Highline Trail From Logan Pass Along the Garden Wall
"Few places in the world are more deadly than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They kill care, save you from deadly apathy, and call forth every faculty, into vigorous, enthusiastic, action." John Muir
My arrival at Many Glacier Campground by chance coincides with the first time in several of the Rangers memory that 3 of the 4 major trails from the area are closed due to bear activity.
One of the incidents that was associated with the trail closing occurred when Jack Hanna, the noted zookeeper who appears occasionally on the Letterman show, had to use his bear spray on a cub that was advancing on him in the Many Glacier area.
I suspect another reason for all the closings is the result of another recent incident near Yellowstone National Park in which one camper was killed and two wounded when a grizzly attacked their campground at night.
As a result of all of the trail closings in the Many Glacier area, I chose to take John Muir's advice and explore the mountain passes near Logan Pass via the Highline Trail. The Garden Wall trail traverses the Continental divide above timberline with stunning views in all directions. The trail also leads to historic Granite Park Chalet located in Glacier's wilderness. I left my truck at Logan Pass to begin the journey.
The hike proved to be the most enriching photographic opportunity I have ever experienced. I shot hundreds of photos of sweeping mountain scenery, wildflowers, waterfals, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, ptarmigan, picas, and marmots and thankfully, no grizzly bears. My family and friends will tell you that they have heard a story too often from me about the time I was hiking Gunsite Pass going up some switchbacks when a goat and her kid appeared before me. She stared at me until I pasted myself against the mountain on the trail. They both passed by me within inches as I took the photo. The same thing happened again to me on the Highline Trail. Magical things happen in Glacier National Park.
I arrived at Granite Park Chalet later than planned and asked if there was any room at the Inn. The Chalet is very much in demand with reservations normally required months in advance. I was told there was not any room as I expected, so I signed their registry book like I had done 30 years ago at Sperry Chalet to memorialize my arrival, took some pictures of the Chalet and proceeded on down to the trail. My plan was to go another 4 miles to The Loop on Going-to-the-Sun-Highway and hitchhike back up to Logan.
The resident Forest Service person, Mike, stopped me as I started along the trail and told me that they would make room for me at the Chalet that night. I was ecstatic. The views from the Chalet are stunning to say the least. Heaven's peak appropriately loams directly in front of the Chalet. Mike asks me if I have any food, I tell him I am fine, I have granola bars, gorp, and peanuts. He tells me to finish taking some pictures and he will rustle up some better food for me. He returns with a freeze dried Italian meal with boiling water already in it as well as freeze dried granola cereal with blueberries in it for my morning meal and three chocolate chip cookies his mother made him. The Belton Chalet folks who administer the Chalets in the Park arrive with fresh sheets and blankets. I am housed in a separate granite building in room 18 with two windows and four bunk beds.
Mike and I talk about many common interests including Glacier Park, Lewis and Clark, bears, and Charles Russell, the noted Western artist. Mike has a original Russell painting, his grandfather used to drink with Russell in the Mint Hotel in Great Falls where Mike is from. He has been stationed at the Granite Park Chalets for nine years now. Mike tells me the day before they had some serious bear activity going on. The troublesome cubs and mother that Jack Hannah had encountered had crossed over Swiftcurrent Pass nearby and had bothered hikers around Granite Park Chalet. The cubs are sub adults believed to be three years old that have not been trained to avoid people. This could also mean that the mother needs to be trained as well. Mike is responsible for everything that goes on at Granite Park so he is concerned about the bears. A firespotter who is on the top of a nearby mountain, communicates with Mike about any bear sightings. Mike is one of those things that is right about the Forest Service and National Parks, he is highly knowledgable about the things he needs to know and he carries a great deal of responsibility with his duties.
I take pictures at the Chalet in evening light, then again as the rising sun hits the mountainside. As I went to bed that night, I look out my two windows and I see a buck deer outside one window and a doe outside another window.
I hike down the mountain to The Loop the following morning in the rain but excited to return to the comfort of my Casita and edit my pictures. As I hike down the trail I run in to two rangers one of which is carrying a gun. We stop to talk and the ranger with the gun advises me that they are going up to Granite Park Chalet to try and condition the bears to avoid people with rubber bullets. He has something more lethal for them if things go bad.
Glacier National ParKHighline Trail