Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vacation (Pt. 2)

So, on our second full day in Glacier (this would be Monday, Aug 6th--yes, I'm slow) we had a more strenuous hike planned up to Grinnell Glacier. It was actually only a little longer than the walk to Upper Two Medicine Lake but incorporated a whole lot more elevation gain. Very nice hike, actually

About half a mile into the hike, we ran into a family who pointed out a Grizzly bear swimming in the lake we were then walking around. Upon climbing out, he/she proceeded to amble along the trail we would later be walking on, before heading up the mountain. A bit later on we ran into people who pointed out yet more bears a ways up the mountain from us. They had that light, blondish color you sometimes see in Grizzlies--on the Discovery Channel, that is; prior to this trip I had never seen a Grizzly in person, only Black bears.

After heading around Grinnell Lake (pretty much everything in the park seems to be either named after him or have a name in some way related to him) the trail began to travel up in a series of long, easy switchbacks. Although there's something obnoxious about switchbacks, in that they're often taking you in the opposite direction from your destination, I will acknowledge that they make the hiking much easier. None of the hiking I've done in the Rockies, Sierra Nevadas, etc., even when there is a significant elevation gain, has been as hard as the hiking I've done in the Adirondacks. There you're scrambling over rocks, trying to avoid tree roots, walking up and across slippery mountain streams or through expanses of mud, or trying to get up granite faces by putting your feel in ancient water channels. Out West it seems to be more travelling along nice paths that often go uphill. The scree can be annoying, but otherwise? Not so bad.

Anyway, there were beautiful views on the way up. Either Erin or my father joked that it looked like a fairy country of sorts with the lakes and woods and mountains and everything turning all misty looking in the distance because of the smoke.

There were also plenty of past-their-prime wildflowers including some interesting ones that Erin said looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Just before the Glacier there's a picnic area of sorts, where we saw Bighorn sheep and, further away, barely visible, a couple of Mountain goats. The sheep photo below is a bit Where's Waldo-esque. They didn't seem to blend nearly so much in person. The goats look a bit like a couple piles of snow, but they really did look like that in person. That photo was taken through a telephoto (with which my father needs a bit more practice).

Just past the picnic area you walk across a moraine to arrive at the glacier itself. Waterfalls trickle from the Glacier into a small lake of melt water with icebergs floating in it. As you can see it was pretty smoky (those mountains with the indistinct edges were not far away) so the color of the photo isn't great.

They say that by 2020 even Grinnell Glacier, which is one of the biggest glaciers in the park, will be gone.

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