Published: October 29th 2011October 29th 2011
It was an early start as we headed into the heart of Glacier. Mark, Jess and some of the others were dropped off at the visitor centre for the start of the longest hike in the Park, whilst Scott, Kylie, Steve, Annabel and I were taken a few miles further for the Gillam Glacier hike.
Todd dropped us off and we were quickly left on our own to take on the hike. So we set off straight away, crossing a small wooden bridge over a small creek almost straight away before reaching the edge of a lake.
To the left on the far side of the lake from us was a pretty awesome looking hotel, which offers boat rides across to the other side of the lake to join the hike we were doing.
We clear the boat load of tourists, and began the slow ascent up to the glacier, which was just about in view – but it looked quite a distance away!
As we slowly climbed we could already see some of the beauty of the National Park with tree covered mountains, with some others still showing strong traces of snow on them, on the other side of another small valley.
Pretty soon we were stopped by two veteran volunteer guides who warned us that a bear had been spotted nearby and we were told to watch our backs. Fortunately no bear interrupted our progress and we carried on.
The climb was now becoming a bit steeper, but as we were climbing up higher, we could see one of the products of the glaciers we were heading for. There was a small waterfall that led into a clear blue pool of a lake, similar to Moriane Lake the other day. From where we were it looked so still and inviting. I even thought – in my head – about the possibility of taking a really long running jump from where we were into the water, but that was an impossible task from where we stood, so we continued onwards.
To the right was a rather tall mountain almost directly next to us, and it was at this point we believed that was where we were heading. I hoped not, as the mountain practically shoots straight up into the air. As we looked really close, we could actually see a group of 3 climbers, making their way along the mountainside. I watched on with tension, hoping that none of them slipped and fall, because it would bring absolute death.
Fortunately it soon became clear that that was not where we were heading, and that our hike was less steep and more gradual.
We had now reached the point of the hike, where the trail started coming back and forth on its self to the right as we were now heading to a nearby cliff side that seemed to have a pretty decent waterfall falling onto the cliff edge path that we would be taking.
Naturally there were some stops, but we were taking this sensibly, seeing as there was not much that could be done for a rescue if something bad were to happen.
We also knew that there was still plenty of hiking left, and that we had all day basically.
As we continued on, the time had come where we had reached the cliff side path of the hike, which meant that the waterfall was nearby and sure enough our eyes were not playing tricks on us earlier, as we would have to walk under a strong waterfall, across very slippery stone steps.
I was the first to go, and cos I was wearing my Indy hat, I showed no fear, and almost ran underneath the fall, and I was pretty sure I had the Indiana Jones theme going through my head once more!
I’m pleased to say that the others made it safely, though we were very drenched, which was actually a welcome from the intense sun.
Just after the fall the path winds up to the left where a large ledge view point awaits us, as well as something else. Kylie had gone off ahead of us, and having seen some other hikers gather around something, she had to investigate further. When she does, she calls for us all to hurry over, and as we head over, we were all wondering what it could be.
Turns out it was a small hairy four legged critter, which soon got identified as a marmot. Straightaway I’ve gained more and more interest in the guy, who doesn’t seemed to be put off by all the people looking on, until some walkers come down just carry on walking past us and him which makes him dart off into some bushes right by the path.
Now that he was gone, the 5 of us took this opportunity to rest up and took in the wonder of the Park. The sun was in a clear blue sky, beating down on us. We got some couple to take a few pictures of us on the ledge, and it seemed I towered over the others considerably, something I’m not sure how I felt about really.
Obviously I always knew I was quite tall but not that tall surely? Or are the others much shorter than I realised?
Anyway, we even headed down to a lower ledge that hangs over the valley below, and here I pulled some more poses, some with Peking, and others on my own. Some of the shots actually looked like I’m sitting there taking in the whole surroundings and almost sums up the Tour. Another pose I pull was the Bruce Forsyth pose! Didn’t he do well!!!
And so we climb,ed with less than half the hike to go, before we reached the top. As we looked around, we were so high that huge chunks of snow were still on the mountainside by us, and more of it was ahead of us.
Kylie tried to get me with a snowball, throwing it at me, but I managed to catch it intact and threw it back all in one motion, almost hitting Kylie. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was quite impressed by that.
At this height, we could actually see another lake right at the bottom of the valley, lower down than the one we had been walking alongside by, and soon realised that there were three lakes in all, with one near the top feeding the waterfall into the second and so on. This place was truly amazing and such a pleasure to look on at. And we still had the top to reach.
We had now reached a small rest area that has a toilet and logs to sit on, before the trail climbs up steeper still up then to the right, then back in its original direction. What’s more there were places where there was snow and ice on the path, including a small part of a glacier covering the path for 20 feet or so. It seemed to be really tough to reach the top, but all 5 of us still carried on.
Finally we were greeted with the sight of Gillam Glacier, and a sight totally different to everything else we had experienced all day and even all Tour practically – a small winter wonderland. Despite it being the height of the summer, with all this searing heat, there was plenty of snow left from the glacier, and the closer you got to the edge, the more you could feel the coldness.
It was awesome to experience two extremes right next to each other. Just back down at that last rest stop there was no real evidence of the change in temperature up above.
There was even a small guided tour that went further alongside the edge of the ice lake between it and the edge of the waterfall. It seems you could go even further into it all, but we all decided to stay where we were and recover, well except Steve!
Annabel and I sat on some rocks near the ice lake, whilst Kylie and Scott were behind us nearer the path taking on their water and food. We had been told how long it should take to complete the hike, and we seemed to be just on time, but still mindful of the time we had arranged to meet Todd back down at the start where he had left us many hours before. The view from the top was wonderful as we could see all 3 lakes go further into the distance. This place almost seemed so magical and hard to believe that it was better known that some of the other places we had been to. I for one had never heard of Glacier National Park before the Tour, but at that moment I was glad we were there.
Eventually we pulled Steve away from his exploring, and we started the slow descent back down. We were taking it extra careful walking across that ice patch on the trail, and safely making it. The rest of the descent was much better, and like I’d done for the rest of the Tour so far, I sped off ahead of the others, almost leaving them in my wake. I of course stopped at times to let them catch up, but at times I wanted to see how much of a gap I can built up between us. A little part of me thought that was slightly unfair as we had all hiked up together, despite our different speeds, but I was just heading off not too concerned about the others.
At the same point as we met him on the way up, I find the marmot out in the middle of the trail again just minding his own business and not being put off by anyone.
Eventually the others caught me up as we watched Mike, Moe, Mike, or whatever we tried to call him. Again he was spooked off into the bushes nearby by some passer byes, which prompted the others to carry on, but I stayed around for a few seconds, and sure enough the marmot came back out.
Once more we passed under the waterfall and felt refreshed on the other side, before we continued our descent.
As you would expect the descent took about half the time it took to climb, and we eventually reached the bottom at the drop off point at the lake. A boat had just pulled up and dropped people off, but we just hung around the little pier it was docked to and took in the beauty of the lake, the hotel on the far side and the surrounding area.
When we did head back to meet Todd, we found he was asleep in the van, and after he woke, we headed up the road to a General Store to stock up on ice creams and souvenirs before heading back through the Park to the Visitor Centre to pick the other hikers up.
On the way, Todd told us about some problems encountered on the trails today, mainly about parts of the main trail the others were doing being closed, forcing them to take detours which would cause them to take much longer to complete the hike.
When they do finally return to the Centre, they talked about their experience, and mainly about how a goat took a fancy to Zach!
Back at camp, it was early afternoon, so the rest of the day was spent chillaxing on site. I joined Steve in getting some much needed laundry done, and in the laundry room, we passed some of the time by naming the places and KOA’s we had stayed at so far on our trips of America.
This was followed up by a thorough search of the office shop for a possible present for my new niece. I was thinking of a small dream catcher that would hang in her room to protect her as she slept.
I’ve always liked the thought of Native Indians on this land and their beliefs, spirit and lifestyle, and whilst I had been in North America, I had embraced this free spirit way of life, especially after that wonderful visit to Monument Valley.
Out here I could be whoever I wanted to be, do whatever I wanted to do, and not have to answer to people about things I don’t really give a damn about.
If I could get a job that involved a lot of travelling I would take it in an instant. Before I flew out I was told that if I got offered my dream job whilst out here, I should take it and not give any thought to my job back home.
Anyway, I looked around the store, and found some good ideas, but the problem was that most of the souvenirs on sale were very fragile and would not last very long being thrown around in a bag whilst we hot footed it along the rest of North America. So the search for the perfect present for Grace had to move on to another place.