The Chandler Family Get Together in Glacier 2018: Days 3 & 4

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014
August 6 and 7, 2018

After a couple adventure days (Mt Oberlin & Floral Park Traverse) Jeff and I were feeling a little wobble legged (Jeff jokingly called himself 'broken') so a lazy day sounded really nice. After a mellow morning we went over to Lake McDonald Lodge for lunch and marveling at coniferous cones. Did you know that cedar cones are tiny while White Pine cones are huge? They are quite cool to juxtapose and I missed an opportunity in not taking a picture while my dad held them. Sometimes I wonder about how much naturalist is in him, but I think the cones fascinated him quite a bit.

After eating we bounced over to the Upper McDonald Creek Trail. I don't know how many times we have walked on this trail, its a lazy day standard for us. Most of my memories are of the trail during June, when McDonald Creek is raging with melting snow and the forest is damp with rain. It was nice to see this place in a different condition, water mellow, sunshine breaking through the dense, temperate rainforest, canopy. This forest is now somewhat threatened by the Howe Ridge Fire, currently burning probably less than a mile to the south and west. It would be a shame for this forest to burn. The temperate rainforest is a forest of an older, wetter Glacier. A good chunk of it burned in the Sprague Fire last year. There are predictions that it can't come back if hit hard enough by fire, that a different forest will have to take over. As is the way with nature, but this forest is so magical.


Pinedrops- a parasitic plant, well not exactly. It survives off the compounds released from decomposing matter. I've seen them before, usually a couple inches tall. This one was three feet tall.

Indian Pipes, or my favorite name for them, Ghost Pipes. This one truly is parasitic. Neither of these two plants photosynthesize.


While this trail skirts the river over a lot of its length, the best is towards the end of it. The creek, river by my standards, cuts through a gorge of harder rock, creating a gorge of cascades. It is extremely beautiful, water so clear and rocks weathered fascinatingly.


The next day saw us driving around to the eastern side of the park. While I have been over here aplenty, I had never made the hike up to the easiest glacier in the park to access: Grinnell Glacier. While yes, we would be in the hordes, with how quickly these glaciers are disappearing I had to get up to see it before it is gone. I'd kick myself for not if I couldn't get back here for a few decades, gotta seize life now.

To our unlucky coincidence, the Iceberg Lake Trail was closed to allow bears freedom to forage. Yay bears, but it concentrated hiker use to our trail. We thought we were arriving early enough to not worry about parking but had probably missed the last parking spot by a couple minutes. Side of the road it was. Luckily we weren't so late that we had to risk the subjectitude of law enforcement, our spot easily fit us.

Early morning light made the hike along Lakes Swiftcurrent and Josephine as we made our way.


Eventually the trail leaves the valley floor and starts sidehilling up. A good bit of elevation needs to be gained to reach alpine glaciers, but as far as ventures go this one is tame. Sure is beautiful. Rocks of all colors, white bark pines, Grinnell Lake down below, Mt Gould and Piegan Pass across the way. We got passed by a good slew of people, I don't know how so many people travel so fast in such beautiful country.


Gem Glacier high on the cliffs. It is too small and inactive to truly be a glacier, but it is still a chunk of old ice and is quite dramatic. Looking at pictures from the early 1900's, it hasn't changed much in 100 years while Grinnell Glacier has shrunk by leaps and bounds. A testament to how the glacial recession of Glacier National Park is not as cut and dry as "they are disappearing."


White Bark Pine. Another disappearing aspect of Glacier National Park. These plants likely have a long time climate wise, but are be still being attacked. Blister Rust, a fungus from Asia, is ravaging five needle pines in the US and White Bark Pines are being decimated across their range. There is an effort to collect cones of individuals that appear resistant to then grow a population that can survive this invasion, but it is a grim tale. Many species rely on this tree, so I hope something can work out for them.


Eventually we made it up into the glacier basin. Upper Grinnell Lake fills it with the milky blue of a lake filled with the powder of finely ground rock. Grinnell Glacier sits in the back end of it, hiding in what shade the towering cliffs make. While Sperry Glacier sprawls resplendently in its high exposure, ready for whatever comes, this one seems fearful, not ready to go but not knowing how to fight the challenges it faces. Every glacier I've been close to has its own personality, further anthropomorphizing them in my mind as ancient giants. Maybe it is the glaciers I've been close to. The horde of people sprawled by one corner of the lake, like they had made it and would go no further. It was kinda creepy honestly. Personal space was limited there while the rest of the shore was devoid of the masses. There was definitely a difference in mindset between us and them for we didn't hesitate to pass them all to explore the basin beyond. Rocks of all sorts abounded, Grey Capped Rosy Finches fluttered about and awesome views were more awesome. I'm glad the masses didn't venture here, more space to us.


Rock from the diorite sill, an intrusion of magma among all the limestone. Green olivine was pretty phenomenal to see.


Limestone that was likely close to the magma, slightly changed.


Slate, another rock that was likely influenced by the magma. These influenced rocks are special, small in quantity compared to everything else.


Stromatolites- ancient signs of life on Earth, mats and globs of algae alive a billion years ago.


Glacial striations- signs of the weight of ice scraping rock across rock.


What this thing has done is amazing.


The outlet was really pretty. We could have crossed to get to the glacier, but ultimately decided that it could have its place of protection.


On the trip back down the mountain, we got to witness this beautiful bighorn sheep ram. It was a sad story, it clearly wanted to move yet was surrounded by people, many nearly ten feet from it. I don't know why people want to be so close to something with a head designed to ram into things. Jeff and I quickly scampered by, losing dad in the masses of people gawking and taking selfies...


The hordes made the trip down a bit of a trudge. Its an experience I haven't had in Glacier, more used to June conditions than August. Luckily we still had many a moment to ourselves within the masses that made the trip our own. Another adventure awaited tomorrow to get away from them all.

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