Sunday, July 12, 2009

East Glacier

The view at our Swiftcurrent cabin

Moving along: The road trip continues...

After staying three days at the west side of Glacier National Park, we drove over for another three nights at the east side. The road that directly connects the two, Going-to-the-Sun Road, goes over Logan Pass and gives visitors access to more hiking and, of course, spectacular views. We’d checked the progress of the snowplow crews ahead of time and crossed our fingers that they’d finish before we got there. But, unfortunately, the winter was unusually tough this year, and the pass wasn’t open yet.

We drove around via the route to the south and arrived at our cabin at Many Glacier/Swift Current. After enjoying the luxuries at McDonald Creek, our micro-cabin had:
a sink (ie. no toilet or shower), bed, table, two wooden benches and one upholstered chair. Spartan, yes, but it was as we remembered it from the last trip, so there were no surprises. And the heater in the cabin this time actually worked, so we certainly weren’t complaining.

We saw critters:
- About a dozen rocky mountain goats far above us along the Ptarmigan/Iceberg trail
- A bear sow nursing her cub on the road driving away from Many Glacier Lodge, also high up on the mountain. They were very aware of the crowd, far below, but seemed very content
- A hawk flying over the river at the Park entrance at Saint Mary, then returning to its nest, with a fish!

Even the Mustang, for all its woes, managed to get some reassuring love - While driving into the Saint Mary park entrance, the park ranger stepped out to fully appreciate our Bright (almost gamboge) Yellow car from California and said, “Love the car! Come on in!”, waving us in with a hearty laugh.

J remembered a great meal we had during our last trip, and without much trouble, we found the Snowgoose Grille and had an incredibly savory dinner of bison meatloaf with red wine and mushroom gravy. Was it that good? Oh my yes. My eyes are rolling back in bliss just at the memory. Certainly worth writing down to remember to share with all of you, that’s for sure.

Driving back from dinner, we saw a herd of about 50 not-so-wild cows, meandering along the roadside, enjoying their dinner as well.

The food and the critters, though, all take a backseat to all the hiking available on the east side of the park. From our cabin, we hiked along the Ptarmigan/Iceberg trail twice, the second day going as far as Ptarmigan Falls. We stopped for lots of photos and enjoyed a nice warm day.

Our last full day there, we woke to a grey morning. We had breakfast and, feeling not so inspired, took a nap [Hey, we're on vacation - we can take naps if we want to].

We woke with more motivation and set out to hike the trail to Grinnell Lake. While you can take a ferry across Lake Josephine then hike to Grinnell, it’s far more scenic to walk along the lakes, through the firs, spruce, and lush meadows.

Trail to Grinnell Lake - looking back

... and looking ahead

I recall the first time I visited the park, I had the very distinct thought, “Boy, if I were a grizzly bear, I’d live here!” I know there are bears at Yosemite, causing mischief by rummaging through cars and campsites at night. But at Glacier, the bears aren't punks. There’s far more open space, and lots of roots, berries and grub for bears. Not surprisingly, we saw lots of evidence of bear feasting: lots of huge piles of scat. They made sure there was no question at all - we were traipsing through their territory.

J would stop and set up to take photos of the landscape and people would always ask if maybe he was shooting some critter far off in the distance. "What'cha got? A bear?!" They were always so disappointed to hear that no, he was taking a photo of “just” the (gorgeous) scenery.

Jan capturing Grinnell Lake

From my hiking book, 'Best Easy Day Hikes: Glacier and Waterton Lakes':
The luminous aquamarine color of the water is derived from glacial flour, a finely pulverized rock sediment suspended in the lake. As sunlight enters the water, it is diffracted by the suspended silt so that only light in the blue and green parts of the spectrum can escape.

Just gorgeous...

Our last evening at Glacier, we dined on popcorn, microwaved at the gift shop at the lodge, huckleberry saltwater taffy and Choco-Taco ice cream treats. We sat outside the lodge and watched both people and the weather pass by. Clouds and mist would waft through, a few wisps at a time. As night drew deeper, you could tell that a storm was a’brewin’, and sure enough, we slept to the sound of rain on the roof of our micro cabin.

Did you just get here? All the photos are here.