Monday, September 03, 2007

A grizzly makes it all worthwhile

A grizzly spotted nearby at Triple Divide Pass

This griz came right by where we had just been on the trail

Brother Dan on trail

Dan in Medicine Grizzly Lake, Katie ties her shoes
This summer was the poorest in memory for grizzly sightings.
But what I saw Saturday sure made up for it.
My wife, brother Dan, and I got quite a lengthy and good look at a silver-faced, black-rumped grizzly as we crested Triple Divide Pass in Glacier National Park.
The bear was rooting in the vegetation and turning over rocks on the Red Eagle side of the pass, and then lumbered across the trail at the pass before about 10 onlookers before ambling into the rocks at the head of Medicine Grizzly Lake.
He didn’t seem bothered by the spectators who backed away as he ambled over the pass.
Triple Divide Pass, a 14.2 mile hike, is always beautiful, tucked beneath the peak of the same name and at the base of massive Mount James. Medicine Grizzly Lake shimmers 1,000 feet below. Tucked into a hanging valley on the north face of Medicine Grizzly Mountain is unnamed lake that feeds into Medicine Grizzly. Snowfields off Razoredge Mountain spill down enormous rock faces as thin waterfalls into the lake.
I’ve climbed Triple Divide, James and Razoredge, and vowed to return to climb Medicine Grizzly.
While I love bagging peaks, I’ve spent much of this smoky summer rehiking many of my favorite trails in Glacier Park, where the smoke doesn’t seem as intense as we’ve had it in Great Falls. The sky was a crystal blue, with only a slight haze in the mornings on the three days we spent in the park over the Labor Day weekend.
We capped our exciting grizzly sighting event by dropping off the trail to Medicine Grizzly Lake on the way back to the trailhead.
We waited until we were just above the east end of the lake, and then dropped about 500 feet through easy rock, scree, and slippery beargrass to the lake, where we picked up the trail that headed back to a junction with the Triple Divide Trail.
The grizzly encounter was about as exciting an event as a backcountry hiker could want, although we never felt threatened at any point.
On Sunday we hiked another park classic, the 10.3 mile Siyeh Pass trail from Jackson Overlook to Preston Park, up to the pass and then down the Sunrift valley.
The northern part of the hike is dominated by Piegan and Siyeh peaks and the colorful Boulder Creek valley.
The southern half, is a glorious drop down to Sunrift Gorge from the top of the pass, more than 3,400 feet. The glaciers off Going to the Sun and Matahpi mountains command the scenery.
We parked our car at Sunrift and got the Glacier shuttle bus to Jackson overlook.
The trails were not as crowded we found the Many Glacier trails two weeks ago.
The Triple Divide trail is in the Cutbank Creek area, which is remote and gets little traffic at any time.
On Monday we took short dayhikes on the boundary trail near West Glacier and Ole Creek near the Izack Walton ranger station at Essex.
On all hikes we were stunned by the changing colors in the trees and groundcover. Fall is here!
We stayed in East Glacier Park at Brownie’s Hostel, always a pleasant experience, ate at Serrano’s one night and the Park CafĂ© in Browning the next. At East Glacier we always see old friends, such as Helena Mayor Jim Smith, who is a devotee of the park.
Unfortunately, the sky was smoky and the temperature in the 90s when we returned to the Electric City.
Bring on the snow!
Dan and Katie at Siyeh Pass

Making our way down to St. Mary Lake from pass

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