Sunday, July 01, 2012

Lots of hiking in Glacier, the Front

Mike McCartney hiking on Iceberg Lake trail in Glacier
In the past week I've had three great hikes in Glacier National Park and two in the Front.
My cousin Mike had never crossed snowfields before.
In Glacier we did a tour of waterfalls (Bering, St. Mary, Virginia Falls) near St. Mary in the rain, and a hike to Iceberg Lake in Many Glacier and a climb up Scenic Point in Two Med.
In the Front there were short trips to Devil's Glen on the Dearborn River and the Ear Mountain Outstanding Natural Area Trail on the Teton River.
We ran into all kinds of weather, ranging from snow at Logan Pass that closed the Going to the Sun Highway last Wednesday to extremely hot and bright on the Iceberg Trail.
There still is significant snow in the high country here, but it is going fast.
We saw nothing on the northeast face of Ear Mountain, which often holds snowfields into mid-summer, but Iceberg Lake was frozen over.
The occasion for our Glacier trip was a visit from my cousin Michael McCartney and his wife, Joie, from the Chicago area, who are on a multi-month "retirement" tour.  They have never done this level of hiking.
Cuter than cute bighorn lambs we encountered on the way up Scenic Point in Glacier's Two Med area.
We stayed at cabins at St. Mary's Rising Sun area and Many Glacier's Swiftcurrent area and Terry Sherburne's Mountain Pine in East Glacier Park.
Enjoying Devil's Glen in proposed Scapegoat addition.
The Devil's Glen trip, last Tuesday, was part of a media tour by EchoFlight, an environmental air transport company, arranged by The Wilderness Society and Montana Wilderness Association, to showcase the Scapegoat Wilderness Area on its 40th anniversary and its similarities to the current Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act pending in Congress.  The Scapegoat was the first "citizen's" wilderness passed by Congress.  Some of the land in the Heritage Act borders the Scapegoat.
The planned flight for the media was marred by low clouds that blocked views.
But, the skies cleared for the 7-mile round trip walk into Devil's Glen where EchoFlight pilot Bruce Gordon accompanied us.
The Devil's Glen is where the Dearborn is squeezed into narrow cascades that roar down a beautiful limestone canyon just below Steamboat Mountain.
The Great Falls Tribune reporter Erin Madison and photographer Rion Sanders went with us on the trip that I led.
Me, my wife, Joie McCartney and cousin Mike from Chicago at  Iceberg Lake.
The crowds were sparse in Glacier because of the variable weather, although there was a steady stream of people trying Iceberg, where they had to cross several large snow chutes to reach the ice-covered lake.  It will be at least a couple of weeks before the snow and ice recede enough to reveal "icebergs" in other-worldly blue water.
I was particularly pleased that flat-landers Mike and Joie did so well on the hikes.
Nancy Clark of Great Falls approachingScenic Point above Two Medicine  Lake
On the Scenic Point climb we bumped into two other parties from Great Falls.
After a day of collecting ourselves Sunday we went to the Ear Mountain Outstanding Area below that Rocky Mountain Front landmark and walked the trail that covers 4.2 miles roundtrip and rises 1,010 feet.
The area was redolent with wildflowers, both of the prairie and mountain varieties.
It takes the hiker from a trailhead on the South Fork of the Teton River to Yeager Flat through foothills, around a large, colorful cliff band, forest, a burn, a swamp.  Ear Mountain is in the near distance where the trail ends.
This is where a traditional climb of the mountain begins, but all but the south side route are visible from here.
Hikers are treated to gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountain Front's Choteau, Wind and Cave mountains.
Ear Mountain from the trail ending Yeager Flats.
This BLM trail is a must-do for Great Falls residents interested in the Front because it reveals so much.  It is 74 miles from Great Falls and only 2.2 miles are off pavement.  In addition, the newly paved Teton County Road makes the drive even more pleasurable.
A view of Wind and Cave mountains from Ear Mountain Outstanding Area Trail

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