Glacier National Park, Montana: 8/30 – 9/8/20

We finally made it Glacier National Park and learned that only the western side of the park was open. The eastern side featuring Many Glacier Valley Trails and Two Medicine Valley was closed due to Covid. All entrances on the east side of the park abut the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which was hit hard with Covid. Fish Creek Campground, located not far from the Apgar western entrance was the only campground that was open for the season, and it was full. We headed about 40 minutes south to Hungry Horse Reservoir and was able to find one of the last open sites at Lid Creek Campground.

Gotta love this sign!

A short two minute walk through the woods brings you to your own private beach.

The next morning, we got up early and headed for the park.

From the western entrance, we drove on “Going To The Sun” Road to St. Mary’s Lake. The road was blocked at Rising Sun parking area to prevent you from gaining any further access into the eastern side which was closed. We turned around and made some stops along the way back out of the park.

Looking at Wild Goose Island from the road.

Scott captured the above picture which is quite similar to the photograph appearing in the park’s map, except we had a cloudy day in a warmer season. Just sayin’.

Standing at the shoreline of Mary’s Lake. Goose Island is off to the far right.
Young people about to jump off Red Rock Point. Zoom in to see. They jumped immediately after I took this photo.

The next day we drove to Siyeh Bend/Pigeon Pass and began a 9.2 mile, 2,261’ elevation gain hike to Siyeh Pass . It turned out to be a very windy, adventurous day. Hope you enjoy our photos.

Here we are at the beginning of the hike. It was cloudy and a bit chilly.
Morning clouds
The first two miles of the trail meandered in and out of dense tree areas, with limited elevation gain.
It would be here that we would make some noise, cough, and even talk to the bears that may be hiding in the greenery.
Eventually, the trail opened up to reveal a stream.
Just past the stream and above tree line, it completely opened up on both sides of the trail.
Minutes before this photo, a Grizzly momma and her cub came strolling across the trail about 100 yards away.
You can see them off in the distance.
Scott was able to zoom in to capture a photo of the two bears. Zoom in to see the mother’s telltale hump.

It was at this point in our hike that I began to hyperventilate. I didn’t want to get any closer to grizzlies. As much as we both wanted to get to the pass, we both knew that it was possible that the momma bear would turn around and come back in our direction. So, we turned around to abort the hike. Fortunately or unfortunately, we ran into a family of five from Chicago. They had been in the park hiking for the last few days. Today, they planned to hike to the pass and then turn back around to the parking lot at Siyeh Bend where they/we had started. We warned them of the bears, but they decided to continue on with their hike. They asked if we wanted to join them, and we did. For me, it’s less scary when you are hiking in a large group. As we continued up the trail, we all enjoyed watching the two bears from afar. All of a sudden, a LARGE grizzly male was barreling down the mountain from the right, and he crossed the trail at about the same point as the previous bears had. We watched him for a while, and then collectively decided to continue up the trail to the pass. The views at the pass were simply breathtaking.

A non-selfie photo gives such a better angle.

Our group of eight took turns taking multiple photographs of the beauty surrounding us. At this point, we had two options. Option A: Go back down the way we came in order to return to our vehicles, which would mean the possibility of running into the bears again. Option B: Continue on the trail to Sunrift Gorge, which would require us to hitchhike for a ride back to our vehicles. All of a sudden, our new friend, Pat, came quickly from around the bend to tell us that the male grizzly was back on the trail just around the corner.

Here he comes!

The decision had been made. We all started to move quickly down the switchbacks until the bear came into sight. We froze and began to make a lot of noise.

Thankfully, the bear didn’t come towards us. He meandered his way down the mountainside far enough away where we felt safe enough to continue down the trail. That was the end of our bear-sighting for the day! We are glad that we ended up not turning around since the scenery continued to enthrall us.

Another glacier on the horizon.
Approaching that glacier at almost eye level.
View of glacier from below.
Glacier run-off. Great spot for lunch.
Remains from a fire in 2015 when 4,311 acres were affected.
Nearing the end of the hike near Going-To-The-Sun-Road and Mary’s Lake.

On Saturday, we took our last hike at Glacier NP. We took Loop Trail to Granite Park Chalet to Highline Trail to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint. We gained 3,400’ in elevation over the course of this 11.6 mile hike, and we didn’t see any grizzlies. This could be because some of the hike was a bit overcrowded.

The start of the hike. It is already pretty warm outside for 7:30 a.m.
A young girl was walking alone ahead of us.
You can see Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint off to the far right. It would be a while before we got there.
There is a group kitchen on the ground floor and a few rooms for sleeping upstairs.
This four-room chalet offers sleeping accommodations only. Shared restrooms are outside.
Highline Trail towards Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint
Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint

Hopefully, we will have an opportunity in the future to return to Glacier National Park to explore the eastern side. Until then, goodbye Montana. It was nice to finally see you. Next stop, Idaho!

Big Sky, MT: 8/26 – 8/29/20

I always thought that my first time in Big Sky, MT, would be to downhill ski – not happening in August. From Little Big Horn, we traveled north west on Hwy 90 to Bozeman, MT, and then south on Hwy 191. We had a reservation at Moose Creek Flat Campground, which is located about fifteen miles from Big Sky Ski Resort on Hwy 191, parallel to the Gallatin River.

Although there weren’t any trees for shade by the camper, there were trees along the river’s edge just behind us.

We took a drive to Big Sky Resort. I bet it looks a bit different in the winter.

The resort was open for biking and hiking, and one restaurant was also open with outdoor dining up on the deck. Masks were required while on the premises. Notice the “Yield” sign for bikes.

The next day we hiked Lava Lake Trail. The trailhead was less than 10 miles from our campground just off Hwy 191.

This 5.7 mile round-trip hike began with a steep upgrade. I was out of breath less than fifteen minutes into the hike. Can you tell?

There were many switch-backs, two creek crossings, and one foot bridge. Scott was eating the thimbleberries, but I wouldn’t. How did he know if it was poisonous or not?

It’s 1,629’ elevation gain brings you to a beautiful, clear lake.

On Friday, we returned to the ski mountain and hiked 7.24 miles round-trip. It took us just over eight hours to complete. Total elevation gain was 3,618’. The last mile was the killer in my opinion. The talus and scree made it tricky to climb up the steep mountain, but even scarier to climb back down. Below are some highlights.

The beginning of our hike on Huckleberry Trail. It was a bit chilly and windy at 7:00 a.m
Soon, the trail began to weave into the wooded area.
At 1.5 hours in, we began the steep climb to the summit. Notice the “Caution” sign. Maybe someday we will ski this black diamond run. Today we are going in the opposite direction!
Taking a breathing break not ten minutes later. Where is the summit????
A little bit of a reprieve with a flattening of the scree for a short while. We are 2.5 hours into the hike.
Thirty minutes later, the steep incline begins and doesn’t stop. Look at the view behind us!
Eleven minutes later, I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful wildflowers that are not visible in the winter. We are so close now!
This view would normally be a sea of white. Looks a lot different today.
We made it to the summit! The top of the gondola is on the right. It took us four hours to reach this summit.
We hope to be back someday to ski one of these diamonds!
Zoom in to see the beginning of the gondola dead center. It is hard to tell from a picture just how steep this section of the mountain is.
Other than hiking, the gondola is the only access to Big Sky Lone Mountain’s Summit.

The descent took us the same amount of time. I felt safer hiking up than hiking down. The scree was lose and slippery. Although Scott felt that this was a really good hike with a fun ridge line, I will ONLY return to this summit via the gondola. For the record, I said that this would be my last summit. We finally made it back to the base of the mountain. I looked back to see the summit of what we just hiked. See for yourself in the photo below.

Almost the end of Huckleberry Trail

Next stop, Glacier National Park!

Little Big Horn National Monument, MT: 8/25 – 8/26/20

We finally made it to Montana! This was a first for me, and Scott hadn’t been here since he was a kid. We took 90N all the way up until we reached the border of Wyoming.   Little Big Horn National Monument is located in southern Montana. 

This National Monument “memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life.  Here in the valley of the Little Bighorn River on two hot June days in 1876, more than 260 soldiers and attached personnel of the U.S. Army met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.  Although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the military’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.”  This was just the beginning of the struggle.  They eventually were granted, by treaty, a large area of eastern Wyoming as a permanent Indian reservation.  That only lasted until gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and then they were told to get out of there, too.  There are many Indian reservations all throughout the west, but they are not in areas where the Indians wanted to be.  The white man kicked them out.  Disgusting.  We stood on a once battlefield and read about the historical events that occurred many years ago.  You can almost picture the brutal scene with many dead bodies and horses strewn across the land.  It almost doesn’t seem real.  

Our half-way point to Glacier National Park brought us to Columbus, Mt.  It is a small town of about 2,000 people.  Itch-Kep-Pe Park, is a city park that runs the entire length of the town, nestled in between the railroad tracks and the downtown shops.

On the other side of the town is the Yellowstone River.  The park is completely free-of-charge, however there is a five-day limit for campers.  There is also a “donation box” to support the upkeep of the park.  It was high in the mid-nineties when we got settled.  Scott blew up our Lipton inner tubes and we walked about 1,000 steps from our campsite to the Yellowstone River.  First we took a dip, and then we floated on the refreshing water.  Then, we walked back on the rocky shore to our starting point. 

There were brown and bright, green flogs and tons of grasshoppers frolicking around. 

That evening, the temperature dropped to the low sixties, and it was even a bit chillier in the morning.  Not a bad place to break up the driving. Next stop, Big Sky, Montana!