Fantastic Florence Falls Dominates Water Features; Flowers Fascinate
The bear grass lamps lit our way down the trail (Roni quote) as the large white flowers bordered each side of our path most of the way to Florence Falls.
Our day started at 5:30 a.m. and we arrived at St. Mary Falls trailhead at 8:35 to pick up Marta and then continued to Jackson/Glacier overlook to meet Madelon to make our numbers eight for the day. We hite the trail at just before 9 a.m. and finished our 10.5 mile day at 4 p.m.
The trail heads straight downhill for about a mile before leading to Deadwood Falls, our first stop of the day, where we enjoyed a break watching the spilling cascade of water from the safety of the large red rocks along the edge. We climbed down the rocks, getting numerous vantage points of this canyon-type falls that is similar to Avalanche gorge, particularly in the fall.
From the falls, we continued on to the Reynolds Creek campground, which required crossing a hanging bridge. This campground is the place where the 2015 fire of the same name started.Here, we wandered through the campground to more cascades. The camp does have a pit toilet and horse area.
At this junction, we said goodbye to Gail and Jo Ann, who wanted a more leisurely pace. They took the cut-across trail to go to St. Mary Falls and then back to Going to the Sun Road to catch the shuttle back to the car while we continued on to the gigantic Florence Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the Glacier Park.
Along the way, we encountered tons of moose country terrain: beaver dams and willow ponds, but we didn't see any moose today, just dropping and hoof prints. Some folks on the trail said they saw moose at Gunsight Lake, but we wouldn't be traveling that far We also didn't see the bear that was frequenting the area; however, we did run into two parties who did. They both confirmed it was a black bear.
When we reached the falls, we were amazed at how much water was spilling down the rocks. The falls is so large, that it is hard to see the top portion unless you bushwhack up a climber's trails, which both Madelon and Katie did.
After a nice lunch at the falls, we hit the trail again, this time in some real heat. We drank a ton of water but still some of us ran out, having to refill our bottles when we hit Reynolds Creek and the hanging bridge again. This time, instead of returning the way we came, which would require a mile of uphill travel, we took the cut-across to St. Mary's trail. This trail travels through the burn and, boy, did we see the wildflowers in this stretch, particularly, lance-leaved groundsel, arnica, and fireweed. We also saw willowherb, larkspur and harebells.
We did see some unusual flowers: Rock Harlequin--Pale Corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens)--and tons of mountain hollyhock. We all said we had never seen so many before. Both of these flowers were in the burn area along St. Mary Lake.
After our hike, Marta gave Madelon and Katie a lift back to their cars and then Madelon and Marta continued up Logan Pass to their homes in Eureka and Essex while Katie turned around and picked up the east-side gals, who ate at Two Dog Flats Cafe at Rising Sun before returning to Great Falls at 9:15 p.m.
On another note, Maria made her first long hike and Debbie joined GiG for the first time.
Who went: Marta, Madelon, Debbie, Maria, Gail, Jo Ann, Roni, Katie