Saturday, August 13, 2005 –
The next morning, we woke up and ate breakfast before heading out for a tour of Glacier National Park. Dad and my grandfather took a “man trip” to Glacier and the Canadian Rockies several years earlier. They raved about the beauty, so we anticipated this being an unforgettable day.
We headed north on Highway 2 before entering the park at West Glacier on our drive east along the renown “Going-to-the-Sun Road.” This particular road is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world. As we passed Lake McDonald, the large glacial lake in the southwest corner of the park, we saw a number of fishermen and boaters. It was absolutely gorgeous resting under several peaks of the Rockies. We headed east and started climbing ever higher in elevation. You could easily see the effects of the glacial forces that carved Glacier National Park. The tell-tale signs of bowl carved valleys with steeps walls left a remarkably dramatic landscape!
We started climbing higher, switchback after switchback, until we saw the Weeping Wall. The wall is a beautiful and green cliff face where small ribbons of water tumbled off in tear like streams. Mt. Oberlin and Pollock Mountain towered above us as we reached one of the most famous viewpoints at Logan Pass. The pass is the highest road point in the park at 6,600 feet. We visited the Visitor Center before grabbing our backpacks and packed lunches that we picked up from our lodge.
Then we headed out on our 11.8-mile daytrip on the Highline Trail from the top of Logan Pass.
We headed north along the trail following the Continental Divide on what is called the Garden Wall section of the Highline Trail in the direction of the Granite Park Chalet. The trail is mostly flat and the view are stunning because most of it is exposed on an open ridge above treeline. It was windy, but it felt good with the sun out on this warm day. We hiked along the edge of the ridge in a lit bit of accumulated snow for about a quarter of a mile before we ventured through a beautiful alpine meadow of daisies.
This daisies didn’t last for long before we hiked back into a narrow rocky section and around a cliff (with a handrail!) looking down to the Going-to-the-Sun Road. On the other side of the cliff, we admired the Garden Wall on our right high above us. In front of we saw flat-topped Haystack Butte. We crossed some streams as we descended before the trail gradually ascended for about a mile and arrived in another meadow around Haystack Butte. To our right we could see the backside of Mt. Gould as climbed up about half a to Haystack Pass. There we stopped for lunch on the large flat boulders.
After lunch, we rejoined the Highline Trail and ascended about half mile to an overlook of the Livingston Range, Heaven’s Peak, Mt. Cannon, Mt. Oberlin and Swiftcurrent Mountain. Later on we had great views of the McDonald Creek Valley and even Lake McDonald in the distance. We then passed an area of burned trees before heading east around a ridge with a good view of Swiftcurrent Mountain and even Granite Park Chalet below.
Once we arrived at the Granite Park Chalet, we had a look around. This is a rustic chalet, not a plush resort, so the facilities are not fancy. It was built by the Great Northern Railway before WWI as one of nine chalets for hikers in the park. It is a small chalet but it offers a grand view overlooking the valley below.
Upon leaving, we headed to down to the junction with the Granite Park Trail, also called The Loop Trail. We would hike 4.2-miles to our exit point, called The Loop – a parking lot located on a sharp bend of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We saw some bear scat, so we hoped to avoid the grizzlies by talking loudly. One guy we passed was wearing bear bells, so we figured the bears would hear us!
As we began our 2,400-foot descent from the chalet to The Loop, we passed through a pine forest before exiting it about mile 1.4. The trail was exposed once again and the sun felt good with the cool wind. We had great views 8,987-foot Heavens Peak as we descended a valley to McDonald Creek. With about half a mile left, we turned left at the Packers Roost Trail junction. Shortly before the parking lot, we crossed a footbridge and we could hear the road ahead.
Upon reaching the parking lot, we waited on a park shuttle bus to pick us up. Then we traveled back up the Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass to pick up our car. We decided to drive to the end of the Going to The Sun Road to the East Glacier entrance. We passed beautiful Saint Mary Lake before we turned around and headed back to West Glacier and our lodge. We worked up an appetite during the day, so we fully enjoyed our dinner in our lodge’s restaurant. The cool thing about the rooms is they all railroad wall decorations, furnishings and even railroad blankets. We felt like we were going to be boarding a train off to sweet dreams.