|Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet, MT|| |
Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet, MT
|Hiking||8.00 Miles|| 6 Hrs ||1.62 mph|
|1,924 ft AEG|| 1 Hour 3 Mns Break|
|This year, Wendy was finally going to get to do the Highline Trail to the Chalet. That was our plan in 2011 but with the latest opening ever of the Going to the Sun Road, the Highline Trail didn't even open until Jul 26th or 27th I think it was. This would be my second trip on the Highline, the first being with Ambika, July 20th in 2010 when we crossed 20 snowfields. Today, despite heavy snowfall this winter, there would be no snow crossings and the waterfalls weren't nearly as plentiful but the people were. Everyone was nice, however.|
But I'm getting ahead of myself. We decided to have breakfast at the KOA. We were waiting for 1/2 hour between our order time and getting the food so we had them box it up and ate just a bit of it. So much for a hardy breakfast. We had to catch a ride with Bill and they were hiking Divide Mountain so we didn't want to hold them up. I guess we had asked the day before if the KOA would store our luggage while we were gone and they said yes so we had to drop that off. We would be staying there for two nites once we got back.
Bill dropped us at the St Mary VC where I was going to go in and get my Pass and we were going to take the morning shuttle. Well you can't get it at the VC you have to go where they check in the cars. So I walk out and around to the road and over to get my America the Beautiful Senior Park Pass. I've been so excited about getting this so I said proudly, I need to buy my pass and I'm so excited. The ranger seemed a little surprised at my giddiness as I handed over my credit card and drivers license. I proudly took my pass but only had a second to admire it as the Shuttle Bus was pulling up so I had to race back to the parking lot.
As we got on the Shuttle I asked the driver if this would be an express trip and she said no, we had six stops but as it turned out, we only had to stop three times: Rising Sun, St Mary Falls, and Siyeh. I ate the rest of my breakfast on the way. After using the restrooms I go to pull out my trekking poles and the one won't lock. Come to find out one of the pieces was stuck up in the pole. While Wendy fiddled I checked to see if the Logan Pass VC had poles and they did for $40. However, by the time I got back, Wendy was able to widdle that piece out so that the z-poles would lock; I was so happy.
After the obligatory pictures at the Logan Pass sign we crossed the road to begin our hike. As we rounded the corner the Glacier National Park greeters were there so we filmed them and admired them for a bit. The greeters just happened to be about a half-dozen Big Horn Sheep eating the grass almost next to the trail. What a way to start the hike! They would cross the trail and then we moved on. The first part of the hike of course is along the ledge above the Going to the Sun Highway called the Rimrocks. It's a pretty narrow ledge but they have a hose wrapped railing for your assistance if you need it. Sadly a couple weeks earlier a female grizzly fell to the Going to the Sun Road and had to be euthanized
And already the stopping and going and passing and waiting had begun. This would be the norm for nearly the entire hike. However, it is what it is and you just have to make it your own venture. We enjoyed the flora and views along the way. Wendy brot her big camera so she made good use of it and we did have all day to get to the Chalet. Your views back to the Logan Pass area and its mountains is always impressive. Today, we would see people at the top of Mount Oberlin. I guess that ascent has become popular over the years so I may have to investigate it.
Once done with the ledge you get to hike right next to the hillside so it's easy to get a closer look at the flora without having to bend too much. Oh and the flora was out in spades and lots of different flora. As we continued on between the longer lines of people you eventually make your way out into the lesser steep mountainsides. It was difficult filming as ahead of us was bright sunshine and we were in the shade. And as you looked to the west, the residual smoke from the CA fires was obstructing what is usually a great view down the McDonald Valley.
We eventually made our way closer to Haystack Butte. In 2010, the whole side of the climb up to Haystack was covered in snow. We got some great pictures. Now it was covered in dead bear grass stalks that Lee got to enjoy when they were alive and filled the hillsides last summer; I was so jealous! So up we went and did the big long switchback to the saddle where we would have lunch. We went off to the west where there was the perfect table rock for us to sit at; well us and a pesky chipmunk. We enjoyed our views of the Livingston Range with many other hikers that's for sure.
We still had some elevation left to go and I thot once past here, the hordes would dissipate but that wasn't the case. We continued on enjoying the continually changing landscape from the garden wall to the McDonald Creek and Valley below us and mountains ahead of us. We walked past several waterfalls, some flowing more than others and stopped to photograph or hiked past those that were photographing. As we got closer to the elevation top, Wendy exclaimed that she felt like butterflys between the caterpillars. What a perfect comparison to how we felt for this entire hike.
We rounded a couple more corners before we could finally spot the Chalet way off in the distance. The mileage left seemed shorter than that view. We rounded one area that usually has water coming off of it. Here we found some nice shade and stopped for a little break as it was a bit warm. A few moments later someone was walking by and said "Sue". Well I knew Sue was hiking in (a glacier chatter) so I asked if she was THE Sue and it was. She was hiking in with her family to stay at the Chalet for THREE nites, lucky girl. Oh, and there is a coincidence to come. We would pass each other from time to time for these last couple miles.
The next section we went over reminded me of the rocky area coming off of Gunsight Pass as the rocks are so colorful. A little past here we met two other very young hikers that were from Tucson. They would be doing the Grinnell Overlook Trail on their way to the Chalet. Later I would get a picture of them as they started up that rather steep trail. Once we finally got to the intersection there were a few people mulling about and several hikers coming and going. It was getting pretty warm by now and I think the heat was getting to a few of these folks. The heat wasn't bothering me at this point as we only had less than 1/2 mile to the Chalet.
Along the way we crossed a drainage and an area that was filled with Wild Chives so I had to get several pictures. And then there's that last little hill up to the Chalet. Once again there were quite a few folks milling about. It's a nice resting place before you continue your hike which for most folks was down the 4 mile Loop Trail (2700 feet elev loss) to the GTTSR. People were also stopping to get snacks or drinks. The Chalet refrigerator sells Gatorade and Water for a hefty fee. I decided a gatorade sounded pretty good so I grabbed one of those.
We got our Chalet tour and were shown our room. Our packs were a bit heavy as we brot lots of stuff with us for our stay. So we unloaded a lot of that in Room 2 and then made the 1/4 mile trek to get some water for our bladders for tomorrow's hike and for our water bottles. We trekked back, that last hill is a bit steep, and up to our Room IN the Chalet on the east side. Lo and behold, who is in the room next to us: Sue and her family.
I was glad we got to stay IN the Chalet as it's much nicer, especially with the balcony. While the other side of the Chalet has the spectacular view of Heaven's Peak and the Livinston Range, we had shade and a view of Swiftcurrent Mountain and the Garden Wall to the south where we could keep an eye on hikers of the Grinnell Overlook. I think the reason we got IN the Chalet instead of the annex is because we were staying for more than one nite.
Well we put our chairs out on the balcony, brot out our snacks and huckleberry lager, propped our feet up on the rails, and listened as Wendy played her ukulele. Sue's family joined in on the song too. We signed in for 6:15 dinner hour and Wendy made us a pot pie. Some of the crew got in on that action cuz she made a lot. It was very good. At 8PM was the program for the evening which was a talk by a geologist who had just been over at the Ahern Pass for a workshop. We learned lots of new things (For example, we learned Granite Park is not granite but Purcell lava or specifically pillow basalts. The Purcell lava flow is 1,075 million years old.) and he had some great stories about Ahern Pass to tell; some very frightening when he was trying to get back over to the Belly River ranger station.
Jeff Kuhn is a trained geologist and a long-time veteran of Glacier National Park. He has worked seasonal positions as a Back Country Ranger in the Belly River area, fought fires as a member of the Glacier National Park Hot Shot Crew, and worked as an employee at Many Glacier Hotel. Jeff is currently employed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality as a program manager and hydrogeologist. He is one of the leaders of various Guided Interpretive Workshops they offer at the Chalet including Alpine Wildflowers, Birding at Treeline, Grizzly Bears, etc. http://graniteparkchalet.com/workshops.html#highalpine_
We got to ask him about Boulder Pass geology as we told him we couldn't find much information on it. (We were at Boulder Pass last year). He said the reason is they never got to conclude the studies of GNP geology as the programs ended. And as I think I mentioned somewhere, Glacier Park has layers and Boulder Pass takes you to the top layers of the park's geology.
Last the evening concluded with a beautiful setting sun which was to our NW. It was a treat to watch. Once in our rooms, they tell you to speak very softly as the sound carries and that is for sure. You hear EVERYTHING and sometimes end up participating in the conversation . There might as well be no walls really.
Here are the six videos of our hike in and our afternoon/evening at the Chalet:
Part 1 - [ youtube video ] including our greeters and along the ledge
Part 2 - [ youtube video ] below the Garden Wall, above GTTSR and people traffic
Part 3 - [ youtube video ] getting closer to and at Haystack Butte
Part 4 - [ youtube video ] from Haystack Butte
Part 5 - [ youtube video ] the Chalet is within view but farther than you think
Part 6 - [ youtube video ] about a mile to go and at the Chalet
||Wildflowers Observation Substantial
once again, what didn't we see. Pretty much all of the normal Glacier Wildflowers were somewhere along this trail.
|For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination. |
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.