Logistics and Larch Work Out; Both Are Beautiful!
It all started at 5:30 a.m. when the gals from Great Falls headed out for the trip to West Glacier. Despite missing the Valier cut off and travelling 10 minutes out of the way, we made good time and met Laura and Laverne from Alberta, Canada, in East Glacier Park just five minutes past our appointed time; after a quick stop at the Two Medicine Grill for some drinks, we messaged the gals from Kalispell, Essex and Eureka to say we were on our way, 55 minutes from West Glacier.
Despite some slow construction zones, we arrived at West Glacier within our 9-9:15 a.m. meet time, and all except one gal were already there, so we headed to the trailhead and started our hike at 9:35. (The other gal had cancelled and told one of the others).
The day was gorgeous from the start with a soft mist hanging low along the trunks of the golden larch and bright green young lodge pole pines, which were rejuvenating the area after the 2003 Roberts Fire. As we climbed, the views of the larch looked like waves of yellow among the lime greens of the firs and pines and the sienna browns of frozen ferns.
We saw moose tracks on the trail and looked down on ponds hoping to spy one, but no luck. However, we did see a deer at the lookout tower.
A few of the gals were wondering if they were in shape for the uphill, but all 11 did make it and in pretty good time although we did rest quite a bit. We arrived in under three hours and spent 40 minutes on top, enjoying the far-reaching, panorama views with our lunch. The vistas didn't disappoint: we saw deep into Glacier: the Garden Wall, Mount Gould, Clements, Reynolds, Heaven's Peak, Stanton and Cannon to name a few. Of course, Lake McDonald provided the best foreground to the mountains, with its deep blue surface and its shores painted golden with larch. And an amazing thing is that we didn't have any wind, so the 45-degree weather almost felt balmy. And another amazing thing is that we had Glacier to ourselves! Between the views and the peaceful solitude, we left the top reluctantly at 1:18 p.m.
The walk down and back to the cars took two hours. On our return, we came across four other parties on their way up, and we all said how lucky we were to have had the time at top without anyone else around.
For flowers, we were surprised to find a few survivors: pearly everlasting, harebells, and goldenrod. However, with all of the seeded fireweed, we imagine the hills are alive in pink earlier in the year.
At the parking area, we said our goodbyes: Jackie and Madelon heading back to Eureka, Tracy to Kalsipell, Marta to Essex, Laura and Laverne to Canada, and Cathy, Kathy, Katie, Mary and Gail to dinner at the Lighthouse in Valier and then on to Great Falls. We arrived home at 8:30 p.m., a half hour sooner than we expected.
A side note on Valier: the bartender-owner of the Lighthouse was a wood carver and had made a unique cowboy chess set as well as several other figurines. He showed us pictures of some of the statues he had commissioned around the state. His work was on display in a glass case between the restaurant and bar.
Who went: Laura and Laverne (Canada); Jackie and Madelon (Eureka); Tracy (Kalispell). Marta (Essex), Cathy, Kathy D, Gail, Mary and Katie (Great Falls).