Sperry Soaker (Glacier NP, 2019)

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
.
Joined
May 5, 2012
Messages
1,722
During the summer of 2017, I canceled a planned trip to Glacier NP hours before my scheduled departure. My cat had been diagnosed with cancer and was in need of intensive care. I told myself I'd make good on those plans in 2018.

However, in March of 2018, the Glacier permit application system crashed in the opening seconds of availability. A FOIA request later, I discovered I was one of several hundred applicants who had their permit requests unfairly rejected due to the system failure.

So, needless to say, expectations were not high for 2019. I put in anyway last March, hoping the third try would be the proverbial charm.

The results of my 2019 permit application were a mixed bag. The ambitious loop route I'd put in for (and actually secured in 2017) was rejected. However, a fallback itinerary was approved. It was a point-to-point for two from Jackson Glacier Overlook to Sperry Trail, with two nights in the backcountry: the first at Gunsight Lake on Aug. 23 and the second at Lake Ellen Wilson on Aug. 24.

I was also lucky enough to score a campsite over the summer for a spot at the Fish Creek campground the night prior to our start. My sister and I flew up to Kalispell on Aug. 22, grabbed a rental car and headed into the park.

_MG_9763.jpg

Lake McDonald from Apgar Village

_MG_9732.jpg

Lake McDonald from Apgar Village

An active weather system had drenched much of western Montana in the hours prior to our arrival. Much moisture remained aloft. Yet the forecast appeared clear.

The following morning, after a long delay driving back into cell phone range so I could download missing map layers, we dropped the car at the Lake McDonald lodge and hopped the shuttle.

From Jackson Glacier Overlook, we dropped down to the very scenic Deadwood Falls.

_MG_9798.jpg

Deadwood Falls

_MG_9819.jpg

Deadwood Falls

_MG_9826.jpg

Deadwood Falls

_MG_9838.jpg

Deadwood Falls

Crowds and traffic noise thinned as we next moved west along the St. Mary River.

_MG_0007 1.jpg

St. Mary River

_MG_0009 1.jpg

Footbridge over a fork of the St. Mary River

Our late start meant my plan of taking the little-used Jackson Glacier Trail were in doubt. Instead, we diverted to Florence Falls. Wildflowers below the falls were in glorious display.

_MG_9980.jpg

Florence Falls

_MG_0175.jpg

Florence Falls

_MG_9908.jpg

Florence Falls

Although we didn't get over to Jackson Glacier, the views of its remains from along the trail were stunning.

_MG_0027 1.jpg

St. Mary River valley

_MG_0035 1.jpg

St. Mary River valley

The Gunsight Lake campground was already a bit too crowded for my taste when we arrived. After dinner, a tumult arose from among the other campers. A crashing noise cascaded through the campsite as a very large bull moose charged down into a thicket in the fading light of dusk. He settled down into the brush for the night.

_MG_0209.jpg


_MG_0222.jpg


The backcountry ranger who issued our permit had warned us of "goat hazing" efforts at Lake Ellen Wilson. She warned us not to leave clothing or trekking poles outside of our tents at night, because mountain goats would steal them for salt. With that in mind, I slept with the vestibule on my tent drawn open.

At about 2 a.m., I came awake to the noise of someone using the campsite's toilet.

A different noise caught my ear a short time later, as I drifted in a semi-sleep state. The shrieking voice of a juvenile mountain goat, along with the rapid stamping of hooves. With half-lidded eyes I caught a glimpse of something lit by the silver light of a half-obscured moon darting by my tent. A surge of adrenaline brought me full awake. A doe and kid were running from tent to tent, intent on thievery. At one point, they stopped so near to my tent that had a thin sheet of netting not separated us, I could have reached out and hazed them myself.

In the morning, the other campers related similar stories. One family who'd spent the night talked over breakfast about their plan to hike over Gunsight Pass, past the Sperry Chalet and up to Comeau Pass and Sperry Glacier... then back to Gunsight Lake. They were already getting a late start for such an ambitious itinerary. Everyone else seemed skeptical.

_MG_0076 1.jpg

Gunsight Lake outlet

_MG_0106 1.jpg

Bear food

_MG_0299.jpg

Sentinel species

_MG_0149 1.jpg

Above Gunsight Lake

_MG_0307.jpg

Gunsight Lake from above

_MG_0123 1.jpg

Glacial remnants and the St. Mary River headwaters

_MG_0301.jpg

Variegated rock

_MG_0414.jpg

My sister

_MG_0152 1.jpg

Gunsight Pass Trail switchbacks

Around this point, we started hearing odd noises from somewhere above. They sounded like almost continuous whistle blasts. Irritated, I wondered who was making such a racket. It must be that family from camp, I thought, the ones with the kids who thought they were going to make it to Sperry Glacier.

Based on comments from other hikers, I later came to believe they had encountered a grizzly on the trail and were attempting to scare it off of the path.

_MG_0353.jpg

Not a grizzly

_MG_0389.jpg

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain

_MG_0208 1.jpg

Gunsight Pass Trail

_MG_0518.jpg

Also not a grizzly

_MG_0238 1.jpg

Gunsight Pass

We caught up to the ambitious family here. They were short of being even a quarter of the way to their goal, with a significant amount of daylight already burned. As it was, they turned back for Gunsight Lake without even descending to Lake Ellen Wilson.

_MG_0287.jpg

Above Gunsight Pass

_MG_0277 1.jpg

Gunsight Lake from Gunsight Pass

_MG_0246 1.jpg

Lake Ellen Wilson from Gunsight Pass

_MG_0465.jpg

Lake Ellen Wilson campsite from above

_MG_0285.jpg

One of countless waterfalls

_MG_0539.jpg

Striated skies

The descent from Gunsight Pass went quickly. We soon found ourselves at Lake Ellen Wilson and set up camp. The weather threatened, with a few short pulses of rain. Nothing too significant, however. As the afternoon waned into evening, we were treated to a dramatic light show on the 3,000-foot cliffs on the far side of the lake. Errant rays of sunlight kept drawing paths across the imposing wall of rock.

_MG_0436 1.jpg

Lake Ellen Wilson

_MG_0478 1.jpg

Lake Ellen Wilson

_MG_0506 1.jpg

Lake Ellen Wilson

_MG_0549.jpg

Sprague Fire (2017) burn scar

_MG_0583.jpg

Lake Ellen Wilson

_MG_0579 1.jpg

Lake Ellen Wilson

That was the last of the sunlight we'd see for awhile. The next morning dawned gray and ominous. We ate quickly and broke camp, eager to make progress before the worst of the weather hit. No sooner had we started the ascent toward Lincoln Pass than the clouds opened up and began to spray us with fine mist.

IMG_6340.jpg

Upper Sprague Creek drainage from Lincoln Pass

This section of trail interested me, given it showed clear sign of impact from the Sprague Fire. That lightning-caused wildfire in the summer of 2017 consumed the famous Sperry Chalet. However, by the time of our hike two years later, the reconstruction work was well underway.

IMG_6337_1.jpg

Fire damage around the Sperry Chalet

IMG_6348.jpg

Reconstruction work on the Sperry Chalet

The fine spray of rain intensified into a deluge as we passed by the chalet. The cascade of rainwater pouring off the back of my pack soaked my legs from butt to ankle. The trail turned into a river, with accumulated precipitation carrying along copious amounts of manure left behind by the many horses carting materials up to the construction site.

IMG_6352.jpg

Sprague Creek drainage below Sperry

The sun re-emerged at almost the exact moment we reached Going-to-the-Sun Road, beaming through puffy clouds. Soaked, smelly and sore, we grabbed an overpriced but welcome meal at the lodge before heading out to an AirBnB in Kalispell.

That evening, to cap off the trip, we drove up to Whitefish to watch the sun set over Whitefish Lake.

_MG_0682.jpg

Whitefish Lake
 
Last edited:

Yvonne

I lava it!!!
Joined
Jan 19, 2012
Messages
3,664
wow, just eye candy from the beginning to the end.
Glacier NP is one of these parks I really want to see one day. But since I'll be moving to Montana within the next 15 months I'll save it until I live closer.
 

chandlerwest

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2015
Messages
514
Your Deadwood Falls shots are fun! Glad you went back to Florence Falls. The variegated underside of the Moose antlers....wow. When we went thru in August we hiked for awhile with the ranger who had just set up the "goat hazing" station at Ellen Wilson. He seemed excited at the opportunity to hopefully train the Mtn. Goats to go off and be....Mtn. Goats. Was it manned when you were there? He wasn't sure if they had the manpower to have it occupied continuously.
 

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
.
Joined
May 5, 2012
Messages
1,722
Was it manned when you were there? He wasn't sure if they had the manpower to have it occupied continuously.

We saw the camp but didn't notice anyone there while we were in the area. Neither did we see any goats at Ellen Wilson. Given the goat activity at Gunsight Lake, I'm wondering if the hazing successfully convinced the problem goats to relocate.
 

Miya

Because I am able.
.
Joined
Dec 31, 2017
Messages
1,231
Everything you capture is fantastical! It all looks like a dream, like there is motion to your images but they are sharp. Stunning share! Thank you, thank you!
 

Kmatjhwy

Wilderness Wanderer
Joined
Sep 23, 2016
Messages
563
Now loved your photos and trip report. Thanks for posting. I hiked this many years ago and your photos brought back memories.

The photo of those bright red shiny berries which you had posted beneath 'Bear Food'. Those berries are from the plant 'Baneberry' to let you know. And those berries and the plant Baneberry is poisonous to let you know. Again nice photos!
 

wsp_scott

Member
.
Joined
May 16, 2016
Messages
902
Great photos, thanks for the report.
 

Perry

Formerly Cuberant
.
Joined
Aug 8, 2016
Messages
2,066
Great photo work as usual @Dave! Especially loved the moose and the squirrel shots.
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
MikeM Sperry Chalet lost in wildfire General Discussion 4
chandlerwest Glacier Nat'l Park - August 2021 (Fulfillment of a Dream) Hiking & Camping 9
chandlerwest Glacier National Park - June 2021 Hiking & Camping 8
zionsky Glacier NP to Implement Ticketed Entry for Summer Season Trip Planning 29
forest dweller Invite update / edit - have off second and third week in August - wanting to backpack in Glacier, Olympic or Yellowstone, hinges on finding companions. Meet Up (Members Only) 37
travel2walk trip report: Wind River Range – Ross Lakes, Bear Basin, Grasshopper Glacier, & Dinwoody Creek loop, Aug-Sep 2020 Trip Reports 41
M Anyone Submit Their Application for Glacier Yesterday? Trip Planning 3
Outdoor_Fool Snowshoeing to Castner Glacier Ice Cave, Alaska Range Winter Sports 5
Outdoor_Fool Gulkana Glacier Re-visited Backpacking 4
U Favorite sites in Glacier in North Fork, Lake McDonald or Cole/Nyack? Looking at mid july Trip Planning 2
U Any recommendations for 5 days hiking in Wyoming, Idaho or MT? This is around July 15-20. Not counting on Glacier being open Trip Planning 9
U Glacier North Circle Loop Mid July - Looking for an alternative back-up plan for a 3-4 nighter Trip Planning 0
Mikjik86 FULL Video Part 2 Backpacking Glacier National Park "North Circle Route" Backpacking 0
Mikjik86 Backpacking Glacier National Park (Part 2 Preview) "North Circle Route" Montana, August 2019 Backpacking 2
E Glacier National Park in Mid July Trip Planning 0
Mikjik86 Backpacking Glacier National Park August 2019 Backpacking 3
Mikjik86 Backpacking Glacier National Park - North Circle Route Part 1 Preview Video. Backpacking 1
TeamJenkins17 Few days in Glacier August 2019 Hiking & Camping 0
chandlerwest Glacier National Park - August 2019 Hiking & Camping 20
R 6 day Glacier National Park Trip August 6th-14th Advice Trip Planning 0
NorthwestWanderer 6 Day backpacking trip in Glacier Peak Wilderness (3 days of off trail route) Backpacking 9
NorthwestWanderer Poet Ridge - Glacier Peak Wilderness Hiking & Camping 3
chandlerwest Glacier National Park -- June 2019 Hiking & Camping 15
S Mendenhall Glacier Ice Caves with Grandma Hiking & Camping 10
N Olympic National Park - Anderson Glacier Trip Planning 2
McKee80 Glacier NP, part 2. North Fork, Sept 2018 Backpacking 11
McKee80 Glacier NP Multi Segment Quasi Northern Traverse Backpacking 19
dfcooper Late September trip in Glacier. Backpacking 2
NorthwestWanderer Lyman Lakes, Glacier Peak Wilderness, WA Backpacking 12
piper01 Glacier National Park, Part 4: Ptarmigan Tunnel and Iceberg Lake (Sept 2017) Hiking & Camping 3
piper01 Glacier National Park, Part 3: Grinnell Lake & Glacier (Sept 2017) Hiking & Camping 1
NorthwestWanderer Glacier Lake, Mt. Adams Wilderness Backpacking 5
ram Mt. Shuksan via the Sulfide Glacier Backpacking 11
Scott Chandler The Chandler Family Get Together in Glacier 2018: Day 5 Hiking & Camping 1
Scott Chandler The Chandler Family Get Together in Glacier 2018: Days 3 & 4 Hiking & Camping 1
Rockskipper Campers escape by driving through wildfire in Glacier NP General Discussion 0
Scott Chandler The Chandler Family Get Together in Glacier 2018: Day 2 Hiking & Camping 7
chandlerwest Glacier National Park - August 2018 Hiking & Camping 8
Scott Chandler The Chandler Family Get Together in Glacier 2018: Day 1 Hiking & Camping 19
T Gobblers Knob in Glacier View Wilderness / Mt. Rainier National Park Hiking & Camping 6
Jimmy Glacier Route Help Trip Planning 0
piper01 Glacier National Park, Part 2: Siyeh Pass (Sept 2017) Hiking & Camping 2
piper01 Glacier National Park, Part 1: Hidden Lake and St. Mary & Virginia Falls (Sept 2017) Hiking & Camping 3
andyjaggy Windriver Grasshopper Glacier to Tourist Creek Trip Planning 11
chandlerwest Glacier National Park - June 2018 Hiking & Camping 19
Wanderlust073 St Mary's Glacier snowshoe Winter Sports 13
Outdoor_Fool Gulkana Glacier hike Hiking & Camping 5
chandlerwest Glacier National Park - Summer 2017 Hiking & Camping 14
JDWalters Crow Pass Trail to Raven Glacier (AK) Hiking & Camping 4
John Goering Return to Goose Lake/Grasshopper Glacier area of the Beartooth Mountains Hiking & Camping 7

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.

Top