Our last night in Glacier National Park: sitting by Saint Mary Lake, drinking wine, reminiscing about all our recent adventures and dreaming about more to come. All in all, it was a great trip – we packed in a lot of adventures during our three weeks away. In fact, except for the big driving days, we hiked every single day of the trip! Now we’re happy to be back home in the San Juans where thankfully it’s been raining nearly every day while we were gone, ending the drought that spurred us north to Montana three weeks ago.
For our last hike during our stay in Glacier National Park, we went up to Piegan Pass – a nice day hike from the Going to the Sun Road.
Once at the pass, we were greeted with an awesome view of the sheer walls of Mt. Gould.
After lounging around on the pass for a while, we decided to hike up to another pass that’s about 1,000 feet higher.
After extensive puzzle solving and backup planning, we finally scored backpacking permits for a 5-day trek in Glacier NP! As I mentioned before, it’s not easy getting these permits since half of the campsites are already reserved and the others fill up quickly each day. And of course, as with most national parks you have to camp in the designated campsites when backpacking. So after repeatedly getting denied, I was stoked when I showed up at the ranger station promptly at 7:00am and the ranger said that we got our desired itinerary!
Glacier had an above-average winter snowpack this year, so unfortunately most of the high treks we wanted to do were still closed – but we managed to figure out a nice route for our trek anyways. We started from the Chief Mountain TH, just yards from the Canadian border, and hiked up the Belly River valley. We spent the first night at Elizabeth Lake, in the valley to the left of the mountain in the photo above. We then backtracked and hiked up the Mokowanis River valley – the valley to the right side.
Our next outing was a day hike to Iceberg Lake, one of the most popular hikes in Glacier NP. One nice benefit of the busy trail is not having to shout for bears so much!
Beargrass wildflowers are so cool. They look like fireworks, and I bet that if a patient photographer were to make a multi-day/week time-lapse video of the flowers, they probably would look just like fireworks shooting out of the earth and exploding in the sky!
The lake, true to its name, was still frozen over and unphotogenic, but I had a great time anyways shooting photos of those beargrass flowers.
Our first backpack trip in Glacier National Park was a one-nighter to Cracker Lake, in the Many Glacier area. This is easily one of the most spectacular mountain cirques I’ve ever had the pleasure of camping in, with a 3-4,000 foot sheer vertical wall encircling the milky turquoise glacial lake and green grass meadow slopes. And the mountains here have such an intriguing character, which their complex patterns in the eroded sedimentary rock.
After our time in Yellowstone, we powered up though Montana to Glacier National Park, which has been on my dream destination list for many years. This summer was a great time for us to choose this destination, since northern Montana (along with Washington) was one of the few areas is the lower 48 states not experiencing drought conditions and associated fires and smoke.
We arrived in the evening and found a nice place to camp in the truck, on a dirt road in a burned forest area with a great view of the mountains. The first things to greet us in Montana were the mosquitos, which we would become well acquainted with over the next few weeks! In the morning I hopped out of the truck to snap the sunrise shot above.
On our first day there we did a little day hike up Swiftcurrent Creek to Bullhead Lake. I could tell right away that this would be an awesome trip!
These ground squirrels are all over these mountains, always looking for a handout or spilled food.
We soon realized that it would take some serious strategy to spend our time in Glacier National Park. For one thing, we’d be camping at the campgrounds most of the time, and since they are all first-come-first-serve, this means that any night spent in a campground would require an arrival at about 10am – after the previous campers started leaving, but before the campgrounds filled up completely. Secondly, and most importantly, backpacking permits are also hard to come by, with half of the designated campsites already taken by reservations, and the remaining half available on a first-come-first-serve basis for the following day. So, this meant repeated 7am visits to the ranger station, lots of planning and backup plans, and good old fashioned luck-of-the-draw. Fortunately after much frustration we did manage to get some nice backpacking trips lined up – more on that later!
After leaving Jackson, we drove up through Yellowstone National Park. I’ve never been there before, and it was interesting to see the famous national park – the nation’s first, in fact. Aside from the masses of gawking tourists, what struck me most about Yellowstone was the absolute purity of the landscape – its untouched pristine landscapes teaming with wildlife. But the highlight for me was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its thundering waterfalls.
July 26: We are finally back home in Ouray after our month on the road! Now that I’m back at my real computer monitor, I’m starting to go through all my photos and over the next few days I’ll post blog posts from each of our adventures during our trip.
Our first stop on our road trip was Jackson, Wyoming, my stomping grounds during the winter of 2009-10. I was happy to see my old friends there again, and to check out the scene for the 4th of July. Though the fireworks were cancelled due to the dangerous drought conditions, we enjoyed the long parade through town in the morning, followed by a day hike up Snowking Mountain above town.
We then took off for a couple nights in the Tetons, backpacking to a lesser-known lake right beneath the Grand Teton. We brought our crampons and ice axes along with big ideas to climb a nearby peak, but we ended up just lounging around like lazy marmots, laying in the sun by the lake the whole time with the spectacular views overhead. A secret campsite hidden in the shadow of an enormous boulder allowed us to sleep in until 10:00 or 11:00 each morning! (Of course I managed to crawl out of the tent for sunrise shots before hitting the sack again).
On the first evening an afternoon thunderstorm cleared up right at sunset. Unfortunately for the photography, the clouds didn’t quite clear until right after the sunset light, but it was still quite a sight to behold to see the misty clouds swirling around and rising off of the Grand.
The next morning was totally clear and calm.
But below us, the Jackson Hole valley was blanketed in inversion clouds!
After six months of working and dreaming, it’s finally time to shut down the computer and hit the road! Where we’re going, I do not know. With much of the western US up in smoke, so are my original backpacking plans and most of my other ideas. All I know is that I need to unplug, to get away, to completely obliterate my daily routine. This will surely involve some long backpacking treks in some mountains someplace. Someplace that’s not on fire or smothered with smoke or dried to a crisp. Somewhere blue.
Updates below… Continue reading “Time to Boogie!”
If you follow my blog, or have browsed through my galleries, you know that I am a color photographer through and through. Lately, however, I’ve been experimenting and having fun with some black & white conversions, and thought I’d go ahead and launch a gallery of black and white mountain photos on my site! Some of these photos are exclusive to this gallery; others are conversions of color photos that already exist in other galleries. I intend to add more photos down the line, but for now it’s a start. Enjoy!