Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June 2014: Glacier National Park Trip (Part III-conclusion)

Alpine Violet.  Doesn't look very violet to me, but still pretty


Day 3:  Second Leg  Avalanche
The Going to the Sun Road was closed at Avalanche Junction.  Apparently we didn't plan it very well because the road was set to open the next day.  That means we need a return trip later in the season so we can see the really spectacular stuff in this park.  That being said, the things we saw were pretty danged spectacular so I can only imagine what the views are like on the Going to the Sun Road.

We contemplated getting up early and going on the bus ride to the loop the next day, but I didn't plan my abscessed tooth very well either and that day really became all about getting home.

Avalanche is apparently a pretty popular part of the park, at least this time of year because there were precious few parking places there.  We finally found one and decided to take the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail.

Trail of the Cedars (Part I)
There is an old growth Cedar, Hemlock and Black Cottonwood forest at Avalanche Junction.  There is a paved nature trail with interpretive materials all along for a one mile loop trail through that forest. The trail was either paved with asphalt or had been elevated as a boardwalk.  Everywhere I went in Glacier it was as if we were in the Pacific Northwest rather than in the mountain west.  The cedar trees grew up to 100 feet and there was lush undergrowth of ferns and mosses and other large leafed plants. The trail was shaded almost in it's entirety.  Every now and then there would be a hollow tree stump, sometimes seven or eight feet tall.  The boys knew exactly what to do with those.

We saw several hikers on this trail but it wasn't crowded.  The whole time we were on the Trail of the Cedars it was calm and quiet.  Peaceful and at times almost reverent.

This trail, in it's entirety is accessible by wheelchair.

Alpine Forget-Me-Nots, one of the most common wildflowers I saw in Glacier this time around.  The blooms are smaller than a dime

They add a splash of color anywhere they are.

At the beginning of the boardwalk

This was a common occurence

Cedar stump

Boys will be trees

I had the two younger ones stand under that enormous knot to show the scale

I liked the splash of sunlight on that tree in the shadows

Every now and then, the trees would part and you'd see something like this

Oh, look, another hollow tree with a boy in it!

I love the sun through the translucent leaves

Avalanche Lake Trail
At the halfway point on the Trail of the Cedars, there was a spur trail to Avalanche Lake.  We debated as to whether or not we should take that trail or if we should just keep going.  I left it up to my son to make the decision because we were here on this trip for him.  He chose to go on.

The trail was two miles to the sandy beach of Avalanche Lake with five hundred feet of elevation gain. The trail was well used and well traveled.  There were many hikers on the trail but they were all traveling at different speeds and we spent most of our time on the trail with just ourselves.  At Avalanche Lake there was a shore trail that continued on for another mile.

The meltwater from the winter snow and the glaciers had carved a small gorge near the trailhead.  It was a violent little stream.  The trail followed this stream all the way to Avalanche Lake.  The closer we got to the lake, the smaller the stream was.  Along the trail we saw waterfalls across the valley that were adding to the stream, making it a torrent by the time it exited to the wider valley.  Toward the end of the initial hike the stream was broken up by glacial gravels and moraines which made it almost seem weak and lazy.  By the time all the pieces ended up together though, it was a raging river, powerful, exciting.

The spur trail

The first of many waterfalls on this trail.  It was powerful through this little gorge

Another view of it

A view of it's micro-ecosystem

There were several stages of this cataract


My son at the brink

Very much like a Pacific Northwest forest, more like that than a typical Montana forest

Another cataract upstream
The Water Ouzel, or American Dipper
My daughter had gone on thirty or so yards ahead of the group and had noticed a couple of really weird birds.  There was one that was quite plump on the side of the stream that was bouncing up and down and another one that would fly to the rapids, stare into the water for a moment and then dive in.  The water was going so fast I thought he had committed suicide, but after a moment he popped out where he had gone in with food in his beak.  He flew to the other bird which proceeded to berate him, and he deposited the food in it's mouth and did it all over again.  Over and over and over.  He dove in, popped out and flew to the other bird.

I had heard about this bird before but I had never seen one.  To see one in action was crazy.  This was at a rapid at the brink of a waterfall.  This was fast moving water.

This is either a spouse or a chick in mid-bounce

The water ouzel going to the hunting ground

This gives an idea how swift the current was right here.  See the bird at the top of the frame?

This wasn't slow water

Going to the hunting ground

Making the approach


Diving in

This is what the river looked like where the water ouzel was

Back on the Trail
We continued on to Avalanche lake and saw firsthand why they call this avalanche canyon.  We came around a corner where there were dozens of trees snapped off at about twenty-five feet up.  They all appeared to have been snapped the same direction.  We puzzled over this for a few moments until we realized, "Oh, it's Avalanche Canyon".  I'm ashamed to admit this, but we started looking for the rocks that could have snapped all those trees.  It didn't seem like there were enough rocks anywhere to have done that much damage, and then we realized that it was a glacier valley and therefore snow.  Doh!

The trail was shaded the entire way.  With a colossal toothache, it was kind of a difficult hike for me but I made it.

We saw waterfalls all along the mountain walls from the snow runoff and the glacial melt.  I thought there were a lot of waterfalls in Yellowstone.  Nothing like what they have here in Glacier National Park.  There are so many, I doubt they are all named.

The lake was beautiful and mirrorlike.  Two of my sons took out around the lakeshore trail and I followed them.  We got another 3/4 of a mile when the Hot Chick tracked us down and told us to come back that it was time to go.

I hiked back to the car with my oldest son.  We talked about life, his experiences in the last two years, my experiences over a lifetime.  It was time well spent with father and son.

Evidence of the avalanche

This is what the mountains looked like all over the park

Another hollow tree

Complete with boys

Glacial striations

Nature overwhelms geology

Like a rainforest.  The whole place was like this

The whole trail was shaded also

Another waterfall

Carpet of ferns and moss

and did I say moss?

The old with the new.  As this stump rots it provides nourishment to the younger trees near it

A boy in a hollow tree, who knew?

My youngest son found this guy

An extinct glacier

There is a remnant glacier above the middle waterfall here at Avalanche Lake.  First view


And his brother

and their sister

View from the viewing platform at the beach

Shore trail

View along the shore trail

Going back after the Hot Chick hunted us down

My son at the waters edge

We didn't see a lot of mammals on this trip.  A few deer and then this guy

And his cousin

Trail of the Cedars (Part II)
When we came down to the beginning of the spur trail, we asked ourselves, "Should we go back the way we came?  Or should we finish the Cedars Trail?"  We decided to finish the trail because it would be roughly the same distance and both of us would rather go back a different way than we went.  We didn't know if the rest of the group had gone this way or that because they had gotten ahead of us, so we decided to see what there was to see.

It was a beautiful day in Glacier National Park.  The trail was pleasant.  The smells were pungent.  The trail crossed Avalanche Creek just below a waterfall through a gorge and there was a great spot for a photograph on the footbridge.  It turned out that the rest of the group went the way we did and when we got back to the car, I found out that my daughter was laying odds on what pictures I would take on the way out. You should never bet against her.

From the footbridge

Long shot


Loved the moss on the boulders

It didn't photograph as well as I wished, but there is water falling off the faces
of these boulders.  This was one of the pics they bet I'd take

More moss and ferns

This root cluster from a downed cedar was one of the other pictures she bet I'd take

She didn't count on the closeup though

We arrived back at camp and had our evening meal.  I laid down because of my tooth and halfway through what was supposed to be a restful nap I had a terrible leg cramp.  Don't know why.  I forgot about the tooth for a few minutes though.  I must have carried on though because the family came running to the tent.  They thought the abscess had ruptured or who knows what.  When they saw me with my leg up in the air like it was, well, I became the butt of a few jokes.

Day 4:  The Road Home
When I awoke in the morning, everyone else was still asleep and I got up and started to get ready.  I built a fire but didn't light it.  Started putting some stuff away.  At first there was a drop of rain or two.  Nothing major.  As the rest of them stirred, the rain became a little more insistent and we began to strike camp very rapidly.

We had intended to take the red bus up to the loop on the Going to the Sun Road and then heading home from there.  With my tooth the way it was and the rain, we scrapped those plans and headed home.  There was a medical clinic in the town of West Glacier, Montana and I stopped to get an antibiotic because I knew the dentist wouldn't do anything without it.  The PA asked me about Island Park, Idaho.  I told him I knew it well and he said he grew up in Blackfoot and had a summer home in Island Park.  Small world.

We drove into Columbia Falls to fill the prescription and get something to eat and the manager of the Smiths Food King told me he was from Pocatello, Idaho.  Really small world.  He and I knew some of the same people.  The rain continued almost without reprieve until we were approaching Dillon, Montana.  There weren't many photo-ops on the way home.  The mountains just north of Dillon were pretty cool though.  I got a shot of them.

Misty Mountain Hop

We had a wonderful three and a half day trip.  It would have been better if everyone in the family could have been there.  We missed our other son and our daughter and her family.  This is definitely a place I would love to come back to.  I had never been to Glacier National Park before.  I look forward to a return trip in the near future.

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