This time I flew into Calgary, which is about 200 miles from the park. This presented a bit of a dilemma during the planning stage, as Calgary is only about 80 miles from Banff National Park, which I had never visited. I resisted the urge of mission creep and made my plans for Glacier. After picking up my rental car and stopping at Safeway to get some groceries for the week's breakfast and lunch, I drove to Glacier. The weather was rather gray and rainy, and unfortunately this would be true for most of the trip. My destination for the night was the Rising Sun Motor Inn, a few miles into the park on the St. Mary side. This was fortunate because they told me at the gate that it was snowing at Logan Pass, and the road was closed there.
On my first visit, at the exact same time of year, the weather was sunny and warm, and I could hike whenever and wherever I pleased. The rainy weather and a snowline of about 7,000 feet would make planning a hike much more difficult this time. I spent quite a bit of time Sunday night deciding what to do tomorrow. As it turned out, this would become a nightly ritual. I had two main goals on this trip: the Dawson-Pitamakan Loop in the Two Medicine area and the Highline Trail to the Grinnell Glacier overlook. Dawson-Pitamakan tops out at 8,000 feet, and there are knife-edges to traverse, so it looked like I would not be doing that one, at least until later in the week. The Highline Trail begins at Logan Pass and tops out at about 7,000 feet, so waiting a day or so might be good. I decided that I would do the Grinnell Glacier Trail at Many Glacier. I had hiked this trail the last time, and it was one of the best hikes I had ever taken. This 11-mile out-and-back trail tops out at about 6,500 feet.
Two Sisters Café. I had my usual buffalo burger with a big onion on it. They did not have the home-made tortilla chips any more, but the Cajun-spiced fries were a very worthy successor.
The return trip was interesting both for a bad reason and a good reason. The bad part is that my left knee started hurting on the way down from the overlook. My knee has never bothered me before, but the combination of my age and suddenly demanding that my body traipse up and down mountains was too much. I longed for the days when I was 30 and I could do anything I wanted to my body and its only protest would be sore muscles the next morning. Oh well, I’ll just have to open up my wallet and get some trekking poles. I continued the hike at a slower pace.
Kings Canyon National Park. The rest of the hike was uneventful, and it started raining as I was approaching the parking lot. I got in my car and it started really raining. I did a little weather victory dance as best I could while strapped into the driver's seat and then headed to Two Sisters.
Tuesday evening was the time to plan for Wednesday’s hiking. This was the biggest planning challenge I have ever had. The weather showed no sign of getting better. I was at a mountain park, but I had to take a low trail because of the snow and a level trail because of my knee. I had several hiking guidebooks to help me, and I did indeed find such trails. This was the classic blessing in disguise. I ended up taking great trails that I would have ignored under better conditions.
Wednesday morning started gray again, but at least I could see the tops of the mountains. This would turn out to be the best weather day, with some actual blue sky scattered throughout the day. My first hike was to Grinnell Lake, a 6.8-mile out-and-back hike. I had seen Grinnell Lake several times from high above, but this time I would see it from lake level. I would also be able to see Grinnell Falls from below.
I survived the hike and ate my lunch in my car. After lunch, I headed to Browning to check out the Museum of the Plains Indian. This was not the most impressive museum, but there was a display of formal and ceremonial clothing that was impressive indeed. Even more impressive was my dinner at Two Sisters.
Though there is a bit of complaining in this post, I certainly enjoyed my visit. In fact, this visit cemented Glacier in place as my favorite National Park. There is often great beauty in bad weather. Also, I was able to see Glacier under totally different conditions than in my previous trip. Snow makes mountains more imposing. Wetness brings out color. Gray skies completely change the feel of a place. Given the choice, I would have asked for warm sunny weather, but I have now been privileged to see different faces of Glacier National Park. Its awesome beauty shines through in any condition.
My visits: September 2007, September 2010