Siyeh Bend to Sun Rift Gorge

First of all, I’m kind of digging the name “Sun Rift.” What a great word pairing.

Anyways, a few weeks ago I hiked 10.3 miles, beginning about 2 miles to the east of Logan Pass. I chose it because my friend posted a photo of it the other day, and also the shuttle stops there so I wouldn’t have to find parking. I hate looking for a parking spot.

The first three miles or so were nice. It felt really good to be on a hike, and there were a ton of flowers carpeting the ground between the pine trees. Every so often I’d get a glimpse of the mountain face above me, but mostly I just keep walking and enjoying the sunshine.

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I stopped for lunch at Siyeh Creek, in part because it was pretty but mostly because it was the first place with enough of a breeze to keep the biting flies off me. Pro tip: bug spray that you leave in the car does you no good.

After Siyeh Creek, the trail goes up a series of switchbacks. This is where the trail gets glorious. I was almost regretting hiking it in that direction, as the view behind me got better every time I glanced back. I could see the mountains above Logan Pass behind the forest I’d just walked through. To the left, a bare mountain slid into a cirque with a pair of lakes in the base. I could hear a group of people laughing as they swam in them.

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The trail narrowed as I crossed Siyeh pass. There was a woman and an eight-ish-year-old girl crouched against the uphill wall. “We’re not used to this sort of hike. Please don’t go near the edge,” she said when I asked her to take my picture.

From there, the trail was all descent. It was not a bad descent, though–my legs feel a lot better after that than after the Highline, to be honest. The sun was starting to hide behind the mountains on the opposite side of the valley, streaking the air with sunlight. There’s a glacier-fed river running the length of the valley, with a few sparkling waterfalls as well. Basically, I stopped being sad that I hadn’t hiked the other direction–my way was both easier and prettier.

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Due to me oversleeping that morning, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t make it to the shuttle. However, I got to the Sun Rift Gorge shuttle stop an hour before the last shuttle arrived, and got to Logan Pass in time to stand in line with some really fun retired people. Yay, travel friends!!

Home in 4 Days!!

In case the title of this post was too obscure, I’m going to be home in 4 days!! Based off my past adventures, here are some answers to questions I know I’m gonna get asked.

Wait, you were gone?

Yeah! I left May 8 and got back (or, at the moment, plan to get back) September 6. I spent the summer in Glacier National Park, working at a gift shop as a barista and t-shirt putter-outter, and also serving with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.

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The best ACMNP team I could have asked for. Also, I couldn’t figure out how to flip this image so that it actually looks like we’re spelling out “ACMNP.”

I thought you were supposed to be back at the end of September?

True! I was originally supposed to work until September 21, but it turns out that is a ton of time to be away from home, my family, my super cute boyfriend, Burgerville milkshakes, etc.

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Was it just amazing?

Just amazing–that’s a really high expectation to put on any 4-month period.  So no, not exactly. There were some really awesome parts, and also some really sucky parts. Overall, it was a good experience.

Are you glad you did it?

Absolutely! This had been a dream of mine for seven-ish years, and I don’t think it would have ever left me alone if I hadn’t gone and tried. Also, Glacier is gorgeous and there were so many days when I stepped out of my dorm and thought, “I can’t believe I get to live here for a summer!!”

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A view from my evening walks. This was about a 4-minute walk from my house.

So what happened? Why are you home early?

Okay, this question maybe falls on the “questions I know people will want to ask but will probably be too polite to actually ask” list. Honestly, July happened. I cruised through June with only a few homesick days, but then I hit July and thought, “Wow, I’ve been here two months………and I’m not even halfway done yet. Crap.” July was one of the loneliest months I have had in the last 7 years. That was my own fault–I didn’t make a huge effort to go out and meet people. I get pretty stressed out of I don’t get time alone, and when I’m working retail 5 days a week and spending Sunday doing worship services, the thought of taking someone I barely know on a 2-hour car ride, then a 6-hour hike, then another 2-hour car ride back home on my only day to myself seemed like a bit more than I could handle. And it didn’t help to be thinking that I was also missing out on my first summer of dating Marc because we were in separate states.

Then, in the middle of July, I decided to Skype my mom. She was with my sister’s kids, so I got to talk with them. I was in my car so as not to disturb my roommate. The conversation went like this:

Pearl (my 3-year-old niece who loves to point out the obvious): Auntie, you are in your car.

Me: Yep.

Pearl: Good. Now you can come home!

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Pearl, umm, helping me in the garden last spring before I left.

And I thought, dang, girl, you have a point. I might have started the car right then and been home by dinner the next day, except my favorite books were in my dorm at the time and there’s no way I’m abandoning them. In any case, that got the idea in my head, and a few weeks later I found out that one of my co-workers was staying later than she had originally planned, and they were hiring another person who would stay until my original end date, so I asked if I could leave and my manager looked at the schedule and asked if I could stay till September 5, which was reasonable.

So, basically, I’m home early because I took advice from a 3 year old. But, like, a really cute one so it’s okay. #auntielife

Did you get to go on some great hikes?

Oh yeah!! I loved my days hiking.

Did you see some cool wildlife?

I saw mountain goats, marmots, deer, foxes, and a billion squirrels. I didn’t see any moose, and I only saw bears from the car, which I was honestly okay with. I usually hiked alone, so I wasn’t all that interested in seeing things that might decide to kill me.

You hiked alone! Insanity!!

Shhhhhhh……I was usually on well-traveled trails, I had bear spray and an emergency locator, and I didn’t spend four months away from home, family, friends, nieces, nephew, and boyfriend to not hike. It worked out fine. #NotDead

So what’s your next adventure?

There isn’t one! At least, not a long-term travel adventure. That’s kind of a new experience for me. I started dreaming of the PCT in middle school, and that dream took me through college. Then six months after I got back, my sister and I started planning our trip to New Zealand, which took me through another two years, and then a few months after that I got to come to Glacier, which is another dream I’ve had for a long time. I’m gonna go ahead and stay put for a while. I’m excited to not constantly be living a few months ahead of myself. I think it’s gonna work out just fine 🙂

Virginia Falls and St. Mary Falls

About a month ago, I was having a not super fun time and just needed to get out and hike. My days off had consisted of thunderstorms and homesickness, so I finally decided to just do a short trail after work. I drove across the park to hike to St. Mary Falls and, just past that, Virginia Falls.

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St. Mary falls. No, St. Mary Falls. A location, not a sentence. #ThingsEditorsThinkAreFunny

Honestly, I’m not usually one for waking to waterfalls to begin with, so I chose this one more out of desperation to be outside than anything else, so my expectations were low. This was a good thing. It’s a pretty enough hike, but definitely not one I would recommend to someone who only has a few days in the park, especially not if you’re physically capable of doing a more difficult hike. This hike was really easy, at just around 4 miles, but the burned forest blocks most of your view and I think the fact that the trees are all dead would make it pretty miserable on a hot day. Luckily, I went on a cool evening so at least I had that advantage.

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The trail follows a cool river most of the way. 

Virginia Falls was actually pretty impressive. The water brought out the vibrant colors of the rocks. I think my favorite thing, though, was getting to see a bird nest that was tucked into a hollow just below the falls. No predator could get to it. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if the mama bird hadn’t been flying back and forth to it so frequently, tiny orange breaks visible for a moment every time she returned to the nest. Getting to see that made me feel like the hike was totally worth it.

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There is a green patch with a black hole in it on the right side of this picture, on the cliff in the foreground. That’s where the birds were 🙂

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Blocking the view with my arms. So sorry 🙂

Hiking the Highline 😃

Yes, that’s an emoji in my blog post title, because this trail was awesome. I first hiked this trail in 2015 with my dad and sister, Olivia. It’s kind of the reason I started dreaming about Glacier and wanted to come back. It’s pretty gorgeous.

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The view near the Granite Park Chalet. Heaven’s Peak on the right, Mount Oberlin on the left.

It also takes a while for the snow on it to melt, so it wasn’t open until early July. Then, the day before i planned to hike it, there was a grizzly bear hanging out on the trail, so they closed it for a few weeks. I finally got to hike it a week and a half ago, on a glorious sunny day in which I remembered both my sunscreen and my hat. #rare

The trail starts at Logan Pass, and quickly goes out on a ledge in the middle of a cliff. There’s a steel cable along this length, to which a family of 5 desperately clung. However, the trail is pretty wide even here, so I was able to pass them without feeling like I would die.

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Not great for people who are afraid of heights.

One of my favorite moments happened a few hundred feet after that section, on what’s called the Garden Wall. Steep fields of flowers stretch above and below you, the trail the only interruption in its descent. The vastness of the valley masks the true height of the mountains around you, making them seem somehow huge but also not that far away. As I came around a corner, there was a little boy kneeling in the dirt, his grandpa walking a few steps ahead of him. His grandpa turned when he heard me coming and looked down at the 4 year old.

“What are you doing?” he asked, confused.

“Drawing,” the little boy replied.

Because, ya know, what better place to draw than in the dirt of the most gorgeous trail around?

Grandpa sighed. “Move aside so she can pass.”

The boy stood up, the seat of his sweatpants as dusty as his cuffs, and scampered out of the way. He was adorable.

The rest of the trail was also nice. I saw another goat, marveled at the flowers, and took a billion pictures. At the Granite Park Chalet, I stopped to make a sandwich on the porch. A squirrel tried to steal it from my hand. Some Canadians laughed at that. I ate faster.

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The Granite Park Chalet with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

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Me at the Granite Park Chalet.

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I wonder why they call it the Garden Wall?

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Name that flower! (Refer to my previous post from Iceberg Lake for a hint 😉 )

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McDonald Creek flowing towards the Lake.

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Looking up!

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Towards the beginning of the trail. The Going to the Sun Road is on the right side of the picture.

The last four miles are pretty lame, but they’re made worth it by the 7 or so that you’ve already done. The trail ends at The Loop, a hairpin turn in the Going to the Sun Road. From there, I caught one of the last shuttles back to my car at the Apgar Campground, got some ice cream at the Cedar Tree, and finished the day cooling my feet in Lake McDonald. Not bad for a Friday 🙂

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Indian Paintbrush on the trail back to the Loop.

Iceberg Lake

About a week and a half ago, I picked up my friend from work, Cindy, and we headed over the Going to the Sun Road with two possible destinations in mind: Grinell Glacier or Cracker Lake.

We did neither of them.

Instead, we decided to go to Iceberg Lake, which was in the same area but has actual icebergs in it. I figured seeing icebergs floating in the lake would be pretty cool.

It was, but that wasn’t even the highlight of the trip. The highlight was the walk there. The trail makes a quick ascent right at the start, then levels out to a more gradual incline so that the last few miles let the gorgeous views take your breath away, instead of the hills. As I approached Iceberg Lake, I had the distinct feeling that I was about to happen upon Rivenedell, with the river flowing over small waterfalls and wildflowers everywhere. Bear grass covered steep hillsides above me. The trail looked forward to the mountains and back at the valley we’d just climbed through, so both the walk in and out were beautiful. This is my favorite hike I’ve gotten to do this year.

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Iceberg Lake

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Bear grass and the cliffs of insanity!!

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Bear grass along the trail leaving the lake

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More bear grass

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Also bear grass

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The Rivendell-esque approach to the lake, feat. Bear Grass

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Cindy dipping her feet in some super warm water. There was bear grass behind us.

Cobalt Lake

Today I had the day off, and since I was pretty sure I didn’t work until 2 tomorrow, I thought, “Hey, I’ll go for a hike on the east side of the park, camp there, and then take the Going to the Sun Road back tomorrow.”

Luckily I checked my schedule before I left and discovered that I actually work at 11. So, instead of a camping retreat, I just drove an hour and a half to the Two Medicine area and hiked to Cobalt Lake.

Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite hike ever. It’s pretty, but not spectacular like so many of the hikes in Glacier are. Still, I think it was exactly the hike I needed to be on today. Just being outside, on a trail that wasn’t crowded and was full of my favorite wildflower (Indian Paintbrush) and shallow water crossings was perfect.

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The whole hike was full of meadows like these.

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Like a trampoline, but sketchier.

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Rockwell Falls.

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I also met another solo female hiker, which is always fun. She was probably a few years younger than me and starts work in the park on Monday. She’s headed to New Zealand in October for a year, so we chatted about that for a while. After she left, I ate my dinner and watched the lake for a while. A marmot crossed the creek and walked within 10 feet of me to nibble some bear grass.

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Hello, friend!

It started raining just as it was time to leave. Luckily, I’d packed my warm jacket and leggings, and the rain was intermittent anyways so I didn’t get even a little uncomfortable. It did make the mountains look really cool with the shadows from the evening sun. It also gave me a great excuse to stop for hot chocolate on my way back home. Oh, darn 🙂

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Scenic Point at Two Medicine

I had yesterday off, so I decided to go to East Glacier. I decided to leave no later than 8 am, so naturally, I rolled out of West Glacier at around 10:30.

Because of my late start, I figured I’d just make it a scouting trip and see what the area looked like, maybe visit an information center, but definitely no hiking.

DSC02073.JPGMy first stop was at Running Eagle Falls. Pretty neat, and only .3 miles up the trail, so, like, it’s not even a hike.

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Running Eagle Falls, near the Two Medicine entrance to Glacier National Park. It’s a super easy walk.

I proceeded to Two Medicine Lake and ate my lunch at a super windy picnic bench, drove to the end of the road, and turned around to go home.

And then I saw a sign that said “Scenic Point.” Which usually is a pullover spot, maybe a short walk, right? I decided to stop and investigate.

By the time I saw the sign that said it was a 3.1 mile hike to the scenic point, I already had my backpack and boots on. I didn’t want to insult them by turning back, and I still had a few hours before I really needed to turn around, so I went up.

It was awesome. The trail followed a creek through and canyon for a bit before taking switchbacks up above the treeline. There was a section of bleached trees that reminded me of Gondor, and views of Two Medicine Lake and the mountains beyond. You could also look east to see the views beyond the Continental Divide.

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The view east from the top. Someone was quoting the Lion King here. It was me.

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“They guard it because they have hope.”

One of the most fun parts was when I came across a mountain goat. He was eating pine needles near the top of the trail, and continued doing so as I stood a few feet from him for about 5 minutes watching. His neck looked like he’s had a rough spring, but it was still really fun. Here’s a link to a video of him eating if you’re wanting something cute/have kids and want them to sit still for 1.5 minutes:

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Majestic.

I really wanted to make it to the advertised scenic point and figured I was within a few minutes of it, but then I came to a snow patch on a steep scree slope. There were other hikers who had crossed the first portion of it and were clearly trying to decide if they could make the second half without plummeting a half-mile to their doom. I looked at it and thought, “Nah, I like being alive.” Nevertheless, this hike was beautiful much the whole way up, and I completely recommend it to anyone looking to kill a few hours in the Two Medicine area.

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Not a lot of snow, but enough that I didn’t want to risk it.

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My high point for the day. #RiskAssessmentIsStillFun!!

Bicycling the Going to the Sun Road

In the spring, snowplows have already cleared the lower portions of the Going to the Sun Road, the main road that goes through Glacier Park. However, that doesn’t mean they allow cars on it yet. This year in particular, they’re doing a paving project that will keep the road closed through at least June 22. Which is awesome for me, because it means I was able to ride my bike on it without worrying about cars hitting me.

I started around 1 in the afternoon, because laziness. The first four miles only climb 156 feet, which was exciting for me because, honestly, I don’t ride my bike very often and long downhills scare me. It was gorgeous. Basically the whole time I was riding I was laughing and thinking how insane it is that God not only made this place, but he lets me live here.

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I got to Logan Creek after 4 miles and thought, “That was way easier than I thought! I wonder…” So I set off up the road. The next main viewpoint, The Loop, was 4 miles away and about 740 feet of elevation climb. I still did a lot better than I thought I would, but after a while I got super hungry and stopped in the middle of the road–reason number 117 why biking it with no cars is awesome.

As I pulled out some cheese and crackers, a guy rode past me and started laughing. “You’re so close!” he called out. “It’s literally right there!” He pointed up the rode.

“I know, but, food,” I said. I stuffed a cracker in my mouth, got back on my bike, and started crawling up the hill again.

It was indeed right there. The Loop is where the road does a hairpin turn to keep climbing up to Logan Pass. There’s a wide spot where I could eat, and bathrooms, so that was cool. I found a spot and had the rest of my cheese and crackers looking at Heaven’s Peak and the surrounding mountains.

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There was a guy from Newport, OR, who took my picture! Him and his wife travel full time in a campervan, and he was on his third attempt at getting to Logan Pass after having run out of time on his first two tries. 

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I then started my long descent. I was super worried. But it was awesome. There was wind in my face, which slowed me down a lot, and every quarter mile I’d come to an awesome viewpoint and have to stop anyways. I met a guy from France who was riding his bike from Alaska to South America with a friend, except his friend broke his hand and had to stay in Whitefish for a while.

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There’s a super sweet tunnel on the way that allows a river to go over the road!

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Also the tunnel has 2 balconies. NBD. 

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Many thanks to the random woman who took my picture and also shared my fears of seeing a bear by ourselves. She liked my idea of just singing loud at every corner.

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GAH IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!

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Red Rocks. You can’t really see it in this picture, but that’s the name of this spot so trust me, they’re red. 

I got back to my car about 4 hours after I started my bike ride. I felt super satisfied with how it went. I would totally recommend this trip to anyone who is in the area! I may or may not already be planning a trip for next week 🙂

Two trips to Avalanche Lake

One of the things I love about working the day shift in Glacier is that you almost get two days in a 24-hour period. You get the day that you work and get paid for, and then, if you don’t spend too long on dinner, you get a second day to go for a 5-6 mile hike.

Monday, my ACMNP team (almost–sorry you had to work, Claire!), one of their roommates, and a few other friends who work for our company decided to use our second half of the day to hike to Avalanche Lake. It’s one of the more popular hikes in Glacier, in part because the beauty-to-difficulty ratio is astounding.

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Logjam and the Lake

This is from my first trip to the lake.

I had hiked it about a week ago. It was the perfect way to spend my day off. I got to the top and, attempting to escape the 5th-grade field trip on the near side of the lake, circled around it and found quiet refuge on a gravelly beach on the opposite side. It was close enough that you could practically whisper to the mountain above us. There was just me and a few other adults seeking quiet, including a man watching mountain goats with binoculars and two guys fishing. I sat for half an hour listening to the waterfalls ringing down the mountain and the birds calling in the wind.

This time, we found a really peaceful beach at the near edge of the lake. Still, I liked how the other beach was so close to the foot of the mountain and suggested we go to it. Everyone agreed. I fell a bit behind on the way, until I got to the spot where the trail ends and you have to cross a little creek to get to the beach.

Except it wasn’t a little creek. The snow melt from the mountain has increased significantly in the last week, and there was no way we could pass.

But, we were undeterred. A small path ran just past the “End of Trail” sign along the edge of the creek, so we followed it through the woods until we found an opening. It was perfection. At least six waterfalls tumbled off the mountainside, splitting up as they hit what looked like a staircase for giants. There was a rainbow caught in one waterfall, and I sat on a log with my friend, Faye, and watched it inch higher and higher as the sun started its descent. It was the perfect way to spend my last night as a 26-year-old.

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Team photo!

Me and three members of my ACMNP team. Camden to the left, Jackie to the right, and Ethan floating on the log in the middle of the lake.

Avalanche of waterfalls

I really couldn’t decide if I liked watching the rainbow or the stairstep waterfalls more.

Photo cred: Faye Rogers 🙂

On the way down the trail we passed within a few feet of a doe and her baby. Also a bunch of the girls jumped into the lake. I was tempted, but I also love not being cold, so I stayed dry and lame, but man, I’m proud of them 🙂

Surprise! I’m becoming a barista?

I started work Monday, setting up children’s clothes and the Christmas section. We have super cute ornaments, if anyone was wondering.

Our gift shop also has a coffee shop in it, but the barista won’t be here until the middle of June. Because of that, our manager asked me and my friend, Claire, to learn how to make coffee.

I’ve never actually had a cup of coffee. The closest thing I can remember was when my sister took me to Starbucks in high school and got me a caramel frappecino. “There’s no coffee in it,” she assured me.

I took two sips before saying, “I think they forgot to clean the blender, because this tastes awful.” Thus her malevolent plans to trick me into liking coffee were thwarted.

Anyways, turns out making coffee is kind of hard, but also pretty fascinating. Our trainer went into a bit of the science behind it, and how the milk temperature needs to be about 160 degrees if it’s cow milk but 145 if it’s soy or almond, and the water is forced through the grounds at an exact pressure (9psi) (jk, actually 9 bar, which is more like 350 psi. Thanks to my friend and co-coffee-maker Claire for straightening me out 😉 ) and humidity and weather can make it so you need to change the coarseness of the grounds. A lot of it went over my head, but he left a cool manual showing how to make espresso so I’ve been reading that a lot.

So far I’ve worked 2 shifts. I always seem to be throwing out half the milk I steam, even though I swear I start with the same amount that our trainer told us to. Yesterday a guy ordered a 16 ounces chai and I ended up giving him an extra 8 ounce cup because I didn’t realize how much I poured in. I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials all morning to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Pretty sure I’m getting over-excited about the foam part of the drink. Kind of like how today I forgot to turn off the steam wand before taking it out of the pitcher of half and half I was heating up. I ended up wearing half and half all day. There are worse fashion trends. By the time the summer crowds start coming in, I should be competent at it!Also, while I may be the least qualified barista ever, the shop also has an ice cream stand with 12 flavors. I’m extremely qualified at loving ice cream and handing out samples, so it balances out.