Finally, I get to put my boots on a trail. I took the Kiowa Loop from the Rising Sun, getting to E Glacier a little early in order to make sure I got my Grizzly Roll (YUM - it involved huckleberries of course ) and then going to Glacier Lodge to film the incredible flower garden and then back to E Glacier as I forgot to get fuel and then on to the Two Medicine Camp Store for the hike. I wasn't sure they were going to do the hike because of smokey conditions from the west coast fires and the horrendous wind and threatening weather. The gal at the counter suggested I walk up to the Ranger Station to see if the hike would proceed. I didn't want to gear up if the hike was off.
I walk into the Ranger Station and lo and behold I see Ranger Pat Hagan (I did Dawson Pass with him last year). I was so excited as I think he is an exceptional ranger. He has been in this area for nearly 28 years and is author of a book called SEASONAL DISORDER: Ranger Tales of GNP (Hagan says he suffers from "Seasonal Disorder" (SD), a type of depression that results during the remaining seasons--which are: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction. Aren't we kind of like that for Summer here?). And I knew that no matter, there would be some sort of hike today. He fully intended on the original itinerary as he said it is in the forest pretty much most of the time so we would be protected from the elements. I headed back to the parking lot, geared up and grabbed my Grizzly Roll to eat now at the Camp Store; the hike starts at noon.
There were over a dozen of us heading out on this blistery day. We just about got blown to East Glacier as we made our way from the lake to the forest. So up we went for a bit before leveling out and passing by the first beaver pond. It was quite overcast and hazy today so the light level was low and my normal hike-by shooting ended up in some blurry pics. The flora were blowing like crazy too so it was hard to nail a good meadow picture. I tried to stay up with Ranger Pat as his commentary is quite informative and his stories are second to none.
We came to our first meadow and it was full of flowers, mostly whitish and slightly yellow blooming flowers. We had great hazy views to Rising Wolf Mountain and some of the other mountains around Two Medicine Lake. Toward the end of the meadow walk you can see this big bearpaw print on a tree
. You will have to see the picture as it's pretty cool.
Ten minutes later we arrive at what Ranger Pat called a little Falls. I don't know what he classifies a little Falls but in my mind this was not that as it has three tiers and is said to be 20 feet tall. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised. There was a family having lunch here; a perfect choice as there were some nice flat boulders to sit on right at the Falls.
In about 1/2 hour after walking thru the forest and hearing some more bear stories and such, we arrived at the suspension bridge above Paradise Creek. It was a fun bridge to cross
; I get the biggest kick out of these (cross one at a time). Getting down from this bridge on the other side was a bit challenging while filming as the logs were quite a bit apart and almost straight down back to the trail.
We continued to walk in the forest with 5 foot flora all around. We would see beargrass, subalpine spirea, foam flowers among the masses of thimbleberry. About 10 minutes later we came to the first avalanche area. They sure wipe the side of the mountains clean. Reminded me of how the flood scoured the canyon floor on the Jordan Hot Springs hike. There is lots of greenery sprouting up from where the trees once stood and of course the remnants of the trees was on the other side of the trail up against the trees that stopped the action.
We spent a good amount of time here as we also spotted some Big Horns up in an alcove to the right of a snowfield on Sinopah Mountain. Ranger Pat had his binoculars so he shared them with several of the group. They were a good distance away and even with my zoom, they were hard to see. I have to add that Sinopah which is photographed most frequently as it is at the other side of Two Medicine Lake, looks quite different from this angle.
We hiked again in the forest for a moment before passing through another avalanche area. Also I should note, once we headed south alongside and well below Sinopah, you can see Painted Tepee Peak in front of you and Never Laughs Mountain to the east. These mountains don't have a lot of trees from this angle. Within about 20 minutes of this last avalanche area you will arrive at the powerful Rockwell Falls
. The Falls that you can see from here drop 30-40 feet but there is an upper level you can't see.
I got my pictures and then asked Ranger Pat about getting to the top of the Falls as I had read about a use trail. He said he would like to go up but with this big of group didn't think it was prudent but I was welcome to go. I just had to keep going straight at the end of the first big switchback to take me over to the Falls. Well come to find out, it was really a trail that you take if you continue up to Cobalt Lake and further across Two Medicine Pass. The use trail was short and at the end of the switchback. I had a 1/2 hour to get up there, take my pics and get back.
It was up, up , up
from there but not too long as I was up there in less than 10 minutes. I did my bear bait chant just in case someone else was hanging in the area. It is so worth the extra effort to get up here. I could see the others far below me and zoomed in for a pic. They waved. I was careful around the Falls as sometimes you can't tell if the rocks are wet. Ranger Pat said he had helped rescue a man that had fallen in. Falling and drowning are the two top causes of death at GNP.
I look at my watch and see that it's almost 3:15 and thot the folks looked like they were getting ready to go so I headed back down only to encounter a group of them coming up saying I inspired them to come up. Me... inspire... on a hike
. Well very cool then. This way while they were up there, I could grab something to eat as I thot I might be out of luck in that department because of my side trip.
The hike back was pretty uneventful as we just kept going. On the way back I took only one movie of Ranger Pat crossing the suspension bridge and only 5 pictures
. I enjoyed conversing with the parents of a family from San Diego and another gentleman from Cut Bank, MT who knew some of the political folks I was involved with in the mid-70s on the Reagan campaign in MT. He also knew my dad's wife as they owned the Glacier Motor Inn at Cut Bank for a few years back in the late 80s/early 90s.
The weather had gotten nicer as we neared the end of the hike, though still windy. There were a lot of hikers out today but the trails at GNP are so nice
, it makes for an easy hike for everyone. Glad I got to hike again in Two Medicine and with Ranger Pat. He leads most of the hikes in the Two Medicine area and assured me I could do the elevation challenging Scenic Point Trail because of the way it was laid out (apparently by some engineers). I told him I really want to do the Firebrand Pass hike. He said they had to turn around that week because of a vertical snowfield that was insurmountable.
Three videos for your viewing pleasure:
Video 1 to the Bearpaw print on the tree - http://youtu.be/9v32pIPEJZc
Ranger Pat tries to describe our weather pattern coming off the mountains into the plains too.
Video 2 including Aster Falls and the suspension bridge across Paradise Creek - http://youtu.be/IP7q0L4SJBk
Video 3 Rockwell Falls - http://youtu.be/Zst1uVbkQlI