Geoff and Jenn's 1997 Glacier NP Trip
Day 3: Iceberg Lake, Glacier NP
The day began with a hasty exit from the previous night's campover at The Rising Sun campground. Strangely enough, we noticed that the cheese left in the car had been eaten overnight -- we considered it a fluke.
After a quick refueling at St. Mary's "super" market (donuts and canned chili) we headed off to "Many Glaciers" to seek our daily destiny. Waffling between taking a hike to a glacier, and a hike to a high altitude lake, we eventually decided on the latter (remembering the glacier hike at Banff, and also notably, Vice President Gore was just on the Grinnell Glacier hike just a few days before).
The hike started out with a fairly significant
vertical climb, leaving us both wheezing for breath, pitying our
flatland lungs. Unfortunately, it appeared that most of the
wildflowers had passed for the season, but it was too early for
the aspen to have changed, leaving us in a moderate scenery
After several kilometers of breath taking views
up and down the valley, and after a "surprise"
waterfall (whose noise came and disappeared within a few steps)
we came upon an oasis of wildflowers still in bloom around a
spring fed trickle of a stream coming off the mountain. Jenn
counted some 15-20 different unique wildflowers.
We took an immediate picture of a gorgeous
purple, multi-flowered specimen, only to be embarrassed to find
out that it was simply fireweed. Among the others, we saw
columbine, paintbrush, and harebells. Also of note was pistamen,
parnissus (first timer for us), and wild chives and onions (again
first timers). While Jenn focused on recording the sightings in
our Audubon, I took pictures of the area (immediately above and
below). As for the paintbrush, by the end of the trip we had
spotted everything from the traditional red, to a beautiful pink,
to luscious scarlet, and to even a more rare all white one.
After crossing the alpine valley, the trail
forked to ptarmigan lake and iceberg lake. Heading left, we then
traveled along (towards) the back side of the garden wall. We
found an interesting sunflower like plant, with a deep red center
the bulged upwards. Geoff caught a picture of it on the way back
down (complete with a small alpine fly). We also encountered a
monkey flower as we got closer to the lake.
|All the while Geoff munched on sunflower seeds, while
Jenn lived off the land, gobbling all of the wild
With each person passing
by on the trail, the common question asked (both ways)
was "Have you seen a bear yet?" Increasingly
through the day, it became a mission, especially given
the improbable, but true fact that Jenn had yet to see a
bear in her life.
|Eventually (pant) we came to the lake, with beautiful mini-icebergs floating in it. Interestingly, the icebergs were most melted where it touched the water, leaving an interesting contour around it. We debated as to whether or not the melting was due to the motion of the waves on top of the water, or the heating of the top inches of the lake by the sun.|
|From the lake, we could also see a number of mountain goats -- big burly things, with short stubby legs. One was kind enough to stand and trot around for us to see. We saw three precariously asleep on what appeared to be a solid rock ledge. Jenn snapped a picture of one crossing a talus slope. At 300mm, it still looks pretty small.|
|After a voracious snack of triscuits, ham, swiss, turkey and cheddar, we headed back down, already exhausted. We immediately came upon a herd of big horn sheep that we missed on the way up. We counted some 25-30 traveling in a big pack, and accompanied somewhat by another mountain goat.|
Still desperate to see a bear, we kept scanning
the hills on the way back down. In the process, we managed to
pick out many dead, brown logs the deceptively looked like bears,
and a sleeping elk on the other side of the valley.
|Then, on the final mile, Geoff spotted a small brown bear just a hundred yards below the trail. It promptly stood on its hind legs to let us all have a look at him. Jenn got an initial quick snap, a second, although more distant shot came after. Too bad we did not have our telephoto on! Needless to say, Jenn was quite elated at the encounter.|
Finally, upon reaching the inn at the end of the trail, we spotted a pack of tourists pointing into the hills at a distant peak. Evidently, a grizzly was roaming high above on one of the peaks. Sneaking a peak through a park ranger's spotting scope we could get a pretty good glimpse of the fellow. Jenn could spot it with her naked eyes, earning much praise from the crowd. Other visitors spotted a big horn sheep on a neighboring mountain. Our response was "oh, just another sheep, big woop." Obviously, we could not hide our disdain for having to walk so many miles to see *our* sheep, while these flabby tourists only had to walk five feet out of their cars.
Thus, the day ended with approximately a total of 10 mountain goats, 40 big horn sheep, 1 elk, 1 brown bear, 15 tourists, and 1 distant grizzly. To top the day off, we saw two white-tailed dears on the drive out of the camp. We considered it a fair day in the big mammal game circuit.
Too tired to move, we had dinner at the "Two Sisters Cafe", both of us ordering a big country fried steak dinner, complete with cantaloupe and corn on the cob. The pies look world-renowned, but our stomachs were full (tomorrow's snack?)
We crashed hard, and prayed that the cavalier would make it through another day (its throttle is stuck open to at least 15% again).
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