Sunday, August 28, 2016

Logan Pass and Hidden Lake Ovelook

Fields of Glacier Lilies at Logan Pass

Kevin had suggested that I rent a car for a few of days so I could see more of the park on my own--the perfect solution--we made the arrangements that evening when he picked me up. The rental business also offered helicopter rides around the park. That was tempting until I heard the price tag: $800 for an hour. That might be affordable if you could find another seven persons to share the ride with.

The next day, reluctant to tackle the challenging Going to the Sun Road (the only road through the park) in an unfamiliar car, I thought it best to first explore the park on the free shuttles. I parked at the west entrance Visitor Center and boarded a bus-sized one at the Visitor Center which dropped us off at Avalanche Creek, a few miles above Lake McDonald Lodge. Only glimpses of a good-sized creek on our left were visible through the heavily forested sides of the road. At Avalanche Creek we waited for a smaller van (a 12-seater) to take us up the alpine section to Logan Pass. Once on board, the road began to ascend rapidly, going through a short tunnel carved in the rock and turning crazily around The Loop--an amazingly steep switchback that is a landmark.

Tunnel in the rock below the Loop.

After the Loop the view opens up to a grand valley surrounded by snowy peaks, through which Logan Creek flows.

Logan Creek flows through the valley.

As I sat in the shuttle, others familiar with the area mentioned some of the trails they were going on that day, and I heard someone talk about "The Garden Wall"--that sounded like the sort of trail for me! It started at Logan Pass, but from the description it wasn't too clear where exactly. The driver pointed out the Weeping Wall and Haystack Falls as we passed, and I asked about another waterfall visible on the other side of the valley. I was told this was Bird Woman Falls, which drops in two stages from a hanging valley and then down towards Logan Creek for a total drop of nearly 1000 feet.

Bird Woman Falls with Mt. Oberlin on the left.

Everyone got off at Logan Pass--to continue east over the Continental Divide another shuttle change was necessary. Once at Logan Pass, I saw signs for a trail to Hidden Lake Overlook, but the sign said the trail beyond was closed due to bear activity. The overlook was only about 1.5 miles away. Fields of yellow-flowered Glacier lilies and other alpine flowers carpeted the meadows dotted with subalpine firs.

White Pasqueflower (Anemone occidentalis).

Glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflora).

These stunted trees around the treeline are known as krumholtz. The trail began as a paved walk, then a boardwalk and finally turned into rock.

Trail to Hidden Lake Overlook

After half a mile or so the trail became steeper and began to cross patches of slippery snow--my backpack felt impossibly heavy. I hadn't thought to bring my hiking poles--it was hard for me to imagine there would be still be snow here in mid-July, but I was learning. I wasn't about to let this dissuade me--the best thing was to ditch my pack and take only my camera, which was heavy enough as it was, and continue. I saw youngsters in sandals ambling through the snow patches, certainly I, equipped with boots, could manage it too. I left my pack by a large rock, hoping no one would steal it, and went on.

Hiking at Logan Pass.

At one point in the trail there was room for only one person to go across a steep snow patch and people were trying to pass each other, risking falling down a steep slope. I became traffic cop and asked the other folks going in our direction to hang back and let the folks returning pass us first and then we could go on. Everyone complied and a dangerous situation was avoided. Funny how most people don't think of a common courtesy like this and put themselves and others in danger.

Trail to Hidden Lake Overlook.

Hidden Lake was beautiful, I would have loved to continue on down and see it at close range--too bad the trail was closed. I wondered what kinds of plants might grow on its banks.

Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain.

Hidden Lake.

At the overlook, a collared nanny goat with her baby came very close to where I was standing--other tourists were crowding the poor thing, trying to get photos and she kept backing away, eventually stepping on the tiny ledge you see here. I found out later that the she-goats molt later in the season than the males because they require more nourishment to nurse their young.  By mid-July the billy goats all had nice new coats, but the nannies were still in the process of shedding their winter coat. A biologist told me the wooden collars were designed to fall off later in the season after tracking had been recorded. This way they didn't have to try to catch the goats a second time to de-collar them.

Nanny goat and kid.

Billy goats at Logan Pass.

On the way back I noticed more lovely alpine flowers in bloom: tiny Shooting Stars, Moss Campion, Saxifrage, a variety of buttercup or cinquefoil, far too many unfamiliar flowers and plants for me to be able to identify.

Moss Campion (Silene acaulis)

Tiny Shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum) and a species Saxifrage (Saxifraga occidentalis?)
Rocky Mountain Cinquefoil (Potentilla rubicaulis) or Varileaf Cinquefoil (Potentilla glaucophylla)?

Back at the Logan Pass Visitor Center I sat outdoors to eat the chicken salad I'd brought with me for lunch (the Visitor Center offers only cookies for sale and doesn't allow food inside).  A tiny squirrel kept me company, probably hoping I'd drop a scrap.
Squirrel at Logan Pass

Afterwards, I tried to sketch the view, but the black flies and mosquitoes were merciless, and I'd forgotten to bring my bug spray. I finally gave up and headed back to the shuttle. Traffic was so heavy in the afternoon that when I got down to Avalanche Creek I had to wait for a second bus to find a seat. It was after five by the time I got back to the parking lot at the Visitor's Center.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Entering Glacier

Lake MacDonald Morning, watercolor 5" x 8".

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to fulfill a long-time dream to visit Glacier National Park in MT. I had applied to be artist-in-residence at Glacier this year for the second time, and had been turned down again. Being in my late sixties, one wonders if this could be the last year when one might still be able to trudge up and down those rugged mountain trails. I didn't want to take no for an answer. Could there be another way...?

I thought of going on my own, and started looking for accommodations in the park, but of course April was too late--every hotel in the park was already booked. I saw a link to Sperry Chalet, a historic back-country chalet built in 1913 and clicked on it. On the website was another link: Art at Sperry Chalet. I read through it and found that Sperry Chalet offered an artist in residence for two weeks in the summer. The deadline was rapidly approaching, so I hurried and managed to get in my application just before the May 1st deadline.

Two weeks later I had a message from Kevin, the manager of Sperry Chalet. I called him back during my lunch hour and he interviewed me. I had many questions: how would my gear get there, how did the chalet feed its guests if there was no electricity, were bears a problem, where was the nearest airport? Kevin answered my questions and asked a few in return, which I did my best to answer. At the end of the interview, he told me I could come! He suggested I should come a few days before the start of my two-week residency if possible, so I could see a bit more of the park.

I started looking into airfares and hotel accommodations--booking a flight into Kalispell was no problem, but all the hotels close to the park were already booked. I found one room available at the Glacier Travel Inn in Columbia Falls, some 15 miles from the west entrance to the park and booked that right away. Perhaps there would be some daily bus or shuttle service that could take me into the park.

Outfitting was next: I needed to replace the water bladder in my old day pack, and I bought some hiking poles (I'd never used these before, but considering the terrain, I thought this prudent). I had adequate clothing and art supplies but I needed new orthotics for my nearly-new hiking boots, and I needed to pack light  (it's the bad habit of an exile, I tend to pack too many things I don't need, as if I were never going to return).

The preparations consumed the weeks before my July 12 departure. Despite all this, when I landed in Kalipell that evening I felt so--not ready! Kevin met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel. He agreed to pick me up the next morning to take me into the park, and pick me up that evening, but since he had to work, I would on my own during the day.

Apgar Village near West Glacier.

Wednesday morning after Kevin dropped me off I toured the Visitor Center at the west entrance and then walked on through Apgar Village to the visible edge of Lake McDonald. The mountains around the lake were veiled in clouds, giving the place a moody atmosphere--perfect for a sketch. I found a bench and parked myself there for several hours to observe and work. As the light and shadow played over the mountains I painted, and chatted with a charming lady from St. Louis whose son and daughter were wind-sailing on the lake. She took a photo of me with my paints. 

Lake McDonald on a cloudy morning.

Painting at Lake MacDonald.

After lunch in Apgar Village I went into a quaint store--the Old Schoolhouse (formerly exactly that) and on a whim, I bought a Polartec vest that happened to match the color of my old favorite Polartec jacket that I had brought with me. I had a hunch this vest would come in handy, and as it turned out, my hunch was correct.

After that I boarded one of the shuttles and went to Lake McDonald Lodge towards the other end of the lake. The clouds had cleared and the day had become sunny and pleasant. Like Sperry Chalet, this hotel dates from 1913 and has a classic Swiss chalet-style of architecture. The interior conserved the western-lodge decor of the era, with hunting trophies mounted on the walls.

Lobby of the Lake McDonald Lodge.

After taking the lodge in, I walked out to the back and looking to fill the time, reserved a seat on the next boat tour. I chatted with the young man at the boat concession and after I told him I was going to be Sperry Chalet's artist-in-residence, Devan insisted on returning my ticket fee--he wanted me to take the tour for free, with his promise to point out Sperry Chalet from the water during the tour.

The boathouse at Lake McDonald.

The ranger leading the boat tour was a gentleman in his 70's and had worked at the park for many years. He pointed out a small cabin on the shore of Sprague Creek that was the artist in residence's quarters and a few other private homes behind the lodge that predated the creation of the national park. His description of the 2003 fire which he had witnessed was unforgettable--seeing the wall of fire jump over the mountain range to the west of the lake, the fire roaring louder than jet engines.

Sperry Chalet and Sperry Trail seen from Lake McDonald.

When we reached a spot about two miles from the boat dock, Devan handed me his binoculars and told me to look for Sperry Chalet on the second mountain range behind the first one. The Chalet was barely a dot in the distance, and I was going to hike up there next Sunday? From this perspective it seemed an improbable feat. So this is what I'd signed up for... oh boy, I'd better do a few practice hikes in the next couple of days to get ready for this!