Two Groups Tackle Ten Miles, Views, Bears, Sheep, Shuttles
With no shuttles stopping at Siyeh Bend or Sunrift Gorge this year (and no one really wanting to go on a shuttle due to COVID Delta variant spiking), our group had to think of other logistics for doing a walk-though hike from Siyeh Bend to Sunrift Gorge. So Katie thought of her husband and his friend walking in the opposite direction and doing a key exchange. Then the friend couldn't make it but Madelon stepped in. She wanted to go at a faster pace, so said she would go with Tom.
Then one gal being exposed to COVID complicated everything some more; with Katie just coming off 14-day quarantine not wanting to do it again, she decided to hike with her husband Tom the hard way with lots of elevation gain. Then Madelon questioned her abilities to keep up with Tom, coming off COVID herself, so Katie suggested we just form two groups and both hike the easier way. Dang COVID!!
Anyway, Katie was determined to make this hike happen, so that both Suzie and Bonnie could hike this trail for the first time. Bonnie had tried for years, but she could never fit the hike in. We wanted it to happen.
So the GF gals all headed out of town at 5:15 a.m. with Madelon coming from Eureka, Suzie from Lake Five and Laurie from East Glacier. With stops at Conrad and St. Mary Visitor center, we arrived at 8:15 at Sunrift Gorge to see the other three had already arrived. Parking was already at a premium with cars lined up at the entrance, so we quickly drove to Siyeh to find a space, which both Doreen and Madelon did.
Then Katie, Tom, Madelon and Laurie took off quickly as they wanted to get home early for family arriving later in the day. This group planned to hike a fairly fast pace. Bonnie in the other group had a blister on her toe from her hike in Two Medicine earlier in the week, so she had to work on that before the hike.
At the beginning of the hike, we marveled at the stromatolite formations in the rock along Siyeh Creek. Katie's group came upon garbage right away, with Laurie picking it up and putting it in Tom's pack, including a pink mylar balloon she had to downclimb through bushes to get. We could barely see the top of her head while she was retrieving it.
We stayed ahead of the crowds, although one couple passed us, and we could see two other parties ahead of us on the trail. We stopped briefly at the pond in Preston Park, looking for animal tracks and flowers. We were surprised to see quite a variety of flowers for this time of year, mixed into the changing colors of fall, along with elderberries, currants, and a few remaining hucks.
As we climbed, Tom spotted two grizzly bears headed down to the ponds just over the saddle. One looked to be either a two-year-old or yearling following mama. Luckily, they were a long way off.We looked down to see if we could see the other party, but we could not.
When we arrived at the top of Siyeh, there was one other party there and two other came up when we sat down to eat part of our lunch. It was a bit early, just after 11, so we saved some for later.
As we headed down, we gorgeous lighting and colors were in our faces, giving us eye candy all the way; but the haze from the Idaho and California fires was coming in with each hour. Still, the walk down was gorgeous. We happened upon a solo female hiker coming up from Sunrift. We asked her what her plans were. When she told us of the monster loop she planned to do, some 19 miles, we discouraged her as she was getting such a late start. Not ten minutes later, she turned around. Then we happened upon some sheep, ewes and lambs, which delighted us. We also took pleasure in seeing Sexton and Piegan glaciers, but noticed the alligator mouth of Piegan was losing his lower jaw. In fact, most of the permanent snow patches had dried out this year, leaving little to fill the ponds, with some even empty. At this point, two trail runners came racing by.
This hike goes down, down, down, through the Reynolds fire from a few years ago, leaving no shade as the day wears on. We took a rest at the waterfalls, about a mile from the end and ate the rest of our lunches. At the falls and beyond, we saw tons of bear rototilling; we often see bears in this section, but we didn't today.
We arrived back at the car at just after 3 and drove Madelon back to hers and Doreen's back to Sunrift while Laurie headed back to East Glacier. We should have had Laurie hold our place as Going to Sun Road was a mob scene even at 3:30, so we had trouble finding parking.
Katie and Tom arrived home at 6:15, while Bonnie and Suzie's group at 9:15. They stopped for dinner along the way and got off trail around 4:30. Side note: Susan's knee bent funny when she got up from sitting and bothered her the last few miles, as it has been all summer.
Flowers: Rock willow, potentilla/cinquefoil, harebells, Indian paintbrush, fringed grass of Parnassus, showy aster, pearly everlasting, fireweed, columbine
Who went: Katie, Laurie, Madelon; Bonnie, Suzie, Doreen, Susan, Sue