Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label Scenery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scenery. Show all posts

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Glacier Day Seven: Late Day Bonus

After completing a 14.5 mile hike, you might assume we would be tired and done for the day. Part of that assumption is correct: we were tired. However, we were not so tired that the day was over. The big hike to Gunsight Lake and Florence Falls had been a lot of fun, but we finished early enough in the afternoon that we still had many hours of daylight left. Before any further adventuring though, we wanted to eat some more. Lunch had been completed on the return hike from Gunsight Lake, and we were starting to get hungry again. 

Relaxing in Camp and Eating Yet Again

The drive back to camp was completed as quickly as one can under the conditions, and we were soon devouring another delicious meal featuring burritos. This had become a big favorite for us on this trip. We eat a lot of them anyway, but they had turned into a quick and easy but delicious meal with good nutrition after the big hikes we had been doing. An ample amount of black beans, lettuce, tomato, a little shredded cheese, avocado, and either salsa or Taco Bell sauce provided plenty of calories.

While we were relaxing in camp, I decided to try and get some pictures of the wildlife around camp. I was particularly interested in a little oven bird that had been hanging around. While I got a picture or two, they didn't turn out nearly as well as that of a robin that was hanging around. Here is what that one looked like.

American robin at Glacier Campground
American Robin ©2020 David Knapp

Late Day Drive to Polebridge

After lunch and a little time to sit and enjoy the birds, we started thinking about an evening adventure. With nothing better to do, we headed back up to Polebridge. We drove up there far more than was probably necessary, but we enjoyed the late day drives and the scenery was beautiful. The first trip had produced some good fishing, but in subsequent trips I simply enjoyed the drive.

On this evening, we again struck out on wildlife. This trip produced less wildlife encounters than we had hoped, but the scenery more than made up for that. Being there in the middle of the heat of summer probably didn't help. Without any wildlife to keep us occupied, the highlight of the evening ended up being the sunset. 

Sunset at Polebridge

The evening was beautiful even before the sunset. We drove south along Inside North Fork road, hoping for some critters. The one bit of excitement happened when the road passed Winona Lake. We thought for sure a moose had to be feeding there, but it wasn't our day apparently. The waterfowl there were interesting, though, and kept us occupied for a bit. With darkness approaching, we didn't really want to drive all the way back in the dark. After turning around at the Quartz Creek Campground, we were soon back to the bridge over the North Fork of the Flathead. Looking upstream and downstream, we saw one of the best sunsets we enjoyed on this trip. The camera didn't come close to capturing the beauty of the moment, but we and some others on the bridge tried anyway. Distant thunderstorms up over Canada were on the horizon to the north, while the moon was coming up over the river to the south.

Sunset on North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge looking north
North Fork Flathead River at Sunset ©2020 David Knapp

Looking south at moonrise over North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge
Moonrise and Sunset on North Fork Flathead River ©2020 David Knapp

After enjoying this beautiful scenery, we turned towards camp. We had one full day left and wanted to get well-rested so we could make the most of it. The next day would be tied for my favorite hike in Glacier National Park with the Sperry Glacier day we had already completed. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Glacier Day One: Lessons Learned, Going to the Sun Road, and Howe Lake Trail


After long days of driving, we finally were ready to explore Glacier National Park. However, we had some lessons still to learn before we could experience everything that Glacier has to offer. We got up reasonably early on our first morning in Glacier. We had stayed at Fish Creek Campground and had a very restful night of sleeping among the pines. It is always tricky reserving a campsite sight unseen, but this was a nice campground and we would definitely stay there again. Since we had one more night at Fish Creek, we were able to get up, enjoy breakfast, and hit the road without worrying about taking down our camping gear. 

Of course, the first thing we wanted to experience was the Going to the Sun Road. There are very few roads in the United States that can rival this one for sheer beauty and scenic views. However, we would soon start running into trouble. Our plan was to hike some every day. However, as we began up the Going to the Sun Road, each trailhead was jam packed full of people. Cars were continuously circling like vultures, waiting for a parking space. After a couple of laps at the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot, we quickly decided to keep going on the main road and look for other options. Each parking area in turn had a similar problem, at least it did if it was anywhere close to a trailhead. With a list full of hikes we wanted to try, we realized that we would have to be a lot more proactive in starting hikes early. 

Going into this trip, I had several good friends that advised me about conditions and hikes in Glacier. There were several common threads such as get a very early start to obtain parking and spend a lot of time at Many Glacier. With the east side of the Park shutdown due to COVID-19, that part of our itinerary was out so we had to start making adjustments. On this first day, with parking at a premium and not wanting to spend the whole day driving in search of parking, we vowed to not get caught searching for parking again. Instead of stressing about missing the hikes we wanted to do that first day, we decided to try something different.


Before going elsewhere, we did find a few pullouts with room for us to park and enjoyed taking our first daytime pictures of Glacier National Park. The rugged beauty was awe inspiring and we couldn't wait to trek through these beautiful mountains, but first things first. It was time to explore. 

A small gravel road took off behind our campground. The Inside North Fork Road actually didn't connect all the way through to the Pole Bridge Entrance. While maps show this as a possibility, current park maps showed part of the road closed. I'm not sure if this is an ongoing thing or if it will be reopened soon. Based on the road we drove, I'm guessing part of the road is washed out or otherwise impassable. 

We started down the dusty gravel road hoping to find wildlife or something else to enjoy. By the time we reached the end, we had seen a few birds, but nothing more. The bright sunny weather probably had the animals moving more nocturnally. We still had a lot of the day to spare and decided to take a hike we hadn't planned on doing. It turned out to be a great decision. 

The Howe Lake Trail begins from a small parking area on the Inside North Fork Road a few miles north of Fish Creek Campground. The hike to the lake is just a couple of miles which made for a good warmup for what we hoped would be a big week of hiking. Little did we know how much hiking we would actually accomplish!


Wildfire affected forest near Howe Lake in Glacier National Park


The hike to Howe Lake is through areas that have been affected by wildfire. This lack of an overhead canopy can make this a hot hike since it isn't as high of elevation as other portions of Glacier. However, the tradeoff happens to make this a worthwhile hike. The wildflowers here are a riot of color, at least they were when we enjoyed this hike in late July. Plenty of sun means plenty of wildflowers. While not the same wildflowers we would later enjoy at higher elevations with more moisture around, this was a very worthwhile hike.


Indian paintbrush along the Howe Lake trail in Glacier National Park

Wildflowers in Glacier along the Howe Lake trail


Howe Lake is really two lakes connected by a swampy channel. It looks like perfect moose habitat and we were really hoping to see one. It was not meant to be, but we did enjoy seeing a trumpeter swan and some ducks afar off. The wildflowers were beautiful on the ridges surrounding the lake while lily pads were producing a few beautiful blossoms on the lake itself. 


Scenic reflections at Howe Lake in Glacier National Park

Lilypads and reflections on Howe Lake


Arguably the best thing about the Howe Lake trail was the solitude. On most of our future hikes in Glacier National Park, we would encounter an endless stream of other hikers and tourists. However, on this trail, we only encountered a couple of other groups of hikers. A word of caution should be mentioned here. Because this is a less travelled trail and you are in grizzly country, I would suggest a bit more care should be taken than usual. While grizzly precautions should be taken on all hikes in Glacier, the busier trails almost guarantee you won't be the first to surprise a bear. On this trail, it is a distinct possibility so plan accordingly. Carry your bear spray, be very familiar with how to use it, and most of all, make plenty of noise.

We found just enough mosquitos on this hike to make us glad that we weren't planning on spending the night. Little did we know how much worse the bugs would be on some of our other hikes. The mosquitos soon encouraged us to leave these tranquil lakes and we were quickly back at the car with a little over four miles of hiking accomplished on our first day in Glacier National Park.

One last look at Howe Lake

 

That evening, after supper, we decided to head out the Camas Road to look for wildlife. We didn't accomplish our main goal, but the evening light on the mountains of Glacier was incredible. The moon setting over skeleton trees was eerily beautiful as well. We stayed busy with our cameras for a bit, but soon decided that we better get to bed. The next day was going to be a busy one as we had to move camp and also wanted to accomplish some hiking. That meant a very early start...

Sunset in Glacier National Park near Howe Lake