Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial holiday in Glacier: 5 hikes in 3 days

Katie hiking on the Scenic Point Trail at Two Med.

The orange Indian Paintbrush were plentiful at Many Glacier

Bighorn sheep surrounded my car near Many Glacier Hotel
Many years I've skied Memorial Day weekend.
This year sun prevailed and Katie and I had a magical long weekend in Glacier Park doing some of our favorite hikes.
However, the clear trails and low snowpack could mean real fire trouble later in the season.  It is too dry too soon.
We started Saturday with a Red Rocks Lake hike out of Many Glacier.  Two years ago when we did this on a July day we stomped through tons of snow.  This year it was dry all the way to these colorful cascades on the Swiftcurrent trail.
The only excitement was bumping into a large, young female on the trail directly in front of us and coming right at us at the lake.  We stepped off the trail, turned our back and the moose was gone before I had time to snap a photo.
At the lake we saw a number of fishermen, one of which was our friend hotelier Terry Sherburne from East Glacier Park pulling in large brookies.
At Many Glacier Lodge we were surrounded by a herd of bighorn sheep, which was more friendly than skittish as it encircled our car.  Sherburne said he saw a herd of mountain goats on his way out.
We then headed for Going to the Sun Highway out of St. Mary's for a look at the St. Mary Falls-Virginia Falls trail, starting at Sunrift Gorge.
We were treated to magnificent views of snow dappled Red Eagle Mountain and deep blue St. Mary Lake. The trail was lined with many wildflowers, many which seem early.
We went beyond St. Mary Falls, but decided that we were running out of time and turned around at the next set of cascades short of Virginia Falls.
On the way out we saw a small herd of elk on Two Dog Flats.
Both Many Glacier and St. Mary trails were very lightly visited by tourists this day.
It was then back to East Glacier Park to stay at Sherburne's Mountain Pine Motel, our favorite lodging spot in the park.
We had an absolutely terrible meal at the Firebrand Inn, a place we decided to try for the first time.  My grilled cheese sandwich was nothing more than Velveeta between two slices of white bread.  Ugh!!
The great weather continued Sunday and we headed to Two Medicine for a climb of Scenic Point, about a 2,300 feet gain.
The sky was very clear and the mountain scenery just popped with fingers of snow coming off the peaks.
We saw bighorns again and hit a fairly good sized patch of snow in the trees and again on the trail just below the ridgeline.  We had to skirt both patches, but in the process climbed another small peak --- Medicine --- and were tempted by the partially snow-covered Bison.
We also did a short day hike to Running Eagle Falls.
After dinner at Serrano's it turned out to be a pretty full day.
At the Sacred Dancing Waters on McDonald Creek

A pink trillium along the trail

The forest canopy on McDonald Creek Trail
On Sunday the plan was to see what hike might present itself on the west side of the park, which we wanted to see to travel along the scenic Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
We found our hike immediately at the head of Lake McDonald on the McDonald Creek Trail that is on the north side of the creek and follows the Sacred Dancing waters through a heavily canopied forest and through a beaver pond wetland.
It was an amazing contrast to hiking out in the open on the east side of the park.
Along the way we were able to view Harlequin ducks and got close to the snowmelt fed cascades on the creek below Stanton and Vaught mountains.
There aren't nearly as many kinds of flowers in bloom on the west side, but the flowers there were spectacular and included different varieties of trillium in pinks, whites and reds.
At this time of year McDonald Creek is on one wild ride from runoff.  We enjoyed the many vistas of this scenic creek.
Then it was time to head back to Great Falls by way of the Swan Valley with a stop for food in Bigfork.  The Swan and Mission mountain ranges put on a show for the tourist taking this route.
Just east of Lincoln we stopped at Rogers Pass for a quick run up the Continental Divide Trail on the east side of the highway.  The pink douglasia and blue forget-me-nots area already carpeting the hillside.
This Memorial Day trip will be hard to top.

No comments: