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Sunday, August 8, 2010

GLACIER - CROWN OF THE CONTINENT

After exploring the North Cascades along scenic Hwy 20 in Washington, we headed for Montana to Glacier National Park. This place is so beautiful. The campgrounds were filled with vacationers, but we didn’t have to go far to experience solitude and quiet. Sitting next to the lakes in the early morning, drinking coffee, was a daily routine. There were a few hardy people swimming in the glacial fed waters but I would only go in so far to cool off. From the campground we’d walk or ride bikes on paved trails to West Glacier or Apgar Village. 
While on the West side of the park, Dick went on a solo backpacking trip for six days and covered nearly 80 miles. PICTURES OF DICK'S HIKE He always hikes alone. I’m used to that, but in this wilderness it concerns me. In the 16 days we were at Glacier, we heard of several grizzly bluff charges, including Jack Hanna - the zoo man JACK HANNA STORY (we were told later this was a young cub just trying to get past him to his mama). We also heard about the grizzly killing near Yellowstone. GRIZZLY NEWS Not only can the bears be a threat, but moose and landslides and glacier crossings etc... Dick says, “any bear pub is good pub because it keeps people out of the backcountry.”
There was an abundance of wildflowers and huckleberries. I’m sure there are more bear encounters when the thimbleberries are ripe. The woods are thick with  thimbleberry bushes lining both sides of the trails. We never saw a grizzly the whole time we were in the park - only scat. In the campground areas I did see some black bears along the trail and on the hillsides. Up at Logan Pass we loved watching the goats and sheep. We were very excited when a fisher ambled across the trail on the way to Avalanche Lake. Everyone else saw moose but us.
The morning we planned to move to Two Medicine on the East side of the park, I woke to find the window screen open about six inches. I sat up and counted cat heads. One was missing! Sheba had decided to go on a morning hunt. The squirrels and birds were always teasing her at the end of her leash and I think she was determined to get one. I was frantic when I remembered I had taken her collar with I.D. tag off the night before. We searched for about an hour and then as I passed the woods two loops down, I heard a bird making irritated noises at something. I decided to call for Sheba and heard this tiny meow saying, “go away, I almost got him.” She was crouched under a bush. It was still early enough to move to Two Medicine, but then we couldn’t get the motorhome started. So we stayed at Apgar another day while the solar panel charged the battery. 
You’re lucky if you get a camping space this time of year. We arrived at Two Medicine the next morning and got a beautiful spot overlooking the lake with Mt. Sinopah in the background. The aroma from the spruce and balsam was wonderful. 
Last year when Dick hiked I went to Pat Hagan’s Ranger Program. It was so good. We were lucky enough to attend two of his programs. He is a riot. Very humorous while teaching us about the mountain goat and birds of the park. You have to see it to believe it. We bought his book Seasonal Disorder. INFO ON PAT HAGAN'S BOOK
A couple times, at the evening campfire programs, we heard members from the Blackfeet and Kootenai tribe share information about their culture, traditions, and personal connection to Glacier National Park and really enjoyed Blackfeet singer and story teller, Jack Gladstone. 
 JACK GLADSTONE INFO
Dick hiked another two days in the Southeast part of the park. I drove him 40 miles to the Nyack trailhead where he would need to cross the Flathead River. He was advised not to try crossing this time of year due to high and fast water. He would be hiking through woods to the first river crossing. He didn’t want me waiting around to see if he crossed. He said if he couldn’t make it across he would hitchhike back to the campground. It was raining when I dropped him off and it rained all night. I was all snug and dry in the motorhome. The next morning I sat up in bed and looked out the window and there was a perfect full rainbow across the lake. I grabbed my jacket and camera and took pictures. What a beautiful morning, so quiet and peaceful. Almost everyone was still asleep in the campground. When Dick made it back to me late that day, he said the river was a “three crotch crossing.”  Sounds like so much fun doesn’t it?
I enjoyed hiking with groups on Ranger led hikes. No bear sightings, but claw marks on trees and fur where they scratch their backs. BEAR SCRATCHING BACK ON TREE  I enjoyed hiking with groups that didn’t wear bear bells and holler “hey Bear” or clap their hands every five minutes. The ranger tells people bells don’t work and the way you can tell black bear scat from grizzly scat is the grizzly scat has bells in it. Hiking with a group is safe enough that you don’t need to worry about making noise to warn the bears. On one of the walks we watched a beaver carry a tree branch downriver. Amazing creatures.
It was difficult to leave this beautiful place but we knew it was time. My parents are camped at the Ole’ E Ranch in Acme, and Maggie is in Traverse City now. If we didn’t have those two main reasons to head east, we would have probably inquired about being the campground hosts for the rest of the season. 


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