Friday, August 10, 2018

Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Continuing our Great Northwestern Adventure took us to our initial intended location of Glacier National Park. We headed out at about 9 am hoping to have a nice day in the mountains. We knew it had snowed up on Logan Pass the day before, but hoped it would be better. No such luck.

Glad we had road signs. 
This piece of road on the way to the park was not pleasant in the rain and fog.

Further down the road we had some warning that there may be animals loose on the road.
We never expected a cow warning sign though.

Then along the way we found out it was a good idea to warn people.
The cows were not escaped from a local pasture, which would be the case here in West Virginia, but they were considered Free Range and basically, due to the caution signs, driver beware!

Going my way?

I guess if you warn people about free range cattle, 
they just ought to figure that some horses are out there too.

These pictures don't do any of these mountains justice.
I do like showing you the contrast in landscape though.

This is Lower Two Medicine Lake.
We had considered renting kayaks while in the park.
Then we realized the temperatures were going to make that a very chilly plan.

We got on the shuttle at St Mary's visitor center. It took us up the Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass. Again, we had plans. This time the plan was to get off the shuttle at interesting stops and hike a little bit. Every time we got to a stop, we saw wet ground and cold people. And lots of fog that really messed with my pictures. This ended up being another "drive by shooting" event for most of the pictures that I took. The day was a lot shorter and had a lot less hiking than planned, but we had a nice day. There were some beautiful sights from the road though. These pictures are a combination of our trip up, over, and back down the Going to the Sun road.

This is East Flattop Mountain seen from the visitor center parking lot.

I researched a bit and found pictures that show this mountain really is flat on top. According to my reading on this mountain, I think that this "flat top" used to be an ocean bottom. The steep edges would be from a combination of glacial activity and erosion. The mountain is part of the Lewis Range, which was created when, due to pressure from tectonic plate movement, a huge slab of rock slid up and over an older slab. That is where I got the ocean bottom idea. By "huge" it means the sliding slab was about 3 miles thick, 50 miles wide, and 160 miles long. 

St. Mary's Lake
With a view of Wild Goose Island.
The island rises a bit more than 14 feet above the water level on the lake.

Heavy Runner Mountain
Named after Blackfeet Indian Chief Heavy Runner. The story goes that even though Heavy Runner was friendly with the explorers and Army that came through the area, he was killed in what is called the Baker Massacre. It was considered the worst action against the natives in the area, but did lead to improved relations.

Logan Pass... I think.
This is a view of the visitor center at Logan Pass.
It did not look like I would get many scenic pictures.

The sign says we were there.
The views, not so much.

Here's a crazy story that FabHub heard. The first shuttle of the day leaves St. Mary's at 7 am and arrives at Logan Pass at about 8 am. On the day we were there, some young people got on that shuttle and went straight up to the visitor center and headed up the trail since the building wasn't open yet.
They were wearing flip flops and shorts.

When we arrived at 1:45 pm, it was about 36 degrees.
And the trail head looked like this outside the visitor's center.
I can't imagine it was more scenic or warmer at 8 am.

There is a board walk that goes up the ridge to a scenic overview. I had read a blog post from someone who spends a lot of time in GNP. Just a week before we were there, he and his girlfriend were able to cross these snow fields and climb above the fog bank to see some spectacular views. So, I got FabHub to follow me and off we went. I am pretty much went along to make sure I didn't hurt myself. That was probably a good move on his part.
This pic is from our trip back down, but you get the idea.
It wasn't pleasant and we were wearing tennis shoes, jeans, and jackets.

We climbed the boardwalk and snowbanks until we got to this point.
Not being able to see anymore boardwalk, looking at the slope, and my shoes, I called a quit to our hike. FabHub was good with that. Look at all the tracks, too! There had been a lot of people up here since that snowfall the day before! Coming back down used all of my snow walking skills. I will admit to leaving the designated path so that I could get better footing in the snowbanks.

During my research to figure out which mountains I have in these pictures, I have discovered something. It was pretty obvious, and though what we saw was pretty nice since the glacial activity had made some wonderful valley views, we missed A LOT of beautiful mountain top views.
I am very glad we did not sign up for a Red Bus Tour. I am sure those tours are wonderful on clear days, but at $98 a person for the Big Sky Circle tour, it wasn't worth it on the day we were there. The free shuttle was just fine on this early July day.

Some random mountain valley photos.

What can be seen in these pictures is the evidence of glacier activity. If water had carved through this valley, the walls would be more V shaped. Glaciers carved a U shape through this area across the bottom and along the sides.

Bird Woman Falls
Above the falls is a huge valley made from Mount Oberlin, Clements Mountain, and Cannon Mountain. In that valley is the remnants of a glacier that, along with the run off from the surrounding mountains provides the water for Bird Woman Falls. The above picture was taken on our west bound trip at 3:06. The picture below was taken at 3:40 on our east bound trip. You can see how the fog had rolled in during that time. 

Triple Arches
This entire Going to the Sun road is built to blend in with the scenery. This particular bit had some tricky bits to solve. Initially, the engineers planned to fill in the gaps, but then someone got creative. Because the section was visible from other parts of the road, they put in these arches.

Haystack Falls

Lower Haystack
A disturbing story that FabHub heard from the bus driver.
In July 2017, a 26 year old man was climbing n the upper portion of Haystack Falls trying to get the perfect picture when he slipped and fell in the creek..He was washed through the culvert and over the 100 foot falls. He did not survive.

Even more tragedy, while I was double checking the date on this story, I found another death has occurred. This year in July, a 15 year old was exploring the culvert under the road when he slipped and went over the falls. He did not survive.

River off of Haystack Falls.

Weeping Wall
This identified section of the wall is man made in a way. When they cut the road in, which included some uphill adjustments, they exposed some streams that end up running down the hillside and onto the road. In the early part of the season, when we were there, the stream is more of a creek. Later in the year the wall sort of "weeps" with the light flow.

Tunnel on the west side of the divide.

Same tunnel from the other side.
This tunnel has viewing arches in it.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Mammoth Hot Springs Wyoming and Back to GNP

We made it to Wyoming! Bucket check list marked.
Conveniently, There is an entrance to Yellowstone right on the border and Mammoth Hot Springs is just 5 miles down the road. 

The Hot Springs have been growing for thousands of years. The hot water from the spring cools and leaves behind calcium carbonate. Those deposits build up over time (a lot of time) and created the mounds and terraces that make up Mammoth.
The colors in those deposits range from pristine white to pink and red hues. The trees in the picture above are able to grow because dirt has collected after this particular spring stopped flowing.

This mound has been dormant for several years, 
but you can see some of the calcified trees still standing in the travertine. 
When the calcium carbonate flooded the trees it hardened in their "veins",
leaving the rock solid trees standing for years.

Mound Terrace
I caught a bit of the wooden walk way that winds the hot springs. That path is much safer than being out on the ground with the hot minerals.

Minerva Terrace is the most active at this site. 
The terraces are pretty with the different colors. Algae in the spring causes the coloring.
The terrace can grow new layers at a rate of about 8.5 inches per year.

Cleopatra Terrace

Liberty Cap is a very old geyser that was named for its resemblance to the caps worn by the colonial patriots during the Revolutionary War.

Just like the terraces, hot water forced its way to the surface and deposited dense layers of travertine around the spout. No one knows when it stopped flowing.

All of these terraces and hot springs are above Fort Yellowstone, which is actually built on an old terrace formation called Hotel Terrace. There were concerns about the cavity below the terrace, and there are sinkholes in the parade ground, but everything has been otherwise stable.
Yellowstone National Park was designated in 1872, but the Interior Department had trouble managing the park. So,in 1891, they put in the Army fort to deal with the poachers, vandalism, and other destructive projects that were popping up. It is now used as Yellowstone National Park Headquarters.

Heading back to the car we saw some more Elk.
We didn't see much wildlife on the whole trip, but lots of Elk.

Emigrant Peak
In 1863 three emigrants came to the region searching for gold. They must have made an impression because the got a town and a peak named after them.
Fan note: Much of the "A River Runs Through It" and "The Horse Whisperer" were filmed in this area. Info from Wikipedia.

More Montana Rocks

I know they are just rocks.

The variety of formations that exist on this six hour road trip is amazing.

How the different formations were created is another story.

This was interesting to investigate. 
Why are they baling hay between those hedgerows?
We saw quite a few plots set up like this.
It is called "Alley Cropping". 
According to the information I dug up, alley cropping is intended to cut down on nitrogen loss. Compared to the nitrogen leaching from corn and soybean rotation, the loss from fruit or fodder trees  is much less and better for the environment. 
So, it isn't baling hay between hedgerows, it is removing the hay from the tree alleys. 

Normal, or not so normal, hay baling process.
The bales look so normal in a simple picture with nothing to compare them against.

Then you see a stack of them next to a hay wagon and realize that they are Huge! 

That's all for this post.
Hot Springs
Turns out this trip was a good idea.
It was cold and snowed in Glacier while we were enjoying the sun in Wyoming.
Next up is our adventures in Glacier National Park.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Drive to Wyoming from Glacier Park Village

As noted in the previous post, this train trip had more than vacation and scenery in its agenda, we also had several northeaster states that we wanted to visit. To this point of my story, we got North Dakota and Montana covered. I had planned our first day in Montana to be a Glacier park experience, but since we had a rental car we decided to drive to Wyoming and get it knocked off the bucket list. In addition to that, the closest point in Wyoming turned out to be part of Yellowstone National Park and Mammoth Hot Springs was within five miles of the border. A plan was set and we had a plan for the six hour drive from East Glacier Village to Mammoth Hot Springs in Wyoming.

We got up early, easy to do since the time difference had us up long before breakfast was being served in the hotel. The best part of our early morning start was being able to watch the sunrise light up the mountains on our western side as we drove south.

We also saw some animals. Most were pretty normal, like these cows grazing in front of a scenic backdrop.

Some were a little different.
We were lucky to escape.

We stopped for breakfast in Helena, Montana.
Highly recommended.

I enjoyed seeing all the different types of landscape throughout the entire trip. 

As we drove along highway 287, near Three Forks, Montana, we came across this scene.
On quick viewing, they seemed real, but are actually larger than life steel sculptures of horses.
The display is called the Bleu Horses. They are painted blue and white to have depth and they manes and tails made of polyester rope for movement. 

More interesting rocks.

This particular formation is called Devils Slide. It was created when alternate layers of limestone, sandstone, and quartzites were tilted almost vertical and then eroded at different rates.

I caught this group of elk while we were waiting to enter Yellowstone. This is a pretty long range photo. I was looking out the window waiting for something to move out on the grassland. That big female on the right caught my attention and helped me get the male on the left.
I believe it is a male Pronghorn deer.
Due to weather issues and such, we didn't see many animals on this trip, but at least I got this guy.

Next will be Mammoth Hot Springs and return to Glacier.