Saturday, November 01, 2014

Glacier before the storm in her finest larch color

The larch in full color along Glacier Park's Lake McDonald.
I had to get a last look at Glacier in her yellow-larch finery and took a swing through the Swan, the west side of the park, Essex and East Glacier Park Thursday and Friday.
The weather continues to be unseasonably warm, but that promises to end with a major winter storm predicted for Sunday.
On the way to the park on Thursday I stopped for a quick climb to the top of Rogers Pass and a look at the snow in the high country.  Only a week ago things were fairly dry.  Continental Divide Peaks like Caribou and off to the north, Rocky Mountain peak are now coated in white.
Then, I hit the Swan, stopping for breath-taking views of the larch along Salmon Lake and the state park.  Swan Lake was equally spangled.
Then, for a stop at Lake McDonald in Glacier Park, a drive on the inner road as far as it goes --- 6.5 miles from Fish Creek campground to Camas Creek in the heart of the Roberts Fire aftermath (2003).
At Fish Creek I stopped for the 1.8 mile hike to Rocky Point and the interpretive displays on the Roberts fire.
I remember that fire well, and even the Rampage fire that year, but had forgotten that 13 percent of the park or almost 150,000 acres had burned that year, the driest on record.
It was overcast, but the golden larch color still popped.
Then it was off to Essex, the Izack Walton Inn and dinner and finally to East Glacier Park, where I spent the night.
St. Nick from Scalplock Mountain lookout

A thermal layer covered the Middle Fork Flathead spangled in yellow larch

The high peaks of the Great Bear Wilderness to the south

Essex and the Middle Fork from the top of Scalplock
In the morning I had a great breakfast at the Two Medicine Grille, enjoying the company of waitress Laurie Littner, a fellow climber, and Rebecca Wright, the cook who is a Badger-Two Med enthusiast and Bob Marshall devotee.
I doubled back to Essex and hit the Scaplock Mountain Trail to do the 8.6 miles, elevation gain and loss of 3,305 feet to the top of the 6,919 foot peak.
The trail was carpeted in fallen larch needles and at about 6,250 feet I started to pick up snow, all the way to the top.
The skies cleared when I reached the top and I got glorious views the pointed Mount St. Nicholas directly to the northwest, the high peaks of the Great Bear Wilderness to the south and below a layer of clouds blanketing the Middle Fork Flathead River.
Scaplock lookout with St. Nick in the background
I saw only one other person on the mountain trail, just at the beginning, as I was finishing.
On the way home I detoured along the Heart Butte Road, getting great views of the Badger country to the west.

Link to Scalplock climb, click here:

Scalplock climb

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