But as soon as we hit St. Mary, the glory of Glacier came into view and woke us up, with a mist softly covering the lake, which was surrounded by the golds and reds of fall. Since the two GiG members, Katie and Doris, made it to St. Mary a half hour in front of the Canadian gals, they decided to take it slowly up Going to the Sun road, stopping at Wild Goose Island overlook and Sunrift Gorge as well as other pull-outs for photo opps.
The we met our Canadian friends, led by LaVerne, at Siyeh Bend and were on trail to Piegan Pass by 9:30, all 11 of us, which included a grandmother and her granddaughter.
The hike up was fairly uneventful, passing streams, what remained of the wildflowers (hawkweed, showy asters, yarrow, hairbells, cinquefoil/potetilla), stromatolites, and friendly, all-local hikers this time of year. Just before the pass, we could see the top of Cataract Peak, the destination for some of us after lunch.
We crested the pass, the Garden Wall in our face, and sat just on the other side; we faced Many Glacier, gazing into the Cataract Creek valley, with its glacier-fed aqua ponds and cascades streaming toward Lake Grinnell. We were surprised by the lack of marmots and other pesky little critters that usually beg for a handout and attack unattended daypacks.
From our vantage point, we could see Heavens Peak, Mount Jackson with Jackson and Blackfoot glaciers, Piegan peak and its glacier, Mount Gould, the Garden Wall, and big daddy Mount Siyeh, one of the famed 10,000-footers in the park. We also got to watch a barefoot hiker go over Piegan, hiking the opposite way.
Those climbing, had a quick lunch and headed up, while a group of four decided to head to the cars to get back early for other evening plans. One stayed at the pass to rest and watch as the other five ascended. On the way up, we saw a lone gal also climbing, a gal who had passed us on the trail earlier. We marveled at how quickly she climbed, without even the use of poles. Youth allows such things.
In the end, only two made it all of the way, but we all got our fill of climbing over talus, balancing on the uneven and unsteady rock piles, using our hands and butts as needed.
Doris and Katie headed back (reaching the car at 4:50) before the five Canadians as they had to await the last of their group who had made the summit. The hike back was gorgeous as the golden colored undergrowth really stood out against the dusky sky.
A few raindrops fell on the way home, fulfilling the prediction of 30 percent chance of rain or thunderstorms in the late afternoon. After a stop at the Lighthouse for dinner, Katie and Doris arrived back in Great Falls at 8:45 p.m. after a wonderful day with new and old friends.