After watching the (not so friendly) weather forecasts, The decision was made to go for Plan B. Christi, June, Anita, Roni, and Deb met in St. Mary to begin the adventure. We checked into the River House at the Red Eagle Motel. A spacious 5 bed, 2 bathroom living space with a full kitchen. (It would be a great place to come back to!). We decided to do some hiking before dinner. A short hike from Sunrift Gorge to Bering and St. Mary Falls was the perfect way to spend the evening. We even saw a moose. We dined on a delicious meal at the St. Mary Lodge. Attempting to get a good night sleep, we headed to bed only to be awakened in the middle of the night by a horrific thunderstorm. This confirmed our Plan B, and after a quick breakfast, we headed to the trailhead at Lake McDonald Lodge.
The trip over the Going to the Sun allowed us to see a herd of Elk along the way. We were on the trail shortly before 8. After shedding many layers of clothes, it was much drier and warmer than anticipated, we hike up, up, up. We were able to see the Chalet for quite a while before we got to it. It was WAY above us! We chatted with other hikers on our way up. One group of ladies advised us that their friend, Beth, was already at the chalet. The informed us that Beth had written a book about the chalet. Making it up to the chalet in just under 4 hours, we enjoyed lemonade and water along with our lunches after we arrived.
After checking in, we decided to hike to the Lake Ellen Wilson overlook. We were joined by a delightful couple from Atlanta. As we hiked, our new tour guide was a mountain goat that wanted to walk along the trail as well. So, we took lots of pictures and followed him from a safe distance. We enjoyed the views and were amazed once again by the colors in the lake. We headed back in order to beat the storm that was coming. In our room, we warmed up, had some appetizers, snacks, and wine, and then headed for dinner. Our delicious Thanksgiving style dinner was highlighted by a wicked rain storm, the wood stove provided heat as well as back drafted smoke and fire, and the music of the night was provided by the smoke alarms. We were blessed with the company of Beth, the author, her two friends, and the couple from Atlanta. After dinner, we visited with some of the other guests and dodged the rain as we headed back to our room for the night.
After breakfast, we grabbed our lunches, our day packs, and headed out to see Sperry Glacier. The never ending trail went up, up, up once again. We got to see a marmot who posed for a few pictures, enjoyed amazing views and gorgeous waterfalls. Upon reaching the lakes on the way to the glacier, we found that we did, indeed, have cell phone signal. (We were told about that the night before.) After making a couple “You’ll never guess where I am” calls, we headed on up towards the staircase that leads over Comeau Pass. We later learned that the staircase was carved out in the 1940’s. Before that time, there was a ladder that hikers would use. We also found out, thankfully not through personal experience, that bears and mountain goats also use the staircase for easier passage. Following the trail markers, cairns, we climbed over rocks and crossed some snow to make it to the foot of the glacier. Thinking we had spotted a sign, we headed toward it. We found it was a weather station. We spent about an hour exploring the glacier and the rock formations and had lunch. We took picture of our feet on the glacier. We reluctantly left the glacier and headed back to the chalet. Our return trip was accompanied by the whistling of a few not so excited marmots. They never showed their faces, but they let us know they were not excited about our presence. It was a beautiful day. There was no wind, clear skies, and lots of sun.
We spent the afternoon on the deck enjoying the views and being enchanted by the stories of our new friend, Beth Dunnigan. Beth’s family started running the chalet when she was 9 years old. They still operate the chalets in the park. She told stories of being a child at the chalet, of leading unsure hikers to the glacier, of trying to use the old ladder instead of the stairs, of how the stairs have been improved through the years- from rope to cables for hand holds, of having to retrieve wallets that had fallen into the outhouse (gross), and more. Anita read her book, Welcome to Sperry Chalet, and Roni and Deb made arrangements to meet with her to get autographed books.
We enjoyed a delicious roast beef dinner. We were blessed to share the company of Beth and her friends once again. After dinner, some of us stayed to enjoy games and music during “coffee hour.” We learned to play “Five Crowns”, a card game. WIth the objective to end with the low score, June played an excellent game. However, scoring 171 points, Christi claimed victory anyway. With some musicians staying at the chalet, coffee hour sported a lively sing along as well. Thoroughly exhausted for the day, we headed to bed.
With everyone having plans for later on Saturday, we got ready to go before breakfast. We enjoyed our breakfast, grabbed our sack lunches, and headed back down the mountain. We had great hiking weather and a great experience. While the trip didn’t start the way we expected, we were all thrilled with the way the trip turned out!