Glacier National Park

East bound out of Glacier National Park, the sun had just set behind us leaving rapidly diminishing twilight hues. In front of us a long stretch of two lane road through rolling prairie with thunder heads occasionally lighting up on the distant horizion. A peaceful and serene moment, made even more so by the dreamlike melody of a Zero-7 song playing over the radio.

It was the fitting close to a wonderful day spent hiking in Glacier National. We only had one day to tour the park, as our presence was required by the Timex guys in Salt Lake the next day for the Outdoor Retailer's show. So rather than simply zipping through it, snapping pictures like the hundreds of other tourists, we asked the ranger to suggest a kick ass hike. Something that would get us away from the masses and a little further off the trail... yet something that could be done in a day. He hooked us up with a map and what he felt was a full-day affair over couple of high alpine passes.

The entire trip would be 14 miles of trail hiking, with a section of out and back. Much of the time was spent above tree line in some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever laid eyes on.

Cody's leg was still healing from his bike crash at Big Sky, so it was me, Adam and Rom on this particular trek. Cody was to hang with the Truckster and later in the day meet us at the pick up point several miles away where the trial exited the wilderness. We loaded up on some food and hit the trail at 1:20.

The first pass was Piegan Pass, a 2000 foot ascent from the trailhead, 4.5 miles long. The trial wound its way up a mountainside over several stream crossings and into a beautiful meadow a bloom with all sorts of wild flowers. Above tree line the trail took a turn along the face of a mountain side and scree field. 10 minutes shy of two hours and we had reached the pass.

The view at the top was utterly amazing. A glacial valley buttressed by a rugged ridge-line of sheer rock hundreds of feet high lay out before us. At one end of this ridge line was a glacier carved spire named Mount Gould, while near the headwall (far below us) a tarn of bright blue water reflected the sunlight. With our jaws agape, we decided to take in the spectacular views while enjoying some snacks.

As I munched on an apple little critter decided to stop by for snacks. His name is Larry and I think he's a Richardson ground squirrel, but I'm not quite certain...

Larry wasn't the only woodland creature we saw on our Glacier Park hike. On the way down from Piegan Pass a long horn sheep crossed the trail 10 yards in front of us. Later we saw marmots, a herds of Elk, a heard of mountain goats, a flock of grouse, a lone deer and countless squirrels and chipmunks. Unfortunately, no grizzlies this time out, although they are indigenous to the area and warning signs are posted at trailheads.

We were able to capture a few other animals with our cams...

As we began the hike up the second pass we weren't even at the half way mark yet. We had only traveled 6.3miles of the 14 total. We were back at the meadow with all the wildflowers, and would soon climb another 1000 feet the saddle of the next pass between Going to the Sun Mountain and Mount Siyeh.

As we made our way up the second pass, Rom and Adam stepped it up and easily out paced me. Again we were above tree-line and I could see them making their way up the switch backs on the side of the exposed mountain side. Meanwhile, to the northwest a thunderstorm was moving in. Dark clouds loomed over the rock ridge and Mount Gould and the distant rumble of thunder could be heard every few minutes.

All I could think of was getting to the other side of this pass and hitting the down slope. Many years ago I was caught in a lightning storm above tree-line, and I swore I would never again put myself in that position. But as the ascent up Siyeh pass continued, it looked as if that was exactly what was going to happen.

The clouds moved in closer and the trail kept switch-backing up the mountain side. By this time my legs were getting fatigued and my pace had slowed. Worry turned to dread as I continued higher into the path of the coming storm.

Another rumble of thunder in the distance helped motivate my tired legs into a quick trot up the last hundred yards or so. I crested the saddle, chased down by a fast moving cloud and kept hiking to where Rom and Adam waited on the leeward slope. The ominous cloud continued shape shifting over head.

We all watched the dark and mysterious cloud formations as they tried to spill over from the other valley. Rom attempted to capture them with the video setting on his digital camera, but unfortunately the clarity was not good enough. I stopped for a moment to relax and eat another apple. Then another rumble of distant thunder reminded me that there would be plenty of time to eat later.

The three of us made haste and headed down the trail.

For some reason the storm decided to not follow us into this valley. Bits of cloud spilled over the pass we just hiked, but the brunt of the action stayed on the other side of the hill where it either dissipated or scurried away. We're really not certain.

Without a storm chasing us we could enjoy a beautiful down-hike to the pickup point. There was still over an hour of hiking to do and the ever changing scenery continued to be spectacular. Across the valley to the west was a massive snowfield (or possibly a small glacier) nestled on an eastern ledge of Going to the Sun Mountain. The melt off from this snow created braided waterfalls which dropped hundreds of feet down rock cliffs. The confluence of these waterfalls and the run off created a crystal blue river which ran over red rocks on the valley floor. The pictures below don't quite do justice to the colors we saw in person.

When we exited at the Saint Mary's Falls Trailhead, the entire hike had taken just under 6 hours (5:45-ish). Cody and the Truckster were waiting for us-- both eager to get on the road.

Tired from our hike we gladly piled in and headed eastbound out of the park. The sun began to set on the day, and we were satisfied.