Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Goodbye summer, hello fall

Approaching the Scenic Point summit

Coming off Scenic Point on the way to East Glacier Park

The "Girls" hiking through brilliant ground cover

The aspen in full full color

Who could resist a Goose Island photo on such a clear, calm day on St. Mary Lake?

West side color in the park
We bade summer goodbye last weekend with the Scenic Point to East Glacier Park walk-through on Saturday and then followed it with a final drive over the Going to the Sun Road on Sunday (and a walk to the Hidden Lake Overlook).

Click here for details: Scenic Point to East Glacier Park walk through

The colors on the east side, mainly aspen, cottonwood and the ground cover were sharp and crisp, with yellows dominating in the trees and oranges and reds radiating from the ground.
The west side was breathtaking ---- with colors everywhere.  It was at its height for now, recognizing that in a month the larch will be in full color, giving us a second shot there.
The Going to the Sun Road is closed for the season, as are the park's lodges.
We stayed at the Glacier Park Lodge on its final night on the GPI's $99 a night special for Montanans.  We ate at Serrano's and the Whistle Stop and had pie at the Two Medicine Grill.
On Saturday night we also stopped by the Glacier Two Medicine Alliance annual gathering at the Rising Wolf Ranch near Marias Pass.  The colors there were beyond belief and when the sun went down the bright stars spangled the sky.
Katie's sad that the lodges have closed
The Scenic Point walk, 11.6 miles, goes up and over Scenic Point Mountain and down the front of the mountains and through the Blackfeet Reservation back to East Glacier Park.  This walk is a tour of some of the park's best geologic features ---- from high mountain scenery to the prairie.
I accompanied my wife's "Girls in Glacier" hiking group on this hike.  I joined six women on the trek.
On Tuesday, I got antsy for the Rocky Mountain Front and set out on the Steamboat Lookout Trail, the Elk Creek Trail No. 205 southwest of Augusta.  The trailhead is 71 miles from my front door.  The weather was overcast and windy and rather than climb Steamboat when I reached the lookout cutoff trail, I continued on 205 another mile and a half to the Scapegoat Wilderness boundary and pass over the Elk Creek/Dearborn River divide, which offers stunning views of the Scapegoat Masif and the Crown Mountain country.
I was surprised to find that apparently there had been no cattle allowed into this Elk Creek country this year and the green grass was shin-high and the trail free of cattle droppings.  It had been two years since I had hiked this trail and was delighted to see how much trail work had been done by the Forest Service, clearing the debris of the Canyon Creek fire (1988).  The trail, once choked by the debris, and cattle droppings and even cattle, is now a delight to walk.
As one who has hiked this trail repeatedly, before and after the fire, it is interesting to see how this area has come back from the burn.  The north and east slopes are now heavily timbered.  I'd venture to guess that within 5 years those slopes will show little evidence of the conflagration.  The west and south slopes are still pretty littered with dead fall and blow down trees and there is sparse tree regrowth.
As in the Glacier, the colors popped.

Click here for details of Elk Creek hike: Elk Creek hike

The ground cover on the Elk Creek Trail No. 205

The burn and the skyline

Scapegoat Wilderness trail sign at Elk Creek/Dearborn divide

Scapegoat Masif and mountain from the divide

Aspen color on trail

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