Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Up, Up to the Top
The Logan's Pass area at the top of Going to the Sun Road (6,647' elevation), has trailheads to several highly recommended hikes, so we boarded the free park shuttle, and headed back up the mountain as the sun cleared the peaks. This time I sat by the window and got photos of the u-shaped valleys far, far, far below us.
Can you believe it? Some people (idiots, fools, etc.) choose to ride their bikes up the mountain on this narrow twisting road filled with cars and campers! Makes me shudder. We actually had to slow way down until traffic cleared enough to pass them. I couldn't even pedal up a small hill, let alone a climb like this.
The moon was setting over the mountains as we started up our first trail. If it falls into this sharp peak, will it pop like a balloon?
Here we go, climbing the Hidden Lake trail off Logan's Pass, a mere 1.5 miles to the overlook, and rising about 400 feet. The subalpine area at the top is too cold and windy for plants to grow tall, and the growing season is pretty short since the snow doesn't melt until June. A boardwalk was constructed to protect the land and plants from people's feet. Everything was pretty dry and a few brave flowers huddled around the boardwalk, which probably gave them some protection from the wind. A ranger told us about little pikas who collect grass to make hay and store it for the winter. They are having trouble because they can't stand the heat we are getting even at high elevations now.
As we topped a ridge (about 7,000 feet), water started flowing from the remaining snow fields on the mountain, babbling and chuckling on its way down over the bright red and green rocks. Suddenly, all the little alpine plants burst into bloom as far as the eye could see! Reds, yellows, purples, whites - you name it. The water made all the difference. It took a lot longer for us to complete the hike, since I had to stop and photograph each different flower we saw to be identified later. Bees and butterflies did their jobs pollinating all these blossoms before the weather changes. Still not completely satisfied with the focus ability of this new camera. Can't see through the viewfinder properly.
"Wouldn't this greenery be a great place for mountain goats to graze?" I commented to Dick, and in a few short minutes, we found 4 of them doing just that, 2 moms and 2 kids. All the people taking photos only 45-50 feet away didn't bother them at all.
At the overlook, we looked down into another beautiful clear glacial lake, and got out the iPhone for a panorama. This says it all, don't you think? Very few glaciers remain, but the environment is used to having that water supply to rely on. The ranger yesterday said they are like water bottles, and now the bottle is going dry. All the plants and animals will have to adapt to new conditions, since the annual snowfall isn't as much as it used to be either. Some of them may not be able to make the change. As trees move to higher elevations, the subalpine plants will have to move higher too, since they need the sun. But they can only go up so far.
Dick really wanted to hike the High Line Trail while we were up there. That's the one where you have to creep across a cliff face in the first few minutes. Given my fear of heights, I wasn't enthused about it, but a lady on the shuttle said I could do it, just hold on to the chain. Well, I don't know if it was the altitude, lack of sleep, or just wisdom on my part, but I felt light headed most of the morning, so I made Dick a deal. He could go hike it, and I would wait for him at the Logan's Pass center. When he arrived back, he looked really beat. "I'm glad I went," he started, "And I'm glad you didn't." he concluded. I agreed completely!