Sunday, September 14, 2008

Trading Curly Bear Peak for Otokomi Lake

Spectacular ground cover on the way to the lake

At Otokomi Lake

Otokomi Peak with a dusting of new snow
Snow ruined a planned climb of Curly Bear Mountain that sits high above St. Mary’s Lake, but I still had a wonderful day in Glacier Park Saturday.
A group of 12 Glacier Mountaineering Society climbers scrubbed is Curly Bear climb because it couldn’t see the mountain by mid-morning.
So, I decided to have last bite of breakfast this season at the Park Café in St. Mary and redirected to a hike to Otokomi Lake north and above the Rising Sun Lodge and campground area.
Otokomi Lake is always a good default when I don’t have much time and some other trip has been cancelled.
It is a 10.5 mile roundtrip walk, rising some 2,000 above Rose Creek on the flanks of Goat and Otokomi mountains.
What I love about Otokomi Lake is the bright red rock above it. It is one of the most colorful spots in the park. I usually plan for two hours up, a half hour lunch and two hours back.
On this late summer hike I was treated to the changing ground cover, particularly the huckleberries (yes there are still plenty of tasty berries!), thimbleberries, mountain ash, and mountain maple trees. They provided a riot of oranges, reds, bright yellows and browns to make the hike super visual. For the most part, the aspen and cottonwood trees haven’t begun to turn yellow yet.
Another interesting part of the hike is the numerous waterfalls along the way.
As I walked I reflected on how much the late J. Gordon Edwards and his wife, Alice, used to love this area toward the end of his life. I accompanied them once when they used Otokomi Lake as the starting point for a climb of Goat Mountain. I know he frequented Otokomi Peak in the last years of his life. Edwards is the patron saint of Glacier Park climbers and the author of “Climbers Guide to Glacier Park,” the bible of Glacier mountaineering.
I finished my walk before 2 p.m., and by then the clouds had lifted, revealing Curly Bear covered in snow.
The air was crisp, the sun was out, and this being the last weekend that Going to the Sun Highway would be open through Logan Pass, I took a final drive there for the season, enjoying the new snow that made the mountains gleam.

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