The Chandler Family Get Together in Glacier 2018: Day 2

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Joined
Jan 4, 2014
Messages
1,099
August 5th, 2018

Back when I worked up at Katmai National Park up in Alaska, I befriended an amazing young couple. Nature loving, adventurous, socially aware individuals we leaned on each other for support through the rains and lack of bears times. We braved the sorcery of Mt Mageik in the Valley of 10000 Smokes, coming soaked but alive out of a rager of a willowah. We had since accumulated explorations in five national park units and talk all the time despite the distance. Now, Daniel and Whitney find themselves working in Glacier National Park, you can often meet Daniel on their social media, especially Instagram live videos. With the Chandler family coming north to their stomping grounds, a plan was made. It was ambitious, it sounded spectacular, and was sure to be memorable. Feeling the tests of time, dad decided to let the young people have their fun. So after a light first day of our Glacier week, an early start saw a group of four friends ready for a long day.

The Floral Park Traverse.

When I say early, I mean early. It wasn't quite an alpine start, but we were hitting the train in the faint minutes of light. The Floral Park Traverse is one of the more well known of Glacier's off trail routes, cutting from Logan Pass to the Sperry Chalet trail and eventually Lake McDonald Lodge. While most of the adventure is trailed, a bit over night miles of it is through untrailed wild land. I'm not sure exactly on the elevations, but the trail has to attain a ridgeline pass, drop into a bowl, ascend another steep wall to a glacier basin, and then traverse this basin before dropping down out of the mountains. Like I said, dad wasn't sure if his pace would be right for the group. Jeff felt up to it, with the encouragement that I would throw him in a glacial lake if he started waning on me to boost him along.

Starting hikes so early isn't a norm for me unless going for a mountain summit before storms show up, so I always savor these moments when I can. The lighting was beautiful as the sun started its trip around the sky.
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Popping over the rise from Logan Pass, Hidden Lake came into view. Just a few days previously the trail had been closed so that bears could have access to spawning trout, so we lucked out! And wondered if the bears would still be around.

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Soon enough we found ourselves down at the lake and crossing its outlet. Reminiscing of crossing glacial rivers that looked more like chocolate milk than water happened as we oh so nonchalantly walked through the water. It wasn't even cold! First sunlight finally hit us as we put boots back on.
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With this we were done with the trail! Jeff, Daniel and Whitney scampered off down a fisherman's track that went close to the lake, but hearing all the ruckus of beating through trees I took a different path. Soon I was in an alleyway between trees and frolicking joyously past the sounds of dense trees. Eventually the rest of the group found me.

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The journey around the lake was very nice for a while. We would go through these alleys of trees and then along the shoreline of the lake. The water was a beautiful blue and clear as could be. It seemed that we could see to depths of ten even fifteen feet! Cutthroat trout were rising for food, we saw some ducks. It was a beautiful walk in itself.

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Eventually we got to a point where we had to consider what we were doing. We knew we had to head up eventually, but weren't entirely sure where. There was supposedly a natural ramp to go up, but we weren't sure where. So we kept going, until it became apparent that going further wasn't going to be the answer. Big cliffs...

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Luckily, right where we got our view of the end of the valley, there appeared to be a break in the cliffs that we may be able to work through. Going towards it, BOOM, we hit a faint trail. Sure enough, our spot worked and we were above the cliffs. We were also above trees, it was like we were in a new place. We marveled at this land of rocks and fresh plants. It was still spring here! We also found a huuuuge colony on cliff swallows that were fans of buzzing by us. From here we had two options, drop down a bit and cross to the back end of the valley, or head straight up the continuation of the ramp we were on to an ascent we could see. We opted to head straight up. It wasn't bad at all, just a bit loose towards the top.

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Beating our slippery slope, we found ourselves in barren country. It's like a bomb had gone off or something. But groundcover willows were a bloom and we had fun watching bees. An imposing cliff adorned a pass, what would await?

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BOOM! The world fell away on the other side of the pass. Apparently this was not the spot to continue our journey. But, it was quite the view. Avalanche Lake, with probably a hundred or two people sat far below. Mt Brown looked big and imposing before us. It was grand to say the least.

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From here the question rose of how to get to where we needed to go. Up that imposing gap maker cliff we went to walk the ridge. It felt a little lofty with the drop to our right, but the vertigo was manageable.

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Then before us sat our journey. Sperry Glacier, one of the larger glaciers in the park sat before us. Floral Park sat below. Mountains soared all around. It was a spectacular spot to rest and snack. It was already an epic adventure, and we weren't nearly half way there.

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The next piece of the adventure would turn into an especially long portion, despite being so short in actual distance. We had to lose nearly 1000' in elevation, likely in less than half a mile, maybe even a quarter. It was steep. We were going straight down a gully. I went last and watched my brother lose his footing every few steps. It looked pretty frustrating. But, slowly but surely we made it without knocking any rocks on each other.

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Eventually we found ourselves down in Floral Park by the shores of Mary Baker Lake. The park lived up to its name, quite a few flowers, even if they were fairly unspectacular. Immediately we were faced with our upcoming challenge, getting out of Floral Park. After all that down, we would have to go right back up. Cliffs loomed... Then a big face was staring at us. Immediately before us was a bear, an inland brown bear, a grizzly bear. Immediately before the bear, I unleashed a slew of baby talk. We were all thrilled to find a bear back here. This was wild country, not a spot where people would pile up and yell. We got to watch this bear live its life for a bit before tackling our hill.

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Our trek up the hill turned out to have more spectacular floral specimens than the park itself. They broke up the first bit of the trudge well. But it was a trudge. Certainly wild. I worried I would lose Jeff, his face did not show the most excitement. But he trooped up.

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Then, like magic, poof, we were up the hill. Before us was the alien landscape of Sperry Glacier's ancient weight. This section of the park was the location of a massive folding in the rock layers, so the terrain was unrelentingly rugged. Flat ground was rare. Water, long trapped as ice was flowing across these miniature valleys. Tarns of otherworldly colors dotted the landscape. It was a maze, sweet and simple, and we had to find our way across. It was some of the most phenomenal walking I have ever done. Colors, water, rock, ice, company, it was all perfect.

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Nearing the other side of the basin, tall cliffs grew before us. It turns out, we had a bit more elevation to gain in order to reach our trail. At the base of the cliffs were beautiful wildflowers, the best of the trip and they gave us a good boost up a moraine, the layered cliffs, and some brutally bright snowfields (should have brought sunglasses) to Comeau Pass and the Sperry Glacier Trail.

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A brief look back at the terrain we had traveled was amazing. It was intense and beauty. A land of steep cliffs, snow and rock of crazy color. Simply wow.

From here it would be all trail to the lodge, but holy cow that first bit was just as phenomenal as what we had been doing. This trail was amazing. I can just imagine building the thing. World falling away type of stuff. A couple nice lakes hanging up there. A group of sketchy mountain goats was hanging right next to the trail too. We sidled on past them and cooed at the baby.

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Soon we neared the Sperry Chalet and entered the burn of the 2017 Sprague Fire. It was sad to see subalpine fir burnt, what is fire doing way up here? Reaching the Chalet, we got to compound the sadness with the skeleton of the boarding house, a historic structure that went up. The fire had encircled this area, I can only imagine what it must have been like defending this group of buildings, and then losing the largest of them. Whitney and I went up to the campground to use a toilet.

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Returning to the Chalet, neither one of our others were where we left them. A bit flustered we went down to the trail junction, figuring they had wandered and we would catch them there. Daniel rounded a corner, no Jeff. He'd last seen Jeff hanging out eating something by the trail when he went into the dining hall. I went back up to the chalet and asked around. No little boy. Of course all the bad thoughts fly through the mind. Deciding if he wasn't up, he must be either down or dead, we headed down the trail hoping we'd catch him. It was a long walk of few breaks. Rain showers started on and off. Sunlight spotlighted through the clouds. Cedars towered overhead. It was a pretty walk if a bit stressful. What to do when we reached the road and Jeff wasn't there...?

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Reaching the trail just before dark, we found Jeff at the car. We reasoned that he must have flown down the mountain to have beaten us. He insists he was limping... Maybe it was the magic of the mountain.

Definitely an adventure of a lifetime. Few things are as pretty and interesting. Countless questions were asked and much research and learning has happened because of this. Daniel, Whitney and Scott have another epic adventure in a protected landscape under our belts, and now we've added another to the mix!

It's amazing to believe there is more to the week than this! More soon.

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chandlerwest

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2015
Messages
508
Every so often I feel like I should be jealous that I didn't go on this trip. But I'm not a fool. I have pushed my body plenty of times and happily told the tale, but this trek would have really hurt! Instead I am very proud that my two sons shared this incredible experience. Two weeks out from the trip and I still want to give Jeff a hug because I know how hard a day it was for him.
 
Joined
Aug 31, 2015
Messages
224
Meanwhile I'm here like "yeah it broke me but it wasn't THAT bad, my goal was hit trail by nightfall" xD. The only spot I actually felt bad was going up from floral to the basin, my legs didn't wanna move unless I gave them micro breaks. Besides scott thinking I died and somehow didn't catch up (i don't know how, I was moving slow) what a trip! glad I was a part of it!
 
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