Many Glacier Area, 8/4/10
Today, all of the trails opened up in Many Glacier. Rangers have walked the trails for several days with no bear activity of concern. Most of the recent problems seem to be more related to a large number of people on the trails that are shared by bears. No one is to blame, but a bear might panic from people below them on the trail and run into people above them on the trail. The bear, or bears, may appear to be aggressive but they are most likely just trying to get away from people.
I choose to take the Grinnell Glacier trail, one of the most popular in the Park. The trail rises high above Swiftcurrent, Josephine, and Grinnell lakes. Grinnell is a beautiful turquoise color as a result of the glaciated silt that is deposited there.
There are once again wildflowers everywhere along the trail, mossy waterfalls, ground squirrels, picas, marmots deer, moose and heavenly views.
I meet people from everywhere. A very cool young couple from Chicago traveling to California for grad school. They are hiking and backbacking all over Glacier and having the time of their lives. We sit and talk before the final approach to Grinnell Glacier. They get up to continue and Rob (another Rob) smiles and asks if I am ready to go with them. They have challenged the old man to continue with them.
I meet a college aged student from the Czech Republic who speaks better English than most of the folks back home in Kansas. I have stopped below on the trail to allow others to pass and because I want to take pictures of the particulary beautiful wildflowers. She is coming down the trail and stops above me to also allow the other hikers to pass. The others pass, I tell her to come on down past me, she tells me to come on up. We both laugh at the same time when we figure out that we want the other out of the way so we can take the same picture of the flowers. She has been car camping thoughout Glacier, apparently on limited budget. I marvel how someone like her from another country can speak our language and has the energy and courage to visit special places many of our children have not seen.
I meet a group from LA and various other places that I first think is a family but they are a group of relatives that have met in Glacier to spread the ashes of their grandmother who at one time rode pack horses throughout the park and wanted her ashes spread there. I tell them that I would have enjoyed meeting their grandmother. I can think of no better final resting place myself.
At Grinnell Glacier, I take pictures of a particulary gregarious Marmot who poses for me without any reservations. Marmots are the golden retrievers of the alpine areas. They are unafraid of humans in popular areas of the Park. They are about the size of beavers and lay out in the sun most of the day sunning themselves on flat rocks in the most heavenly areas of our planet. I want to be a marmot in my next life. The marmot is annoyed with us when someone spots a bighorn ram coming over the ridge and we turn our cameras to the ram. The marmot leaves us once he realizes we are no longer paying attention to him.
I contrast the marmots with the diminutive picas who are essentially hamsters with little round ears. The picas are nervous and do not show themselves often. I hear them often, but rarely see them while hiking. They have, in fact, been my biggest photo challenge for the trip.
At Grinnell Glacier there are beautiful views of the lakes below. The glacier has also created a small lake in the saddle it resides in. The glacier feeds waterfalls below to Grinnell Lake. Like many of the glaciers in the Park, it has been declining rapidly for years. On the way up to the glacier, I watch from several thousand feet above as a moose swims the entire length of the lake. Moose are powerful swimmers and can swim for several hours at 5 mph.
I pass no one on my hike, I stop to take pictures often. On the trip down, I realize it is getting late and I have again found myself on the trail later than I intended. As I pass Josphine Lake, I observe a mother moose and its baby on the far side of the lake. The baby decides to swim the width of the lake towards me. I take my pictures with my telephoto with a way too low shutter speed for my telephoto lens hoping to get a picture. The baby moose and the mother moose make it to shore and the mother nuzzles the baby as if to say she is proud of her. I hear a shrill, high pitched whistle. It sounds like a train whistle in the distance. The mother moose far below is startled and runs with its baby to the other end of the lake. She turns and runs all the way back again to where she was. She cannot tell the direction the whistle is coming from. Finally, she darts out into the forest to protect her little one. Soon, a family of four from Minnesota (the source of the whistling) approaches me and asks if I saw some moose running off. I tell them I had been photographing the moose for the last half hour until their whistling scared them off. The father is apologetic, but does not need to be. I got my pictures and he is doing the thing he believes best to protect his family from bears.
I arrive back at the Trailhead around 8:45PM where I have left my truck. The 30 or so other cars that were there earlier are all gone. I am thankful that my campground is only a few hundred yards up the road. The sun is setting and the clouds high above that have remained on the tops of the mountains all day have cleared for the first time.
It has been a very good day.