Eight from Canada, six from Great Falls, one from Eureka and one from Rudyard--16 hiking-crazy gals met for an almost-December hike in Glacier National Park.
The drive in (GF group left at 6:30 a.m.) was gorgeous with alpine glow over the Rocky Mountain Front, a herd of over 60 elk in Two Dog Flats (where they usually hang out morn and eves), and two bald eagles in old snags along St. Mary Lake.
It was a bit chilly with an initial headwind, but we bundled up and headed out at about 10 a.m. after a quick group picture at the Rising Sun sign.
The lack of snow kept the hiking very easy, most of which was on the road anyway. The pavement did affect our hips and knees by the end of the hike, but what a hike it was. The snow-capped mountains stood out despite the rather gray day. We also enjoyed the reds and oranges of the willows and red Osier dogwood in stark contrast against the burn of the Reynolds Creek fire from a few years ago. And the ice crystals forming on the weeping walls and waterfalls were gorgeous.
Our "hike" took us first to the world famous Wild Goose Island overlook, for some the first time they had this normally popular, swarming-with-people place all to themselves. We snapped hundreds of photos before venturing on to the next point of interest: Sunrift Gorge, a very narrow slot canyon with Baring Creek running through it. Along the way, we saw coyote and wolf scat along with a lone moose's footprints in the little bit of snow remaining on the side of the road.
We took our pictures at the gorge, which had ice crystals and icicles forming along the canyon walls, and headed down the rather steep path to Baring Falls for our lunch. On the trail we saw evidence of digging, probably a bear, but we didn't see tracks.
Baring Falls was ice free, a bit of a surprise. We enjoyed eating at this peaceful place, again all to ourselves. Then we continued down the trail to Sun Point. We were hoping that the sun would peek out of the clouds by the time we arrived but it kept hidden. Still, this viewpoint is stunning: Divide Mountain in one direction and Fusillade and Citadel in the other. It was too cloudy to see Florence falls. Also, the spotting guide had been taken down for the winter, so a few of the mountains we couldn't identify as no one had brought a map.
Then it was back up to the road from the Sun Point area, a four-mile walk back to the cars bypassing Wild Goose Island once again. The wind was at our backs now, making us all feel a bit too warm. We really sped back to the cars, covering the four miles in just over an hour.
We didn't see any other wildlife other than the elk and eagles that we saw on the way in (except Madelon saw a badger on her way home), but the mountain views were pretty. The sun started shining as we got out of the valley area making them all the more beautiful against a blue sky.
It was now time to say goodbye to Madelon as she headed back to Eureka and the eight Canadian gals. The rest headed to Browning, where we then said goodbye to Ann as she went to Rudyard. The GF gals stopped in Valier for a quick bite at the Panther Cafe before heading to GF, the others already arrived at their homes. GF gals got back at 7:30, an hour earlier than expected.
Who went: Maria, Randi, Susan, Gail, June, Katie (GF); Madelon (Eureka); Ann (Rudyard); Carol, Pat, Kathy, LaVern, Laura, Linda, Sharon, Loural.