Panoramic Views Aren't Diminished Due to Reynolds Creek Fire
Bear Blocks Gals on Trail
An incident with a bear ruled the day as the gals had to get their bear spray out and scoot 20 paces off the trail to let it by. One foolish and lucky man followed it just a few feet away, taking pictures the whole time.
We left Great Falls at 5 a.m. and arrived back home around 9:30.
Who went: Josy, Catherine, Mary S and Susan W
The Waterton Women Meet the Glacier Girls for Hiking Challenges
GiG and WoW Survive Insanity Six Times (Three Up; Three Down)
“Insanely steep”—that’s how one hiking book author (Erik Molvar) described the Sherburne cutoff trail that the Girls in Glacier and the Women of Wonder traveled on the way to Poia Lake in Many Glacier.
The trail climbs 1,000 feet in just over a mile, so it is steep; and in three places, it is very steep, but we all made it and safely, just taking a few more breather breaks than normal.
Our day began with six gals from the GiG joining seven from the WOW on our 8.5-mile trek to the gorgeous alpine Poia Lake on the Red Gap Pass trail. If we hadn’t taken the Sherburne cutoff trail, the hike would have been 12.5 miles. So we hiked in honor of Doris and Terry Sherburne, two of Katie’s friends, mother and son, who passed away this year and whose family after whom the cutoff trail is named.
On this trip, we welcomed Susan C on her first hike with GiG while realizing that this was Bonnie J's last hike with us as she heads to Las Vegas.
As a side note, even on a Thursday, Many Glacier was so crowded that there was nowhere to park at the picnic area or the lodge; we had to wait for about 20 cars at the entrance gate when we arrived at 8:45. Just pure craziness in the park.
It was 10 a.m. before we started on what was heating up to be a very hot day, but we made it up the steep hill to where the cut off trail connects to the main Poia lake trail that originates at the Apikuni Falls trail. Three sections were very steep, the first one with small ball-bearing rocks that made a few gals think we should walk out the long way instead of going down the slippery, steep slope on our return.
Most of the hike is through the trees, but just before the intersection, the trail breaks out, revealing gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and Sherburne Lake. And the meadow area had many flowers, especially orchids. Some were the following: lady slipper, spotted coralroot, early coralroot, white bog orchid, sticky geranium, nine-leaved biscuitroot, harebells, yarrow, lupine, wood nymph
A little farther and we encountered a hidden lake: Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake, a gem hidden behind trees.
Finally, after a lot more uphill, we crested the ridge and started our long descent into the lake, crossing large boulder fields that had a lot of pika droppings, but we didn’t see one. We also saw bear scat and prints as well as moose and deer prints. At one point, Katie scared a deer as she was in the lead during this section.
The lake was pretty (we didn’t arrive until 1:30 pm), surrounded by Yellow and Red Gap Mountains. Some of the ladies walked a way around the lake for better views of the surrounding cirque while the others enjoyed a longer lunch.
Then it was time for the long hike out. At the decision point where the cutoff trail meets the main trail, we all decided to take the cut-off and go slowly to save the extra 2.25 miles of hiking in the heat. And we all handled the steep downhill well, a few sliding on our backsides at times.
It was time to say goodbye to each other, the Canadians headed north and the Americans south to enjoy a meal at Buffalo Joe’s along the way.
Thanks, again, Mary N for inviting us to your cabin! Wow, we had another fabulous adventure or two or three.
It all started with a hike up Mount Aeneas in the Jewel Basin area. We met Madelon at the turn by Echo Lake and continued on. Somehow, we missed Syd, unfortunately, but we did catch up with her later in our trip.
This hike is gorgeous, although a few struggled with the elevation gain. However, once we reached the saddle with the views, it was all worth it. And getting the last third of a mile up to the summit was even more rewarding with 25 mountain goats greeting us as well as 360-degree views. Everyone made it to the very top even though the saddle is still outstanding. We were on top between 1 and 1:30 pm after a 10:45 a.m. start. I should note that on the way to the top, a mama mountain goat was challenging people on the trail. The gals had to be cautious as they climbed to the top. WE have great pictures with Kuntzie and the goat facing off.
On the way down (we left the top- just after 2 p.m.), we had intended to take a large loop past Black and Picnic Lakes. However, there was too much snow, so we headed down the same way but took a different loop the last half of the trip. On this loop, we did encounter snow but on a low angle. But we still had a little scare when Susan got a charley horse and fell. She ended up being okay with no damage to her repaired ankle, thank goodness.
On this section were tons of glacier lilies and spring beauties coming through the snowmelt. We only saw one other party on this route as well. Hordes were starting to come up the other trail, so it was nice to have the walk to ourselves.
We reached the car around 4:15, said goodbye to Madelon as she headed back to Eureka and got to the Laughing Horse Lodge right on time for our 5 p.m. reservation. Our dinner was wonderful as usual at this “unusual” place. Kate, the chef, sat with us for while and wanted to know which hike we had done and told us a bit about the specials.
Then it was off to Mary’s house for an evening boat ride and then a rousing game of Left, Right, Center and a few dice games that Mary explained to us. Surprisingly, Susan wasn’t the big winner this time.
Since it was going to be in the 90s the next day, we decided to skip a long hike and canoe instead, so we could get a late start on the day.
We rented canoes and paddled the Clearwater river Canoe trail, seeing lily pads, frogs, turtles and a loon family along the way. It was very relaxing. Then we had a delightful 1.5 mile walk back to our cars. The trail had many flowers on it: penstemon, yarrow, bunch berry, hare bells and even some late blooming blue camas.
Then we continued to the Condon Mercantile for lunch and to look around this newly-rebuilt and much-improved after-the-fire store. The Deli had some delish sandwiches, which most of the gals ordered. However, Kuntzie ordered a pizza. She thought she ordered a personal pan size but they brought her a huge pizza, saying they thought she ordered the biggest size.
After this awesome trip, several went back to freshen up at Mary’s cabin while a few walked around town and did a bit of shopping, or should we say, Kuntz did some shopping. It’s always fun trying to predict what she might buy. While we were in town, whom did we run into but Syd! She found us among the shops and came back to Mary’s with Katie while some decided to go to the Chicken Coop for a drink and a try at Shake-a-Day (no winners).
Back at the cabin, the gals had prepared all sorts of awesome appetizers, which we enjoyed on the porch. After eating them, we decided we really didn’t need to go to dinner as we were full. Instead, we took an evening boat ride with captain Mary until the sun set. The evening was so lovely it was hard to go inside.
Then that night we played Catch Phrase. We had fun laughing when certain words stumped all of us.
The next day at breakfast, Kuntzie showed us her new mug, that has a holster and mini flask attached to it, perfect for making her Irish coffee or slipping another libation into her hot drink. Then we tidied up for Mary before heading out for a hike to Hemlock lake in the Mission Mountains. Again, who caught us, this time on the trail? Syd! She came up behind Mary and really gave her a start.
After about three and a half miles of walking through young trees that have sprouted since the 2003 burn, we arrived at the gorgeous Hemlock lake, but again, a few of us were flagging due to the heat. This eight-mile hike is Mary’s favorite in the area. It was so great that she shared it with us, a pretty cirque with views of the both the Swan and Mission Range, which still have much snow on the peaks.
The only bad thing about this hike is the road into it. It is rough with many branches that can scratch your car.
Then it was time to say goodbye after eating a few leftovers and stopping for Ice Cream in Seeley. We arrived home around 6:30 p.m.
GiG Visits Three Major Falls on Combined Trip with Canadians
Five of us began our drive from Great Falls around 6:30 am, arriving in Browning for a quick refueling stop and “refreshing” break. We had quite a discussion about the new gas station scam going on at the pumps!! With that in hand, Sue prepaid for gas “ínside” as a precaution which means that the driver must guesstimate “how much” to buy in advance- not such an easy task!!! We headed up Duck Lake Road to the east side of the park and were pleasantly surprised to enter Glacier without having to wait too long in line. We arrived at the Sunpoint parking lot right on time and found 2 carloads of Canadian hikers had just arrived!
We donned our gear, including ponchos for impending rainy skies, then the 16 of us headed down the trail to Sunpoint. We briefly enjoyed the panoramic views of Lake St. Mary (quite windy) before heading down the trail, under a canopy of trees, along the lake towards Baring Falls. Although there had been bears on the trail the previous week, the ranger reported that there had been no recent sightings of bear!! Yeah!
We stopped on the footbridge just before the falls came into view for a group picture. The Baring Falls continue to be a site to behold as one never tires of seeing it spill down over the rocky ridge for at least 25 feet. We continued our journey along the lake toward St Mary Falls enjoying glimpses of Virginia Falls from a distance. At one point, Kuntz stopped and pointed to a big black “thing” standing at the end of the lake along the shore remarking “ Is that a moose??”. None of us had binoculars so couldn’t really tell for sure.
On the way back along the lake , the big black thing was gone!! It must have been a moose!! We enjoyed a number of Wild Flowers along the way including: Mariposa Lily, Arnica, Wood’s rose, Indian Paint Brush, Glacier Lily, and Beargrass , to name a few. As St. Mary’s falls came into view, we were impressed with the beauty of the aqua green water pooling down below the falls and downstream of the bridge. Not too far before arriving at St, Mary Falls, Sue took a tumble ,having tripped over a tree root, but was able to land in such a way as to protect her finger that is healing in a splint!! Thanks to the ladies that supported her with wet wipes and bandaids.
We took a short break on the new bridge to enjoy the majesty of St Mary’s falls cascading down so powerfully. We headed up the trail to Virginia falls stopping briefly at the flat rocks that overlook the stream. Sue, Laura and Lavern recounted our first introduction of GIG and the Canadians . Laura and Lavern approached Sue at that very spot a few years ago and struck up a conversation ending in an introduction to Katie, our leader and the GIG. And… the rest is history of our collaborative hiking quests!!
We headed up the trail, enjoying un named cascading falls long the way until we reached Virginia Falls- a sight to see with its powerful 50 foot drop and sprays of water at the base like pouring rain- ponchos required unless one desires a shower!! We headed back down the trail to the flat rocks to enjoy some lunch together and a candy bar treat from the Canadians-delish!! We completed our hike back to the Sunpoint parking lot in the rain( around 3 pm) , said our goodbyes to the Canadians and headed out to Two Dog Flats Restaurant at Rising Sun camp area, for a late lunch.
During lunch there was a bear carousing outside the window near our table- it was a young bear cub that employees were corralling and moving away from the campground, across the road towards the lake. During our meal, we enjoyed the panoramic views of the peaks viewed from our table but alas, without Katie to assist, just couldn’t name those peaks! After more shopping, we headed home for Great Falls!! .
Who attended: Sue Michels, Sooz (Sue Oleary), Kuntz, Karen Spencer, Anita Gazerro.
Cracker Lake Shows Glacial Till on Cloudy Day; Not Usual Milky Aqua
The cow parsnip jungle enveloped us in mist up as we embarked on our hike to Cracker Lake on Saturday, July 28. Our intrepid hikers - Josy, Cathy, Anita, Sara, Susan, and Amy - left Great Falls at 5 a.m. and successfully managed to find parking spaces at the Many Glacier Hotel by 8 a.m., an impressive feat this time of the season, before jumping on the trail staying ahead of the first horse ride of the day.
Not accustomed to the high humidity, the dampness was noticeable on our way through the cool morning walk with perfect reflections of the mountains in Lake Sherburne. Even though it was cool we heated up on the trail, and Anita might have very well discovered her trail name, Steamy, as her glasses continually fogged despite her best efforts to keep them clear.
The least desirable section of the Cracker Lake trail is the potential to walk behind the horses since they tend to muck up the path in certain sections. Our early departure meant we were well ahead of them, so we enjoyed a decent trail only dodging puddles here and there from a recent, and much needed, rainstorm. On the switchbacks climbing the bulk of the 1400 Ft. in elevation gain, we played leap frog taking turns in the lead allowing people to rest, if needed, as well as to give everyone a chance to talk. Crossing the rock slide a couple of miles into the hike, Anita spotted a Boreal toad with its distinct white stripe down its back, which was quite a find since they are a species of concern in Montana. That was our most impressive wildlife sighting of the day.
One feature we noticed as we walked along the creek was the cloudiness of the water. We weren’t sure if it was silt from the recent rainstorm, but Cathy noted it had not been that color in previous visits. Crossing the bridge at Canyon Creek was a challenge only because the trail leading to the bridge was sketchy. One path went up and around an enormous boulder, and the better way (at least on the walk in) appeared to be picking our way on rocks through the creek. After successfully maneuvering this obstacle, we gained more elevation through thick vegetation where many of us called out to let bears know we were passing.
Soon the subalpine vistas opened and we enjoyed the beautiful views of Cracker and Siyeh Mountains making up the wall behind, as well as the spectacular scenery of the valley behind us. The initial view into Cracker was gorgeous with perfect reflections of the mountains and snow in the water. The color wasn’t what we expected since the milky hue of the stream obviously originated at the lake, which was also more of a cloudy color and not the vibrant blue/green of Cracker Lake’s reputation. We suspect the difference was due to the melting of nearby snow fields because when Josy and I (Amy) hiked to the other side of the lake to explore the mining ruins, the inlet was the same milky color as the stream. Normally, the rock flour reflects the sunlight giving the water the surreal appearance, but there was obviously hit the saturation point with the recent run off to allow the blue-green light waves to be reflected from it.
When we reached the lake, our goal (after a stop at the somewhat catty-wonker outhouse) was to lunch upon the rocky outcropping. After a bite, Josy and I hiked to check out the remains of the brief mining escapade of the late 1897 where copper was supposedly discovered on the south end of the lake. This creating a flurry of activity as prospectors carved a “road” along Canyon Creek hauling in the enormous steam boiler and tens of tons of gear required to set up the operation with a saw mill and equipment to process the ore. Josy noted the extreme heaviness of just the small door on the boiler, so it’s mind-boggling to consider the effort required to bring back everything. The poor horses and mules! There’s also a 1300 ft. deep mine dug into the hillside, although we couldn’t find it. Talking to others who’ve been back there, it sounds like it was beneath the snowfield a couple of hundred yards behind the iron ruins.
One question that arose during the hike is how Cracker Lake got its name. According to the legend, supposedly the prospectors who found the copper deposit left a tin of crackers in some rocks at lunch, but could not find them upon their return. This led to calling it, “The Lake where they left the crackers,” and subsequently Cracker Lake.
It’s difficult to envision a mining operation at the end of this pristine lake, but we have to remember the early visions for the potential of this area weren’t focused on recreation. Before the park was established, optimum use of the natural resources was the primary goal, whether through mining, logging, hunting, or agricultural. And during this period of 1898 to 1902 when the mine at Cracker Lake was a reality, the small town of Atlyn, replete with a post office as well as several saloons, was thriving during its brief existence. Named for David Greenwood Atlyn, one of the backers of the mine and namesake to Atlyn Peak, the remaining buildings are now under the waters of Lake Sherburne when the valley filled in 1921 after the construction of the dam.
Once we regathered at the big rock, we left at 1:15 at a brisk walk in an attempt to stay ahead of the 2 horses at the lake. We had a few slips at Canyon Creek on other side of the bridge, and 3 of us squeezed up and over the large rock on the bank. We went back and forth following or passing the horses for a short time, until near the end when we let them go by for the remainder of the walk. The trail was undoubtedly in rougher from the horse traffic on the way back, but it was good to see mud at the end of July.
We arrived back at the parking lot a quarter before 5 p.m. and made a beeline to the hotel for a potty break and bite to eat -- as well as some delicious huckleberry margaritas for a couple of the ladies -- before heading back to Great Falls. We made it home by 9 after a wonderful day on the trail!
Who went: Josy, Susan, Kuntz,Sara, Anita, Amy
Oh My, Bears, Moose, Foxes Highlight Day in Many Glacier
Rain, Overboard, Crash, Laughs on Hiawatha Bike, Blackfoot Float
Check our completed hikes in the archives below or upcoming on our calendar.
Girls in Glacier and Katie Kotynski