Sue's Group: Some Riding, Some Hiking, Fighting Heat and Smoke
Deb's Group: Stormy Days Challenge Gals
Beth and Suzie's Group
There was bustling around, grabbing a mug of coffee, and loading our packs and poles into Mick and Suzie’s vehicle. Thanks to Mick for making us coffee and for the fine repair job on Beth’s bladder. It held!! Now George was quite excited as he thought he’d get to go along. Mick arranged our packs in the back, and sure enough, there was room for George! With Beth at the wheel, we followed Mick as far as Lake McDonald where we left Beth’s vehicle for when we returned. With all four of us now in Taleff’s vehicle along with our chauffeur, Mick, we headed on up Going to the Sun road. George poked his head between Beth and Carol most of the way to the trailhead. They thought it was because George liked the loving and attention he was getting, but we were reminded that it was likely because George was a bit bent out of shape that we were sitting in his space! We arrived at the Jackson Glacier trailhead about 6:30, and readied ourselves to set out on the trail. We said goodbye to Mick and extended our appreciation for his kindness and help. George just looked with longing eyes, and then disappointed eyes when he realized he wasn’t going to get to go.
Off we were. After the rain the previous day, the foliage was wet, so we were glad we were wearing our rain pants. The forest smells were fresh and inviting. No smoke, but we did have low lying clouds for the first part of the hike. As the morning progressed, clouds moved in and out, lifted and then settled back some. All of this enhanced our views with such variety. There were many photo opportunities along the way, and the cooler temperatures were very welcome! Several hikers came towards us, and they reported it had been very rainy and cool the previous day. We were grateful that we didn’t have any rain this day. A single hiker passed us; we caught up with him at Gunsight Lake, which was as far as he was going. He asked where we were headed. When it was reported we were going to the Chalet, he asked how you get reservations there. He and his son had tried, and were very disappointed to be somewhere “around #13,000 on the list”, and then he clarified that was somewhat of an exaggeration. He was from someplace south, maybe Tennessee. We were concerned that he was hiking alone as we had many signs of the presence of bears.
We headed on to Gunsight Pass, frequently commenting on the beauty, the cool temperatures, the waterfalls coming down yonder mountainsides, (We believe there were more than 21!) and the lack of wind. At the pass, it was windy and cold. The hut was occupied by other hikers, so we hunkered on the non-windy side and ate a quick lunch. Then it was down the trail to the beautiful Lake Ellen Wilson, and again there was no wind. There were many moments of sunshine as the clouds moved in the distance, sometimes hanging on those mountain peaks. There were frequent notations on the beauty and appreciation of the geology! It’s helpful to have a science teacher along to explain some things to us. Thanks, Beth! The wildlife to this point: marmots, chipmunks, pikas, and ground squirrels - but no bears (only lots of scat and bear scents).
On up we went from the lake for our second big climb of the hike. The rocks became even more of a part of our discussion as we passed through boulder fields. We were making good time, and we checked off the miles with Amber being our recorder/reporter. At the pass, we saw our first distant view of Sperry Chalet! It was a first time for Amber and Carol; Beth and Suzie had been there previously. Then it was down to the Chalet with a very interesting lesson from Beth on the classifications of pebbles, cobbles, and boulders as we passed through some amazing boulders. Arrival at the Chalet allowed us time to check in, get out of our wet boots and socks, and settle in a bit prior to our 5:30 dinner seating.
After our dinner, the other GIG group who had hiked in the previous day arrived for their dinner seating. Hearing about their hiking in the wind, rain, and cold, we were grateful for what a perfect hiking experience we had had that day. After a long day, we all settled in quite early that evening.
We awoke to clouds the next morning. After a hearty breakfast, we prepared for hiking up to Sperry Glacier, but we weren’t in a big hurry as we anticipated the clouds would soon lift. As we waited, the pack train arrived, so we watched them do their unloading and loading. We were able to pet a horse and visit briefly with the pack workers as they did their thing. We remarked how much we appreciated their work - both human and animals.
Then we were off on our day’s hike. The clouds did lift as we proceeded. Views were amazing all day long. It was fascinating as we got up higher to see mountain peaks above the clouds. It was a perfect day with cool temperatures, much sunshine, and no rain. That morning, a gal named Stacy asked if we were going up to the Glacier as the people she had come up with weren’t going to hike that day, so she joined us. This allowed for some great photos with all 4 of us in them. At the top, were scampered and maneuvered our way over the open rock areas and around snow fields. Just an amazing experience with amazing views!! It is disappointing to know that we walked where the glacier used to be and is no more. As we calculated our time and the need to get back in time for dinner. Glorious views were offered all of the way back to the Chalet. This was the day of the goats!! All day long we encountered goats: on the trail, in the distance, up above us, and one even beat us up to the top when we went up the stairs in the crevice to get to the top! We were worried that he was going to follow us right up those stairs. Beth and Amber stayed up on top a little longer than the others of us so Beth could take more goat pictures and videos. They also reported seeing a couple of pairs of pikas.
At about 4:10, we encountered a hiker headed up who wanted to know if he was about to the top. He wasn’t, and 3 people who were in his party lagged behind him. We didn’t think they looked very prepared to go on up and then back out to Lake McDonald yet that day! It started to sprinkle as we returned to the Chalet just in time for dinner. By 6:00, it was raining. Of course, we wondered about the unprepared hikers (and not very wise). For certain, they would have been soaked and cold by the time they arrived at Lake McDonald at whatever hour that may have been.
After only about 11 miles that day and with a break in the rain, we sat on our deck (We had adjoining rooms.) to let our prime rib dinner settle as we visited, shared stories, and laughed a lot. It was a perfect day!
The next morning, we arose to rain and clouds. After breakfast, we packed and got on all of our rain gear. Another of our group of GIG gals had arrived the previous night, so we posed for photos outside the dining hall. Then, we were on our way down, hiking in the rain for about the first half of the trip. Clouds cleared, the sun shone, and we had glimpses of Lake McDonald ahead. After changing from our boots and into more comfortable clothes, we shopped in Apgar for a bit, and had something to eat at Eddie’s Cafe there. We would recommend the huckleberry cobbler and the huckleberry peach pie.
We enjoyed more conversation on our return trip to Great Falls with a brief stop in Valier. Suzie’s house was our first stop. Again, we loved on George, who was very glad to see Suzie, and we again thanked Mick for all of his support in making our trip possible. Off to Amber’s house, where we discovered that a critter had visited the bags of snack chips which had been left in the car when it was parked at Lake McDonald. We assume it was a mouse.
All in all, what a grand time for Beth, Amber, Suzie, and Carol!