We drove about 2.5 hours yesterday to the Many Glaciers area of Glacier National Park, the northern most section, unless you count Canada, of course. Since it was so far away, we decided to spend the night in a park facility, to get the real feel of visiting a National Park. It rained as we drove, but that didn't stop us from hiking, until it started raining pretty hard, and our ponchos weren't doing a really good job.
But as soon as we started back, the sun came out, so we ate lunch by a quiet lake...
...joined by a pair of curious Gray Jays. "What are you having for lunch? Won't you share with us?" he seemed to say.
The real adventure came when we checked in for our sleeping accommodations in the park. We reserved a cabin at the Swift Current Inn. Turns out the cabins were built by the CCC crew in 1934, burned down in 1936, and were re-built in 1937. Since then, very little, if any, remodeling has occurred. We had cold water in an old kitchen sink for in cabin comforts, electricity for lights, but no heating or insulation of any kind. The bath house was down the road, shared by ALL the cabins. We did go out after dark to look at the stars though. This is a real National Park adventure!
Our goal was Grinnell Glacier, one of the few active glaciers remaining, and named after George Bird Grinnell - a geologist and ornithologist who spearheaded the creation of this park, so many things are named for him. A park ranger led us up the trail, advertised to require a 1,600' change in elevation, which started immediately. Puffing, and panting, I rejoined the group as they stopped for breaks several times, but fell farther and farther behind. The rocky "steps" must have been built by a 20 year old who was 7 feet tall - they were certainly bigger than I could climb comfortably. Thank goodness I brought the hiking stick today, when I usually don't.
We saw wonderful examples of the park geology, learning why the red rocks are red, and the green rocks are green. Why some older rocks are on top of the younger rocks, and how rock can bend and twist (called "folding") in the right conditions. But no fossils, since these rocks were all laid down before there was any life on earth, to speak of.
We kept climbing, and climbing, and climbing. Above the tree line, the alpine meadows were delightful. The mountain goats that shared our trail certainly must have thought so, although we didn't see any nearby. The sun shone fiercer as we climbed, but incoming clouds made me worry about rain, after hiking in the rain the day before.
Puff, puff, puff ...are we getting near yet? No, we weren't even ready to stop for lunch yet.
At Thunderbird Falls, water came directly down a vertical rock face on top of the hikers. The side of the trail next to the wall was wet, while the almost dry side was a sheer drop off. I didn't like either alternative, and just about had a meltdown, since I was on my own. But I continued, because I didn't was to just turn around without telling Dick that I'd meet him back at the bottom.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't catch up with our group. Pairs of hikers, and families with young children all passed me on the trail. My acrophobia started acting up. Look at this section of the trail...do you blame me? Finally, I loudly blew my wilderness whistle, kept on my vest for emergencies, to get someone's attention. "Tell my husband I'm going back down," I shouted when the last person turned around. But my wonderful husband said he loved me more than reaching the glacier, and he came back to return to the valley with me.
He thinks we probably made it about 1,000 feet up, but the last 600 after lunch were supposed to be the hardest. It felt like 2 - 3,000 already to me, so I made the right decision to quit when I did. Going down was faster, but still dangerous. I was so glad to reach the bottom with no broken bones, and ride the boat back to the hotel where our car waited. Rounding out our adventure in the mountains, guess what - it rained all the way back to the condo again!