Sunday, July 31, 2016

Highline Trail GNP Montana July 31 2016

Deja Vu but different this time!  This time The Highline Trail is open, being clear of all snow slopes, so it is open for business and I have lots of business to take care of here today.  Today's plan was to hike The Highline Trail to the intersection of the Grinnell Glacier Overlook, climb up to the Overlook,  hang out, and then return the way I came.  That plan did not pan out, follow along to see how my day did play out.
Arriving at the trail head early, I could already see loads of folks ahead.  I had no worries of soloing, even considering hikers were confronted by a grizzly a few days prior.  The morning was fresh and clear and I felt invigorated.
The trail starts at Logan Pass so you are high right from the get go. Here I am looking down onto the Going to the Sun Road. You can see the hiking trail in the left of the photo in the center.  It's that fine grey line with a cable along side to hold on to if you are so inclined to do so.
Part of the Highline Trail is called the Garden Wall.  The wild flowers were in abundance pretty much the entire stretch.  I tried to just admire as I hiked by, but could not help myself from stopping lots to get up close and capture the beauty.
By now I passed many people, both young and old, soloists, couples and families.  Haystack Butte came into sight.  It looked like an appealing place to be up on.  I pondered options as I approached it.
I hiked up to the lower level of Haystack Butte, beyond that was a scramble which was not in my cards for today.  This was a good spot for a snack break and a destination shot.  Hiking up to here added time on to my morning which I had not previously included as an option.                                                   
beargrass along the way
I could spy the trail going on forever and I could also see Granite Park Chalet sitting in the center of the ridge ahead. It looked so close but I knew it wasn't. I thoroughly enjoy these vast views.  I reached the intersection for the trail up to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook.  In a matter of a split second, I decided I did not want to go up there and I did not want to return the way I came.  I wanted to reach the Chalet.
view on my way to the Chalet 
zoomed in on Granite Park Chalet
flowers framing the mountain view
just another one of those beautiful vast views
I reached the final section of trail that winds up to the Chalet.
While no folks were directly in this vicinity, I secured another destination shot. Good thing it was airy and breezy up here. This was another hot day in Glacier.  I admired the area and then settled down at a picnic table to rest and savour my meal.
This was my lunch time view.  Three folks joined me to dine.  We agreed this view was priceless.  A funny conversation took place.  They asked if I had a trail name.  For a split second I thought I was on the Pacific Crest Trail where all hikers earn a trail name.  I chuckled and told them I was "Making Waves", I guess that could be my trail name.  I asked who were they and their response was "Phamplet", "Protip" and "McCoy" then they explained why those names.  I spent quite some time here then packed up and aimed for the 6.5 km descent to The Loop.
Thank goodness it was descending time, this even felt like work with the high temperature.  I would not want to be ascending this trail now and some folks were.  The views were big at times but I found myself  paying more attention to my foot placement.  I was tired and feeling lazy.  
As I exited the trail to The Loop, the Logan Pass shuttle bus pulled up, opened the door and myself and a fellow hopped on.  I was so very thankful for this.  One of the reasons I was considering returning the way I came was because of stories I heard and read that there were very long waits for the bus due to many hikers and full buses but this was not the case for my experience.  Then it was smooth sailing all along the Going to the Sun Road right back to my car at Logan Pass.

Call it star alignment, luck of the draw or someone watching over me, this day played out perfectly.  Before driving back to Swift Current at Many Glacier, I stopped at St Mary for an ice cream to energize my pleasantly depleted body.  It was a sweet treat to cap of a sweet day!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Grinnell Glacier GNP Montana July 30 2016

A month later and I am back hiking in Glacier National Park Montana.  With this being a long weekend for us, I wanted to hike the three days without having to drive back & forth to the mountains each day.  I only decided about two weeks ago how I wanted my weekend to look and I could not make it happen in the Lake Louise/Icefield Parkway/Jasper areas neither vacancy-wise nor affordably-wise. Out of curiosity, I checked Glacier accommodations and what appeared was that little green box beside Swift Current Motor Inn for Saturday and Sunday, I grabbed it like there was no tomorrow!

Being a month later, more trails were accessible.  I checked trail and weather conditions as go time approached and I could see I would be in for a treat.  After 2:50 of driving, I was at the border where I had a 15 minute wait and by 8:30 I was at the Grinnell Glacier Trail Head.  I stretched, snacked, geared up and took off. There were already plenty of folks ahead of me, so I had no worries at all.
At this time of the morning, the air was already humid and warm and still.  You can see the Many Glacier Hotel sitting on the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake. If your choice is to join the Ranger for the guided hike or if you want to cut off a few kilometres of hiking, you would start your day at the Many Glacier Hotel boat dock.
Then you would pick up the connecting boat at Lake Josephine....
 .....and it would drop you off at the far end of the Lake where you would begin your hike.  I passed on the boat option in favour of being on my feet the whole time.
view along the trail
As I climbed higher, the views become massive.  In the left of this photo is the Piegan Pass area where I hiked on Canada Day.  Also in the bottom center you can see Morning Eagle Falls.
A short distance further, Grinnell Lake came into view.
Grinnell Lake
I remembered having to contend with passing by a waterfall from when I was here years ago.  You have no option of not getting wet.  The steps are slippery which means slow going.  That's OK, it was a hot morning and the falls were cooling and refreshing.
The meadow section was covered in wildflowers.
Upper Grinnell Lake was so pretty.  This placed deserved some time, so I settled down and took it all in. Notice that dip a bit center right just above the snow.  Stay tuned, I will be up there tomorrow.
 relaxing at Upper Grinnell Lake
 another view of Upper Grinnell Lake
There is never a worry for solo hikers being alone in this Park.  We are plentiful and friendly and enjoy sharing parts of our day. I met Flora from North Dakota and we did the return portion of the hike together.  We are excited to be here.
lots of lakes below me
sitting above Grinnell Lake on the way back
As we were descending, many, many, and many more were ascending.  This hike is awesome and everyone wanted to pay witness to that.   We arrived back down at shoreline level which meant the hike was nearing the end.  I was by now pleasantly depleted and was already looking forward to putting my feet up.
We crossed the creek and arrived back at the parking lot. Flora and I wished each other the best and went our separate ways.  I had a little time before checking in so strolled about but that was once I got my boots and socks off.  
I had expectations for this day, they were exceeded.  The drive from home to here was easy, the border crossing was quick and uneventful, the hike was outstanding and my room is sweetly tucked in the trees and so very peaceful.  All that is left to say is "thank-you for this day"!  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mount St Piran at least try something

My goal for today was to just take one step at a time and see how far I get and then be content with accomplishing that goal.   I picked heading west to Lake Louise as my options there would be plentiful.   The plan was to gear up and just go then assess along the way.    I picked four spots as potential destinations, each one further along than the other.  First Mirror Lake, second Lake Agnes, third Little Beehive and fourth Mount St Piran.  My level of wellness would be the determining factor  on how high I went.

After ten hours of sleep, I did not dilly dally when I woke, I stayed focused and got out the door.  As I integrated into bumper to bumper traffic at Stoney & 1 West at 6:30am it already felt right.  Normally I do not care for this traffic but this morning I was OK with it, I was where I belonged.  I enjoyed the scenery and the tunes for just short of two hours.

Lake Lousie bustles earlier and earlier these days.  Who can blame anyone for that, the views are splendid, the colors so pretty in the early morning light.  I bypassed the head of the Lake and aimed for the trail head.  Photographing was not my focus today just getting somewhere was.  I did opt for a few shots, this being the first.
Slowly but surely I reached Mirror Lake. I have been to it numerous times so did not feel the need to pay it a visit.  So far so good so I hiked on by with Lake Agnes next in mind.  The hike from Mirror Lake to Lake Agnes is not about the scenery,  so I just put one foot in front of the other and covered the distance.  I reached the intersection saying Lake Agnes left, Little Beehive right.  I went right.

I was doing OK so went on with my day.  At the next junction where the sign on the left has a scrathched out Mount St Piran, I took a minute.  Little Beehive truly did not interest me, Piran did.  I thought at least try for it.  

baby ptarmigan along the way
wildflowers along the route
I stayed focused and just kept on taking one step at a time.  I opted out of scenery photos at each switch back, rather just going for the summit and declaring that as my destination for today.  I was happy to have some blue in some directions for my visit.   You can see 1 West in the bottom left and the winding Icefield Parkway lower right.  
I descended along for a bit until I could see both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes.  
There you have Fairview straight across with Big Beehive below it.  
The gazebo is on the left end of it and the switchbacks up to it are seen in the middle. 
my early lunch time view
After enjoying the sights and my lunch, I geared back up and aimed down.  It was a quick trip down with no intentions of shooting shots.  I took the route that leads towards Lake Agnes for the only purpose of bypassing the horses on the other route.  Very early afternoon, I made it back to Lake Louise, admired this view and then headed for my car.  The wild flowers are beautiful and plentiful.
Today turned out being more like a business trip.  
I sealed the deal with a successful summit.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Junction Hill through the window

All week long the weather did not look promising for a planned hike in the western region of Banff National Park.  I held on to hope but my hope was fading fast.  I did some additional homework and came up with an alternative off in another direction where the forecast was somewhat better.  But alas, the consensus was no enticement.  Once the decision was made,....

....I went into focus switch mode.  Looking last evening and checking in again as I woke this morning, that alternative area off in another direction still had that window of optimistic opportunity. I packed up and hit the highway to that open window.  Thinking the throngs would bow out also, I assumed I would own the highway.  Yet, I got caught up in the masses heading west.  

I veered off to where life begins at Highway 40.  
I waited for Wave 1 to make their way out then passed by and went on my way.  
to that open window of opportunity
It was a pretty morning drive along 40 to Highwood Pass and then on to Highwood House.   I eyed the hills of Junction Hill and picked out a route to aim high.  Seeing as I was soloing, I opted to stick to the west side where it is open as opposed to the forested side.  As I began to ascend I could already see a colorful ground cover.
I hiked straight up gaining elevation quickly to get those grand views. 
The tree frames Hell's Ridge and Mount Burke. 
lots of opportunities for framing
I meandered here and there working my way up, on no set trail, just going where the wildflowers were and interesting trees and branches and rock piles.  I reached a spot where I went for a destination shot.  I had no intentions of reaching the true summit today, not while on my own.
even higher and more framing
and higher yet
the wildflowers were outstanding
bouquets were plentiful on slopes and meadows  
colorful flowers & rock gardens
With the window still open, I went a bit higher and found a spot to sit and just be there.  
I thought through things to past the time while sitting up here and being able to see forever.  
Life is always clearer up here in these places!
what wandering around looks like
Time passed to the point where I should be getting on with my day and aim down.  I picked a different direction down, on steep slopes, wandering back and forth working at prolonging the finish a little longer.  My return drive home was the same way as I came hours ago.  As I made my way along that highway where life begins, the window began to slowly close and then closed completely.  

I arrived home feeling pleased how that window stayed open for me and that I was able to thoroughly enjoy my time being out & about.  After cleaning up, I trimmed my nails and then added a splash of soft pink to them.  The color is called "Eternal Optimist"!