Stairway to Heaven????

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Heavens Peak. This was an amazing site with sun glinting off the icy snowfields.

Low Res-0948Our time near Glacier Park is drawing to a close, and we have had to put off a handful of our planned hikes due to the fires on the East side.  Still on our list to do was the Highline Trail and either start from Logan Pass or the Loop.  After looking at maps and listening to a few people, we decided to start from the Loop and walk up to Granite Chalet.  From there, we hoped to climb to the Grinnell Glacier overlook.

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Sherry feeling victorious making it to the Chalet. You can make reservations months in advance to eat here too. We once had to move off the trail on our way up because the pack horses were coming down from dropping off supplies.

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We wanted to do the Highline trail for weeks now.  We have a guide map that has the trails rated, and the highline trail is rated #1.  The guide said that starting at the Loop entrance to the Highline Trail is the steepest, but levels off if you want to get the incline out of the way first.  We thought that was a great idea!  Boy, were we in for a surprise!  Paying more attention to the map and the continuous yellow to red highlights might have made us change our mind.  LOL  The trail from The Loop entrance to the Granite Park Chalet is only 4.2 miles.  We thought it was the best way to get up there.  The Highline Trailhead begins at Logan Pass and goes 7.4 miles to the Chalet.

It was smarter to take the shorter distance, right?  We realized when we arrived at the Chalet and saw masses of people walking from the direction of Logan Pass that most people choose to start there.  We understand why.  The incline from the Loop to the Chalet is 2,353 feet in the 4.2 miles with at least four sections considered class 3 steep trail.  The elevation from Logan Pass to the Chalet is relatively nonexistent.  The elevation at Logan Pass is 6,646 and the Chalet is at 6,650 (The Loop trailhead starts at 4,297ft.  We kept wondering why we were essentially alone on the hike up from The Loop!  Most sane people start at Logan Pass and go the 11 mile loop to pick up a bus back to their car.  Flat and longer miles or straight up and shorter miles?  Shoulda, coulda, woulda.  We ended up with about 11 miles total anyway.

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Up, up, and up some more!

From the Chalet you can go another 1.4 miles and see the Grinnell Glacier overlook.

We were told this was worth it, and we were very interested to see it.  However, there’s another 900 or so feet to climb to get to the overlook.  We don’t consider ourselves out of shape, but we were running low on knee and leg strength.  We decided to go for it anyway!  We started our way up to the overlook on the STEEP incline.  It was scary at some points.  There’s really only enough space for one person to walk, but what happens when someone is coming the opposite way?  You climb yourself onto the ledge and let them pass, rocks crumbly beneath your feet and all.  All we kept thinking was about the trip DOWN.

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See the slight -U- shape on the right of the picture? That is the overlook and our destination.

Up was beginning to take a toll on both our joints.  Sean has knee trouble from years of soccer and a few accidents, and Sherry has hip and knee troubles.  We had to stop often and rest our weary legs, and at one point Sherry said she just couldn’t do any more.  Her hip was shooting pain down her leg, and she didn’t think it was a good idea to push it.  We were probably 1/4 mile or less to the summit, but still had a hill to climb to get there.  It wasn’t worth being injured when we knew we still had another 5 miles down to get back to the truck.  We bailed out and started heading back down.  We’re not sure which was worse, up or down.  Both are taxing for different reasons: up is hard on your heart and lungs, but down kills the knees and toes.

We did survive the journey and feel that it was well worth the effort to get up there.  The views are some we haven’t seen while here at the park.

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Heaven’s Peak

We understand why the trail is rated #1.  We are considering doing it again and starting at Logan Pass this time.  We think that if we didn’t abuse our joints going up that we might have more energy to get to the overlook.  There’s another trail called Swiftcurrent that starts in Many Glacier that overlooks Grinnell Glacier as well.  We may try that one instead; however, there’s another 1,700ft. elevation change on that 5 mile one-way hike.  Maybe we are stronger after this one and can manage it better.  Check the blog later to know if we tried it!  Lol.

We still have things we want to do here, but we are ready to move on.  We talked yesterday while driving through the park that with the drought people are not seeing the same park we saw almost two months ago.  Some of the rivers are almost nonexistent and the waterfalls are no longer flowing.  We talk about coming back in early June or late May to see the snow melt and more of the water flowing.

We took MANY amazing photos while we hiked this trail.  Go to our gallery of photos to view the rest:  http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/The-Loop-TrailGranite-Park-Cha/

East Glacier Fire!

We just did a post this morning, but we are behind on what we’ve been doing lately.  We wanted to share an update about what we saw yesterday.  We went hiking in Many Glacier (a post coming about Iceberg Lake soon), and when we had about 1.5 miles of the hike, we started seeing smoke billowing up over the mountain.  You better believe we started hiking much faster when we saw that!!  We took a bunch of pictures from our perspective at Many Glacier.  As we headed out of the park, Lake Sherburne was on the right and the smoke was coming over the mountain across the lake.  Our first thought was that the area around St. Mary was on fire.  The smoke was horrendous.  We ended up detouring our route back to West Glacier 30 miles farther than we would normally go to stay out of the direct line of smoke.  We ended up taking some beautiful photos of the smoke (if devastating smoke from a devastating fire can be beautiful).  We finally learned that we were correct in that an area near St. Mary was indeed on fire.  800-1000 acres at the last report.  Here is a news report on the incident.

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/local/2015/07/22/fire-burning-east-side-going-sun-road/30488241/

The Going to the Sun road is closed until further notice as well.  We are hoping that it is contained and no damage to life or property happens.

Here are some photos we took of the smoke over the mountains.

Hidden Lake — Awesome, Inspiring, Gorgeous….

How many of you have been to Glacier?  Any favorite spots you would recommend as must see areas?

One of our hopes for this extended adventure was to be able to spend time in one area and see as many sites as possible.  Sites that most people on a ‘vacation’ wouldn’t get a chance to see.  The last few weeks in Glacier really have us wondering if we will be able to see and do all we want.  The park is the size of several states and is a true hiker’s paradise.  That is, very few roads and a lot of short (6 to longer mile) hikes to get to something ‘big’.  We’ve joked that we love this area so much we may end up living here, at least that would give us a chance to explore to our heart’s content.  We might also be able to keep up with our Blog posts. 🙂

Right now we are quite a bit behind on our posts.  Over the last few weeks we have visited Two Medicine, Lake Mary, several falls, Polebridge, Whitefish…  We have plans to get into the trails around Bowman Lake and definitely Many Glacier, as well as several other spots in the Park.  Forgive us if we run out of adjectives to describe this area.  Beautiful, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, each is appropriate and will surely be overused by us over the next several posts.

Setting Moon over Mt. Oberlin.

Setting Moon over Mt. Oberlin.

Sean has even begun trying to remember some of the positive adjectives used in his favorite TV show, BBC ‘Top Gear’.    We have often found ourselves at the end of a trail just awestruck by what we are seeing.

Sherry's new favorite photo.

Sherry’s new favorite photo.

On our second trip to Logan’s Pass, we decided to leave much earlier in the hopes of finding a spot in the parking lot or at least in the smaller pull off area about a half mile from the west side of the pass.  We entered the park, from the West Entrance near Apgar at about 8:30 AM.  There was already a fairly long line at the check in station and we were concerned about finding a spot.  Regardless, it was a gorgeous day, a little cooler than the last several and relatively cloud free.  For this trip, we planned pretty well and had our backpacks loaded with some hiking snacks, water and a change of clothes, if needed.  We also planned out two trails we wanted to explore.  The first was the Hidden Lake Trail, the other was the High Line.  Our priority was Hidden Lake, with a thought that we could do a little of the High Line depending on time,  Sean was looking forward to getting some great photos of waterfalls and mountain vistas.  He was bringing along two lenses and a tripod to get really steady photos.  Unfortunately, he forgot the tripod and had to stand very, very still for some shots. : )

Our drive up the Going to the Sun Road was gorgeous.  This time around, we decided to skip the turnoffs and try to make good time to the pass.  We found ourselves in a long line of cars weaving up the road. Many bicyclists made the going rather sporadic and a bit scary as we reached the narrowest parts of the road.  Still, a fun and scenic drive up to the pass.  As we got closer, we realized our chances of finding a parking spot in the lot were going to be very slim, so we did use the lower area and spent some time photographing Bighorn Sheep at the trailhead before hiking to the pass.

Big Horn Sheep near the entrance to Logan Pass

Big Horn Sheep near the entrance to Logan Pass

The park rangers at the Visitors Center were very helpful with all the visitors, answering questions and also giving ranger talks on a variety of topics.  One of the things we both have commented on is how helpful all the rangers have been.  On an earlier hike, we had one walk with us for a stretch, talking about the park, places to see and being very personable.  I wish we had gotten her name so we could have passed on a positive comment to her bosses.  Anyway, the visitors center was very crowded and we only took a short time to look around before hitting the a Hidden Lake Trail.

low res-8289The trail starts behind the visitor center and is another very well traveled trail.  In fact, most of the trail, to the lake overlook, is a wooden board walk.

low res-8282From what we gathered, this helped to protect the delicate ecosystem at the pass from tramping feet.  Periodic signs along the trail asking visitors to stay on the path helped reinforce our thought. : ).  The start of the hike we were greeted with tremendous views of ‘Alpine Flowers’, and wildlife from Marmots to Prarie Dogs and Sherry’s other favorite, Mountain Goats!

Marmot under part of the boardwalk.

Marmot under part of the boardwalk.

We first saw several goats standing on a snow field along the side of the Mountain.

Big Horn on the snow field on Mt. Oberlin.

Big Horn on the snow field on Mt. Oberlin.

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This little one started bleating for mommy just a few seconds after we took the photo.

It was amazing to see them walk along the steep rocky face!  It was even more amazing when we rounded a bend to see one munching on some food just a few feet away.  Fortunately, there was a family between where we were standing and the goat.  They were trying to get their children in close for a great photo opportunity.  OK, yes, that was sarcasm. : ).  It was this hike that gave us some great examples for our future ‘snarky’ post about some of our fellow tourists.  But, later for that.  This hike was just too beautiful.

As I said, most of the trail was a boardwalk.  There were several places where we walked over stoney ground and even some snow!  Crazy, snow on the ground in the middle of July!  Beautiful little ponds created from snow runoff, waterfalls and tremendous views.  low res--14

Small waterfall and snow field along the hike to Hidden Lake.

Small waterfall and snow field along the hike to Hidden Lake.

When we arrived at the lake overlook we learned the rest of the trail was closed.   The Grizzlies were feeding near the lake and doing other bear stuff that made it dangerous to hike near them.  So, we stopped at the overlook for some photos of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

It was well worth the hike.  Our hope is that the Bears settle down enough for us to do the complete hike before we have to leave the area.

Gunsight MTN and Sperry Glacier in the distance.

Gunsight MTN and Sperry Glacier in the distance.

After lingering for a while, and eating a light snack, we headed back for the Visitors station.  Along the way, we decided to check out the first mile or two of the High Line Trail.

Another angle on Hidden Lake

Another angle on Hidden Lake

We didn’t go far this trip.  Just far enough to know we needed to come back prepared for a long day on the 6 mile, one way, hike.  Another must do hike for us.

For more photos from this post, go to the following link:

http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/Hidden-Lake-and-Logan-Pass/

At the Trailhead for the Highline Trail.

At the Trailhead for the Highline Trail.

Avalanche Lake… and observations on the human condition.

Well, let’s start with a quick update.  Good news – our RV is feeling much better now. No biohazard problems to report! 🙂

After spending the past couple of weeks touring the main areas of Glacier National Park, we think our RV neighbors put it best: the park sometimes feels like a theme or amusement park. There are some high “touristy” areas that are packed with people, the main road through the park can have long lines, and sometimes there are too many cranky/annoying/unmannered children (and parents). We have been hitting the more popular and easily accessible areas of the park recently which probably explains some of the crowding, and no doubt they are popular and crowded because they are absolutely stunning. Don’t get us wrong, we are fine hiking with 20-90 or more of our fellow nature enthusiasts to get to a view like this one:

Gorge along Avalanche Creek.

Gorge along Avalanche Creek.

However, the park does sometimes feel a wee bit crowded and anxiety inducing. Driving along the ‘Going to the Sun Road’ we actually had a guy honk at us because he wanted to go faster… We were doing a hair over the speed limit while going around one of the trickier bends in the road. Go figure, it made the T-Shirt we saw at the gift shop make sense. The short version was, ‘Thanks for speeding around curves and passing on the Going to the Sun Road’.  Yours truly, GNP Paramedics.  Those who have experienced the white-knuckle driving of the Going to the Sun road will understand.  There are some areas where our full-size, extended bed 3500 pick-up feels like it will mash the wall or go over the cliff.

We plan to create another blog post to comment and elaborate about our top tourist “types” later, Types like the “Hurry Up, Get Out of My Way So I can See Something”, or the “The Rules Must Not Apply to Me” tourist. We have a whole list of the people we have categorized along this journey so far, so take it as a fun tongue in cheek commentary. Oh, we did not categorize ourselves. LOL. Humanity is interesting.

Now the fun stuff:  We have had the opportunity to witness a lot of beauty while we’ve been here. The hike to Avalanche Lake is no exception. The trail is very popular and easily accessible from the Going to the Sun Road. In fact, there are several parking areas specifically for this trail. We did have difficulty finding a spot, even on a Tuesday! We consider ourselves pretty athletic people for the most part, but Sherry especially had to stop a few times along this hike.

Sherry 'resting' by the creek along the Avalanche Trail.

Sherry ‘resting’ by the creek along the Avalanche Trail.

low res-8177It is only 2 miles from trailhead to the lake, but it climbs over 500 feet. The trail is very well marked and defined. It passes through some remarkable ‘ecosystems’ and has an amazing stretch near the start where the creek runs through a rocky gorge.

This deer (darling) just walked along the trail feeding.

This deer (darling) just walked along the trail feeding.

Absolutely breathtaking. The upward climb was exhausting at times, but when we saw families and children passing in the other direction, we knew that we might be over-exaggerating the difficulty. The view at the top was remarkable.low res-8174

Waterfalls feeding Avalanche Lake.
Waterfalls feeding Avalanche Lake.

The lake was fed by runoff from Sperry Glacier, most of which dropped into the valley from three waterfalls on high cliffs. We had to sit and soak it all in once we arrived. One of the funniest things, there are tons of chipmunks in the area and none seemed afraid of the people. Unfortunately, too many people ignore the signs about feeding the animals and these little guys have lost all fear of people.

Too many people are feeding these little guys.

Too many people are feeding these little guys.

We had several come right over to the rock we sat on to ‘talk’ with us.

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Avalanche Lake

The lake was spectacular and well worth our little hike.  We stopped across the lake from the falls but could still hear them crashing down the rocky cliffs.

Hard as it is to believe, we keep hearing that these parts of the park, while gorgeous, don’t compare to the harder to access areas.  Over the next few weeks we plan on hitting some of those spots.

Last note.  You can always go to our Lovey Photo website to see more photos of our hikes and travels (the link is below).  In order to save on bandwidth and our storage capacity, we have been uploading photos in low resolution format.  If there are any you see and would like to see in a higher resolution, please let us know.  Sean may do a post later (on a rainy day) about our cameras and the equipment we use both for studio and nature photography.  🙂

http://www.loveyphotography.com/Traveling-Photography/Avalanche-Lake-Glacier-Nationa/i-PXpmQ3c