Saturday, July 28, 2012

Glacier National Park Day 2


Waking early the second day I set my mind to issues of immediate importance. Breakfast and hot coffee. Camping is just about the only situation that demands I consume coffee to function as a human being. It's a spirit lifter in those early hours after waking from a less then comfortable sleep in a tent.

Charged by my morning meal my task of the day took the forefront. Rearranging my hiking schedule I decided that this day should be dedicated to climbing Mount Brown. Climbing a mountain, thats not something we all do every day, unless there is an odd mountaineer reading this, in which case, kudos friend.

In a strict sense I wasn't exactly "climbing" a mountain as it is seen traditionally. I would be hiking a trail up the shallowest approach, but don't read that as being easy. This is still a 4,500 ft ascent over 5 miles. The grade varies but is always climbing, which puts enormous stress on the body over the length of the hike. Whats more, afterward a 4,500 ft descent awaits.

There's an emotional response to conquering a summit that has always intrigued me. That burst of joy and relief that overcomes oneself upon taking those last few weary steps to the peak, almost impossible to describe to one who has not experienced it themselves, almost saddening to think there are those that don't know it.

As silly as the whole ordeal feels in the moment of worst fatigue and stress during the ascent, I'll still keep climbing mountains. They present themselves along with the clouds in those lofty reaches which keep my eyes transfixed. A challenge to my soul, a path to the great reaches that I can embark upon with my own two legs.

As John Muir famously said, "The mountains are calling, I must go."

Aqua Saxa

Edwards Mountain

Mount Brown Summit

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Glacier National Park Day 1

Glacier National Park in Montana has always eluded description for me. Its one of those places that truly challenges me both in the literary and the photographic context. The beauty of the place is so great that it can cause pain to one's senses, an overload of sensory input that can only be nullified by slowing life down and taking every thing in at a meditative pace. I can take thousands of photos of Glacier, and not one will ever truly express the emotion of that world. Love is the closest description that I have to express my true feelings of that heavenly place.

Glacier itself is a rather inhospitable area. A natural fortress of great mountains, spanning valleys, raging rivers, and wild animals. Its this inhuman element that draws one in, that feeling of the good days of adventure and wilderness. For only about two months in the year is the full 700 miles of trails in the park even accessible, and even then its hit and miss. Snow packs in the upper elevations persist well into August, and the thousands of avalanche chutes spawn great fields of berries which attract hundreds of bears. Traveling on foot through Glacier is not to be taken lightly.

For my second trip to Glacier I came armed with the lessons I had learned through experience. The goal for this year was the "less is more attitude". When hauling 10 lbs of camera equipment throughout the park, it became essential to cut down on the rest of my gear, to keep weight to a minimum. A small pack and only the most essential survival items accompanied my camera and tripod into the trails. Ever present along with my camera on my belt was my ready can of bear spray, which thankfully has reached the end of its two year usable life without need for use. This year I added a new tool to the mix with a Garmin 62S GPS. Although the trails in the National Parks are usually well marked and easy to follow, it is a very useful survival tool in the event of misfortune. It will also find much use on the less properly marked trails I travel on shorter trips throughout the Inland Northwest.

My days were filled with driving, foot travel, and photography. As such I did not keep a journal of sorts. Still, I will publish a series of blog entries sorted by days in the park, will small entries of my memories from those days.

The first day in the park was filled with bad luck. All that needs to be said is that it was encountered, and I made a determined effort to endure through it, and this was surpassed. I settled in Apgar for the first few days, and decided that after the travel and the late start on the day, a short hike would be good. To this end I chose Avalanche Lake from my list of planned trails. This is a short 2.2 mile hike up a creek bedded valley to the mountain lake. Its very popular with tourists, so of course was crowded. While this is annoying it also makes the trail much safer to travel on. After the hike to the lake I relaxed in Apgar and waited for the setting sun to set up the light across the lake on the Lewis Range, one of the most picturesque views of the west side of the Divide. I went to bed early this night, exhausted from a long day of road travel and hiking, determined to be ready for the challenge of the second day's hike.

 Avalanche Falls
Avalanche Creek Falls

 Avalanche Lake

Lake McDonald

Lewis Range across Lake McDonald