A Day in Glacier
I've been struggling to find the proper words to describe my recent trip to Glacier National Park. I'm not the first person to visit the wonder mountains, the endless blue skies, the emerald color mountain lakes and the wild waterfalls. It was however, our first visit to this amazing place.
Here Comes the Sun
Morning came early on that first day in Glacier. Rays of warm sunlight streamed through our apartment window. I was relieved to see this sight. When we arrived in Glacier Airport the previous afternoon we landed in the middle of a monsoon. We didn't even get a chance to see the peaks of the mountains due to low cloud cover. So we were psyched when we realized it would be a sunny day. Quickly, we gathered what we needed for the day and began our journey through the West Gate of Glacier National Park.
Here Comes the Clouds
Unfortunately, the more we ascended the mountain road, the more clouds gathered around, through and over the mountains. Many Montanians would say "Of course that would happen, your climbing in altitude." Anyone who lives in around or on mountains would know this. On the other hand, I'm not from a mountainous area, I'm from the mountain less state of Ohio. No matter how many mountains I've visited, I still can't get used to the idea of mountains being so high they could possibly be obscured by clouds. But I digress, once we crossed into West Glacier, the sun began teasing us with bright areas that transitioned quickly into cloudy areas. We finally stopped at an overlook along McDonald Creek. While my daughter Catie and husband Chuck took in the creek I turned around and saw my first peak, Mount Brown. I created a series of photographs attempting to record the landscape laid out before me.
We continued as far east as we could travel on the Going to the Sun Road which was to Avalanche Lake. From this point to Jackson Glacier Overlook the road was closed due to a fresh layer of snow. The Avalanche Lake area was already bus, so we made it our turn around and we began winding our way back to the beginning. As we traveled, we'd stop at the overlooks we missed on our ascension. We stopped at an overlook that was about five miles from the entrance to the park. My family decided to stay in the car while a grabbed my camera gear and hiked a short distance to Lake McDonald's shoreline. There was a slight breeze creating ripples on the water. The sky was a soft blue with slight hues of purple and pink. I set up my equipment then I closed my eyes. When I photograph an area I like to experience the entire area. Sometimes I'm so busy trying to create the perfect photograph I don't enjoy the area. So I close my eyes and just listen. I hear birds singing, listen to insects buzz. I smell the clean mountain air fill my dirty midwestern lungs. Finally, I open my eyes and photograph the landscape in front of me.
Two Medicine Area
Feeling refreshed and exhilarated we decided to follow Route 2 to East Glacier. It seemed to take forever, after all, route 2 winds its way along the souther edge of the park. We traveled through two national forests, Flathead and Lewis and Clark. We saw views of the flathead river, waterfalls, various mammals and huge mountains. Reaching East Glacier we drove north on State Route 49 until we saw the sign for the Two Medicine area. We took a little side trip and instead of going to the entrance we veered off and traveled further north. We rounded a sharp corner when we noticed an overlook to our left, without thinking my husband quickly swung our rented vehicle into the parking area.
Two Medicine Area Continued
Before my husband could come to a complete stop I already had the door open and half of my body was hanging out the door ready to grab my gear out of the car. I had a really good feeling about this overlook. Once I got my bearings together I noticed a cold wind was slapping me in the face. It wasn't the typical cold one feels in the lower elevations but a high altitude cold. It's crisp, sharp cold that goes right through the clothes and sits right into the bones. I began setting up my camera gear once again, however, instead of closing my eyes, this time I left my eyes wide open. I allowed my eyes to really see the landscape. Above me was the a beautiful sapphire blue sky Montana's known for. Small bright, white clouds took their time moving across the sky. Below me those same clouds casts shadows over the mountains and the emerald mountain lake known as the Lower Two Medicine Lake. To my right was Rising Wolf Mountain, a beautiful large snow capped mountain. There were other mountains that layer in front of me. I never saw anything like it. The whole time I was gapping at the sight, three or four people jumped in and out of their car snapping away on their cell phones. Did they really capture the mountain? I could have stayed there all day. My family wanted to see more. We turned around and ascended down to the entrance of Two Medicine.
Running Eagle Falls
Slightly warmer than in the upper elevation, however, it was still windy, in fact so windy, they weren't running the boats on the Upper Two Medicine Lake. We walked around and stopped at the Visitors Center where my husband purchased a cap to cover his frozen ears. We decided to slowly drive back to our apartment. We noticed a sign say "Trail for Running Eagle Falls." Quickly, once again, we made a sharp turn and pulled into the large parking area. Fortunately for us, we were only the third car in the parking lot.
Running Eagle Falls II
We hiked the short trail, which began in a small wooded area. Identifiers placed by the National Park Service near various trees and vegetation gave us an education on the area. There was also a sign warning of recent bear sightings in the area. Those signs always make me wary. We weren't long in the woods before the trees parted to show us the rapidly flowing Dry Fork Creek to our left and Two Medicine River to our right. What seemed to us, but was actually much further away, a large mountain loomed over us, Spot Mountain. We continued our hike, crossing the Two Medicine River and continued northwest until there it was Running Eagle Falls. Above the Falls was the mountain I just viewed on the overlook, Rising Wolf Mountain. During the dry summer months, all a visitor can see is the lower area or grotto portion. Since we were there in late spring, we saw not only the lower portion, but also the upper area where the snow melt and the river runs over a shelf of stone over forty feet high, thus doubling the amount of water. With the bright blue sky overhead, snow capped mountain in the background and the attention grabbing waterfall in the foreground it was like nothing I had ever seen before. All the fancy superlative wouldn't do the landscape justice.
Exhausted, we knew we had a long drive back to our apartment so we left Two Medicine and backtracked. I couldn't believe what I saw that day. I don't think it all soaked into my brain. All of my senses were overwhelmed with the sights sound and smells I experienced in a single day in Glacier National Park.