred.

- Someone droving through Hungry Horse called 911 to report that the passengers of a large diesel pick up truck mooned him.

Wednesday, July 17

- A resident of Montclair Drive reported that a man in a bandana and board shorts rang his doorbell then ran hid.  He stated that the man then came back and asked over the intercom if he could use the resident's phone.

- Someone reported that a little blond boy was playing pool and dancing at a Columbia Falls bar.

Thursday, July 18

- A suspicious person was spotted running around inside a Kalispell store, specifically around the cash register area.  That person turned out to be an employee.

- A Martin City man claimed that his brother stole his gun and he wanted to press charges.  He called back later claiming that he found it under one of his blankets.

- A concerned Kalispell man reported that his wife went shopping six hours ago and had yet to return.  She returned shortly thereafter.

- An intoxicated woman claimed that her "ignorant" boyfriend took her keys and would not allow her to drive.

- An angry Columbia Falls man claimed that when he attempted to grab a dollar from the ground, it was jerked away by a boy who had attached the dollar to the boy's fishing pole.

Arrived Kalispell, Montana @ 1:30pm

Sent from my iPhone

Departed Deer Lodge, MT @ 9:30am

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fishing in Arrowstone Park

Hi Blog! As you know, we are staying in Deer Lodge, Montana.  The famous Clark Fork River runs right through town.  This part of the river is surrounded by industrial sites - pulp mill, electric plant, rail yard, etc.  It is not the most picturesque part of the river, but it does hold really big brown trout.  We decided to take our bikes along the bike path that runs alongside the river into Arrowstone Park.  We noted a number of riffles and pools that we wanted to try.  We found Mr. Heron staking out his favorite fishing hole.

There was a boat ramp from the parking lot.  The river is really deep here.  We saw some rises and figured it would be a good spot to try first thing in the morning.  We did try, but the fish just ignored our flies.  We ended up moving further downstream.

Here is Kathy checking out the Clark Fork from the Main Street bridge.  You can just make out the Welcome to Deer Lodge sign on the right.

The bike bath goes right by the old train yard.  Here are a few of the historic engines they have as part of their museum display.

Here's Dave getting ready for battle.  No waders today.  Just the wading boots.  Parts of the river are shallow enough you can cross over in water up to your ankles.  The fun part was riding our bikes holding 8 foot fly rods!

That big splash to the right is not a fish rising, but a muskrat going for a swim!

We spent about four hours poking about, trying the different spots we scoped out yesterday.  It was Dave's day today with four nice brown trout, including one monster.  Kathy bagged two.  By noon, it was getting too hot to stand around in the sun.  We rode our bikes back to camp and then hit the bakery for some sweet treats to help celebrate Drew's birthday.

It's moving day tomorrow, so we probably won't have anything to report.

Happy Hump Day!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Historic Cattle Ranching

Today we decided to visit the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, location of one of the largest cattle ranches in Montana.  It is unique because it was acquired by the National Park Service and retains all of the original buildings and furnishings from the original ranching days - and further because the family preserved detailed records of the entire history of the ranch, which enables historians to document the smallest details of life on the ranch.

The ranch was settled originally by Johnny Grant in 1859 at the age of 28 years.  He was married to several Native American women (all at once) and initially built a log home that eventually became the ranch hands' bunkhouse.  Eventually, he built this beautiful home, originally only of logs --

-- but eventually sided it and decorated it in this style to resemble the standard look of Hudson Bay's familiar trading posts - thus encouraging people to stop and trade.

Grant built his business by trading one well-fed, healthy cow for a traveler's three thin and weak head of cattle, then fatten those up and made similar trades again, reserving some of the revived cows to build his herd.  Conrad Kohrs, a German immigrant living in the town of Deer Lodge, became his butcher, and when Grant moved to Canada (citing the complaint that this part of Montana had gotten "too crowded"!), Kohr bought the ranch from Grant in 1862, along with 365 head of cattle, and branched into cattle raising.  Eventually, the ranch in Deer Lodge comprised 30,000 acres, but Kohrs built the empire further until it had millions of acres of land in eastern Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and parts of Canada.

Here's Kathy playing with what could be descendants of some of those many head of Kohrs cattle:

Of course, cowboys didn't play with cattle - they herded them.  And no self-respecting cowboy can herd cattle without roping skills.  So the historic site has ropes and wooden calfs set out to teach enterprising visitors some new roping skills.  Here's Kathy proving her mettle:

After touring the main house and some of the outbuildings, we took a wagon tour of the greater ranch, on which a volunteer ranger explained how the ranch was set up and operated.  The ranger also showed us a "beaver slide" hay stacker, which was used before the days of machinery to help stack hay after mowing into large haystacks.  Here is the ranger and one of the ranch teamsters getting the wagon ready for the tour...

...and here's a photo of the wagon, fully loaded with visitors as it makes its rounds of the ranch:

After our wagon tour, we sat down with a ranger at an old chuck wagon, similar to the ones used on the great cattle drives.  He prepared us some camp coffee and we swapped tall tales about national parks we've known and loved:

After some hearty conversation and coffee, we headed off to tour the stables and other outbuildings.  We found the tack house.  Here, Kathy is checking out the saddles --

-- and David is trying on some tack for size:

Perhaps our favorite display was the old barn where the Kohrs family kept its prize thoroughbred horses.  The barn is now used as a museum to show off the various wagons, sleighs and such that were used on the ranch before the days of motor vehicles.  We particularly liked this bright yellow show wagon that is being pulled by a team of thestrals:

Ultimately, Conrad Kohrs Warren, the grandson of the original Kohrs, who had grown up loving the ranch and was himself an expert in ranching and raising cattle and horses, turned the entire ranch over to the National Park Service in the early 1970's, and the NPS has retained the ranch as it was, even down to a beautiful wildflower garden beside the main house:

The visit was well worth the effort.  We had bicycled up to the ranch from our RV campground, and on our way home, the bicycles turned into a genuine 1950's A&W Drive-In that has been used since the 1950's and still hasn't changed any of its decor.  You can still drive up and park under the canopy, order your meal through speakers, and be served at your car window.  Since we had bikes, we didn't try that, but we greatly enjoyed the genuine 1950's decor inside the diner, along with our rootbeer floats.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rubber Duckies, Pasties and Arts in the Park

Rubber Duckie, you're the one,
You make bathtime lots of fun,
Rubber Duckie, I'm awfully fond of you!

Hi Blog! You just never know what you will find when you go RVing.  As soon as we get up, we like to make coffee and go on a "coffee walk" before breakfast.  Today, when we returned from our walk, we found that our campground had been invaded.  All these cars came wizzing in and pulling up in front of the stream.  Folks were jumping out with nets and laundry baskets.  Dave ran over with the camera to document this strange occurrence.

As we chatted with the invaders, we learned that today was the DAY.  (The day for what, you might ask?)  The day for the Deer Lodge Annual Duck Race to benefit Close Up, of course.  We didn't know there was an Annual Duck Race, nor did we know what Close Up was until we Googled it. So, folks buy a duck with a number on it and the money goes to help send high school kids to Washington, D.C. to learn how our government works.  Sounds like a great idea.  So, we asked, "How many ducks did you sell?"  Answer: "Over 600."  Three people - 600 ducks - they are going to need bigger nets.

The first, second and third place ducks were duly noted and recorded for posterity.  Then the onslaught began.  Ducks by the hundreds came streaming down river.  The current was swift.  More volunteers jumped in.  This guy waded ahead of the line to try and cut some duckies off at the pass.

The lady in red slipped and went for an unintentional swim.  Hilarity ensued.

It was over as quickly as it began with the rear guard arriving from upstream with a raft full of the recalcitrant duckies that managed to beach themselves along the way.  Baskets, buckets and tubs of soggy duckies were loaded into pickup trucks and off them went.  I'm sure when we go out to fish tonight that we'll find one or two duckies that escaped detection.

After breakfast, we decided to visit the town of Anaconda for their Art in Washoe Park Festival.  Sponsored by The Copper Village Museum and Arts Center, the event boasts over 80 local venders selling craft items like wood carvings, metal works, jewelry, clothing and mead. There are also numerous food venders.  Two things tickled our taste buds - cajun crawfish gumbo (just because we miss New Orleans so much) and meat pasties.  (No, not pasties like the porn stars wear, but meat pies.)  We've seen signs around town for pasties (pronounced like paste with an added "e" at the end) and were just curious as to what they were.  Think pie crust filled with beef, potatoes, onions and carrots and you get the picture.  The travel channel did an episode on them on Montana Style Meat and Potatoes.  All I can say is we shared one, and it was more carbs than we eat in a whole week all covered in brown gravy.  Yum!

We sat in the shade and digested our feast to the sounds of Ken Rich and his band.  They played all your favorite sing-a-long rock-n-roll songs.

Back at camp, we are enjoying the antics of two teenage boys as they race their radio controlled cars around camp causing chaos and stirring up lots of dust.  Baxter was curious at first, but once one of the cars wiped out and tumbled past him, we retreated to the RV to watch from the safety of the kitchen table.

Just waiting for the sun to go down a little more before we try our hand at some more fishing.

Chat at you later.