Archive | September 2014

9/17/14: Logan Pass Hikes

We got up around 7:00 & got packed up & took off for the hotel where we have hit every morning pretty much. We use their bathroom & pick up some coffee. Once out of there we took off for the St. Mary section of the park. The plan for the day was to do a couple of hikes that start from the visitor center on Logan Pass. We made it through the road blockages & found a parking spot at the lot on the pass. We did the Hidden Lake hike first which was a short hike to get warmed up. The trail was on boardwalk for the first half & then turned to dirt. It was a quick 3 mile total hike that took us through alpine meadows on the way to a lookout on the lake. It was a pretty hike.

The start of the Hidden Lake trail

Joyce on the Hidden Lake trail

Joyce at Logan Pass

We snacked a bit in the van & then headed out on the Highline Trail. To do the while trail would be 11.6 miles & we would need a shuttle since the hike isn’t a loop. We just did the trail to Haystack Butte which was about 7 miles total. The trail took us along the Garden Wall & was pretty flat the whole way. The trail hung to the sides of the mountain so it had sheer dropoffs  almost the entire way. There was little shade so good sun protection was a must. The trail had many water crossings which was runoff from snow melt higher up. We came across a few mountain goats including a couple mom & baby pairs. One pair was right on the trail & allowed us the get right up next to them. They didn’t seem fazed by people at all. The trail included awesome views pretty much the whole way. We both would like to do the entire trail someday.


Joyce near the start of the Highline Trail

Joyce dominating the Highline Trail

Goats right off the trail

After we were back at the van we headed back towards our campground & we decided to have dinner again at the hotel since neither of us felt like cooking. Back at the campsite I had a beer & wrote some journal entries.

Night view over the Many Glacier Hotel

Van life is tough!


9/16/14: St. Mary Falls & Two Medicine

We prepared two days worth of breakfasts last night & put them in the fridge so we got up a bit after 7:00,packed up the van & hit the road. We made it to the St. Mary’s park entrance again & made our way through the construction area delays to the St. Mary’s Falls trailhead. We were early enough that we got a parking spot. The construction zone ends right at the trailhead parking area so we would have to wait for the pilot car when we wanted to leave.

The hike was very easy but very scenic as well. There were two sets of falls & both were incredible. St. Mary’s Falls had a bridge across it & the next did not but you could scramble down the rocks of the next one so it was a bit more fun. Once back up to the car we decided to leave this section of the park & drive down to Two Medicine to check it out. We were stuck waiting for the pilot car to come by so we could follow it down so, since the lot was full, I decided to back out & wait in the area adjacent to the parking spots so someone else could use my space. Once backed out & pulled up behind someone else who was waiting the lady holding the “stop/slow” sign came up to us & said I almost hit her & that she had witnesses & that she was reporting us. She said that if anyone stopped us this was the reason why. I didn’t see anything in my mirrors or my backup camera & the backup sensors never went off so not sure how that happened. She wasn’t acting like she just survived a near-death experience so whatever happened it couldn’t have been that traumatic.

Joyce & I at St. Mary’s Falls

Joyce at the 2nd set of falls

St. Mary’s Falls trail

We made it out of the St. Mary’s section of the park without getting stopped so the sign lady was either full of it or the governmental inefficiencies let us skate by. We went down 89S to 49S on some nice curvy roads & then took the turnoff for Two Medicines. The road to get in was even worse than the one to get into Many Glacier which is saying a lot. We saw the sign for Glacier National Park & soon after spotted what I thought was a statue of a moose signaling the Park was near. When we got closer the statue moved &  I realized it was an actual moose. It was a large adult male with a smallish rack on it. It crossed the road quickly & got into the brush on the other side so we didn’t have time to snap any pics. We told the guy at the booth about the moose & he seemed interested & wrote down where we spotted it. Once through the gate we encountered a ram in the middle of the road. He didn’t move even with a five ton van staring at it. I beeped the horn & he grudgingly moved off the road. Not before taking a dump in the middle of the road first which I guess was his way of letting me know whose park it is.

Ram pre-dump

The Two Medicine area is pretty small & there is not a lot to see outside of the lake. There are some long hikes to take which we didn’t have time for but we did do a short 3 mile or so hike out to Paradise Point. It was pretty flat & was a nice walk in the woods. Nothing too spectacular. Once done with the hike took off back to the campground at Many Glacier. Once back in Many Glacier we saw a traffic jam & knew there must be wildlife around. We’ve seen so many of these we almost passed but there were so many people stopped we decided to stop & check it out as well. Turns out this one was a grizzly that was very close to the road. It was on the small side & we later learned that it was a 4 year old bear that had been rejected by its mother. It wasn’t expected to survive but it did. It had a black/grey coloring so it was nicknamed Panda. We watched it eat for a bit & took a ton of pictures. Joyce got up very close & I got worried so I yelled at her to get back. One back at the camp we made dinner & had enough time for a campfire where I had a beer and a pipe. Before we made dinner we had couple of female mooses trot through camp. Looked like a mother with an older offspring. Moose are huge animals & each time I see one I remember not to ever mess with a moose.

Two Medicine Lake

Joyce at Two Medicine Lake

Panda the Grizzly

Realizing she’s being watched

Mama moose

Baby moose


9/15/15: Easy Day

After the longish hike yesterday we decided to take it easy today & drove the Going to the Sun Road. We hit the road around 8 & drove down to the St. Mary entrance to the park. There was construction going on so we had to wait in a few spots to be led through by a pilot car. The road was only one lane wide in spots. The Going to the Sun road is pretty amazing & definitely a must do drive. I’ve heard so much about it though that I was somewhat let down. I think there are equally scenic roads in CO as well as the Big Sur coast. The road itself was definitely unique in that it seems they did as little work as possible to get it done. The road was very narrow in spots with rocky overhangs as well as rocks jutting out into the road. It was a bit tricky in a van but nothing too hard. Just had to watch out for other large vehicles coming the other way.

View from Logan Pass

Going to the Sun Road

We stopped off at the visitor center at Logan’s Pass & the parking lot was near full. Seems like everyone stops there. I picked up a topographic trail map of the park  then we left & descended the other side of the continental divide. Once down on the West side we were at about 3,500 feet elevation & it was much warmer. We saw the campgrounds we intended to stay at and were glad we opted to spend our entire time at Many Glacier. We hit Lake McDonald & changed the lake tour Joyce had booked for 9/16 to today. The tour was about an hour & was ok. The lake isn’t that scenic so not a lot to see. There was a 53 year long employee of the park speaking on the boat & he was pretty good. Definitely seen a lot in his time there & was still pretty sharp. We also checked out the Lodge there that was similar to the Many Glacier Hotel but much smaller. Apparently there are a number of these in the area all done in the Swiss style.

Lake McDonald

Lodge at Lake McDonald

Once the tour was over we headed finished the remainder of the Going to the Sun road & the turned around & headed back towards our campground. This meant retracing our route in its entirety. We did stop off at the Cedar Trail & walked that. It was an easy .8 mile stroll through some forest with a creek running through it. Pretty peaceful & was nice & cool in the shade. Once back at camp we made dinner & then went to bed without a fire. It was too late for that.

Cedar Trail

9/14/14: Grinnell Glacier Hike

We needed to be at the Hotel early in order to meet up with the group hike so we had breakfast prepared the night before & ate when we got there.We used the microwave to heat it up. I accidentally passed the turn for the hotel so we drove  a bit further to turn around. On the way to turn around we spotted three black bears on the slope near the road. It was a mother & two cubs.

Bear Family

It was a cold night & it was in the low 30’s when we got there. By 8:30 the ranger guide arrived & we were on the first of two boats needed to get us to the start of the trail. One boat across Swiftcurrent lake & then a short hike to the next boat which took us across Lake Josephine. We could have hiked to that point but it would have taken longer than we had. The hike started off very cold & everyone was layered up. As we climbed up and the day moved on then layers came off. It was likely in the mid-70’s by the time we were done. The hike ascended 1,600 feet total & was mostly rocky trail conditions. Views were incredible the whole route with views of the Garden Wall & many lakes throughout the day. Wildlife sightings included mountain goats & some rams. I’m not much for group activities but the group hike was mostly good. It became a pain when other hikers needed to pass. The hike ended at the Grinnell Glacier which had a large lake where the melt collected. It was likely 2:00 when we turned around & had 2:15 to get to the 4:15 boat back across. The 4:15 boat was solely for the group hike people so we were guaranteed a spot. The climb up was at a pretty slow pace taking probably 4 hours to go 4.5 miles. This included stops for ranger info talks though.

View from Many Glacier Hotel

Another view from the hotel


Boat on Swiftcurrent Lake

Joyce on the Grinnell Glacier trail


Another tough day for the rams

Grinnell Glacier & Upper Grinnell Lake

On the way down the ranger let us know she wouldn’t be meeting us on the boat because she was called away on a search & rescue. It turned out that the missing person died apparently in a BASE jumping accident. They were only 22 years old. Too bad but that’s the chance they took. We were on our own on the way down & set our own pace. We made it to the dock at 4:00 & made it on the boat & back across the two lakes to the hotel. My feet were killing me since the boots I was wearing hurt my outside ankles on both feet They have stiff sides so I may need to heat the boots to mold them to my feet better.

Once off the mountain we decided to eat dinner at the hotel since we were both tired & didn’t feel like cooking at the camp. Dinner there is pretty good. Burger for me & trout for Joyce. Back at the camp we hit the sack early after a beer or two for me.

The Grinnell Glacier hike is a great trail & I would do it again for sure.

9/13/14: Glacier National Park Arrival

Had breakfast in the hotel & it was pretty basic. Mini-donuts, oatmeal, etc. We hit the road & drove the 100 miles or so to Glacier National Park. We bought an annual pass at the entrance for $80 & plan to use it Joshua Tree over the winter. We made our way directly to the Many Glacier campground to secure a site. It has been crowded & the campgrounds fill up so we wanted to get one early. Especially since it was the weekend. We found a good site that had a level parking area so sleeping in the van wouldn’t be uneven. We decided to stay at this campground the entire time here since the Going to the Sun road had been closed & we weren’t sure we would be able to make it to the other side where we had intended to stay a couple of days.

Glacier penguin

We paid the $100 for five nights & then set out to hike one of the trails we saw on the drive in. It was the Apikuni Falls trail. It was a short 4 mile or so hike but ended up at a pretty nice falls. You can get right up under the falls which would have been nice in the summer.

Joyce at the falls

Once done with that we headed over to the Many Glacier Hotel to check out where our guided hike would start the next day. The hotel is pretty nice & was built by the railroads in order to get people to ride the rails up. It’s huge & is supposedly Swiss in style. It was only about 4:30 & it was nice out so we decided to rent a kayak. All of y=the kayaks were taken so we opted for a canoe. We paddled around the lake which was surprisingly quick to do (especially with me doing all the paddling!). On the way back I spotted what looked like a bear on the bank & that is exactly what it was. He went in the water pretty close to us. I’d guess he was 200 feet away. We paddled closer as he swam across the lake looking like a furry submarine. He popped out the other side, shook himself off & gave us the eye for a few seconds. Then off he went into the brush. Pretty cool!

Many Glacier Hotel

Joyce not paddling

Furry torpedo

On the other side

After the kayaking was over we went back to the camp & settled in. We had a fire & I had a cigar & a beer or two. We slept up top this time to see if we like it better than sleeping on the foldout below.

Camping mode

9/10/14 – 9/12/14: The Road Trip Begins

Worked all day on 9/10 & left work at 4:30, picked up Joyce at her office & went home for final van packing. We had most of the stuff in it already & the van was hooked up to shore power so it was ready to go. We ended up hitting the road about 7:00. We stopped at In N Out in Temecula for dinner & kept driving towards our final destination for the night which was Mesquite, NV & the Virgin River Hotel. Everything was going fine until we hit Las Vegas where we learned that that sonofabitch Norbert had wiped out parts of I15 with his torrential rainfall. The detour CalTrans set up went 200 miles out of the way & didn’t go to Mesquite. After a call to the hotel & some map scanning we found a way around the damage & backtracked south & went through the Valley of the Gods highway. This took us quite abit more time but we did get to the hotel eventually. We got there at 4:30 am.

Day 2 started after about 5 hours of sleep. We did breakfast in the hotel diner since the breakfast buffet was closed. Had my first stuffed biscuits. After that it was the road again. The trip was pretty uneventful to our next planned stop which was Antelope Island in Salt Lake City. The campground we stayed at was pretty nice & right near the lake. They have Buffalo running wild through there & we saw some on the way in was was really cool since I’d never seen one in the flesh (fur?) before. We parked the van & immediately went out for a hike. It was a nice walk which was maybe 3 miles total. It felt good to do something. Back at the site we made dinner which was spicy ramen with some chicked added. We then got the van ready for the first night sleeping in it. We bought wood before going into the campground but passed on having a fire since it was super windy.

Future Buffalo Burger

View from Antelope Island

Joyce’s first night in El Guapo

Had a great sleep & we got up & packed the van. Destination for the night was a town close to the Glacier National Park entrance. On the way out we spotted a unique type of deer as well as two more Buffalo’s. We grabbed breakfast at Carl’s Jr. & hit the road. Drive was uneventful but some of the scenery was spectacular. Especially in the mountains of Montana. We had a long drive so we didn’t have time to fart around along the way. We passed through Idaho on the way to Montana so I got two new states in today. We had dinner at a truck stop at the junction of I15 & 2 and then made it the 23 miles further to our hotel. We checked in and right now I’m writing this. Pretty cold up here at night. In the high 30’s. Tomorrow we hit Glacier.