Saturday, May 14, 2016

Quartz Loop in Glacier

 Up pops the loon, out of the depths, right near us.  So close the black and white pattern is sparkling like magic.  It’s amazing how far they swim underwater, and how long they hold their breath.  How can we be the only ones at this lake?  It feels like we are the only humans around for miles.
Just watching.
D. and I stay still, observing the loon swimming and diving.  We’ve already completed our hour-long survey for Glacier’s Citizen Science Program, where we’ve taken notes on its behavior in our data sheet.  We’ve stopped recording our notes, this is bonus time.  Time to be peaceful.
Through the binoculars.
Time looses all meaning.  That peace that comes only when the mind stills.  Moments like this don’t come often, with our busy lives. 
Watching the weather changing.
It starts to rain, so we retreat to our shelters for the evening.  The loons call back and forth between the two neighboring lakes.  What are they saying to one another?  To me, it is the sound of wilderness itself.  Unspoiled, precious, free.  I keep listening, the sweetness of rain pattering on the tarp.
Hiking out through the snow that the storm brought
I think about how backpacking used to be about trying to get somewhere.  Or to get in shape.  Or to burn through miles.  I like how doing these surveys allow me to concentrate on watching, being patient and curious.  In a place this spectacular, this wild, it's a good way to be. 
Crazy double trillium bonus
More information

Date hiked: May 8-9, 2016

Route: Quartz Lake loop, camping at Upper Quartz

Glacier National Park Citizen Science Program

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Early season in the Swan

All week I gaze across the valley at the Swan Range.  One spot in particular ended up being my favorite little getaway in Montana last year.  I ended up there repeatedly, watching spring turn to summer and then fall.  I’m itching to get back and see it this early in the season.  How much snow is still on the pass to get over there?  Only one way to find out.
Low elevation flowers are popping.
Trout lily.
The green colors are overwhelming after my winter in New Mexico.  Was Montana this in-your-face green last year?
A thousand shades of green.
Hiking over early season blowdowns.  This is why other people wear pants.
I’m surprised the snow level is so low.  I’d thought when I rounded to the east-facing slopes that the sun would have cleared them.  But no.  I hike past where the last pair of footprints.  The slopes get steeper.  What did I expect?

Angles that make my head spin.
Despite microspikes, I slip a few times.  A full backpack and heavy sleeping bag isn’t helping, but oh how I’d hoped to camp out here.

Around the corner, the pass appears.  I want to go further/ I don’t want to go further.  Carrying my full pack up here was stupid/ carrying my full pack up here felt good and is making me stronger.  I love the solitude/ what-if-I-fall-down-and-break-my-neck-and-die-out-here-alone.
Where I decide to turn around.  The lakes will still be there in a few more weeks.
On the way back down, a couple with small daypacks pause to ask me where snowline is.  They mention they’d done the other side trail last week but “It was far to Wolf Creek but there wasn’t snow.”

So, I take the trail out to Wolf Creek. Small streams flow with clear cold water.  So novel, after the cow slobber water in New Mexico.  Being away, even just for a few months, makes me appreciate these things all the more.
Flowering trees perfume the air. 
Wolf Creek is too high for me to ford, so I turn around a second time and head back to the trailhead.  This trout-lily gorgeous valley is an unexpected treat.  So much more exploring remains beyond these early season barriers.  I can hardly wait to see what this year will bring.
Approaching Wolf Creek

Date hiked: May 1

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Rainy day in Glacier

Not many friends hike in the rain.  But Jan is one of those rare hiking buddies that I can count on to have a blast with, no matter what the trail brings.
Jan by McDonald Falls
And today, we meet the rain.  It doesn’t matter.  Jan lights up the darkness of the stormy day with her laughter.
Jan makes me do my Mary Poppins pose. 
Rain makes me want to chase waterfalls and venture deep into cedar forests to find ferns and mosses.  It’s not the dramatic Glacier that is in all the instagram feeds, but we can find the beauty in little things.
From Lake McDonald Lodge parking area, the Avalanche Trail parallels the Going to the Sun Road up to Avalanche.  It’s a trail I’ve never done before due to proximity to traffic.  But this early in the season, with the road closed to cars and the bikers staying away in the rain, nature’s sounds prevail.
Sounds of birds.
The forest feels ancient and peaceful and timeless. It’s much more scenic then I’d imagined, but I think much of the charm is due to everything being so overwhelmingly green in the rain.
Green tunnel.
After 5.6 miles, we are at Avalanche trailhead so we turn around.  On the return trip, we take a detour on the Johns Loop over to McDonald Falls.  The water is spilling over the banks, the thundering sounds of the water are thrilling.  Jan runs out to the edge to take a video. 
Don't fall, Jan.
Clouds doing their swirling thing.
It’s not epic compared to other places in Glacier.  The only charismatic megafauna we spot is a black bear on the road on the way home.  But it’s a sweet day hike through some really majestic forest, and wonderful to see so much water and catch up with Jan in between her many adventures.

Looking down to Lake McDonald.
Date Hiked: April 24, 2016

Snyder Lake in Glacier

Jan is visiting me!  We've been on so many adventures- from the Arizona Trail to Utah to New Mexico, but this is her first time to Glacier National Park so I want to take her somewhere really cool!
This early in the season, much of the high country is closed, but there are a few jaw-dropping places that can still be accessed, given you have the right attitude.  Which of course Jan has in abundance- so we are off to Snyder Lake, which was my first hike in Glacier too.
Trying not to trample the wildflowers as we navigate early season blowdowns.
Lower elevations are waking up.  All the melting, dripping, dampness, and squishing mean the forest is coming alive.
Trilliums, equipped with Drip Tip Technology, know how to handle the wetness.
For hikers like me without waterproof boots, preventing cold feet is simple with BagTek (i.e. plastic bag vapor barriers, vaseline to prevent cracking, and tall gaiters to keep out the snow).
Budget solution for snow hiking in lightweight trail runners.
Ice bridges and a few tricky spots keep us engaged and challenged.
Sketchy transition from bridge to snowbank.
That feeling of being enveloped by towering mountains.
Blue skies open up as we reach Snyder Lake.  Waterfalls all around sail from cliffs.  Its incredibly peaceful, and there is no one else around.
Snyder Lake.
View of Lake McDonald far below.
I've forgotten how hiking across so much snow is tiring in this pleasantly exhausting way.  It was only about 9 miles round trip, but it was enough.  What a great day to spend with Jan-- thanks for coming to visit me in Montana!

More information
Snyder Lake Trail Information
Jan's blog here.

Date hiked: April 23, 2016