Glacier-Waterton Trip, Part II: Many Glacier Area (July 11-17)

[continued from Part I]

After our quick stop at the St Mary Lake boat dock, we drove on east, exiting the Park at little village of Saint Mary, where our phones had some cell coverage again. We checked our messages, topped off our gas tank, then turned north on Highway 89 and enjoyed the all-new scenery on the less-than-hour-long drive to the Many Glacier entrance, just outside Babb, Montana.

Our route from Rising Sun Motor Inn to the Many Glacier Hotel

As we re-entered Glacier National Park, we were greeted with stunning views of Lake Sherburne, and the views kept getting bigger and better as we approached our destination.

Lake Sherburne with Lupine and Indian Paintbrush

Soon we approached the waterfall just below Swiftcurrent Lake and the Many Glacier Hotel, and we couldn't resist walking out to take in the powerful, multi-tiered Swiftcurrent Falls.

Lower section of Swiftcurrent Falls

Susan looking down on the upper section of Swiftcurrent Falls

As we left the falls, we made the left turn to the Hotel and were just stunned by the setting of the Hotel on Swiftcurrent Lake!

Panorama with Susan looking at Many Glacier Hotel

Susan managed to score four nights here and though we were arriving around 1pm, she checked with the desk and we got an early check-in! We hauled our luggage and gear to our room and then we wandered around the huge hotel, appreciating the views from the great room and deck, finding the lounge and restaurant, and then decided to drive another mile to the end of the road where we found the Many Glacier campground, across from the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, restaurant, and general store.

We stopped in at the ranger station to get info on hiking and learned that one of the hikes we wanted to do, Iceberg Lake, had a bridge washed out, but a temporary bridge was being erected that day, so we should still be able to do the hike.

We went back to our room and took a nap before doing anything else. Then we took it easy around the lodge, as Susan discovered her ankle was hurting, probably from our two hikes the day before, one of them on ice and snow.

Taking it easy in Many Glacier Hotel

Later we attended a ranger program on moose that evening at the Campground. It was one of many programs we attended at Many Glacier. They were all good, and they all started out with safety, specifically bear safety, and so we finally purchased some bear spray for our hiking.

The signs kind of get your attention :-)

We had a nice dinner at the Many Glacier restaurant and went to bed fairly early, as Mike wanted to get up and photograph the moon setting and the early morning light on the lake.

Pre-dawn moon setting over Swiftcurrent Lake

Early morning at Swiftcurrent Lake

View from the Hotel deck with Chief Two Guns heading out from the dock on Swiftcurrent Lake

After Mike got back, we had breakfast, and then took a little drive back out toward the Two Medicine area, driving on a road that was part of our desire to "circumnavigate" this part of Glacier.

Another view of Lake Sherburne on our morning drive

Panorama of Lower Two Medicine Lake on our morning drive

As we drove back in, we got a good look at bear not far off the road. He was busy eating berries, and though he looked up a couple of times at us, we were far enough away that he showed no interest in us.

Cinnamon Black Bear eating berries

On the way back from our drive we stopped at the Saint Mary Visitor Center to catch the Park movies, one of which was about the major road repair project being done on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Bighorn Sheep moms with their babies at the Hotel

That evening we attended another ranger program, this one by seasonal ranger and Park ornithologist Dave Benson who also happens to be a professor of biology at Marian University in Indiana. All of the ranger talks were very good, but this was our favorite. Part of his talk involved bear safety, and his story of the fierceness of shrews and his advice on talking loudly on the trail to alert bears to your presence had us chanting "look out shrew, coming through!" for the remainder of our hikes. :-)

Susan's ankle was still giving her a little trouble, so we decided to take an easy hike the next day in combination with a boat tour. We would catch a boat to the end of Swiftcurrent Lake, then a quarter mile walk to catch another boat at Lake Josephine, which took us across the lake for a hike to Grinnell Lake. All easy, scenic and flat.

Heading out on the boat to the Grinnell Lake hike

On the boat ride across Lake Josephine 

The Morning Eagle, our ride across Lake Josephine

Suspension bridge just before Grinnell Lake

Mike on the bridge

Looking across Grinnell Lake

Hidden Falls, a short detour off the Grinnell Lake trail

After our Grinnell Lake hike we caught an afternoon ranger talk about glaciers in Glacier National Park. This one was by Bob Schuster, another long-time seasonal ranger. Very educational and good to hear the best definition of what a glacier is: 1) at least 25 acres; 2) permanent field of flowing/moving ice; and 3) at least 100 feet ice depth.

After that program we decided to rent a kayak at the little boat dock and paddle around a bit on Swiftcurrent Lake.

Many Glacier Hotel across Swiftcurrent Lake

iPhone panorama from our kayak

Looking back at Mike. No iPhones were harmed during this outing :-)

And after that, we returned to eat dinner and then attend a "hootenanny" put on by Many Park Hotel employees in the great room. They had some really talented musicians and singers and we really enjoyed this free concert.

And all our taking it easy was paying off, as Susan's ankle was feeling good enough to tackle the big hike we wanted to do here -- Iceberg Lake. The hike is about 10 miles round trip, with about 1275' of gain, finishing at Iceberg Lake at almost 6,100' elevation.

Map of our hike to Iceberg Lake

We started the hike fairly early, at first thinking we might join the ranger-led hike with Bob Schuster. But we got going early enough to strike out on our own.

On the way to Iceberg Lake

Lewis Monkeyflowers in the morning light

We are almost startled on the trail by a snowshoe hare. He allowed us to get pretty close before crossing to the other side of the trail and then approached us while we were watching. We got to observe him for at least 10 minutes while he munched on the vegetation along the trail.

Snowshoe Hare along the trail

On this trip we also saw a new mammal for us, the Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus). Regrettably, I didn't get a single decent image of this guy, even though we saw them everywhere! So the excellent image below is ©2005, David Mitchell.

Columbian Ground Squirrel

Along the Iceberg Lake trail

Mike at Ptarmigan Falls

Lower section of Ptarmigan Falls

Part of Ptarmigan Falls

Susan at the one-day old temporary bridge at Ptarmigan Falls

Mike along the Iceberg Lake Trail

Columbine along the trail

Aptly named Iceberg Lake

"Icebergs" and reflections on the lake

Us at Iceberg Lake

Glacier Lilies

Susan with Beargrass along the trail

Closeup of Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax)

Abundant wildflowers along the trail

The red and green rocks seen almost everywhere in Glacier are argillite, a sedimentary rock

Iceberg Lake was probably our favorite hike in Glacier National Park

When we returned from the hike we cleaned up and then went to see a concert by Jack Gladstone, a musician/storyteller. This was a really excellent performance. Jack was accompanied by his long-time multi-instrumentalist collaborator and producer, David Griffith (who used to play with Michael Martin Murphey), and also by his daughter, Mariah Gladstone. Mariah "translated" several songs with Plains Indian Sign Language, used by many tribes on the North American plains, long before Europeans traveled in North America. If you ever have a chance to hear Jack Gladstone, don't miss it!

So after another full day, we packed up our gear so we could head out of the Many Glacier area and drive up to the border to cross into Canada and Waterton Lakes National Park.

Continued in Part III...

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