Glacier National Park, Two Takes

In mid-September we spent a week hiking in Glacier’s Many Glacier area, after the crowds had gone and fresh snow dusted mountain peaks. Piegan pass was exceptionally quiet, except for the mountain goats we ceded the pass to. The trail to Ptarmigan tunnel is a popular but pretty walk to a lake and an impressive tunnel through a mountain, where the other side is an equally impressive trail carved into the side of a red mountain.

Cracker Lake  nestled in the mountains shimmered in that all-too-typical glacier-blue colour. Other shorter but no-less beautiful trails took us up valleys to lakes where we watched bighorn sheep and grizzly bears graze and squirmed at Norwegian rats rustling in the understory of the forests while we picked the last few remaining huckleberries.

Grinnell Lake and its sad, disappearing glacier was a sad reminder of the state of our natural world. A park named after its glaciers in a couple of decades will lose all of its remaining namesake features.

It was a beautiful week of day hiking, so beautiful that we came back again in the fall to hike for another week in the park’s southern end. We hiked fast on the trails at Two Medicine Lake, hoping to get as many of them done before a looming storm arrived. Given that we live in the Yukon we do not feel the need to be in the mountains when it snows. We have experienced that enough times in our lives.

In just our first two days we hiked 60+ trail kilometres over three mountain passes, visited four waterfalls, crossed a creek twice (rangers had just pulled the bridges the day before) and up to eight lakes. We saw six moose (a mother with twins and a big bull moose feeding in a marsh with two lucky girls), 29 mountain goats, 2 bighorn sheep and a black bear. It was an exhilarating two days. We hiked in the shadows of mountains with names like Rising Wolf, Never Laughs, Painted Tipi Peak and Pumpelly Pillar.

Less glamorous was the epic face plant on pavement I achieved the morning we arrived, before we even set foot on the dirt trail to Pitamakan Pass. I was concerned that if I could fall so hard before leaving the civilized world of flat pavement, perhaps I may fare worse on the trails but I was nimble footed and agile on the trails. Pavement, it turns out, I found more difficult to navigate.

On the day of our departure, we woke to storm force winds and sweeping black clouds rapidly swallowing Sinopah Mountain. It appeared the days of blue sky and warmth we had enjoyed for two days was going to disappear. We left Glacier with tired muscles but rich memories and pointed our car south for Utah hurrying away before the first winter storm.