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Published: August 15th 2014
Ostensibly, this trip was organized around the idea of being at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park for the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. About 20 years ago, we were here with the kids for that annual event, and it was a magical moment lying on the shore of the lake and watching 1-2 meters per minute pass overhead. But I always recognized that meteorological events might interfere with the metro viewing, and the more controllable goal (but not discussed) was the completion of the hike up to Grinnell Glacier. We made this with the children 21 years ago and the view from the top was unbelievable. Three years ago, when we were here with our wonderful friend Jan Henry, the upper portion of the trail was closed by snowpack, and I am not sure we could have made it anyway. My goal this year was to make the hike to the glacier no matter what.
There are two ways of making the hike: you can catch a bot from the Many Glaciers Lodge and with two boat rides across two lakes you can make the hike in 7.5 miles and 1600 vertical feet. The boat tickets were all
sold out for days and therefore we were left with the second option, starting at the trailhead and hiking past the two lakes, resulting in an 11 mile hike with an 1840 vertical feet elevation gain. Suffice it to say, the difference is significant.
The trail winds along the lake shores for Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, rising about 240 feet, before joining with the trail taken by the boat riders. From then all take the same trail. For the most part, it is an unrelieved upward climb over a rocky trail. We learned last time that using hiking poles was absolutely necessary, and the hardest parts of this trail in some ways were the areas where the vegetation was overgrown along the trail, making pole use difficult. We saw some fresh bear scat on the trail (they apparently don't digest berries well), and a group coming shortly behind us saw the grizzly cross the trail and go down to the lake. It came behind us, so we missed it, probably by about 4-5 minutes. At one point, you hike under a waterfall, where we saw a family with the man whose wife had accidentally shot him in the
chest with pepper spray when they encountered the grizzly. He was trying to wash the spray off his side.
At about 5.1 miles you come to a small rest area with log benches and a pit toilet touted as the highest outhouse in the world. During our brief rest there we drank water and ate power bars, and fed some trail mix nuts to VERY fat squirrels who apparently were very accustomed to panhandling. The trail above the rest area was the steepest of the entire trail. At the end, we arrived at the glacier and the glacial lake at its base. The lake was still thawing, and looked mostly frozen. The last time we were here, there was a small herd of bighorn sheep, but this time we saw only one ram.
At the top, you are afforded a long view down the valley, with successive lakes showing darker and darker blue, as each successive lake has less and less glacial silt. It is a magnificent sight.
The trip back down was gruesome, at least for me. With bad knees and ankles, going down is especially painful. My brother was worried that I would not make
it, obviously underestimating my ability for endurance and perseverance in the face of adversity. I was really tired at the end, but I was still walking at good pace when we finished. We thought about stopping at the Many Glacier Lodge for a bottle of champagne to celebrate our accomplishment, but then realized that we would not feel up to making the uphill climb back to the car in the parking lot elevated above the lodge. We settled for a Mexican meal and margaritas in East Glacier Park Village where we were staying.
The upshot of this is that we were elated at our accomplishment, but realized that we won;t be doing anything like this again. Shorter hikes on more level ground yes, but hikes of over 10 miles over steep terrain are a thing of the past.
Tot: 2.912s; Tpl: 0.046s; cc: 12; qc: 72; dbt: 0.0484s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb