Monday, September 7, 2009

Picture Monday - Glacier National Park

As I am sitting here this labor day enjoying my extra day of rest (which actually involves working, but anytime you can work while wearing your sweat pants it feels a lot less like work) I decided this would be a good time to share some vacation pictures while many of us are in a vacation frame of mind.

We went to Glacier National Park in Montana in July and spent 7 days backpacking. This was my first backpacking trip (previously we were day hiking and not carrying everything around on our backs). One of the first things that I learned is that gear and food are heavy and it is amazing how many things you can find that are not "essential", a.k.a. can get left behind, after your first day with a pack that is 40% your body weight.

After that my next best tip is "don't be cheap, get a rental car". Yes, it will sit in a parking lot for much of the time that you are hiking, but it is a great place to cache food and gear so you only have to carry what you need. Another point is that it gives you options. Our first planned day was 15 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Somehow when I was sitting in our living room planning the trip that seemed acceptable. After getting there and seeing the terrain, not so much. A rental car allows you to do an alternate day hike instead and then drive to the trail head the next day. Glacier has a great shuttle system, but none of the campsites are right next to the shuttle stops and that extra mile or two from the campsite to the trail head and back again can make a big difference. Suddenly your 12 mile hike become a 16 mile hike...nobody likes that.

For our trip we started at Lake McDonald and spent two days at Fish Creek campground. Either be sure to bring your own food or plan to eat at Eddie's because it is the only place in Apgar Village to eat. The food and the service or just so-so, but to make up for it the folks at the Back country Permit office very incredibly helpful and accommodating. We did a day hike during that time to the Hidden Lake overlook, which was amazing. That hike is for sure the biggest bang for the buck with great views and tons of wildlife (albeit mostly marmots, dear, and goats) all in a pretty easy three mile hike. Next we stayed at Reynold's Creek Campground to kick off our backpacking and made a side trip over to St. Mary falls and Virginia Falls. Next day we climbed up to Piegan Pass, which had great views in all directions, and after lunch with the squirrels made our way down to Many Glacier. Many Glacier was my favorite area of the park, but while the larger hotel was really nice and had great views of the lake, they are not very friendly to hikers (especially if you are dirty and look like you are about to fall over since you just hiked 15 miles). We stayed at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and everyone there and at the attached restaurant we super nice. And it is the only place in the park that have laundry facilities. From there we climbed (and climbed, and climbed) up Swiftcurrent Pass and stayed at Granite Park Chalet campground. The next day we hiked the highline trail back to Logan Pass where our car was parked to finish out our trip.

I hope that the pictures communicate just how BIG the park is. There is a reason that they call Montana big sky country. Hope you enjoy and have a good Monday!

On the way up to Piegan Pass

Nearing Swiftcurrent Pass looking back towards Many Glacier

Lake McDonald from Apgar Village

Looking down on Hidden Lake

Marmot taking a nap

The goats at Hidden Lake walk right up to people like they are not even there. I just keep hoping that one was not going to gore me as I walked by.

Bridge to Reynolds Creek camp ground, or as we started calling it "Mosquito Creek"

Saint Mary Falls. All of the water in the park was so blue. My theory is that the water is so cold that nothing can live in it which keeps it looking so blue.

Piegan Pass looking towards Many Glacier

View from Piegan Pass back towards Going to the Sun Road

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