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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hiking the Garden Wall with Dick and Gaila

Well, today was Day #3 of our visit to Waterton-Glacier, and this was our day to meet up with our friends Dick and Gaila.  We were introduced to them by our mutual friends George and Nan last January in Quartzsite, and we've kept in touch with them, looking for points where our itineraries might cross.  Finally they did, and Logan Pass in Glacier National Park isn't a half bad place for that to happen.

We planned to meet up at Logan Pass and hike the Highline Trail along the Garden Wall.  Dick and Gaila were camping with old friends who were leaving today, so we agreed to meet them around 11:30 am.  We got to Logan Pass earlier in the morning and walked around, looking for information and photo opportunities.  In the process, we got this great photo of the entire Garden Wall as it stretches west from the summit of Logan Pass:

Gaila and Dick arrived just on time despite the vagaries of the Glacier shuttle bus system.  We repaired directly to the trailhead and drafted a passing hiker who obligingly took our trailhead photo:

Then off we went on our 6-mile walk.  This is one of our favorite routes because it rewards the hiker at every step with absolutely giddy views:

All along the trail, we could look up and wonder at the beauties of this glacial arete, this Garden Wall:

Looking the other way across the canyon, we had dramatic views of other peaks in the park:

But, as dramatic as the views were, far more enjoyable was our trail talk with the Mallerys.  Here is a shot of Dick being his inimitable self:

Three miles out, we stopped for lunch in a large boulder-scree field tumbling down from one of the peaks.  After lunch, Gaila asked the other three of us to pose, first looking east from whence we had hiked --

-- and then looking west toward Granite Park:

The ladies were absolutely full of mischief.  Here they toy with the camera as we approached one of the narrow, steep portions of the trail.  They told Dick and David to hold the cameras as they scampered on down the trail --

-- with this result, giving scale to the cliff, the trail and the canyon below:

As we hiked back to the Logan Pass Visitor Center, it began first to spit, then sprinkle, then the wind picked up and the temperature dropped.  We were pretty sure we were going to get drenched, but the weather held off, and it only began to rain with any seriousness after we got back to our shuttle stops. We waved Gaila and Dick off as they caught their shuttle west down to Apgar.  We, on the other hand, waited another hour and a half under the threat of rain for a shuttle to take us back to St. Mary on the east side of the park.  Luckily, just as the heavens opened up, a shuttle bus arrived and we climbed in for shelter and warmth.  We rode down the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the merry company of other hikers, including, coincidentally, a couple from near Amarillo, Texas, whom we had met in the shuttle up to the pass this morning.

We felt sad having to say goodbye to the Mallerys, but we are thankful we had a chance to spend a wonderful hiking afternoon with them, enjoying a park we all love so much.

Until our next meeting, Mallerys, Happy Trails!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Glacier - Two Medicine - Aster Park Trail

Hi Blog!

We are trying to get the most out of our stay on the east side of Glacier National Park. On Thursday, August 30, 2016, we took a drive over to Two Medicine. We had to take a sort of round about route to get there because Great White is too big to drive on Montana 49 between St. Mary and Two Medicine. After yesterday's epic climb to Bertha Lake, we were looking for something a little scenic and short. We settled on the Aster Park Trail. Here are some of the lovely purple asters that line the trail.

Before Going-to-the-Sun Road was constructed, Two Medicine was a primary destination for travelers arriving by train. After spending a night at Glacier Park Lodge, visitors climbed on horseback to travel to Two Medicine for a night in one of several rustic chalets or canvas tipis built by the Great Northern Railway. From Two Medicine, a system of backcountry tent camps and chalets within the park allowed these adventurous visitors to live in Glacier's wild interior. This is our first view of Two Medicine Lake.

Our hike took us around the left side of the lake to the Aster Creek Valley. From there we headed up to a viewpoint at the base of Never Laughs Mountain. But first, we took a short side trail to the right to Paradise Point. From the lake shore, we watched several kayakers glide by.

The trail took us past several beaver ponds. While we didn't see any beaver activity, the still water reflects Rising Wolf Mountain.

Even at the end of August, we can still see patches of snow on the sides of some of the mountains.

We bypassed Aster Creek Falls on the way up, deciding instead to have our lunch at the viewpoint and then enjoy the falls on the way back down. Our total elevation gain was 780 feet in three miles, but it was 500 just in the last 3/4 mile. When Kathy reached the "End of Trail," she plopped down and refused to go any further.

Two Medicine Lake seems so far away.

We enjoyed our lunch in the shadow of Appistoki Peak.

Having rested and recuperated from our uphill climb, we relaxed and enjoyed the hike back down. Fall is definitely starting to show its true colors.

We missed a few views on the way up, which became obvious on the way down. We stopped to admire Flinsch Peak.

Kathy waits for Dave as he frames this photo of Pumpelly Pillar. (No, we are not making these names up.)

The upper part of Aster Creek Falls was fun to explore. The creek tumbles down a series of rock ledges. We climbed up and down several of them searching for the best falls photo.

Kathy learned the hard way that just because a rock doesn't look wet doesn't mean its not slippery. Luckily it was a hot day and her wet bottom dried quickly. Truth-be-told, she found it quite refreshing after that long, hot uphill hike.

The lower Aster Creek Falls are a tourist mecca. The shallow pools make for great swimming on hot summer days.

This little guy was very curious about all the human activity. At first we thought he was a chipmunk, but later learned he is a Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. The way you tell the difference is that chipmunks have black stripes that start at the tip of their nose and move up their face. The ground squirrel has no stripes on his face at all. We learn something new everyday.

Tomorrow we plan to travel to Logan Pass and hike again across the Garden Wall. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Waterton Lakes NP - Hike to Bertha Lake

This might have been called "The Hike Through Thimbleberry Heaven," and it is true that we discovered the Thimbleberry Monster as we hiked into the woods:

However, Waterton Lake National Park calls this the trail to Bertha Falls and Bertha Lake, so that is what we must call it:

We climbed quickly from our trailhead on the outskirts of Waterton Village, so that we could see the beautiful shore of Upper Waterton Lake, with Vimy Peak in the background:

Turning up the canyon of Bertha Creek, we gazed to our left up the beautiful slope of Mount Richards.  We would be climbing through the trees over its shoulder to the right in the photo below:

Before the trail grew very steep, we passed these pretty falls --

-- and then arrived at Bertha Falls.  Here is how the falls look from above.  You can just make out the bridge in front of the falls.

From the bridge, this is how the base of Bertha Falls looked, with water sluicing down a golden-and-red chute of solid rock:

Upward we trekked, through Thimbleberry Alley (our name for it, because of the berry bushes that grew thickly on both sides of the trail) toward an unnamed peak:

At one turn in the trail, we could see east past Upper Waterton Lake, to Middle Waterton Lake and beyond:

Finally, we gained our objective:  Bertha Lake.  Here, Kathy explores the shore of the lake for a likely lunch spot, with Mount Alderson in the background:

Where we sat, a large formation of rock had been heaved up and slanted toward the top of nearby Mount Richards:

Here is a comely view of Bertha Lake.  We ate our lunch at the little point in the middle of the photo below:

This hike definitely deserved the resting and soaking of weary feet, which Kathy did as she munched her sandwich:

David's feet demonstrated how clear the glacial waters of Bertha Lake are:

As we headed back down to the base of the lake, we took one last look over our shoulder to see the dramatic cirque in which the lake sits --

-- and chose that spot for a selfie with the lake and peaks.

On our way back, Kathy had lots of time to harvest thimbleberries.  Here we find her in Thimbleberry Alley, with Mount Boswell in the background:

We think that thimbleberries must bend space and time or something, because we were so focused on picking and eating those luscious fruits, that we barely noticed the time or miles pass as we hiked back down to our trailhead.  Before we knew it, we had logged 8 miles of distance and 1,861 feet of elevation gain and loss!  As we drove home, our feet and legs told us we'd hiked.

Now to rest up for tomorrow's hike.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Hi Blog!

We're back in the USA! Well, at least for a day or two. We arrived in St. Mary, Montana on Saturday, August 27, 2016. It was one of our longer drives - about six hours. There were lots of up and downs and grades. St. Mary is on the east side of Glacier National Park. We decided to take it easy on Sunday and just go to the Visitor's Center. We got lots of great ideas for hikes in the area.

There are three main attraction in this area we want to visit while we are here - Waterton Lakes National Park (in Canada), Many Glacier, Logan Pass and Two Medicine. We decided to visit Waterton Lakes National Park first, but in order to do the Grinnell Glacier hike in Many Glacier, we had to first stop at the Many Glacier Lodge and pick up our boat tickets for Thursday. On the way back to the parking lot, we had to wait until the train (of horses, that is) passed before we could cross the ridge back to our parking lot:

With tickets in hand, we proceeded to head back North. After crossing the border back into Canada, we stopped at the first viewpoint to look down on our destination - Waterton Lakes. The majestic Rocky Mountains rise suddenly out of the rolling prairies. Amid the peaks are the lakes of Waterton Lakes National Park, carved out of the rock by ancient glaciers.

Waterton Lakes National Park borders Glacier National Park in Montana to the south, together making up the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first of its kind in the world. We took a few minutes to sit in a pair of red chairs to enjoy the peace and quiet in an otherwise busy park.

There were a number of bear warnings posted around town. While we didn't see any bears, we just realized that there was huge pile of bear scat on the boardwalk in front of us (if you're curious, take a look on the walk by the water between the two wooden posts in the photo above)!  Obviously, this bear had had a large diet of luscious thimbleberries.  More on that subject in the next blog post.

After relaxing from our drive, we stopped in the Visitor's Center to check on any trail closures. We then went over to take a look at the historic Prince of Wales Hotel which overlooks Upper Waterton Lake.

Constructed between 1926 and 1927, the hotel was built by the American Great Northern Railway to lure American tourists north of the border during the prohibition era. The hotel was named after the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), in a transparent attempt to entice him to stay in the hotel on his 1927 Canadian tour, but the Prince stayed at a nearby ranch instead. Too bad, he missed a great view from the front of the hotel.

After checking out the hotel, we drove over to Waterton Village. We walked around the edge of the lake taking in the views and admiring some of the old cottages that dot the shore.

The folks in town have a great view of the Prince of Wales Hotel, which probably couldn't have had a more dramatic setting.

We continued our stroll around the lake in search of more Parks Cananda Red Chairs. When we arrived at the viewpoint, we discovered they were already occupied by our new friends, John and June from Alberta/Yuma. We had a great time comparing notes with them on full-time RVing.

They were kind enough to take our photo.

We probably could have stayed and chatted the rest of the day, but we had miles to go.

More on our next adventure in the next blog.

However, I just had to add a post script to our travels to and from Waterton Lakes. Cows - lots and lot of cows. Montana is open range country. You have to share the road with cows!