Monday, August 16, 2010

Glacier National Park.

This past weekend (four days and three nights) I went to Glacier National Park with a few friends.  It's about 11 hours away - on the Canada/Montana border.  It was truly magnificient and so different than Yellowstone.  The evening that we arrived was rainy but it added a rainforest feel to the trip.  When entering from the west, you drive along Lake McDonald for about ten miles.  There was an amazing rain cloud swirling over the lake around dust.

No one else really wanted to stand out here with me because it started to rain.  The clouds/drizzle stayed throughout the next day (which means that we missed the amazing meteor shower that happened the night we arrived!).

We started on a hike to Ginnell Glacier but when we got about halfway there the trail was shut down due to large amounts of bear activity.  We sat at the lake for a while skipping rocks.  There are rocky mountains that surround U-shaped valleys.  You can see the layers in the rocks that were created when the area was the sea floor about three million years ago.  The glaciers that have slowly worked their way through the area carved through the rocks creating the valleys. 

We went on a 6ish mile hike to three different waterfalls.  The first was Baring Falls.  The water was so clear over the red rocks. 
I went wandering and figured out how to climb up on the cliff that over looks the waterfall.  The rock that's beside my head looks like it has a water spot on the lens; however, that was really the color of the rock.  

On my way down from the cliff, I found this little guy hanging out on a moss covered log.  The forest floor was covered in moss and ferns.  It was such a contrast to the muted sage brush flats and lodge pole pines that we have in Yellowstone.

The second waterfall was St. Mary Falls.  I didn't really get a good shot of the falls - it was sort of awkwardly falling down these two different shafts.  In this shot (below), the waterfall was behind me and you can see the water as it swirled out from the falls.  All of the water was an amazing shade of blue due to the freshly melted glacial snow mixing with sediment from the rocks in the area.

The final falls was Virginia Falls.  It was really the most breath-taking of the three.  It wasn't directly on the trail so you could hear the water falling beside you for a while before you were able to cut across to see a four tiered fall.   There was a mountain that perfectly shot up behind the falls that allowed you to realize all of the aspects of the park.

There were Scotch Bluebells that grew all around the falls.  

The next morning, when we woke up there was a fairly big black bear on the hill behind our campsite.  She was eating the Huckleberries that grew on the hill.  We saw five bears while were in the park, which is about the amount of bears I've seen in Yellowstone total!  (No moose though - and Glacier is supposed to be moose country.)

The sun finally came out to play around noon on our last day.  We hiked out to Hidden Lake.  There was this giant marmot yelling just to the side of the trail.

This was the time when my nice camera died (AHHH!) so I switched to my point and shoot.  The colors didn't turn out as good but I'm still pretty happy with most of the pictures that I ended up with.  To get to Hidden Lake we hiked around this mountain, which was covered with waterfalls from the melting snow above.  (The whole park was laden with waterfalls since they pretty much have snow on the tops of their mountains year round.)

Hidden Lake was absolutely gorgeous.  The mountain behind it reminded me of a Mayan Pyramid with stepping stones up to the top.  The blue water reflected the surrounding trees and mountain.

While we were soaking in the sites, a mountain goat and her baby came to the area.  They hung out there for quite a while just eating the shrubs that grew underneath the trees.   They were about 5 feet away - the mom had no fear but the baby (which I didn't get a good picture of - sorry!) kept making noises and was really frightened of a ground squirrel.

We hiked about a third (because we were taking so many pictures) of the Highline Trail.  It follows the Going-to-the-Sun Road but about 30 to 100 feet above it.  We walked through about 20 waterfalls, which were pretty frightening.  It was slick rocks above a cliff!

We were able to view down into the valley below us and the mountains that stretched out into the distance.  (It was really frightening if you tried to look at as you were walking along a narrow cliff - it's not recommended.)

The wildflowers were still out in pretty good numbers.  This looks like a variation on a sunflower; however, I'm not positive what kind of flower it is.  The bee was certainly enjoying it though.

At one point, we were surrounded by Rams.  There was one walking the trail in front of us and one walking the trail behind us.   We have these in Yellowstone; however, I haven't seen any in the park.  

This is Jackson Glacier - between the trees.  What technically makes a glacier is when more snow falls in an area than melts each year.  All of the glaciers (about 20 or so) in Glacier National Park will technically be melted by 2020.  I'm thankful that I got to see one of the glorious natural phenomenia.

This lake was in front of our campsite.  This is the morning that we left - notice not even a cloud in the sky!!!  

On our way out of the park we did the Trail of the Cedars.  The Red Cedars were giant, which caused a good shade covering that allowed the ferns to flourish in the area.

Glacier was an amazing experience.  Go!

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