Day 4, July 24 Granite Chalet Day
I was so happy when I looked outside to see clear skies and nice weather for the highlight of our GNP tour: the Granite Park Chalet. A lot of people cancelled their booked stay at the Chalet http://www.graniteparkchalet.com/index.html for various reasons, one probably being they couldn't come in on the Highline Trail which is the easier, though longer route to the Chalet and there was still a lot of snow. Many trails didn't open until late this year and I guess folks decided to stay home. Fortunately, I had been keeping my eye on the Granite Park Chalet availability calendar as well as the glacierchat.com forum to see if there would be an opening; one appeared for July 24th that would fit my schedule. Well almost fit the schedule.
I decided I would have to change my flight as there was no way I was going to get back down the mountain and drive 3 hrs to Gt Falls to make a 5 o'clock flight so I paid nearly $300 to change the flight (on what was supposed to be my free reward ticket). In addition to the change fee the airline charged me additional miles (even if I was coming out of the same city but a day later). I decided to make the most of my money and extend my stay by two days which would give me a day or so to spend with my cousins in Kalispell. This all worked out great .
Oh ya, back to the trip report. I finished packing and checked out of the Rising Sun. We had a good breakfast at Two Dog Flats in the Rising Sun before heading up the Going to the Sun Road. I had planned a couple stops along the way and of course, there's always a stop for construction. Here is the VIDEO of our drive on Going to the Sun with stops at Sunrift Gorge, Jackson Glacier viewpoint and a construction stop just on the other side of Logan Pass (got to see some goats): http://youtu.be/lCHO2VyXGd0
We were lucky to find a parking spot at The Loop since it appeared to be quite crowded. It was now around 10:30, we saddled up and finally got on the trail. I didn't like this trail so much last year as it descended 2300 feet in less than four miles so I'm thinking I'm sure NOT gonna like going up
the darn thing. Plus I was sad that Wendy and Gary wouldn't get to hike
on the awesome Highline Trail.
The hike up The Loop trail starts off mildly through the tall standing trees that are now naked due to the ferocious Trapper Fire of 2003. However they are very pretty in mixes of greys and white; especially against the deep blue sky and greenery on the floor. We came to the one part of the trail where another trails goes down and to the southeast. Last year on our way down the trail Ambika and I debated as to which way to go as it seemed logical to go down that trail to the road. Well Wendy figured out that it was a horse trail or in this case, it was probably the trail for the mules
. And that bridge we saw from almost 3/4 the way up was not the bridge hikers cross but the mules cross.
There was lots of water running which is always a refreshing sound
and of course, way across the other side of the Valley, Heaven's Peak is watching over your every move. Before long the trees thin out and you're walking with foilage on each side of you and still more running water from time to time. There was tons of Heal-All (Self-Heal) along the trail where last year there was just a few areas with them. Speaking of flora, Wendy was trying to teach me the difference between white flowering elderberry (bigger leafs, elongated blooms
) and mountain ash (thinner leaves, rounded bloom). I had to look it up again
today. I actually think she offered me different clues too and then I would have her quiz me; one of them was a pop quiz... I passed.
At about the 1/2 way point we encountered some interesting drama
that involved a girl named Jennifer. She was coming down the trail while the rest of the family was going up the trail and pretty soon we encountered a gentleman, her dad, asking us if we had seen a girl. Apparently he didn't realize she had turned around. In frustration, he high-tails it down the mountain yelling "Jennifer"
. Now you're probably asking, "Angela, why are you telling us?"
Well don't you want to know how it turns out? And don't you want to know if we ever meet up with them again?
Stay tuned as this story is covered in this AND the Swiftcurrent Trail triplog.
Let's see, where was I? Oh ya. Like so many of those "up" hikes, the last mile is the killer
. Fortunately, we didn't have to be in a big hurry and we had many photo ops. Here is the VIDEO
of our hike about to this point: http://youtu.be/418xqjDQrRo
. We eventually get up to the area with the spruce trees which means you only have a little more than a mile to go. And about 1/3 mile later we hit pay dirt, I mean pay SNOW. We knew we would encounter it but we didn't realize how much or how deep. We could walk on top of it for the most part and would hit patches of dirt to re-group. You know, it takes a bit to acquire "snow" legs.
Finally we spot a Glacier Lily. I was afraid with all the snow, we might not get to see many of them. Fortunately, even on the last 1/2 mile of this hike, we would get to see mini-fields of the incredibly dainty but brightly colored Glacier Lily. I was so pleased
. We continue to make our way on and off the snow. All of a sudden up ahead I see snow flying and think "what the..."
and as we get closer, there are 3 guys shoveling snow off of snow... not down to the dirt but down to snow.
And of course, you would think they're shoveling a walkway for us but you would be wrong moose breath... or should I say mule breath.
Mules can only walk in a certain depth of snow. Mules supply the Chalet. No mules had been this way this year. So our hosts were shoveling out snow in the deeper areas to a level that the mules could trod and they would leave gaps so that the wranglers could judge the depth. Fascinating. I would like to have seen the mules walk that path. Anyway, I did film it. VIDEO
from about the treeline to the Chalet: http://youtu.be/cMzxlBtGO8c
. Quite the work out
for these young guys as it was a little warm
and by the looks of it the snow was wet and heavy.
We continued on our way trying to maintain our balance. Eventually we got to a dirt trail again with a little more than an 1/8 of mile or so to go but we're still going up. We intersect with the Highline Trail where you can see it is closed off and then make a u-turn and up the hill to the CHALET at last
. We had given thot to trying the hike up to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook but the trail was closed. We gave thot to going up to the Swiftcurrent WatchTower but decided we should just enjoy the environs of the Chalet. Believe me, this was really the only choice. However, if you think we would be done with our hiking for the day, once again you would be wrong marmot breath
We put our stuff away in our room and then went and hung out by the Chalet until it was time for our tour. The hardest task would be to fetch our water. Normally this would not be difficult at all and normally you could go the 1/4 mile to the creek and back in a jiff. But yep, you guessed it, we are not in normal conditions in the Park this year. Sooooo, we gathered our hydration packs and our gallon jug from the Chalet and headed out down the snow.
By this time, the snow was getting really slippery and it was hard to stay up straight; altho Gary didn't seem to have the same difficulty as us. Wendy went down for a very quick count (and yes, I got it on video
) but bounced up like a
. We came to a part of the trail that Gary decided we should go down
. Oops. Needless to say our 1/4 mile adventure became a tad longer and a tad difficult as we made our way to what they call a Patrol Cabin or something (no one was home). We thot the spigot they told us to look for was probably here somewhere but to no avail. So we ended up going over to where the water was running pretty aggressively down the mountain and filled our Chalet water jug (for boiling). Unfortunately, my water filter was pumping but not easily; we even back-flushed and it was still pumping hard but we got everything filled.
And so back up the hill we went. Once we got to the intersection, we see that we should have gone straight. We heard other folks did the same thing as we did. Our hosts said they should have been more clear
. Anyway, as we're walking along I heard someone come up behind me and I turn to look around and it is a deer trying to get by. Well ok. So I stepped aside for her to pass. It was the darndest thing. Wendy and I both got a pic of her. Here is the VIDEO
of our walk up to the Chalet and around and then of our "water fetching" adventure: http://youtu.be/dxHi9cAFuz4
Soon it was time for dinner and I was HUNGRY. Wendy made some beans and salsa to go with our leftover steak. YUMMY! During the dinner making process (it's done in shifts), Jennifer's dad showed up in the kitchen. They had made it up to the Chalet. We saw Jennifer a little later doing the Grand Canyon shuffle
down the stairs (she had made it most of the way back down the mountain before her dad retrieved her). After dinner, since this is one of the few places with cell service in the Park, I called my mom. I like to call her from unusual places. Then it was time to get some more photographs including of the sun putting light on Bird Woman Falls
The Chalet hosts put together a hot beverage service and we got to sit back and enjoy NPS Ranger and Chalet guardian, Mike Sanger talk about the 2003 Trapper Creek Fire. 2003 was the big fire year in GNP (http://www.glacierparkfoundation.org/InsideTrail/IT_2004Win.pdf
). Mr. Sanger was one of the two rangers
responsible for saving the Chalet. He was a very good storyteller and we were glued to every word. I got some of it on video for you. I wish I had recorded more but I wasn't sure I was picking up the sound good enough. I've tried to enhance the sound for you but you may have to tweak the volume on whatever device you are using to watch the VIDEO
that also includes the sunset and the not so good photo of the 3 bears out on the closed to humans Highline Trail:
We finally retired to our creeky and uncomfortable bunk beds in Room 15 of the Annex. And just like trying to sleep when on backpacking trips, I tossed and turned. I did open my eyes one time to look out of the Chalet at all the stars. But there was also the anticipation that we would get to take the Swiftcurrent Trail the next day. When we climbed to the Chalet, the last we had heard was the Swiftcurrent Trail was not open. However, in my eavesdropping mode, I picked up that indeed the trail was open
!!!! and we would have company.
The PS. The airline did give me a $150 voucher for travel to book travel in the next 365 days. However, I am still in dispute as to whether I should have paid anything additional, other than a small admin fee per the terms I read on the Frequent Mile Reward program.