Friday, June 29, 2012

Two Medicine Twin Falls

At the far end of the lake from the campground is a trail that leads to Twin Falls, a pair of waterfalls.  I purchased a ticket for a boat ride and the boat took us, against heavy wind and chop, 2 miles up the lake to a boat dock.

The hike took us through an old growth forest that has not seen fire for 200 years.  The views along the trail were spectacular.

Arriving at the Falls, we chilled and sat and absorbed the spectacle before us.

 That was a real high note on which to end my time at Two Medicine.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two Medicine

This part of Glacier National Park is named for two Native American women, each of whom made a Medicine Lodge on opposite banks of the river.  The setting is an alpine valley carved by glaciers, with a lake that leads to a stream which eventually feeds Running Eagle Falls.

I picked a site at the lower end of the campground, near the outflow.  As it turns out, it was also near the group camping area.  A day or two after my arrival, a school bus loaded with a group of girls from the Blackfoot people arrived and began setting up camp.  I assumed that my peace and quiet would evaporate.  How could a group of girls in their early teens possibly be good neighbors?  I expected lots of loud voices, laughing, running around, etc..

I was wrong.  These girls were astonishing to watch.  They were gentle with each other.  They were quiet and respectful of the wilderness setting they were in.  Yet, this was not due to strict discipline.  The calm confidence that radiated from them all demonstrated that very clearly.  They were assured of self and at home in the environment.  This was, after all, their home.

I know I could learn much about good parenting from spending time with them.  Somehow, a single old man intruding on a retreat of young girls might not have been appreciated, so I just observed from a distance.  Their leaders and their parents are to be commended.

Most of my stay at Two Medicine, it was cloudy and raining, even when everyplace else in the northwest was showing as clear on the weather maps.  I had a few nice days, though.  On the first of them, I had attended a program put on by a Ranger.  He spoke about bears in the park, and conveyed a lot of good info (and some fun stories) about them.  Leaving the campfire after the program, I hustled back to my site to get my camera.  Mist was rising over the lake.  I got back just in time.

The next day, Pat's teaching paid off.  I went for a hike, and encountered a good sized black bear.  I knew just how to behave, I kept my distance, and the bear kept his.

As I watched, he would look at me, to be sure I was not misbehaving, I guess, then he would continue feeding.  After watching him for 5 minutes or so, I retreated back into the forest and hiked back to Enterprise.

Going To The Sun

Many people come to Glacier for one reason - to drive the Going To The Sun Road.  When I first arrived here, it was not yet open.  The day that it opened, up I went.

There was a lot of construction and maintenance going on, with a lot of the road restricted to a single lane.  Opportunities to stop and photograph on the west side were limited.  When possible, however, even with the cloud cover...

Ascending higher, the snow closes in.

At the top, Logan Pass, the views begin to change.  That high, there are few trees.  Challenging climate and avalanches limit the tree growth to lower altitudes.

Dropping down on the east side, the views continue.

I even had a chance for a short hike in the sun

before returning up and over the Pass, dropping down into more clouds and rain.  Wow, it is wet on the west side!

Hiking in a Rain Forest.

I arrived at Glacier National Park on a cloudy afternoon.  Several days of rain followed.  The Going To The Sun Road remained closed due to heavy snow, but at lower elevations the rain and the melting snow had the rivers in flood.  I did some wandering, and a lot of ooh'ing and ahh'ing, but the scenery would not photograph well.

June 15, the day finally cleared a bit, and I went hiking along Avalanche Creek on the west side of the Park.

The entire west side is classed as Temperate Rain Forest because of the precipitation generated by the air rising to climb over the peaks.  The result is phenomenal colors, even with the overcast.  I last saw this kind of intense green on the west side of the Cascades, for the same reasons.

Avalanche Creek is a cascade that rushes from one precipitous drop to another.
What a great trail!

That afternoon, the sky began to clear.  I drove around the south end of the Park to get a sense of the east side.

These shots were near Two Medicine, my next camping destination, and the setting for my last post, on Running Eagle Falls.

Mountain Goats

Until recently I was unclear of the difference between Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats.  Bighorn Sheep are the ones with the horns that curl around, and that ram one another for status and control of a herd of females.  Only the male horns curve around fully.  The females have much smaller horns.

Goats, on the other hand, have black, slightly curved horns.  These are the ones that climb the precipitous cliffs.  I was lucky one afternoon and spotted a herd, including lambs.

I am not sure if Mom was licking her chops or sticking her tongue out at me.

In full winter garb, they can stay warm high in the mountains because of that heavy coat.

I watched some of the goats rubbing their shoulders against the rocks.  I figured out that they were shedding that heavy coat for lighter summer wear.

Finally we see how much of their bulk is them, and how much is fur.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Running Eagle Falls

Do Not Point Your Camera Toward The Sun.

It is a rule recited so often that it is almost a mantra.  Still, sometimes we don't have an option. 

My first day in the park I spent midday and early afternoon exploring areas on the western side, and in the late afternoon I made my way around the park to the south, then worked my way in to the Two Medicine area, my next camping destination.

Near there is a trail and waterfall, Running Eagle Falls.  I set off in pursuit of another great sight in a day that had been filled with such.  I walked past the Grizzly warnings, whistling or singing to be sure I was making "people" noise.  Approaching the falls, my first view showed them in shadow, backlit by the sun.  Oh well.  It was still nice.

I crossed an upstream branch and got some closer shots.  The mist from the Falls might generate a nice rainbow in the morning, but not now, not with the sun behind the falls.

As I recrossed the stream and was leaving, I decided to try for a last shot, making the mist and backlighting work for me rather than against me.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Dark days, rugged mountains

I got to Glacier on Thursday afternoon after a long, fatiguing day behind the wheel.  Friday dawned cloudy but cleared by late morning.  I headed into the park and came out 9 hours later with over 250 photos after the first round of cuts.  Lots of work ahead of me.  With rain in the forecast, I will have time for editing.  Those pics will be the subject of future posts, once I have gotten through them.

Three days later, the rain continues here at Glacier National Park.  Still, the views can be awesome.  A long drive on a muddy, potholed single lane road a few miles south of Canada brought me to the south end of Bowman Lake. 

Had it not been so wet, I would have walked at least part of one of the trails. 

I returned to the main park area.  Wandering about, I wound up at the Apgar Visitor Center, at the south end of Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park.  The air was relatively still, but thunder boomers echoing behind me assured me that I was NOT going to do much walking today.  Not a problem...
If I ever get sunshine, this place will be awesome.

The Going To The Sun Road is still closed but may open tomorrow.  If it does, I am off for 50 miles of spectacular mountain driving.

Farragut Parting Shot

My stay at Farragut State Park in Idaho was at an end.  I had been there 14 days and had had three days when the sun was out for at least part of the day.  My last evening, I was thinking about dinner when the air took on an unusual color.  I hopped in the car and got to a viewpoint of the lake just as the sun shone through a hole in the clouds, spotlighting a part of the mountain on the far side of the lake.
That was a nice afterimage for me to carry away.  On to Glacier National Park!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How To Find Big Game

I have done a fair amount of hiking up here in northern Idaho.  Everyone tells me I am surrounded by all sorts of big game, yet I see nothing on these hikes.

Yesterday I took a 90 mile drive up to the Canada border, just looking at scenery.  On the way back, atop a cliff near the road, I saw a white spot.  I stopped and looked closer, then got out the camera gear.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Walk In The Woods

In the east, one of the nation's older trails is the Appalachian Trail, a trail that has been described as a 2000 mile walk in the woods.  It has been described that way because it is known as a trail that traverses woodlands, but with few vistas.

That was the case with yesterday's trail, the Scout Trail.  While the part I walked is about 1/1000 the length of the Appalachian Trail, it has a similar feel.  For most of the length that I walked, it is a walk in the woods.

In many places the trail skirts the base of rock walls that rise out of the forest.

Reaching the top, there are a few vistas to reward the effort. 

It would be really great to be up there when the light was right, near sunset, but the descent is on very uneven terrain.  It would be easy to get hurt in fading light.  I won't be up there in late afternoon.

Descending, part of the way the trail is paralleled by a small stream that makes me wish I too could just flow down the grade.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Farragut State Park, Idaho

Waaaay up in the Idaho Panhandle is one of the deepest lakes in the northwest.  Lake Pend Oreilie is 1200 feet deep in places.  It is surrounded by rugged mountain peaks.

Geologically, this area was formed in part by the rupturing of an ice dam in Montana during one of the ice ages.  The resulting flood is estimated to have been 500 feet above the lake level, and the flood waters were strong enough to carry boulders the size of houses.  These boulders are scattered along the shores and mountain slopes surrounding the lake.

Trails, ranging from paved, almost level paths to rock scrambles, are spread through the park and surrounding wilderness.  Again, native wildlife include grizzlies, wolves, black bears, mountain lions, moose, elk, deer, mountain sheep and goats, and a variety of smaller critters.  Again, I saw squirrels - and a few deer.

It has been raining on all but two of the days I have been here.  On the first of those two days, I hiked a trail that was extremely steep and rocky, with uncertain footing.  At its top, I had some really nice views of the surrounding area.

Finding the trail, through the rocks, was often a case of looking for slight discoloration on the rock surfaces where others had scuffed off the lichen.

The second nice day, I walked an easier path that bordered the lake shore.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I finally found a waterfall

Where I have been at Dworshak State Park in Idaho, wilderness is abundant but waterfalls have been hard to find.  Per my last post, I found one on Freeman Creek, all of 1 foot high.  Pretty, but not too impressive...

I did my research and found Elk Creek Falls, a recreation area only 13 miles from me - and a two hour drive.  You know the down east expression - "Ya cahnt get theyah from heeyah."  Like that.

It turns out it was a challenging hike for me, with distance, terrain, and a LOT of elevation change.  I first hiked down to the overlook for the Lower Falls.

After watching the shifting rainbow for a while (and gathering some energy for the long uphill climb ahead of me) I headed for Middle Falls.

Finally, I headed uphill again for the Upper Falls overlook.  It turns out that I had to climb up, then drop down to the base of the falls.

I then had another long climb to get back to the car.  I got there tired, but very satisfied with my day.