By Jelane A. Kennedy
The three biggest hikes we took while visiting Glacier National Park required some planning but were well worth the effort. First was St. Mary and Virginia Falls. We started the day dressed in multiple layers with our wool sweaters on top and as the hike progressed we slowly worked our way down to lightweight breathable shirts and zipping off our pant legs so we were in shorts. This became the pattern everyday. It was possible to break this hike down into a shorter hike but we decided we wanted to see all the falls, so we did the round-trip of 3.6 miles. In total we saw five falls that day and it was a specular hike. Each falls were unique and motivated us to continue on to see the next. Plus with the falls being in a series as we hike back out we got to revisit each falls, which felt like an extra special bonus.
Before starting the hike we met a woman on the bus who had done the St. Mary and Virginia Falls hike before. She gave us some tips on finding the trailhead and about a small side trail that took us up to the top of Virginia Falls. The small trail took us to the edge so you could see over as the water crashed down. Eileen commented: “What a great place to take a few yoga breaths, smell the balsam and feel the mist off the falls.”
The second big hike was Hidden Lake. We had planned to go all the way to the Lake, 6 miles round-trip. The day started out chaotic and we couldn’t seem to get going so by the time we got the bus we wondered if we would make it to the lake at all. Once we got to the trailhead we discovered that the trail was closed to the Lake and we would only be able to go to the Overlook, 3 miles round-trip.
“I guess that takes the pressure off”, I said.
“Yeah, what a reminder, go with the flow and try not to push it” Eileen responded.
The trail was busy with lots of folks stopping at Logan Pass Visitor Center. The first part of the trail was a boardwalk. Which sounds simple but at times it was weird to walk on especially coming back as the angle would occasionally pitch me forward taking me a bit off balance especially now that I wear progressive lens in my glasses. I think the boardwalk was for crowd control and to keep people from trampling the delicate vegetation. There were wild flowers everywhere and signs of fall via the snow bank from a recent storm.
Near the overlook we found a quiet spot to pull out our lunch and just look over the beautiful lake. It wasn’t long before we had some company.
“Hey Eileen, look carefully over your shoulder, you have a mountain goat eyeing your lunch! Careful now, here is the camera.”
What great shots she got of the two mountain goats and an added bonus to our experience.
Participating in a ranger lead activity is always a high point for us when we visit a national park. So we spent time reviewing all the activities being offered as listed in the Park newspaper. Too many to choose from! Ultimately we decided on the ranger led hike to Grinnell Glacier and later a walking tour of the lodge at Many Glaciers.
The day before we met a nice couple Pam and Joe who encourage us to sign-up for the hike. We had thought we would stay at the Many Glaciers campground but after checking it out and finding it noisy and the bathrooms needing to be cleaned, we went back to the KOA. So the morning of the hike we were rushed. Our plan was to be out of the campground by 7:30 am so we could make the drive back to Many Glaciers. We barely made it down to the dock in time and we didn’t see our new friends until after we had disembarked from our second of two boat rides to the main trailhead. Yes I said two boat rides, the hike started from the dock in from of the Many Glaciers lodge. We hopped on the boat, crossed the lake and then hiked a short half-mile trail to the next boat dock and hopped on another boat that took us to the trailhead. This was a new experience for us!
We had a great time hiking with Pam and Joe. I have no idea how many miles we hiked that day, I do know we hike from morning until dinnertime. As we finished the hike we also finished all our water that we had taken with us. Through out the hike to the Glacier the Ranger did several mini-talks that help us understand from a on the ground way the impact of global warming. On the way back the hike went faster as the ranger did not led us back with talks, we just all headed for the boats making sure to not miss our connections.
It would have been great to do all 28 hikes in our book, but it just wasn’t possible for us. We had a great time, great memories and some awesome photographs. And the beauty we encountered once again inspired us.
© 2016 Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran