Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Glacier Park larch tour: do it now!

Middle Fork Flathead larch in the fall speak for themselves
Now is the time to take that last trip of the season to Glacier National Park.
The western larch, a deciduous pine-looking tree, is in its blazing yellow glory, readying to shed its needles for the winter.
Several miles west of Marias Pass the trees begin to dot the hillsides on both sides of U.S. 2, and around the Goat Lick near Essex, dominate the landscape to nearly West Glacier.
You’ll have about 10 days yet to catch this spectacle in western Montana. It is by no means limited to the Glacier Park Middle Fork country. Go to Missoula and west, where you can catch this sight.
I’ve taken this Middle Fork trip annually in the fall for more than 30 years and am always satisfied with what I see.
It is also a great time to be in the park, when there are few visitors.
I generally drive along Highway 2 from East to West Glacier and then back to St. Mary by way of the Going to the Sun Highway.
I took a short drive around East Glacier Park, one of my favorite places in the Glacier Park area and felt saddened by seeing my favorite restaurants and the Glacier Park Lodge and Amtrak station boarded up for the season. This is a reminder of short and sweet this season in the park is!
Likewise, once in the park, I looked around the Apgar, Logan Pass, and Lake McDonald Lodge areas and found similar reminders that winter is nearly here.
The high peaks of the park and Great Bear, particularly on the west side, have a dusting of snow, and appeared to be receiving a bit more the Monday afternoon that I drove through.
I stopped for a short hike at Packer’s Roost on the west side, a trail that leads to Fifty Mountain and ultimately Goat Haunt and into Canada. Then I took a longer walk up the Sunrift Gorge to view the bright red colored rocks that carry water to it from Going to the Sun Mountain and Goat Mountain that flank it.
There was a brief stop at the Haystack Falls area where workers are still busy on rebuilding the road.
There can’t be much time left before the snow is deep enough to close it until next June.

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