It’s not often we get three-day weekends together, and Julia and I didn’t really have anything special planned for this one. Selling her Donkey Girl stuff at the Saturday Market every week has taken a lot of mobility out of our summer, but it’s been for a good cause. So we decided Saturday afternoon that we would get up very early Sunday and drive up to Glacier National Park for the day. So that’s what we did! It’s only about 2.5 hours or so to get there, and the drive is just gorgeous pretty much all the way there, as the highway curves around the magnificent Flathead Lake.
We were on the road by 6 AM (on a Sunday?!), headed north. We hoped to get there early enough to see some wildlife. It promised to be a sunny day, as the morning was gorgeous, particularly as the sun was rising behind the Mission Mountains. We didn’t stop, but got into the park and headed straight up the Going to the Sun Road to the visitor’s center at Logan Pass. That road is quite a climb, with breathtaking views and vertigo-inducing depths over the edge of the very curvy, very narrow road.
They have these old restored shuttles you can actually ride in if you want; they leave from various campgrounds and visitor centers along the way up. One of these times I’d like to do that. They are pretty cool, and run on propane.
From the parking lot at the top we spied our first critters — several bighorn sheep were sunning themselves on the slopes not far away. I was able to zoom my camera in for a couple decent shots.
There was a bit of a wind, and it was chilly — I doubt it was even 40 degrees. Clouds were gathering and we weren’t really geared up for much of a hike, but we decided to set out along the Highline Trail anyway, just until we decided to turn around.
In the grasses bordering the trailhead there were a bunch of these little fellas dashing about and chowing down. Pretty sure this little bastard is a Columbian Ground Squirrel.
The clouds were rolling in, and the sun disappeared.
We had jackets, and I had my trail running shoes on, but Julia was in jeans and some Chuck Taylor knockoffs; not the best hiking gear. Game as always, though, she kept right on going and didn’t complain a single time, even when we had to cross watery stretches along the trail.
We saw several mountain goats as well, quite a distance up slope, and too far even for my camera’s zoom. We had binoculars with us, so we still got to check them out.
Before long the sleet was coming down pretty heavy. Parts of the trail have a good drop off the side; one stretch even has a cable anchored to the rock wall to hang onto if one needs to. I was negotiating down a little stair-like arrangement of rocks, looking up the path of some water for more wildlife, when a misstep landed me on my ass. My catlike reflexes saved me from falling over the cliff, though, and if Julia pointed and laughed she did so without me seeing it (lucky for her). I bonked my elbow pretty good; a lesser man would have lost the use of his arm, no doubt about it.
The sun came out in spots, then would disappear again. At times we could just barely see the surrounding peaks. It was a little eery, but also very cool.
There were quite a number of other folks out on the trail. Many of them were geared up for extensive backcountry hiking and camping, it appeared. Julia and I probably looked like the Clampetts out there. Then again, my jacket displayed the Patagonia logo, so maybe not. You know what’s kind of pathetic? I realized as I was thinking about it I was wearing Patagonia shoes, socks, chonies, shorts, and jacket. And a hat, but I’d left that in the truck. Hey, what can I say, I like their stuff and it lasts a long time. And before you even think about getting all lippy with me about being some kind of Patagonia fag, keep in mind that it is a Patagonia hat very similar to mine that Sylvester Stallone is wearing during a significant stretch of The Expendables.
So if you have a problem with my friggin’ gear choices, take it up with Sly, you dig?
All in all, we did maybe a modest three or four miles. We got back a little wet and chilled, and it was snowing/sleeting pretty hard — all the surroundings were covered with white. It was still a lot of fun, and we wonder why, given it’s so close, we don’t visit more often. We will certainly rectify that.
I hope everyone had a chance to have some fun and get some fresh air over the Labor Day Weekend as well!