Glacier National Park - I cannot run out of superlatives.

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I had vacationed in Glacier Nat'l Park a few of times in the late '70's and early '80's, but my infatuation was set in the summers of 1985, 86, and 87 when I worked in the lodges. As a night auditor I was free to hike 7 days a week if I wanted. I remember getting off work one morning in Lake McDonald and driving across the Pass to the Gunsight Trailhead. Hiking 20 some miles up and over two passes and working that night. Then in 1995 we bought a November timeshare week at Glacier Wilderness Resort. Ten cabins situated in TALL forest nine miles east/south of West Glacier. This week subsequently got upgraded to the first full week in June and I have added the first full week of August. Twenty one weekly trips in all have been enjoyed. The futures of both @Scott Chandler and @Jeffrey Chandler seem to have been grounded in these trips. My 94 year old mom keeps asking "how do you keep finding things to see." Jeff and I spent the first four days of this recent trip exulting over the new experiences we kept having.

Here is a picture of our cabin. I wanted to be clear that this a wilderness experience BUT we sure have a sweet base camp to come back to and eat frozen pizza's, tator tots, ice cream and drink Henry Weinhard's Cream Soda's. IMG_1653.JPG

On our first day we wanted to assess the Reynold's Creek Fire along the shores of St. Mary's Lake. This fire shut down the east side of the park for a couple weeks last August. Before we got the trailhead we had seen a bull moose trot along the road then we saw this grizzly just east of Rising Sun Motor Inn. Usually our bear sightings are quite fleeting but this one we got to enjoy for quite awhile. IMG_6565.JPG

The iconic shot of Wild Goose Island. IMG_6574.JPG

We had noticed on maps and Google Earth this lake not far off the roadway. "Lost Lake". I had never seen this lake even with it documented as being "right there!". With the fire I felt we would be able to see it and sure enough it was "right there!"
IMG_6581.JPG

We finally got to the trailhead at Sunrift Gorge. IMG_6583.JPG

We made our way down to Baring Falls. IMG_6594.JPG

Along the shore of St. Mary's Lake IMG_6596.JPG

We did not find a scorched earth fire zone but one full of persevering greenery and wildflowers. Mountain views have been opened up expanding the experience ten fold. IMG_6620.JPG

I geeked out over this moist wall. I swear these are yellow monkey flowers but I have never seen them be this small. Less than half inch across. IMG_6624.JPG

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We were not able to find ground zero of the presumably man caused fire. We walked around the Reynolds Campground and it did not seem as if a fire got away from somebody there. This shot sort of documents how the fire jumped from the left side of the river to the trail side. IMG_6635.JPG

Past the fire zone we head up the Gunsight Trail. Mt. Jackson 10,052 ft. In its shadow is probably the largest complex of "Glaciers" still active in the park. IMG_6641.JPG

Our end goal.....Florence Falls IMG_6653.JPG

For me, the June week is all about the water and wildflowers. IMG_6672.JPG

A zoom into the snow and ice fields IMG_6679.JPG

A lowly dandelion takes on a majesty! IMG_6680.JPG

We somehow did not notice this on our way out. The left tree fell into the right tree then stacked purposefully on top of each other. No.....by the lay of the trees amongst the standing trees the fire/trail crew did not do this. IMG_6687.JPG

St. Mary's Falls IMG_6701.JPG

Taking one for the team Jeff stands in the drenching mist of Virginia Falls. After this shot I gave Jeff my camera so I could get close to the falls. I turned to face downstream and was met with a full rainbow that felt almost in reach spanning the creek. That is a shot seared in my brain forever. IMG_6712.JPG

We hopped over this tree and just stared at each other. It had not been there on our way up to Virginia Falls. It had fallen down while we were there. Pretty cool! IMG_6719.JPG

A Pileated Woodpecker. And he wasn't some fleeting glance out of the corner of our eyes. He hung around quite awhile. IMG_6725.JPG IMG_6731.JPG IMG_6732.JPG IMG_6734.JPG

A shot down toward the lakeshore. IMG_6741.JPG

This young Beargrass simply made me laugh. It had so many stages going on at the same time. IMG_6746.JPG

Day 1 ended up being a 16 mile day.

Day 2 took us to a region not exactly on the tourist radar. It is a two hour drive to the Lee's Ridge trailhead which is just south of the Canadian border in the northeast/Belly River section of the park. It is one of the few remaining day hikes that I need to experience. What we have read is that the price of admission is high (4 mile walk in the forest) but the payoff is worth it. If there EVER was an understatement that is it. I spent the forest hike looking for great early morning lighting. IMG_6753.JPG IMG_6754.JPG IMG_6758.JPG

The elusive Forest Glacier Lily. I say this because they are usually found in the high country as the snow melts. But here they were in the deep dark forest. IMG_6761.JPG

A Calypso Orchid. The only one seen all day. There is simply something grand about only seeing "one"! IMG_6762.JPG

We break out of the forest on top of a 2 mile ridge. This is our first view across to the mountains to the west. IMG_6766.JPG

Lee's Ridge is a subalpine wonderland. Plants do not grow more than a couple inches off the ground. You might witness small areas of this stuff at a pass or along the road in Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park at 12,000 ft. BUT I had no idea that such an expanse existed in Glacier. IMG_6778.JPG IMG_6789.JPG IMG_6791.JPG IMG_6795.JPG IMG_6796.JPG IMG_6798.JPG

Mt. Cleveland 10,466 ft. the tallest mountain in Glacier. IMG_6799.JPG

Holy crap a subalpine Columbine! IMG_6819.JPG IMG_6837.JPG IMG_6824.JPG

A view back across this subalpine world. There was surprisingly little wind, conditions were pristine. I could have sat all day. IMG_6840.JPG

The subalpine version of the Juniper/Pinon Pine relationship IMG_6855.JPG

I saw these blossoms which caused me to "see" the leaves of this mat of a bush. I shouted to Jeff. I think this thing is related to the Manzanita bush. Sure enough Kinnikinnick is in the same genus. IMG_6858.JPG

We are giants in this world. The combination of miniature and Grand is awe inspiring. IMG_6860.JPG IMG_6863.JPG

Chief Mountain IMG_6874.JPG

Keeping the momentum going, Day 3 lead us to the Mt. Brown Lookout. I have avoided this hike since 1985. It is one of those 1,000 ft in 1 mile hikes. (4,200 total gain). The first time I did it in 1985 it took me 3.5 hours to do the final 3.5 mile stretch. I did it two months later in 2.5 hours and felt positively manly...ha. It took Jeff and I three hours and I was very proud of us desert rats. Jeff was amused by my mantra..."maintain discipline". I wanted to get to the top feeling physically good and we were!

But first.........how many times have I driven along Lake McDonald???? The reflections can still suck the wind out of me. IMG_6880.JPG IMG_6881.JPG

Finally on the trail. Looking across to the mountains of the Great Bear Wilderness. IMG_6895.JPG

Mt. Edwards IMG_6901.JPG

Views from the lookout. IMG_6924.JPG IMG_6925.JPG IMG_6927.JPG IMG_6929.JPG IMG_6935.JPG

Mt. Cleveland (10,466) in the far back, 20 miles away left. Mt. Merritt (10,,004) 16 miles way on the right. IMG_6937.JPG IMG_6939.JPG
On the ridgeline below the lookout we had two cooperative Mountain Goats. I had what I felt was a very positive communication. I went around this tree to get a different angle and my eyes met her eyes. I retraced my steps and she (and I) noticeably relaxed. IMG_6958.JPG IMG_6959.JPG

A view up McDonald Creek. And a look down into the area formerly known as Moose Country. IMG_6963.JPG IMG_6968.JPG

Day 4 was a chill of a day. A month ago Scott had asked "why haven't you gone to Stanton Lake?" So we went to Stanton Lake. The trailhead is 6 miles south of our cabin and it is a two mile hike west into the Great Bear Wilderness.
Beargrass IMG_6987.JPG IMG_6989.JPG IMG_6991.JPG

Stanton Lake IMG_6993.JPG

We got to the head of Stanton Lake and it was @Jeffrey Chandler turn to geek out. A reflecting Mt. Stimson (10,142 ft.) Accessing this mountain is probably a 3 day backpack due to the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Its face is one of the grandest in the park. It can be seen only along a hundred foot section of HWY 2. Last August, during this brief window, we saw it all aglow with sunset light. And here Jeff was seeing a reflection of the 12 mile away remote, huge mountain. I will definitely try to get evening light on this shot in the future. IMG_7001.JPG IMG_7006.JPG

The leading ridge of Great Northern Mountain. IMG_7010.JPG IMG_7018.JPG

On day 1 while driving HWY 2 I went "hey!" In all these years I hadn't noticed that I could get a photo of Mt. St. Nicholas AND the Middle Fork of the Flathead. IMG_7034.JPG

A frequent lunch spot at the foot of Lake McDonald IMG_7035.JPG

On day 5 I finally succeeded in getting one of my boys farther up the Swiftcurrent Valley in the Many Glaciers area. As a hike it is flat as a parking lot so it didn't have much pazzazz to them. They would laugh at me at suggesting hiking to Swiftcurrent Pass from the east. Lakes string together like pearls in this valley. I may as well have been asking them to use the stairs to get to the top of the Empire State Building. Jeff spent most of the day pointing out Mt. Wilbur climbing access routes with me....sheesh. My hopes were that all the lakes would be reflecting.

Fishercap Lake IMG_7045.JPG

Red Rock Lake IMG_7055.JPG

Red Rock Falls IMG_7060.JPG

Just above Red Rock was this small falls. It brought audible oohs and aahs from both of us.. We hit it at just the right water level, and water flow. It is so transparent. If there had been fish above the falls we would have seen them. IMG_7070.JPG IMG_7075.JPG IMG_7080.JPG

Bullhead Lake. My stated goal for the day. But I just kept on going. I quickly reassured Jeff that I had no desire to walk to the snow in the pass. I just wanted to get to the headwall. He said "I wondered why we got such an early start this morning". He should know me by now. Just because we leave before sunrise doesn't mean we will get back by mid afternoon. IMG_7093.JPG

When we reached this spot we had already made a couple sporting stream crossing. We would need to remove footwear to go farther, IMG_7100.JPG then assumed there would be more crossings ahead. BUT I wanted to get around the corner. Studying the right bank I turned to Jeff and saw that he was already off scouting a way over to the right bank. So I just followed him.

A few of the dozens of waterfalls coming from Swiftcurrent Glacier and snowfields above. IMG_7103.JPG
We hiked to the first switchback, took this shot back toward Bullhead Lake and headed back. IMG_7107.JPG IMG_7115.JPG IMG_7116.JPG

Bullhead Lake almost giving up a reflection. IMG_7118.JPG IMG_7121.JPG IMG_7134.JPG

Our last day (6) usually turns into a quiet day as we probably IMG_7148.JPG have 50 miles in already. My standby is the McDonald Creek Valley. I love that water and the green matted forest.

@Jeffrey Chandler and @chandlerwest at the brink of a waterfall IMG_7150.JPG IMG_7156.JPG

The power of this "creek" in June is beyond my words. IMG_7167.JPG IMG_7175.JPG

Then we made our way to Avalanche Gorge/Creek. I leaned over and saw this fern shot and almost giggled. IMG_7179.JPG IMG_7181.JPG IMG_7185.JPG

Bear Paw Falls very near to our cabin IMG_7203.JPG

We ended up with 52 miles hiked for the week. We take off to do it all over again in 5 weeks. Jeff has some ambitious plans!!!
 
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Yup, it was a great trip! Hopefully I can get walk-in permits for something in glacier, preferably Elizabeth Lake and Poia Lake so I can get to Redgap pass and explore the Belly River a little bit. More ambitious is spending nights by Glenns lake and Mokowanis Lake, then adventuring to find Margaret and Ipasha Lakes. Excited for future trips!
 

Joey

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#3
Great photos! I love seeing the snow up there, last year was so bad. And I kind of like the burn now along the road. It offers some better views in my opinion. I did that Lee Ridge trail for the first time last year. We had smokey skies, so the views were somewhat limited. But thats a really neat hike. Thanks for the write up!
 

Joey

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Yup, it was a great trip! Hopefully I can get walk-in permits for something in glacier, preferably Elizabeth Lake and Poia Lake so I can get to Redgap pass and explore the Belly River a little bit. More ambitious is spending nights by Glenns lake and Mokowanis Lake, then adventuring to find Margaret and Ipasha Lakes. Excited for future trips!
You should look into walking up to the Sue Bench and Pyramid Peak. Its one of the nicest alpine areas in the park, and you look down on all those lakes in the Mokowanis Lake drainage. No trail, but just steep walking from the Stoney Indian trail. You can get an undesignated camping spot at Sue Lake, if you can talk someone into going with you. :) Helen Lake is another sweet one if you haven't hiked up to it already, above Elizabeth.
 
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Great photos! I love seeing the snow up there, last year was so bad. And I kind of like the burn now along the road. It offers some better views in my opinion. I did that Lee Ridge trail for the first time last year. We had smokey skies, so the views were somewhat limited. But thats a really neat hike. Thanks for the write up!
My hiking partner from 1985 is going to freak out when he sees the Lee Ridge trail. He and I tried doing Belly River in 1985 but weather closed us down. To find out Lee's Ridge was there and we didn't even know it was an option in 1985. I guarantee he is going to fly out and do it with me some year. I need to do it in August to see what is blooming then.
 
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You should look into walking up to the Sue Bench and Pyramid Peak. Its one of the nicest alpine areas in the park, and you look down on all those lakes in the Mokowanis Lake drainage. No trail, but just steep walking from the Stoney Indian trail. You can get an undesignated camping spot at Sue Lake, if you can talk someone into going with you. :) Helen Lake is another sweet one if you haven't hiked up to it already, above Elizabeth.
Yeah I have heard good things about the Sue Lake bench. Hiking partners are definitely hard to come by when your only friend who remotely likes it lives in Rexburg during the summers, and your one friend who lives in the area never responds back for some reason. I have many years until I can acquire lots contacts and spending summers away from people. In the meantime I have to stick to trails:) or get one of us BCP'ers to come out with me to do those kinds of adventures
 

Nick

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#8
Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what photo to pick for the home page because there's too many jaw dropping scenes. This is definitely one of those times. Amazing!
 

Dave

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#9
Breathtaking country. That portrait shot of the mountain goat is something special, for sure.
 
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#11
It's reports like this that make me love this site so much. Thanks for documenting such an amazing week for us.
 
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Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what photo to pick for the home page because there's too many jaw dropping scenes. This is definitely one of those times. Amazing!
My first couple trip reports I wondered if I somehow picked the home page shot, then I realized it must be you. Heady responsibility!
 
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You don't really get to see Chief from that angle very often. Cool!
I almost forgot to include a Chief Mtn. shot. The first time it came into view I had the same feeling as you did. It iconicly sits by itself.....rising majestically from the Plains. But to see it as a part of its surroundings was quite altering.
 
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It's reports like this that make me love this site so much. Thanks for documenting such an amazing week for us.
Thank you so much. I had been very self-conscious about contributing to this site.......but I've gotten over it!!
 

wabenho

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#19
Loved this TR! Thanks for sharing! The pictures are awesome. Great mix of peaks, views, wildlife and flowers. I especially liked the Calypso Orchid. Seems more like something you would find in a tropical forest.
 
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Loved this TR! Thanks for sharing! The pictures are awesome. Great mix of peaks, views, wildlife and flowers. I especially liked the Calypso Orchid. Seems more like something you would find in a tropical forest.
I'm as giddy as a child who is hunting for an Easter egg when I find one of these.
 

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