I wasn't planning on writing trip notes for this over 4 week trip as I knew I would hardly have any chances to get online (maybe 3 times). As you can see, I'm already a week and a half into the trip - and the next chance I'll have to get online is after my at least 8 days in Glacier (and that's only if one of the possibles along the drive to Craters of the Moon works out, else it won't be until I'm at Bryce). But I had some deadtime to fill early in the trip and I've gone ahead and kept up the notes. So here are my adventures in Colorado State Forest Park, the Badlands, Minuteman Missile National Monument, and the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Jasper, Kootenay). You can my more pre-trip itinary at http://www.eskimo.com/~pbender/hikes/trip08sched.txt [Tossed was Jade Lakes (too far out of the way for an area I didn't think was too pretty and chance of trail having snow).] There are 21 pictures for this writeup at http://www.eskimo.com/~pbender/pictures/trip08/pic1.html patricia Sunday, June 28 I started off the long drive a little before 5 am. Drove and drove and drove. Just a long drive on interstates until Fort Collins, Colorado. At Fort Collins, I headed west on Hwy 14. After about 20 minutes, the road went through a pretty, narrow canyon - the road, Cache la Poudre river, and rugged rock walls on each side for a good curvey ways. The canyon widened into a valley, but was still pretty. As I neared Colorado State Forest Park (my destination), some snow capped peaks became visible. I took a left off of Hwy 14 onto the dirt road for the Crags Campground - the road was passible for my car, but not comfortable. I arrived at the campground at 8:15 pm Mountain (9:15 Central - 16 hours after I started) to complete my 981 miles drive - Hwy 14 to the campground took about 2 hours as you couldn't go faster than 45 mph due to the mountain road. Only one other campsite was occupied in the campground. There was snow in my campsite. Got to love it when you go from near 100 degree temperature one day to snow on the ground the next day. Monday, June 29 I slept surprising well for my first night in my car. I only woke up once - and that was, 'My nose is cold' and threw the blanket over my head and went back to sleep. I woke up around 5 am and my body was saying it was time to get up. I fiddled around for a bit waiting for the sun to get above the peaks (and warm things up some). I layered up with a light long sleeve shirt and sweatjacket and headed on out at 6:30 am - those came off after about an hour as it was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. Up for the morning was a hike to American Lakes and Snow Lake and later Lake Agnes. The trail headed up to start and then was mild and then was up again. Along the 2nd up were a few snow patches that I had to go around and through - one was up a small slope and had me consider turning around. I made it through and continued up. I hit a junction with a dirt road (with a pretty, small cascade fall). I hooked a right onto the road and the road made its way mildly around the mountain side. As I was going along the road, my mind started saying, 'This isn't right.' I eventually pulled out my trail map and, sure enough, I was on the wrong trail (was at the first junction, not the second as I thought it was - didn't help that none of the junctions were signed). So I backtracked back to the small falls. Along the way I decided that I would take that road/trail as it went to Lake Agnes from above (and then hike the dirt roads back to the campground to make one loop hike instead of two there-and-back hikes). So back at the original junction, I went back to heading up. And it wasn't a gentle up. And it wasn't a dry up as there was a stream coming down the middle of the trail. There were several side-looking-trails that seemed to be easier/better than the one heading directly up. I took a couple of them and always ended up turning around back to the orginal one. After about 3 sidetrips, I told myself to stick to the "real" trail and follow the blue diamonds (blue diamond shape markers on some trees along the trail). I continued heading up, trying to avoid the stream coming down the trail and making my way around snow patches (a couple of times over them). The Crags (sharp granite ridges along one peak) came into view, but there was more snow in the area. I continued on up. I reached the large rock pile. To the right was the way to Snow Lake - the way up was through a long snow field (with one set of boot prints through it) - not for me and thus Snow Lake was tossed aside. I was determined to reach American Lakes, so I hooked a left and headed up a gentlier slope (but still an up) and made my way over the rocks, along the slope, and occasionally over snow fields. It wasn't fun. I reached a ledge and it was just more snow, no lakes (was pretty sure this was the area where they should be at) - probably still snowed over. I was still following the blue diamonds and was hoping to find a better/easier way back - there was supposed to be a second junction for a different way to the American Lakes, but I never did find that junction. I hit a long snow field (level), but couldn't find another blue diamond across the way and there were several directions the trail could have gone. So I gave up on finding a different route and turned around and headed back down the way I came (without any sidetrips). I returned to the dirt road, making good time heading back down. I've found that I'll go to extremes to avoid stepping in water and mud heading up and just slog through it on the way down. I took a left onto the dirt road to head to Lake Agnes (repeating my "Oops" sidetrip from earlier). As the trail/road rounds the mountain, there are pretty views of the Hwy 14 valley and Diamond Peak across the way. The road rounds another bend and there is a stunning view up the Lake Agnes valley with two snow patched peaks at the top west of the valley. The Crags (from the other side) are on the east end of the valley and came into view further along the road. So after about 2 miles of hiking on the (thankfully level) dirt road, I reached ... an impassible snow field. The snow field went up a slope (with an open slope below) and my guess was that the lake was just above that slope (and I think the junction for the Lake Agnes trail was just before the snow field, so there wasn't another way up). So I had to turnaround and head back the way I came. So I attempted to reach 3 mountain lakes and ended up reaching none. It was a pretty area, so it wasn't a worthless outing (I knew there was a chance it was too early in the season and would be snowed out). I made it back to the car a little before noon and headed on out for the long drive to the Badlands in South Dakota. It was an uneventful drive. I gave my folks a call when I reached Rapid City, SD - didn't talk long, just wanted to let them know I was still alive. I arrived in the Badlands around 9 pm (after sunset) to competely my 520 mile, 9 hour drive. I got a campsite with no problem. The temperature dropped into the 60s as the evening went on - wouldn't need to worry about my nose being cold this night. Tuesday, July 1 I woke up around 5:30 am, but didn't get up until 6:15. The plan for the morning was be spent at Minuteman Missile National Monument and 2 tours (launch facility and silo), but that didn't open until 8 am so I had some time to kill. I drove the Badlands Loop (really a half loop) thinking I needed to be at exit 111 instead of exit 131 off of I90 for MMNM. I could tell early in the drive that the day was going to be a high picture-taking day. Since I arrived at the Badlands after sunset the night before, this was my first view of the Badlands and I was impressed. I had been thinking that they were rounded hills, but instead they are a variety with a number of spikes, peaks, and crevasses - all off-white and some with horizontal redish stripes. The area reminded me of Bryce (with off-white instead of the orange at Bryce). I made many short picture-taking stops along the drive. I saw a field full of prairie dogs and pulled over and got out of my car and just stood there for a bit watching them (they scattered from near the road when I stopped) and listening to them chirp at each other. Continuing on the drive, I rounded a bend heading up and saw 2 big horn sheep up on a ridge. My first thought was, 'Are those real?' Yup, they were real and my second thought was, 'Oh, wow!' I took many pictures and then walked up the road to the other side of the ridge and saw that there was actually a family of big horn sheep laying in a ledge along the ridge. What a way to start of the morning. Soon after that was the end of the loop drive and I headed out towards I90. I did a u-turn to stop at the Badlands entrance station and asked about where exactly the Minuteman Missile National Monument was located. The ranger informed me that it was at the other end, exit 131. Oh well, it's just expensive gas. I went ahead and got on I90 (faster than the Badlands loop) and drove to the MMNM headquarters. Inside I was given brochures and told that I needed to go to exit 127 for the 9 am tour of the launch facility (it was 8:45). So back into my car I went. There were a lot of people at Delta-01 Launch Control Facility and since they can only do groups of about 6 (size limit for the elevator down), I had about a 30 minute wait for my tour. On Tuesdays, MMNM has an open house with no reservations, but tour reservations are needed on other days (thus why there were so many people there). The tour started with a ranger talking about the small facility above ground - it was purely to house the 6 security personal - and went through the lodging. The surprising thing is how little security there was - 6 armed guards and a wired fence was about it. Of course, there was a lot more security for access below ground. We crowed into the elevator and headed down over 30 feet. In front of the launch facility is a massive security vault door - on the outside was painted a Dominoes pizza box and a slogan of 'World-wide delivery in 30 minutes or less or your next one if free'. The launch facility is a small, narrow rectangle with 2 chairs and a small bed - looked a lot like the underground portion from the start of the movie War Games. The facility was operated by 2 officers and they worked on 24 hour shifts. After that tour, I headed over to exit 116 for Delta-09 - the missile silo itself. Each launch site controlled 10 silos. It wasn't that exciting and didn't take very long - just looking through a glass barrier down into the missile silo with a deactivated missile inside. Again the security for the area was surprisingly small - just a wired fence around the area. All of South Dakota's silos have been decommissioned as part of the SALT treaty in 1991. Also part of the treaty was the agreement for the preservation of Delta-01 and Delta-09 for historic purposes. There are still 450 active Minuteman Missile silos in the United States. So that was my tourist morning. I headed back into the Badlands (from the far end of the loop road) and did the road the reverse from the way I came - once again lots of stops for picture taking. I stopped at the prairie dog spot, pulled out my folding chair and had lunch there, though they were a little more quite and not as active as they were earlier. Continuing on the drive, I stopped at the Fossil Exhibit Trail and did the short boardwalk hike. The fossils weren't that exciting, but the various views of the Badlands were pretty. Next up was the Saddle Pass Trail. It was only .25 miles from the road to the pass, but what a tail-kicker. It was a pure steep up that had me huffing and puffing the whole way. But it was worth it due to the great scenery. I finally reached the top and was surprised that it didn't drop off on the other side, but extended out to a grassy plain - the Castle Trail went through the plain with a short branch to the pass. I was going to try the Castle Trail starting at the west end later in the day and settled for just resting at the pass and enjoying the views before heading back down the way I came. And as I feared, going down was worse than going up due to how steep the trail was. I managed to make it safely down, including a short stint where I duck-walked (hands on both sides of the walls, knees bent, and carefully moving one foot forward, making sure it was set, and then moving the other foot). I stopped at the visitor center and found a spot to sit inside as my body was overheated and needed to cool down before continuing hiking - the temperature was in the low 90s and there was no shade. So after about 45 minutes, I headed back out and did the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. The .5 mile loop wasn't very pretty after all that I had already seen in the park. During the loop, I realized that my body was still too warm and afterwards I went back to the visitors center, brought my computer in with me, and stayed there for about 2 hours (typing in previous trip notes). I felt much better after that and was ready to venture out again. There were 3 short trails at one spot and I first took the short .2 miles boardwalk to the Window Trail. At the end was a view in to the vast landscape of the eastern most Badlands amphitheater filled with lots of small and tall peaks, many valleys, and other features - it again reminded me of Bryce's main amphitheater. I then went on the longer Notch Trail (still less than a mile). The trail made its way along a dry stream into a narrow valley. After a bit the trail reached a log ladder up the canyon wall - the steps were logs held together by rope. I didn't like the looks of it, but put my head down and headed on up. I made about 2/3rds of the way up before needing to pause and catch my breath. I looked up and saw that ahead was a section where there was space between the ladder and the wall. I said 'Nope' and headed back down. Instead of hitting the 3rd trail right away, I grabbed a slice of pizza from my cooler (dinner) and drove down to the first viewpoint of the park (hadn't done that yet) and had a nice view into the Badlands. I then went back and did the Door Trail. It was a boardwalk trail that went through a hole in the Badlands Wall and a little bit into the amphitheater on the other side. Then there were steps off the boardwalk and you could wander around the area to your heart's content. It was great. I followed the small yellow posts that marked the trail in that area and again enjoyed many grand views. Afterwards, I took care of a little business and got a campsite in the park for the night and then went over to the store and splurged and got a fudgesicle. I asked a park ranger about where a good site for sunset and sunrise would be and headed back over to the Fossil Exhibit area. I had 2 hours to kill, so I headed out on the Castle Trail from the west side (my earlier plan for a hike from the east side got tossed when I started feeling poorly). The trail started out promising as it headed through some Badlands features, but soon entered prairie land and headed away from the Badlands features. It was pretty blah hiking and not much fun and I turned around after 30 minutes. I went back to my car area and found a spot and read for a bit. There were some clouds in the sky, including on the horizon, and the sunset wasn't that great. I got back to the campground area in time for the ranger's evening program. I went to listen to the talk, but left after 10 minutes as it was boring. Wednesday, July 2 I slept poorly (though my midnight trip to the bathroom resulted in a fantastic star viewing that resulted in it not being a quick trip) - it didn't cool down too much during the night, so that was probably part of the problem. I woke up at 4:40 am and stayed awake. It wasn't too crazy as my alarm clock was set for 10 minutes later as I was hoping to get a pretty sunrise. But that didn't workout as there was a cloud cover. Oh well. I tried the Castle Trail from the east starting point, but soon turned around as it again headed into the grasslands. So time for some driving as I was headed for Custer State Park in the Black Hills. The clouds stayed around and I got rained on as I made the drive. I planned the drive so that I would go by Mount Rushmore. I had been there before and didn't plan to go into the park (it is $10 and my park pass doesn't work there as they cheated by claiming the fee is not for the park but for the parking area which was built by a private company (and is the only parking access for the park)). But there is a view from the road of George Washington's face from the side that I wanted to stop and see. The clouds were still heavy and I sat for a bit (killing time hoping the clouds would clear up at Custer too). I eventually got a nice view and continued on. I reached Custer State Park and Sylvan Lake, where the trailhead is for Harney Peak. At 7242 feet, Harney Peak is the tallest in South Dakota. The clouds were still too heavy and I killed some more time (again typing in trip notes). I started my hike at 9:45 am and headed along what I thought was the trail to Harney Peak. After about 30 minutes I reached a parking lot. Oops. I was on the wrong trail, but fortunately the Little Devils Tower trail would later hook up with the Harney Peak trail so I didn't have to back-track (but it made it a longer hike). The trail wasn't a simple up, but an up-and-down-up-and-down variety, which also made it tougher. The clouds stayed low and I didn't have any distance views and got drizzled on a few times. I finally reached the Harney Peak junction and there were several other people on the trail (where as the Little Devils Tower trail only had people heading the other way - one of which told me I had chosen the hard way). The map I had for the trails wasn't accurate and the peak was much closer than it looked like on the map, about 30 minutes away in reality. At the top of the peak is an old stone watch tower, a national historic site. It was interesting and I wandered around the small building and then headed outside and sat and ate for a bit. Up at the peak, I found out that my big water container was leaking. I wasn't happy as this was the 2nd time that type of container had leaked on me early in a trip (bought that type again as I had one earlier that lasted for 5 years). I was prepared for such a problem as I had brought backup containers (2 smaller ones, different type), but my backpack and back and shorts were soaked. I had plenty of water and Gatorade besides that in the leaky container, so that wasn't an issue. The views at the peak weren't good as the clouds still blocked almost everything. The area to the west started to let up a little bit and I did get to see some of the area before I headed back down, this time taking the real Harney Peak trail. I set a good pace heading back as there was thunder in the distance and I hoped to reach the parking lot before the rain came. No such luck. It started drizzling and then came down a little harder (not quite true raining). I was being stubborn for some silly reason and didn't put on my rain poncho - probably would had if it had turned into rain. So the last 45 minutes of the hike were wet and I reached the parking lot pretty soaked (in addition to my leaking water container). Add to that the fact that the temperature was in the high 50s, I was cold. A change into dry clothes and the ride in the car warmed me up, though. I headed through the Black Hills to the town of Deadwood. The entire town is a national historic site and features many buildings from 1879 when it was a gold mining town. A fire went through the town in 1879, so that's why most of the historic buildings are from then. I nearly skipped doing the tour of the town that I had planned as I got frustrated trying to find a parking spot that didn't cost an arm and a leg. After a couple of trips through town, I found a metered spot that only cost me $3 for 3 hours. I took an hour bus tour of the town and cemetery with the driver giving commentary on the town and its buildings. A good chunk of the time was spent at the Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. The guide talked about how the legalization of gambling in the town a few years ago saved the town and cemetery. The cemetery was a mess with caskets sticking out of the ground and other problems, but with the gambling and a portion going back to the town, over $3 million had been spent repairing the cemetery. Part of the problem with the cemetery was that back in the day they only dug a foot or two for the burial and then piled the dirt on top. After the tour, I walked over to the area on the street where they were going to have a shootout. They had actors for Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane talked to the crowd for a short bit and then two gunslingers circled each other briefly and then fired at each other and both fell down and that was it. Not that exciting and only about 10 minutes. So it was time for more driving as I headed on out to Devils Tower, where I'd stay the night. I reached the Tower about 7:30 and got a campsite. Devils Tower is a large cylinder rock formation that is isolated (not part of a range) and a really interesting spot. I had been there before and knew it was a place you only needed a couple of hours to visit. I quicked walked the 1.3 mile loop around the base of the tower and then had a grand sunset to the west (not over the tower). I headed down to the campsite and found I had missed the ranger's talk (8 pm start this night instead of the 9 pm that is for all the other nights) - but would have missed it anyways in choosing the tower walk and sunset over the ranger's talk. Thursday, July 3 It was a long, long, long drive from Devils Tower to Banff (Canada). I started my drive at 5:45 am and finished at 10:45 pm (including a break to call my folks and let them know I was alive). Phew. I stayed at the Banff campground, which had showers! My first shower of my trip (washcloth bath the other nights). So I didn't get to bed until around midnight. Friday, July 4 I headed over to Moraine Lake in Banff National Park and waited for a little bit hoping the clouds would burn off. No such luck as it stayed mostly cloudy all day (but the clouds were above the peaks, so I could see them). The planned hike for the day was up to Wenkchemna Pass (or "W Pass" as I like to call it), going by Eiffel Lake. I had been to Eiffel Lake before and hoped to reach the pass this time - there were bear restrictions on the trail the last time where you had to be in groups of 6 or larger and I could only get a group together for the Eiffel hike (and that after failing to get a group a few days earlier and ended up going to Sentinel Pass). There were no bear restrictions this time, yeah! I headed on up, huffing-and-puffing in the early part of the trail. The trail for Eiffel Lake levels out after the Sentinel junction and it's an easy hike from there to the lake. Even with the clouds, the views of the Valley of Ten Peaks is impressive. Across the valley I heard a sound like thunder and looked over to watch and large chunk of snow falling down the mountainside. Along the trail to Eiffel were several snow patches to go through (boot tracks were there (previous footprints to step through)). I reached the lake and could see that I wasn't going to the W Pass as there was too much snow along the way, including a long snow field on the slope near the pass that the trail had to go through. I don't like snow patches and I especially don't like them on slopes. I did continue on the trail above and past the lake and found a nice spot looking down on the full lake and got a couple of pictures. I decided to take the steep, non-trail down to the lake and carefully made my way down. I found a nice spot lakeside (no feet soaking in the cold water) and rested, had lunch, and read for a while. Then it was the hard up from the lake. I found a nice spot along the trail with a view down on the lake and sat for a bit. There was a marmot near by and he looked at me a few times and then gave me no mind, including getting within a couple of feet of me at one point. I headed back to the junction and then took a left for the Sentinel Pass area. I eventually reached the lake at the base of the Sentinel Pass, where I had planned on circling to the far side and sit with a grand view. But the lake was almost completely iced over and there was a snow patch where I had sat the last time. I did make my way around part of the lake, including a cold wet-water crossing over the outlet stream, and sat for a bit. Going up to the pass itself was out as there were 2 snow fields along the way. It was getting late, so it was time to head down. Soon after I passed the junction, it started to drizzle. Not making the mistake I made a two days before, I pulled out my rain poncho and put it on. Good thing I did as it drizzled or rained the rest of the way down. Saturday, July 5 I again went over to Moraine Lake and killed sometime for a little bit. After a pit stop, I drove 4 miles back down the road to the Paradise Valley trailhead. It was again a partly cloudy-partly sunny day. I headed up the trail into the valley. It wasn't anything exciting until I hit the first bridge over the river. From the bridge, there were grand views of Mt Temple. After a huff-and-puff 1/2 mile section, I reached the pretty Lake Annette with Mt Temple looming above. After a rest at the lake, I continued onward. Further ahead the trail went through an open rock field and the views were absolutely stunning with the many snow capped peaks at the top of the valley visible, as well as more views of Mt Temple and views of the mountain across the valley. I found a comfty rock in the field and sat for a bit, enjoying the wonderful 360 degree views. While there, I watched a pika (a small, mouse like animal that likes rock fields) scurry about. I decided to try going up Sentinel Pass and see if there were any snow issues for the this side of the pass. I took the left branch for the Sentinel Pass-Giant Steps junction and was glad I did as the views were again wonderful. I could see Mt Temple and Eiffel Peak to the left and still had grand views of the peaks at the top of the valley. After going through another rock field, it started to rain. I hunkered down under a large tree that had a dry area underneath it. After about 20 minutes, it stopped raining and I continued on. I was beginning to suspect that I missed a branch somewhere as the pass area was behind me. The trail came down to the valley floor with a sign saying Sentinel Pass the direction I came from and a sign another direction for a different pass. But just ahead were two bridges over the stream that looked like they would have wonderful views. I went across them and, sure enough, the views were splendid - the best of the hike. Not only were the top of the valley peaks closer and still visible, but there was a straight on view of the Giant Steps, a large wide waterfall. After enjoy that viewpoint, I headed back up the trail and found where I missed the branch and headed the huff-and-puff up towards Sentinel Pass. There were a couple of snow patches along the trail, but they were not along steep sections and it looked like the trail didn't have snow patches in places that would bother me. But reaching the pass was not to be. I was about 2/3rds of the way up the pass (at least 45 minutes of hard up left) when it started to drizzle. I had been watching the clouds in the valley and was concerned it was going to rain hard. I hunkered down next to a rock with my rain poncho on and it did start to rain. And after about 30 minutes, it stopped raining. I decided to turnaround and not risk another batch of rain coming through while I was higher in the pass area. About 10 minutes later, the sun was shining and there was a patch of blue above the Sentinels, rock spires from which the pass gets its name. What a strange weather day. Since I didn't go to the pass, I decided to take the "oops" branch back down to the beautiful spot and take a longer break on one of the bridges. Then I looped back to the main trail (skipping a side trip to the base of the Giant Steps as I was sure they wouldn't be as impressive upclose as you wouldn't be able to see the peaks above them from the base - plus it was getting late). On the way back, I made another stop in the rock field and at the lake (both for needed rest and the views). As I was heading back along side the river, I rounded a bend and said, 'Oh, what are you?' There was a good sized animal on the trail - long squashed torso and long squashed tail. He looked at me and I started talking to him and he waddled away. I kept talking and started clapping my hands and he scurried off the trail and I hurried past that area. Later I encountered another one of those animals and, as that one was waddling away, I realized what it was - a porcupine. I finally reached my car and it ended up being almost a 10 hour hike (including rests and waiting for the rain to stop). I got back to my campsite and found that my site had been taken. I had left an "Occupied" sign on the post as well as the pay stub (I had paid for 2 nights the previous day) but the people in the site said that nothing was there when they arrived. Fortunately the next site was open and I took that and left a note in the fee box that I had paid for 2 nights. I wasn't happy that it happened and have to make a new "Occupied" sign. Sunday, July 6 It was raining in the morning and I waited a bit for it to stop before driving over to the Floe Lake trailhead. The trail goes through a 2003 forest fire burn area and it is not a pretty hike until you reach the lake, then it is stunning. Early on I stopped and watched 2 owls chirp at each other (probably about my presence). Heading up, the trail was narrow with wildflowers and ground cover brushing against my lower legs and shoes, getting them wet from the earlier rain. After an hour, I was concerned with what looked to be rain at the top of the valley. Soon after, it started to drizzle on me. 15 minutes later I heard thunder nearby and decided to turnaround. It rained steadily for 30 minutes (had my poncho on) and by the time it stopped, my shoes and socks were soaked - I was making squishy noises as I walked. Back at the car I was thinking about going on another long hike (have extra shoes) with a wider trail when my body shouted, "No! I'm tired" So I was nice to my body and decided to make it a lighter day and head up the road between Banff and Jasper - one of my favorite places in the park, Mt Edith Cavell, is near the top of the road. The weather remained the same - partly sunny followed by rain followed by sun followed by rain ... I was enjoying the scenery along the 2 hour drive through the mountains. I stopped at the Payton Lake parking area and made the short trek to the viewpoint of the lake and Payton Glacier - pretty. I reached the Parker Ridge trailhead area and decided to go ahead and do the hike this day instead of the planned next morning - I was glad I did as I got some blue sky (with lots of clouds) and the next morning was pure clouds when I drove by there. It was about 1.5 miles to the ridge, but pure switchback up. And the wind was blowing ice cold. By the time I was half way up, I had my jacket zipped up and the hood on with the strings pulled tight to cover my ears and try to keep them from freezing off. But the view from the top of the ridge is awesome. The Saskatchewan Glacier is at the top of the valley that the ridge overlooks and the only way you can see that glacier (besides from air) is from hiking to the ridge. And guess what happened while I was on the ridge? It drizzled. Again the rain didn't last long and soon the sun was again out (but the wind was still cold). I headed back down and continued my drive. As I was heading up the narrow, windy road to Mt Edith Cavell, I saw a huge chunk of snow break off from the mountain near the top and I stopped to watch it tumble down - it took about 5 minutes for all the snow to stop falling. I took the short walk out to the glacial lake in front of the Cavell Glacier and enjoyed the views. Another glacier is above on the mountainside to the right and has several waterfalls that feed the lake. Just a very pretty spot. And guess what? I got rained on again - hunkered down and waited it out. After it stopped raining, I watched some thin clouds dance at the top of the mountain. I started heading out as it seemed that more rain clouds were coming. Thus ended another rain and sunny day. Monday, July 7 It was cold and cloudy in the morning. I made another trip out the Mt Edith Cavell to start the morning (since that was the whole reason I made the long drive - it's about 60 miles north of Parker Ridge). I walked around part of the glacial lake, but didn't sit too long as it was too cold (42 degrees). I reversed the drive from the day before and headed south from Jasper National Park back into Banff National Park (they boarder each other). Near Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier is the trailhead for Helen Lake. I headed up the hard start to the hike through the forest. About 45 minutes into the hike are great views of the glacier with a portion of the lake below. I didn't take too many pictures as the clouds were a blanket and I had done the hike before with clear skies (and lots of pictures). After the trail rounds a bend, it is a mild hike for an hour above a different valley with pretty views. The wind was still cold and I was again bundled up with my jacket. I found a nice place near the lake and enjoyed the view. I opted not to make the extra hike up the ridge as the clouds would diminish the great views and I had already been there - plus I was cold. I only lasted for 15 minutes at the lake before heading back out. On the way back, a couple warned me that there were two bears near the trail. Later I rounded a bend and saw ahead on the trail one of the bears (fortunately not too close). Whoa. She looked at me and I started moving back and she moved ahead away from me a little bit and stopped. I moved back some more and then snapped a picture and headed further away. I waited for a father and son to catch up with me - they weren't far behind. The three of us headed forward and a little bit past where I first saw the bear, there were now two bears on the trail. Oops. We scurried back further (no picture this time) and waited a while for another couple to join us (safety in numbers) plus the father pulled out the "bear gas" he had in his backpack. The 5 of us headed forward, making lots of noise, and the bears were gone. Later we could see them higher up on the slope. [Note that the bears were never aggressive towards us, just looked curious at us.] We continued on and stopped and talked with a group of 4 (with a small dog) that were heading up. We warned them about the bear and they were trying to decide whether to turn around or not. Someone in the group spotted the bear and her year-old cub up on the slope, still heading in our direction. So the 4 joined our group and we all headed down. We rounded the bend around the mountain and continued down for ways. I left the group and sat at a view point of Crowfoot Glacier with the lake below it. I didn't stay too long (less than 10 minutes). As I was resting later in the hike, a large bird - I think a falcon - landed on a branch low down on a nearby tree, noticed me, and flew off. After the hike, I stopped at the Lake Louise information center and informed them about our bear encounter on the trail (as you are supposed to do). They said that it was the first bear report for the Lake Helen area this year and that with the light brown coloring they were like grizzly bears. I then went to Moraine Lake and did the short Rockpile hike to a beautiful viewspot lakeside that I always visit. It was actually my first (and only) visit directly to the lake. I had a cold slice of pizza lakeside (dinner) and didn't stay too long as I again got cold. Tuesday, July 8 The forecast for the day was sunny, but it was partly cloudy in the morning. I decided to give Floe Lake another shot so I headed off through the burnt woods. I pulled out my 3rd pair of hiking shoes (actually the newest, but I like them the least) as the 2nd pair were still wet from the previous Floe Lake attempt and I didn't want to risk getting my favorite pair wet (not trusting the weather forecast). No owls sighted this time, but I did see a woodpecker. I should make note of the wildflowers in the park. They aren't in full bloom with fields of them, but there are patches of wildflowers in bloom. Along this hike there were a variety of flowers (including some that I hadn't see on other trails). There were wild pink roses, yellow columbine, pink (varying from light to hot) paintbrush, yellow daisies, a variety of other yellow and white flowers, and some electric blue flowers. Those colors brightened up a long, hard hike through the not so pretty burnt forest. Also along the trail were very pretty black moths with white spots and orange front legs. I was glad I had turned around the previous time when the rain started as the trail remained narrow with the ground cover brushing against my legs almost all the way to the lake. Plus the trail hasn't been cleared and there were a number of downed trees that had to be crawled under or climbed over. The sun went away until I was nearly finished with the hike, but for the first time since I arrived in Canada it did not rain. I finally finished the long and very hard up from the bottom of the waterfall to the lake area, and also was finally out of the burn area (the 2003 forest fire stopped before it reached the lake area). Floe Lake is in a beautiful setting with a sheer rock wall on the west side, a pretty snowy peak on the north side, tree covered shoreline along the east side, and open on the south side where you can see more peaks in the distance. I found a nice spot lakeside with some rocks giving me a little bit of shelter from the cold wind and stayed for about 45 minutes before deciding to head back down as I was cold. The hike out was fairly uneventful, though I didn't make it quick in having several long stops where I read some (nothing else planned for the day). Afterwards, I headed into the town of Banff for some needed supplies (cold cuts (lunch) and Dominoes pizza (dinner for several days)). Wednesday, July 9 The forecast for the day was "rain" but it was only partly cloudy in the morning and remained that way most of the day with lots of sun (did get drizzled on for a very short bit twice). Up for the day was a hike up to Rockbound Lake. The first 3 miles of the trail head up along an old roadbed in the forest and is uneventful (except for, 'When is this going to end?'). Rounding the bend, the trail narrows some and heads up an interior valley between the backside of Castle Mountain and the start of Helen Range. It is a pretty valley (though there weren't many wildflowers in bloom yet). After 4.5 miles, I reached Tower Lake, a smaller lake with Castle Mountain along its west shore. I like that lake, but couldn't spend much time there as the other shores are boggy and there is really only one resting spot - and the bugs will soon swarm. After I crossed the outlet stream and got ready for the hard hike up the rock ledge, I glanced back and saw movement. I turned around and stood still and there was a family of 4 deer coming down the trail and approaching the stream. They eyed me and two approached the stream and two were skittish about my presence. The two crossed the stream and headed in to a meadow and the skittish two move further down the stream before crossing and rejoining the first two. And I headed up. It's only about 1/2 mile between Tower Lake and Rockbound Lake, but it's a steep up. There are nice views down on Tower Lake on the way up, though. After huffing-and-puffing, I finally reached the ridge and then made the short down to the wonderful lake. Rockbound Lake is a larger mountain lake with a rockfield along part of the lake (where the trail reaches it) and mountain walls along 3 sides. I found a nice spot in the rockfield near the lake and made myself comfortable and relaxed for a while - the wind wasn't too cold (was cool) and wasn't constant so I was able to spend time at the lake. After about 30 minutes, I wandered around the lake area. I found a spot where I could look down on Tower Lake and I viewed Rockbound Lake from its east shore (didn't sit anywhere as it was buggy). I then made my way back to my original spot and rested and read some more. I took my time heading back as I wasn't in a rush and my body was tired (it was 5.2 miles and 2,500 feet gained to the lake - and I had done a 13 mile, 2,350 feet gained hike the day before). I started the Rockbound Lake hike at 8:30 am and finished it at 5 pm. I headed over to Kootenay National Park (just west of Banff) and got a campsite. It was a little early to call it a day, so I went to the nearby Paint Pots for a short hike. The trail goes through an area with orangish clay that was once used to make pottery and for body paint and the Paint Pots are 3 mineral rich springs that cause the orange coloring. Probably would have been more exciting if I didn't live in the Dallas area where red (orange) clay is common (think the Red River area). Since I was staying in the campground right across the road, I had to do the Marble Canyon walk (another short trail). Now this was worth the visit. The paved trail starts at the end of the narrow, slot canyon and heads along the rim to the start of the canyon, with several bridges crossing the deep canyon where you can look down and see the water rushing through far below. Back at the campground, the forecasted rain occurred at 7:45 pm - it was a good downpour and even had some sleet, but it only lasted about 30 minutes and the sun even came out again later. Thursday, July 10 The forecast for the day was showers, and that actually proved to be accurate. It started raining off and on at 7:30 am and was still raining at 9:30 am (with more rain clouds coming in). So my morning 2.5 mile hike up to the Stanley Glacier valley got tossed aside (it was a last minute addition and not something I was willing to hang around and wait/hope for better weather for the hike). So I started my long drive to Waterton, heading down through Kootenay and the west side of the mountains instead of the aggravating drive through Calgary and blah drive through the east plains. With an 20 minute 'oops' detour, the drive took 7 hours. I reached Waterton a little before 5 pm and opted to just go to the campsite (outside the park) where I planned on being online for several hours catching up. No such luck as their wifi was down (if I had known that, I would have gone into Waterton and done a hike). So I just did laundry and read some and went to bed early. It started raining (sometimes hard) around 8:30 pm and rained all night long and was still raining when I woke up early. patricia
Here's Part 2 - Wall Lake in Waterton and the first 6 days in Glacier. There are 11 pictures for this writeup at http://www.eskimo.com/~pbender/pictures/trip08/pic2.html patricia Friday, July 11 So after raining all night and finally stopping around 6 am, the day ended up being quite nice. I headed into Waterton National Park in the morning and saw a bald eagle next to the river (it flew away before I could get a picture). With the rain in the lower elevation, the upper elevation got some snow and there was a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks. I killed some time hoping the temperature would warm up some. I headed over to Cameron Lake, just to look at it - it is a pretty, large-sized lake. I gave in to the cold and changed into my jeans (I hate hiking in jeans) and headed up to Wall Lake at 8:30 am - it was a brisk 38 degrees. I was first up the trail and had the lake all to myself. It is just a mild 3 miles to a very pretty lake was a great rock mountain backdrop. The lake was still when I arrived and the sky was blue and that resulted in a stunning reflection of the peaks and sky on the lake. I found a spot lakeside and sat for about 15 minutes (I didn't go completely around the lake as I usually do as it was cool and there were other things I needed to do this day). I pulled out my binoculars and spotted the mountain goat high on the slope near a snow patch - he's been some where on the slope each time I've been to the lake. I only stayed a short bit as it was cold with a breeze (ruining the reflection) and I headed on back. I decided to stop in a cafe in Waterton that had internet access and had lunch and got online so I could send out the (long) first installment of my trip report for this trip. I only gave myself an hour to be online and most of that was spent dealing with the trip report and pictures, so I didn't get a chance to catch up on the NBA news. As I was heading out from Waterton, I saw some cars pulled alongside the road and I joined them. There was a moose wading in the lake next to the road. Heading on down the road, I got through customs with no problem and re-entered the US. Entering Glacier National Park, I asked about any trail closures and was surprised to find out the Highline Trail (aka Garden Wall) was closed due to snow and ice concerns. I got a campsite in Rising Sun Campground and then gave my parents a call and talked for a bit. I then headed up to Logans Pass (the highest point on the Going to the Sun road). Once there, I could see why the Highline trail was close - there was snow every where. I went inside and talked with a ranger to see what the conditions where for the trails I had planned on hiking - almost all of my long hikes got tossed due to snow issues. It turns out that the park has had about 215% more snow than usual - including 3 feet of snow in June. Back in jeans again, I bundled up and headed on up the Hidden Lake Overlook "trail". There were a number of people doing the hike, so I figured it was safe to do so. The trail was 90% snow covered (as in packed, deep snow that you could walk on). There were even some people skiing and snowboarding down the mountain slope. So I trudged up, following the boot tracks and yellow poles. A group of young men went off to the side of the trail, took their shirts off, and body-slid down a small slope. Crazy, but it did look like fun. I finally finished the up portion of the trail and was surprised to see the little pond was there next to the trail (I had figured it would be snow covered). I headed on over through more snow to the overlook area and saw a family (3) of mountain goats grazing not too far off the trail. The view down on Hidden Lake was as nice, as always. The very large lake was half iced over. I took lots of pictures. I went to the rock that I usually sit at and enjoy the view and found that just the top of the 4-foot tall rock was above the snow. I made my way back down, grateful for my hiking stick. I got to the area where the young men had slid and pulled my plastic rain poncho out, sat on it, and slid down the slope. I only went a little ways, but also did it again on another small slope. And I had a big grin on my face the rest of the hike down. Saturday, July 12 The weather was supposed to be really nice this day and I decided to do the hike to Gunsight Lake, my favorite in the park. The hike was originally to be a monster 21 mile hike to the lake, over Gunsight Pass, down by another lake, up another pass, down by Sperry Chalet and down to Lake McDonald, but that got tossed as Gunsight Pass had snow issues - I was disappointed not to be able to do that hike, but I think my body was happy. The hike started with a mile down before leveling out for several miles. Near the bottom of the down was a section of the river that has a pretty, small falls through some red rocks. I was going to take a break at that spot, but ended up pulling out my Off bug spray as the bugs were really attacking and I didn't stay long. I headed along the trail through 3 miles of mostly dead trees (they were killed in 2007 by getting too much water from the many storms from that year - I had worried that it was in prime condition for a wild fire, but fortunately that has not occurred). The trail then crossed a creek and there was a nice resting spot there - not buggy as the water flows swiftly and there was a cool breeze and I sat there for a bit (no rush as this hike was my day). After less than a mile, the trail headed up some (one of two climbs in the hike - the second being the mile hike back up to the road) and there are great views of the top of the valley including Jackson Glacier and a big waterfall. I swear I take at least 10 pictures of the top of the valley each time I do the hike - and I've done it 5 times now. It is just so pretty. The trail rounded the bend, headed through a field and then some trees and then reaches the large, oblong lake. There was a little shore along the east side of the lake and I sat there and had lunch and read and enjoyed the splendor. It is just such a beautiful place - there is the lake, there are many waterfalls feeding the lake, there is the diagonal red ribbons on the mountainside, greenery on the mountains, and snowfields. Add to that the crystal blue sky without a single cloud and it was a great outing. The wind was blowing off the pass and across the lake and it did get a little cool, but I bundled up and stayed - the wind was keeping the bugs away. After 45 minutes, I decided to head part way up the pass. There were a couple of snow fields early, but that was it. I made it a good ways up (before the big snow field area) and found a nice spot and sat for a while. The views all around were again great as I had the pass area to my left and the lake to the right with a view of the full valley all the way to the peaks on the other side of the road (not that you can see the road). I returned to the lake and sat for a while - not as long as before as the wind wasn't as strong so the bugs were hovering. I also rested at the spot next to the creek. At the red rock small falls, I got right next to the water and the cool breeze keep the bugs at bay and I stayed there for a while. I did the last mile out at a quick pace and without pause as the bugs were really swarming (and the Off wasn't having much effect). But it was a wonderful day. I stopped by the St Mary Visitor Center and talked to another ranger and got more details about trail information (Grinnell Glacier may be clear (or at least able to go further) by the end of the week and the snow issues aren't a problem with Piegan Pass). Sunday, July 13 It was another beautiful day with clear skies and I headed up to Iceberg Lake, my third favorite place in the park. The trail starts with a climb and then is mild the rest of the way, with many open views of Swiftcurrent Valley and the Ptarmigan and Iceberg valleys. I made my usual rest stop at the top of the uneventful Ptarmigan Falls. Continuing on to Iceberg Lake, there was the first snow patch of the trail - the parks service had cleared a path through it as there was a stream coming down underneath the snow and they didn't want people walking over a snow bridge (with the potential to collapse) for this very popular trail. Within about 1/2 mile of the lake (and mostly level walk) was about 80% snow. Someone had mentioned how wonderful the wild flowers were for this trail right now. They were in bloom along the trail, but the meadows next to the lake were completely snow covered - I had been there before when they were in full bloom and it was wonderful with all the variety of paintbrush colors and various other wild flowers. I should also mention that the bear grass (stalks topped with large white plumes that only bloom every few years) is out in force this year with lots of them along the Iceberg trail as well as the Gunsight trail. As I made my way over the snow, Iceberg Lake came into view. The lake was 60% still frozen over and had collapsed snow bank along one edge that was very pretty. With the lake mostly frozen, there weren't many icebergs in the lake itself - though I did get to watch one traverse the unfrozen portion of the lake while I was there. The lake is a really beautiful place and I found a spot lakeside (a little away from all the people) and stayed for over an hour (bundled up as the wind was blowing cool). Afterwards, I headed back out and again stopped above the falls. I took my shoes and socks of and briefly dipped my feet in the cold water and stayed there for a while. Others thought I had a good idea and soon there were at least 5 pairs of bare feet near the stream. Back on the trail, I saw a man further ahead pointing at something up above the trail. I slowed down a tad and wondered what he was looking at. I heard a noise and a large dark brown thing with antlers came rushing through the bushes above, crossed the trail in front of me, and into the bushes below - I gave a big 'Whoa!' as it was completely unexpected. It was a big moose that had briefly crossed my path. I finished the hike around 3:30 and decided to head up the Swiftcurrent Valley towards Redrock Falls since it was too early to end my day. Shortly after taking the shortcut trail between the Iceberg Lake trail (near the trailhead) and the Redrock trail was a wide bridge over a stream. I sat on the bridge for a while and enjoyed a great view of a small falls coming down through red rock with a large red faced mountain slope looming above - a wonderful little spot that I would had never known about without taking the side trail. I joined the main trail and it was an uneventful walk through the forest. I arrived lakeside at the bottom of Redrock Lake and sat for a while on a small sandish beach with the falls visible across the lake. When I got up, I was going to continue around the lake to the falls, but my body said that it was tired so I decided to head on back (the falls, though pretty, aren't that exciting). As I passed the Fishercut Lake junction, I heard a family mention to another couple that there were moose at the lake, so I turned around and took the short walk down to the tree enclosed good sized lake. Indeed there were two female moose eating in the lake. One was closer to the shore and the other was near the far side. I sat on the shore and watched them for a while. The far moose started heading towards the bushy shore to the left. I noticed something swimming in the water along the outlet stream, but they swam away before I was able to focus on them with the binoculars as the moose was getting close. She stepped onto the shore and a her calf came out of the bushes. She nuzzled him for a bit and then returned to the water, with the calf following. She tried to force the calf into doing something he didn't want to do and eventually gave up and went into the trees on the other side of the lake. The calf looked at the trees for a bit and then returned to the bushes. I left soon after. I attended a ranger talk in the evening about bears - kind of interesting, though he said some things that contradicted what I had heard from other rangers before. Monday, July 14 It was another beautiful day in Glacier. I took the shuttle (fee) from Many Glacier to St Mary as I was going to try the full Piegan Pass trail - starting at Siyeh Bend on the Going to the Sun road, over the pass, and down to Many Glacier. I had talked to three different rangers about this hike and all thought it was doable, with each thinking it would be a different level of difficulty. The third ranger was the only one who warned me that the summer bridge (only mentioning one) wasn't in yet and that it would about a foot deep of water to cross. I took the free shuttle from St Mary to Siyeh Bend. From the Bend, I could see (and saw a few days before) that there were only two snow patches along the slope up to the pass and those patches were early on the slope. I started my hike up by heading up a short ways along a stream and then turning into the woods. The trail was clear for less than a mile. Then it was about 70% snow for the next several miles - a lot more snow that I was expecting (nothing dangerous as it was a gradual up). I took my time heading up. Once I got above the tree line, there were three snow patches to go through (including the two visible from the road). The first two weren't too bad, but I didn't like the third one as it was through a steeper slope, but there were enough boot tracks to make it safely through (plus two older couples had recently gone through and I figured if they could make it, so could I). The rest of the open talus slope was clear and, surprising, only a mild grade up, not a hard climb. The views were great, but the wind was terrible. The wind was really strong all the way up to and at the pass. I sat on a rock at the pass and looked down the Morning Eagle valley and the Many Glacier area. It was a really beautiful view (though none of the lakes were visible). After about 45 minutes, I headed down. There was no snow in the open area for the first good portion of the hike down, but the wind was even stronger than it was on the other side. Rounding a bend, there was a wonderful spot next to a stream with a pretty falls coming down and a big mountain above - I rested there for a bit. After two more stream crossing (rock hopping), the trail entered the trees. I spotted Morning Eagle Falls (a large, wide falls visible from the Grinnell Glacier hike) through the trees from above and that's when the trouble began. There were some snow patches in the trees and I came to a large patch. There was one old boot track through it, but I didn't like that so I went above the patch. I went to where the boot track ended and couldn't figure out where the trail went next. I followed a deer path for a bit and it petered out, so I just started heading down through the trees. I spotted a bit of the trail along the creek far below, so I figured if worse came to worse, I'd just head down to the creek and follow the creek down until I encountered the trail. I continued heading down through the trees and was very grateful when I stumbled across the trail again and gave a couple of prayers of thanks. The trail continued down and there was another large snow patch that I didn't like the looks of at all. I tried to go down around it, but wasn't able to do so. So I went ahead and went through it - going very, very slowly and punching out stable foot holds with each step. I was quite happy when I finally was back on the dirt trail, though my hands and legs were shaking for all the effort. I continued on and there was another large snow patch that there was no way I was going through. It had melted some so there was a thin open area to the right that I headed down. I was about half way down when I realized that the trail came out of the patch directly below me, yeah! Thankfully that was the end of the hard snow patches - had two more to go through, but they were on more level ground. The trail came out near the bottom of the falls and I sat there for quite a while. It was a beautiful spot with the large falls nearby and peaks all around. Continuing on the trail, I soon came to the wet water crossing. The trail reached a snow bank and the creek was on the other side of the snow bank. Fortunately I was able to get around the snow bank to a non-snowy creek-edge spot (you don't want to walk on snow near waters edge as it will likely collapse). I put my water shoes on and made it as quick as I could crossing the ice cold water. It came up to my mid-calf (so much for a foot deep). I sat on the other side of the creek to let my feet and legs dry (and get feeling back in them). I had looked at the map and saw that there were actually three creek crossings along the trail. I reached the second crossing and there was no alternatives but to cross right where the trail reached it (no snow banks, though). It was deeper and faster flowing. I changed again into my water shoes and forded across. The cold water came to my mid-thigh and, yes, my shorts got wet. I sat on the wooden planks for the summer bridge (that was on dry land) and let my legs dry (knowing the shorts would stay wet for a while). Shoes back on, I continued onward. I reached the third crossing and was quite happy to see that the swing bridge was in place. After about another mile (no more snow), I reached Grinnell Lake and was back with a currently in use trail. I had some unkind thoughts for those rangers who said the pass was do-able (yes, it was do-able, but was not something one should do). I sat lakeside and enjoyed the grand view up the Grinnell valley. I could clearly see that there was no way the trail to Grinnell Glacier would be cleared with in the next few weeks (much less by the end of the week). The rest of the hike back was uneventful. I did make the short sidetrip to the Hidden Falls overlook (nothing exciting) and took my time heading back, stopping about every mile as I was tired. I had started my hike at 8:45 am and finished at 6:30 pm (not constant hiking as there were lots of long breaks). I attended a ranger program that night and he talked about animals in the alpine areas - a good talk and the ranger knew how to keep an audience's attention ("What sound does a ptarmigan (a type of bird) make when it goes to the bathroom? None, the P is silent."). The ranger also confirmed my thoughts about the Grinnell Glacier trail as he said that those who were working on clearing the trail said that they could maybe clear it by the end of the week if they used 1000 sticks of dynamite - for now they are going to let nature melt the snow. Tuesday, July 15 Well those perfect days couldn't last. There was a thin layer of clouds with the sun trying to shine through. Up for the day was another new hike, this one to Poia Lake. The trail was also a horse trail, so there were additional smells to the many wildflowers. It wasn't that exciting of a hike as the views weren't all that great. I did see a ptarmigan along the trail (and now knew what the bird was thanks to the ranger talk from the night before). The trail headed by Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake, which was actually a good ways below the ridge. It was a tree surrounded lake without any scenic backdrops and no place to stop lakeside. I continued up and finally reached the ridge and then the trail headed down the other side. And headed down. And headed down - which meant lots of fun coming back the other way. I reached the bottom of the valley and was disappointed to see that I still had a bit of a ways to go as the trail headed up a rock pile and around a bend. I finally reached the lake and was again disappointed - nothing exciting and definitely not worth all that effort. I didn't stay too long (the wind was again pretty strong) and soon started heading back. There were some rain clouds in the area, but I only got hit by about three drops (if I had done any other hike in the area, I probably would have gotten more rain - looking for bright points). At least there was no snow along the trail. I did see a mother and a young deer along the trail on the way back. Oh well, I can say I've been to Poia Lake now and tell others not to bother. I splurged and had dinner at the Italian restaurant in Many Glacier (plus I was out of pizza) - the leftovers for my chicken penne would be dinner for the next few nights. I attended the evening program again and this time it was a member of the Blackfeet tribe that spoke about some of their customs and stories. Wednesday, July 16 It started raining around 8 am and I put off starting this day's hike for a couple of hours. I then sat in the car near the trailhead a little longer as another rain cloud was coming through, finally heading out around 10:20 am. My timing was good as that was the last rain for the morning. I had so much fun with the horse trail on Tuesday that I decided to hike another horse trail - actually this was much different as it was a repeat hike and I knew the destination would be well worth the effort (and extra smell). The first part of the trail rounds Lake Sherburne and is well used by the horses. I lucked out and it seemed that only a few horses had been to Cracker Lake as there were only a couple of droppings (and those weren't fresh) after the first two miles. The next mile was the climb of the hike as the trail switchedback up the slope (there are other ups, but they are at a milder grade). The trail crossed the creek and soon there were nice views of the red topped mountain with some snow patches and a couple of waterfalls coming down. It was 6 miles to the lake and the last portion seemed to take forever - even though I knew better, I kept thinking the lake was just a little further ahead. But what a view when the lake first appeared. Cracker Lake is a large oblong mountain lake with peaks along three sides and the lake is a stunning shale blue. I rested at the first viewpoint for a bit before continuing on along the lake. In the middle of the east side of the lake is a very large rock mound - I next rested there. There were three marmots in the area and I enjoyed watching them. One of them popped up on the rock edge next to where I was sitting and looked at me for a bit - he was just a shade over an arm's length away from me. I continued on to the top of the lake and the small beach shore there. Some old mining equipment from the copper mine in the area (I think it shut down in the 1930s) was left in that area and was interesting to look at. While I was sitting along the shore, I saw that a mountain goat had made his way over to the top of the large rock mound - so I soon left the shore and headed back to the rock mound. The goat was still at the rock mound when I returned and I took a few pictures of him as well as again enjoyed the marmots. Unfortunately the rain clouds returned and I soon headed out (would have stayed longer if it wasn't for the rain - though I did consider taking shelter in the outhouse, but decided that would be too uncomfortable). With my rain poncho on, I didn't rush back. The rain stopped before I reached the creek crossing and I rested there for a while. After the switchbacks down, I also rested at another stream crossing - this time taking my shoes off and giving my feet a brief soak. After the hike, I stopped in the Many Glacier Lodge for the first time, just to look around. It was built in the 1930s. I attended the evening ranger program about what it was like to visit in the park in the 1920s - didn't learn much new. patricia
Here's part 3, a shorter one for a change - with much thanks to the Dillon (Montana) Visitor Center for the free online access. There are 6 pictures for this writeup at http://www.eskimo.com/~pbender/pictures/trip08/pic3.html patricia ---- Thursday, July 17 It was back to the beautiful mornings with a clear sky. I had planned a lighter day with a trip up to Grinnell Glacier (as far as the trail goes). The trail first has a mild walk around one side of Swiftcurrent Lake and then around Lake Josephine before starting to head up. As the trail rounds the bend, grand views become visible of Morning Eagle Falls and its valley (the hike down from Piegan Pass - I took some time looking at that valley and trying to figure out where the trouble points were from my hike the other day) and then of Grinnell Lake below and the Grinnell Glacier area at the top of that valley. Grinnell Lake is a stunning shale blue and there were a number of wildflowers in bloom along the trail. The top of the valley is just beautiful with two glaciers visible (Grinnell Glacier itself is not visible as it sits in a shelf) and a very large waterfall feeding the lake below. I found a nice spot and just sat and looked around for a bit. I reached the "trail closed" sign and continued past it a little ways (the trail is not officially close, but it is not recommended going across the snow patches a short ways ahead as they go over streams and could collapse). And, indeed, at the first stream was a collapsed snow patch (with no trail through). I went along the stream and small cascade waterfall (heading up a short bit) and found a nice spot and sat for a good while and had lunch. Only one couple was foolish enough to continue on (and they eventually turned around after doing two more dangerous snow crossings). I returned to my previous pretty spot (which had views up both valleys) and again sat there for a while. I returned along the trail and sat lakeside along Lake Josephine for a while. After finishing the hike, I thought I would return to Fishercut Lake and see if the moose were still there. They weren't so it was just a short visit. I did return to the pretty (small) waterfall that I found the other day on the shortcut trail between the Redrock Trail and Iceberg Lake trail and finished up a mediocre book. I then headed out of the Many Glacier area and down to the town of St Mary. I stopped at the KOA campground in town and confirmed that they had internet access and got a campsite there so I could get online for a good bit and add part 2 of the trip report and catch up some on the NBA going ons. I also did a load of laundry. I went to Rising Sun for the ranger evening program and it was again a member of the Blackfeet tribe speaking - same person, but he gave a much better talk this time. I tried to get online again afterwards, but the connection wasn't working so I wasn't able to finish the NBA stuff. Friday, July 18 I again tried to get online in the morning, but was unable to do so (grumble, thus I still have to catch up on NBA stuff since the start of my trip and get the news out). I drove down to the Two Medicine area and made my traditional stop at Running Eagle Falls. It is just less than a 1/2 mile nature trail, but what a destination. I had the added pleasure of it being a double fall - the first time I've ever been there with the falls in that shape. Normally when you say a waterfall is a "double fall" you mean that the river/creek branches near the top and the water falls down in two parallel streams. That was not the case for Running Eagle Falls. There is a gap in the rock ledge and the water comes down through the gap and falls down the rest of the way - looking like it comes out of the mountainside. When there is lots of water (such as this time with the late snowmelt), some of the water flows over the top of the rock ledge so that it is a double fall with the top fall coming down and joining with the larger gap fall. Just beautiful. So that was my breakfast spot, and I had it all to myself. I got a campsite in Two Medicine and talked to a ranger. She said that the two passes were clear of snow issues and it should be possible to do the long loop hike (though there was a report of a small rock avalanche between the two passes a few days before). So I headed up the trail for Oldman Lake with the thought of visiting the lake and doing the loop hike. The first 2 miles of the trail were uneventful as it rounded a mountainside (an up and then a down). I reached the wide creek and was surprised that there was no bridge. Out came my trusty watershoes (the best $8 I've ever spent (bought about 10 years ago)). The water only came about ankle deep (a little deeper at one point), but was ice cold. I reached the other side of the creek and then sat for a bit to let my feet dry and get feeling back in them. As I was heading up the valley (with the lake at the top of the valley), a group of backpackers were coming down. They stopped and warned me that there was a bear in the campground during the night and morning (lots of fun for them). Great. The campground is right next to the lake and that area has been closed the last 3 times I had been to the park due to bear issues. So with the bear back, visiting Oldman Lake got tossed aside. I continued up the valley, enjoying the views, and I got concerned about doing the loop hike. There was a strong wind blowing down the valley and I feared it would be worse between the pass. Plus I wouldn't reach the first pass until at least 2 pm and there was a chance of afternoon storms. The area between the two passes is a narrow, exposed rock ledge and that is the last place I would want to be during poor weather. Midway up the valley (after over 4 miles of hiking), I decided to play it safe and turn around - always an easier thing to do when you have previously done the hike. Of course it never rained and I could have easily (well, tiredly) completed the loop, but I'm not going to complain too much about a day with Running Eagle Falls in it. I returned to the creek and made the icy crossing and found a nice spot creek-side and sat and read for about an hour. I finished the hike and tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my day. I considered taking the boat ride, but decided not to do so. I elected to drive to the nearby town of East Glacier and visit the park lodge there, which I had never done. It was interesting with the full sized tree logs (including bark) supporting most of the interior, but didn't take much time. I returned to Running Eagle Falls, carried along my camping chair, and set it up at a great spot near the falls. I read some and talked to some of the people who came by (many with a comment of what a great idea and great spot). I attended the ranger program about bears - she did a nice job and had some little play-acting with kids, which always makes it a little more enjoyable. Saturday, July 19 Guess where I had breakfast? I'm not even going to answer - if you can't guess, you need to re-read Friday's notes. So with a great start to the day, I had a bit of a drive as I headed over to the west side of the park (Hwy 2, not Going to the Sun road). I completed my lodge visits by stopping by the Lake McDonald Lodge (the least impressive of the three park lodges). I got a campsite in the Avalanche campground and walked over to the shuttle stop. I took the free shuttle up to Logan's Pass - with my car really happy about that as they were working on a long section of the road and part of the road was graveled. I had heard rumors and was happy to see it was true - the Highline Trail had opened on the 18th. Well, at least part of it was open - after about 2.5 miles, they recommended snow axes and crampons (but I wasn't planning on going further than that). The Highline Trail (aka the Garden Wall) starts with a walk through some trees and meadows with grand views of the pyramid shaped Clements Mountain to the left and soon goes along a narrow rock ledge, that can be harrowing (though I've done it enough times that it doesn't bother me), with great views of the entire area to the west. Shortly before I reached the rock ledge, a mountain goat and a kid came along the trail. I waited and they passed right by me - mountain goats tend to give humans no mind. Midway through the rock ledge, I noticed some hikers ahead looking down at the road. I soon saw what they were watching - a herd of big horn sheep were walking down the road. The big horn sheep left the road shortly after I spotted them and started heading up the mountainside at a trot, a little ways below the trail, and we simply stood there and watched them. After the rock ledge, two mountain goats and a very young kid were coming along the trail and, again, they trotted right by me as I stood slightly off the trail. I continued along the trail and enjoyed the many views. I rounded the bend to where I could see the snow field at the bottom of the switchback area of the trail (what they call the Haystack) and decided to stop there and have that as my turning around point - no need to go all the way to the snow field as I wasn't going through it and I had great views at my turning around point, including being able to see the impressive Bird Woman Falls coming down from an isolated mountainside (though the views of the falls are better from the road). On the way back, the three mountain goats (including the young kid) were laying up in the rocks above the trail. Since I only hiked a little over 2 miles of the Highline, I decided to repeat the hike to Hidden Lake Overlook that I had done at the start of this Glacier visit. 8 days later, the hike was only about 60% snow instead of the 90% it was the first time - portions of the boardwalk trail were snow-free. But a good chunk of the way up was pure snow. I again enjoyed the pond near the top and was surprised that most of the top area was snow-free (though a number snow patches near the trail). My rock resting spot was snow-free and I was able to sit in my usual spot to enjoy the splendid view of Hidden Lake. I only stayed about 20 minutes as I had another hike for the afternoon. On the way down, I again walked through the snow to the left of the trail, pulled out my old rain poncho (which I had brought along with this thought in mind), and sled down a little ways on the slope. I was only able to do it the one time this time as the second slope had patches of grass and flowers. I took the shuttle back to the Avalanche stop and started my hike up to Avalanche Lake. It had been a few years since I had done this hike as I've spent most of my time on the east side of the park. It is only a 2 mile hike to the lake and a ton of people do the hike. I joined the masses and made the hike through the trees to the lake in less than an hour. It is a pretty lake with several very tall waterfalls coming off of the surrounding peaks and feeding the lake. I continued around the lake and found a really nice spot away from the masses and sat and enjoyed the views and read for over an hour (nothing else planned for the day). There was no ranger program for the evening, so I spent some time typing in some trip notes and uploading (backup) pictures.
Here's part 4 - Craters of the Moon (Idaho), Ruby Mountains (Nevada), Great Basin (Nevada), Zion (Utah), and Cedar Breaks (Utah). There are 12 pictures for this writeup at http://www.eskimo.com/~pbender/pictures/trip08/pic4.html patricia ---- Sunday, July 20 Up for the day was a long day of driving from Glacier to Craters of the Moon in southern Idaho. I stopped in Dillon, Montana for much needed supplies and to take advantage of their free wifi at the city's visitor center (with much thanks to them!) - I was online for several hours putting out trip report part 3 and finally catching up on all the NBA news since my trip started. As I was heading south in Idaho, I saw some pronghorn antelope in a field next to the road. I reached Craters of the Moon around 7 pm and still had a couple of hours of daylight left, so I hiked the short trail between the campground and a nature trail and then did the .3 mile nature loop - on Saturday I was hiking through snow and less than 24 hours later I was hiking through volcano land. For those who don't know, Craters of the Moon National Monument contains various volcanic features from an eruption around 2000 years ago - it wasn't a normal eruption with the lava flowing or spewing from one volcano mountain, but the lava flowing and spewing from various vents and cones and small craters along what is called the Great Rift. As such, there are a variety of different lava features in a short area. The nature trail had both pahoehoe lava (smooth, ropy flow) and aa lava (rocky flow) as well as a couple of big hunks of a crater wall that was blown about a mile away from the crater by an eruption. I also saw a pretty mountain blue bird (the state bird of Idaho) along the trail. Along the trail back to the campground, I stopped on a red ridge (part of a cinder cone) and watched a pretty sunset over the distant mountains - with a cloud layer over the mountains, the area over the mountains was glowing yellow and then pink (kind of looking like an erupting volcano, to stick with the theme). I attended the evening ranger program and he talked some about animal life in the park (not too much as he spent more time going over what to take along on a hike). The area is in a high elevation, so it thankfully cools down a lot at night - it was 95 degrees in the park during the day and dropped into the 50s (if not lower) during the night. Monday, July 21 I started my day early, hoping to get the hikes in before the heat came in - that ended up not being too much of an issue as what started as patches of clouds soon developed into a solid layer of clouds (no rain) that kept the temperature from getting higher than the low 80s. I had no long hikes planned for the day, but a number of shorter hikes as I drove the 8 mile loop through the park. I stopped at the Devil's Orchard and walked the 1/2 mile paved loop through the limber pine trees - the trees are well spaced apart as each has an extensive root system to gather the scarce water. The trees are appropriately named as you can twist the branches in a loop and even tie them in a knot (they need to be limber as the area can get very windy). Next up was a short, simple hike up to the top of a black cinder cone. It was a large hill with one pretty yellow flower in a sea of black. At the top, surprisingly, was one large limber pine tree and some scrub bushes. For the next visit, I stopped at the splatter cones - small cones that spewed lava in chunks, leaving small lava rocks every where. One of the cones, aptly named Snow Cone, had a patch of snow at the bottom of the small crater. I then took the short walk up to the edge of Big Crater, one of the larger craters in the park, and looked around. I drove the road through some more lava features and parked in the lot for two trailheads. I hiked one mile to the tree molds, but wasn't impressed. The molds were just circle holes in the lava and some bark etching in the lava. I then hiked the other trail - a loop around the Broken Top small mountain. It wasn't that exciting as it was mostly over natural lava gravel, and I was getting sick of that gravel. There was a collapsed lava tube at one point that was interesting to look at. I then headed over to the other lava tube area, with 4 caves along the trail, which are amongst a large lava flow area. I read the brochure at the trailhead and found that the Indian Tunnel lava tube could be hiked without much trouble or a flash light (due to the collapsed ceiling at points). So I headed over there, climbed down the metal steps, and walked through the lava tube. It was neat (though Ape Cave lava tube at Mount St. Helens is neater) and to get out you have to hike over a lava rock mound and then go through a hole in the ceiling. I decided not to go to the area for two other caves as I wasn't going to go in them (had to crawl at points and needed to use a flashlight). I hiked part of the North Crater Trail, but turned around where the trail made a second drop into a small valley (with again a climb out the other side) as I had my fill of volcano stuff. I got in the car and drove south, heading into Nevada and the Ruby Mountains. There were some heavy rains during the drive. I got a campsite in Lamoille Canyon, ready for my hike in the area for the next day. Tuesday, July 22 Boy did it rain a ton during the night, including some hail. It left me concerned what the weather was going to be like during the day, but it turned out to be mostly sunny. I was also concerned about the condition of the trails, but they weren't really muddy. I drove to the end of the pretty valley and the trail headed up to the top of the valley with several lakes below the rocky ridge. It only took about 45 minutes to reach the pretty (word for the day) Dollar Lakes and 15 minutes further was the pretty Lamoille Lake - 900 feet gained in 2 miles. I sat for a bit at that lake before heading up to the pass. Along the way up, I saw a couple of pikas (small, mouse-like animals that like rocky areas). I had thought I was done with snow, but there were two patches along the trail that I had to cross (not dangerous) and several other patches near the trail. Again, it was a very pretty area. I had encountered some people who had been backpacking at the lake on the other side of the pass and they said it was a really rough night with the poor weather. I reached the pass and decided that was my destination as I would have had to head down the other side to reach more lakes and didn't want to risk having a hike out with possibly poor weather and I decided I would do the Island Lake hike after I finished this hike. So I sat for a bit and enjoyed the view down on Liberty Lake and across the way at Castle Lake. I returned to Lamoille Lake and sat lakeside for a while before heading back to the parking lot. The Island Lake hike also started at the parking lot and I headed up along the trail along the open mountainside - it was 2 miles and less than 900 feet to the lake and took me about an hour to reach. The Lamoille Lake hike was the prettier hike, but I thought Island Lake was a much prettier lake and was glad I made the extra hike. Like the name implies, there is a small island in the middle of the lake. The lake is set in a pretty granite bowl and I had it all to myself as everyone else choose to do the other hike. I stayed about an hour before heading back. And then it was back in the car for about five hours as I drove to Great Basin National Park (in eastern Nevada). I got a campsite at the Wheeler Peak campground high up in the mountains. In the evening, I stepped out of my car and into an open area and just gazed at the many stars for a bit - the area has some of the clearest skies in the nation. Though once the moon came out, the view of the stars dimmed as the moon was too bright. Wednesday, July 23. After watching some young male deer in the campground, I headed up to the trailhead for a big hike. It was only 4.3 miles to the top of Wheeler Peak, but 2900 feet was gained during that distance. At 13063 feet, the peak is the tallest peak in Nevada, but is not the highest elevation as a point along Boundary Peak is higher (but the peak itself is in California). The trail went near Stella Lake and I made a short side trip to visit the pretty lake in the morning light. I was surprised at how mild the trail was (it was heading up, but not a hard up) - that should have been a warning for things to come. The trail reached a saddle and from there started the hard up, with about 2.5 miles to go. It seemed like the trail was heading straight up, with few or short switchbacks, and was soon above the tree line. The wind was blowing cool and I soon had my jacket on (and had it on the rest of the way up). After huffing and puffing for a while, I took a longer break at the top of a mound behind a windbreak (rocks piled specifically for shelter from the wind). As I was about to sit down, I noticed a pair of antlers ahead and down the slope a little. There were two young deer coming up the west side of the slope. I snapped a couple of pictures while they watched me and then I took my rest. While I was resting, they eventually came over the slope and started down the other side. Soon three more came over the slope (all male), kept a keen eye on me, and headed down the other side. I was glad I had rested as if I had thought the previous up was hard, it was nothing compared to the last mile of up. The trail went up and up and up along the open ridge all the way to the peak. It was a case of take several steps, pause, take several more, pause, and having to stop and sit about every 10 minutes. Pure torture. But I finally made it to the top of the peak - I wanted to give a shout of joy at reaching the top, but didn't have the energy to do so. I had the peak to myself for a while (two had been up earlier and others were heading up). I went out to the edge and enjoyed the many views and sat and rested for an hour. Going back down wasn't much easier as it was steep and rocky. I stopped again at the windbreak (no deer this time) and again at Stella Lake. At the lake, I feet soaked and read for a while. I got back to my car and it was about 3 pm. I didn't really know what to do with the rest of my day (and I was too tired to do any more hiking). I got a campsite and stopped at the visitors center for a little bit (there wasn't much there). I took a trip into town looking for a shower and didn't find one, so I went back to the visitors center and used the bathroom (with running water) there to clean up - the campgrounds just have vault toilets and no sinks. I returned to my campsite and pulled out my chair and read for a while, finishing a good book. I went to the evening ranger program, but it wasn't very interesting and I left after a little bit. I woke up around 11 pm and star gazed some before going back to sleep. Thursday, July 24. Up for the day was another hard hike. This one was 5.4 miles and 2600 feet gained to Baker Lake. The hike wasn't that exciting and, unfortunately, neither was the lake. It was set in a bowl with ridges all around, but was half empty and definitely not worth all that effort - it probably would have been prettier with more water. I went back to the Wheeler Peak campground and got a site and did two shorter hikes. After two miles I reached the Bristlecone Pine Grove. The pines are some of the oldest trees in the world, some reaching the ripe age of 5000 years old. One of the trees in the grove had been core-dated at 3300 years old. They were kind of neat looking, but I actually found the dead ones more interesting with their gnarly shapes. I headed up the trail a little further and stopped at a viewpoint up the valley to the glacier that sits below Wheeler Peak - pretty. At a junction a little ways back on the trail, I headed for Teresa Lake, for part of the Alpine Lake loop hike. The lake was little more than a pond and wasn't impressive (like I thought it would be when I saw it from above on the Wheeler Peak hike). The loop continued on for a mile through the trees and reached Stella Lake, and I again enjoyed that lake and sat for a while. The hike back to the campground was uneventful. I didn't plan on star gazing this night (early morning planned), but woke up briefly, stretched, and my leg cramped up. Ouch. That brought me quickly out of the car and I took a look at the stars while wincing in pain. Friday, July 25 I was up early for about a three hour drive to Cedar City, Utah. I drove to Cedar Breaks National Park and got a campsite for the night and then drove (about 45 minutes) to Zion National Park. I didn't get to Zion until after noon and it was a popular place as the parking lot was full. I saw some bikers about to leave and went to wait for their spot (they had one more person coming) and they kindly vacated their spot early. I then took the park shuttle to end of the road in the main canyon and hiked the one mile paved trail next to the Virgin River (my sore calf was complaining some). Then came the fun part as the trail enters the river and goes in and out of the river, with only some short shore sections. This section of the park is called The Narrows. The river flows through the deep, narrow canyon with massive canyon walls towering above. The first time I had visited the park, I had done so in a September and been one of the first to start the Narrows hike in the morning - lots of solitude. Not this time. There were a ton of people in the canyon. As such, and with the river flowing at a good clip, I couldn't see the bottom of the river and, thus, had to blindly put one foot forward, make sure it was set, and then move the other foot as I walked through the river. My hiking stick was invaluable for this hike. The crowds thinned some after I reached the Orderville side canyon, but I only went about 10 minutes past that point (there is a deep water area past that and I wanted to be out of the park by 5 pm). I found a nice spot to rest on a small shore and sat for a while. Although I could do without the crowds, I was glad I made the extra trip out to this wonderful place. I reached my car around 4:30 and proved to be dead on in choosing not to stay in Zion. The temperature was 103 degrees (with shade from the canyon walls and walking in the river, the Narrows hike was not too hot). I stopped for supplies in Cedar City (and could see storms looming to the east) and returned to Cedar Breaks around 7 pm. The temperature there was 72 degrees (and cooled down more during the night). The rain started off and on and I figured I wouldn't get the sunset I had hoped for (the other reason for staying at Cedar Breaks). At around 8 pm, I looked up and saw a stunning rainbow. I quickly fired the car up and took the short drive over to the amphitheater viewpoint, with several comments of, 'Please stay, rainbow!' The rainbow was still shining brightly and I snapped several pictures. Most people haven't heard of Cedar Breaks. If it wasn't for the fact that it is so close to both Zion and Bryce, it would be more well known. The main feature of the small park is the amphitheater - a large orange and white valley with various canyons and hoodoos (sandstone formations) - similar to Bryce, but on a more intimate scale. And I did get a sunset as the cloud level was clear along the horizon, but it did not light up the amphitheater like I thought it would (though with that rainbow, I wasn't complaining about anything). I attended the evening ranger program and she touched on a number of things - some interesting and some not.
Here's part 5 - Bryce (Utah), Arches (Utah), Colorado National Monument (Colorado), Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Colorado), Silverton area (Colorado), Alamosa area (Colorado), Sugarite Canyon (New Mexico), and the return home. There are 22 pictures for this writeup at http://www.eskimo.com/~pbender/pictures/trip08/pic5.html patricia ---- Saturday, July 26 I made a couple of short overlook stops in Cedar Breaks before heading back on the road for about an hour drive to Bryce National Park. Along the way I had a little surprise as there was a herd of sheep crossing the road - and not a small herd, definitely over 100 sheep with cowboys and sheepdogs driving them. Ahhh, Bryce. One of the most photogenic parks. I was only in the park for a little over 24 hours and yet I took over 100 pictures (the luxury of digital cameras). Bryce has a huge amphitheater full of canyons, white and orange sandstone rock, and many many hoodoos and spires and windows. Every few steps gives you a different view. And Bryce is blessed with a great trail system, including trails going into the amphitheater and amongst the hoodoos (and they do look different from below). I figured I was going to have afternoon showers in the park with a forecast of 50% chance of afternoon storms, but hoped to get my hike in before that hit (or at least most of the hike as I (as always) had rain gear with me). I had two hikes planned for the park and, with the storms, I would do the second one the next morning. So I headed along the rim trail for 2.5 miles, with grand views down on some of the amphitheater, to Fairyland Point and the start of the Fairyland Loop trail. Down, down, down I went, snapping many pictures and not going at a fast clip as I was enjoying the scenery. Though there were plenty of clouds (including dark ones all around, but not above), I was surprised that I had plenty of sun and some blue sky during my hike. Needless to say, I very much enjoyed the hike. I had hiked the loop before, but this time I made the extra short sidetrip to the base of Tower Bridge, a sandstone formation with two windows (holes in the sandstone) that somewhat looks like a bridge - compared to everything else, actually not all that impressive. I finished my hike and had my treat for the day - a shower! I got spoiled in Glacier National Park with showers every night except for the last two. That shower felt wonderful and apparently there wasn't a time limit as I eventually turned the water off (and I was in there for a long time). As predicted, it had started raining about 30 minutes after I finished my hike. I headed to Rubys Inn and did a load of laundry and got online for a few hours to get part 4 out and again catch up on the NBA news. So that was my day - no sunset with the clouds and no ranger program. Sunday, July 27. I set the alarm early and woke up before sunrise and headed out to Bryce Point to watch the sunrise. And it was a pretty one with a good sized cloud a little above the horizon turning pink and then yellow as sunrise approached. The sunrise did turn the White Cliffs pink, but they were in the distance. It didn't light up the amphitheater like I thought it would, but it was still pretty (and I still took plenty of pictures). I headed down from Bryce Point along the trail that connected with the Peekaboo Loop Trail - I had done the loop before, but not the connecting trail. I was glad I did the connecting trail as it was beautiful. There were many hoodoo views I hadn't seen before (made even better with the morning light) and I had more great views of The Windows (two large holes high up along a long white wall). The views of The Windows from the Peekaboo Trail was why I wanted to repeat the hike. I did the half loop of the Peekaboo Trail, snapping pictures like crazy, and then headed over to the Navajo Loop and hiked up Wall Street to complete the half loop hike. Wall Street is a narrow canyon amongst the sandstone walls and then has a steep switchback up to the rim - most people take that trail coming down, but I like going up and get a number of looks like 'she must be crazy'. I took the park shuttle back to my car and headed on out of the park. Most of the rest of the day was spent in the car. I took the scenic route and drove through part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park (not making any stops). I then headed over to Arches National Park. I really like Arches, but it was 98 degrees when I arrived. I was debating about whether or not to stay in the park (thinking it wouldn't cool down much at night), but that decision was made for me as the campground was full. So I gave myself two hours in the park and drove through the park and made various picture taking stops of the windows, arches, and sandstone features - no way I was doing any hiking in that kind of heat. I decided to take the scenic route of Hwy 128 between Moab (the town next to Arches) and I-70. It was really pretty as it went along the Colorado River along with large red sandstone walls (no where near as dramatic, but like a miniature Grand Canyon). I arrived in the state of Colorado with storms looming every where. Since I have a park pass, I decided to drive into Colorado National Monument (a good sized park) and ended up getting a campsite there (it was getting time to settle down and it was only $10 (and even had flush toilets!)). I surprisingly had cell phone reception and gave my parents a call while the rain and lightning started. It rained off and on during the night, but had stopped by morning. Monday, July 28. I drove the rest of the way through Colorado National Monument and stopped at a couple of overlooks (not at many, though) and then drove to the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Not many people visit the north rim as it is out of the way and a dirt road for several miles (but still passable for non-4-wheel drive vehicles). I drove the rim drive and stopped at each overlook to look and take pictures. As the name implies, the Black Canyon is a narrow, deep canyon with the Gunnison River flowing down the middle (called the Black Canyon as much of it is in shadow during the day). I hiked a short nature loop to another overlook and then a little longer (1.5 miles) to another overlook, Exclamation Point. It was pretty as it had a nice view of a good chunk of the river and canyon to the east. I then made the about 1.5 hours drive to the south rim, getting a campsite at the south rim. I had read in the park newspaper about the park sponsored boat tours of part of the river (actually outside of the national park and in the national recreation area) and it sounded neat, but the newspaper said they didn't have tours on Tuesdays. I stopped at the visitor center and found out they made a change and there was a 12:30 tour on Tuesday, but the people at the reservation number weren't answering their phone (and reservations are required) - the visitor center ranger said I could stop by in the morning and try again (no reception for my cell phone in the park). I drove the rim drive for the south rim and again made stops at almost every overlook - some of them were just step out of the car and the overlook was right there and others I had to walk a short trail to the overlook - some were more impressive views into the canyon than others (and some weren't worth the stop). I reached the end of the road and hiked the .75 miles to Warner Point, a small peak with a nice distant view of the canyon to the east. It was a little early to turn in so I drove the steep, switchback drive down the (paved) road to the East Portal - actually gets next to the river - and then hiked a short ways along the river. Very pretty. On the drive back out (actually after finishing the climb), I saw a black bear near the road watching me - I put the car in reverse, but he had disappeared (so no photo). Tuesday, July 29 I killed some time in the morning and got to the visitor center a little after 8 am. They gave the boat reservation number a try and got an answer. They had one spot left, so I got the last available seat for this day. Since I had more time to kill, I went to the near by town of Montrose and got gas (who ever thought I'd be happy to see gas at $4.20 (91 grade)) and stopped at McDonalds and got some pancakes. I then headed over to the Pine Creek area (about a 40 minute drive) and then walked down the trail to the boat launch area (it's actually a .75 mile hike from the parking area to the dock). After the down, the trail goes along side the river and then continues about 1/2 mile past the dock on an old railroad bed. With more time to kill, I sat at a shaded picnic table and read for about 1 1/2 hours. The boat tour uses a section of the river that is a reservoir - not a lake-sized one, but the river ranges between 50 and 200 feet deep (there are actually three dams along the river - the first makes the large Lake Blue Mesa, the second makes this section, and the third is for controlling the flow to prevent the depth of the national park section of the river from fluctuating. So it was finally time to start loading the boat - I got a great seat up front. There were 42 people, a boat driver, and a ranger to talk to us about the river and area along the almost 2 hour tour. While the ranger was talking to the last to arrive, the boat driver told us to all raise our hands if the ranger asked if anyone was a geologist. As the ranger started his talk, he asked if anyone was interested in geology. We all raised our hands. It freaked him out (and the driver couldn't stop laughing). The boat ride was pretty and I was glad I was able to take the tour. On the way back up the river, someone spotted a black bear high up on the mountainside and we stopped and watched him for a bit. After the tour, I made a quick hike out (one of the last ones off the boat, but first one back at the parking lot) and headed on my drive towards Silverton. Hwy 550 to Silverton was slow going as it is a mountain road (lots of bends) and made even slower by road construction that had us stopped for about 30 minutes. After the construction was a neat area with lots of old mines from the Red Mining Company - I stopped at the overlook and will probably stop again on my drive back. I pulled into the national forest area 2 miles before Silverton and drove 4 miles up the dirt road (mild) to the campground that was right across from the trailhead for Wednesday's hike - and got the 2nd to last site available. Wednesday, July 30 Up for the day was a 4.5 mile, about 2500 feet gained hike to Ice Lake. It was a beautiful morning with a clear sky, though the temperature was only 41 degrees when I started (jacket came off after less than an hour of hiking). The trail started heading up immediately and there was a pretty waterfall early on in the hike. The wild flowers were in full bloom with a variety of many yellows, whites, blues, purples, and reds. After a long climb, the trail reached the Lower Ice Lake Basin and I was amazed at the wild columbine flowers (these were a light purple/blue with white center) - I had never seen columbines that big. And it wasn't just one or two, but fields of them. So I enjoyed more fields of wild flowers in the basin as well as pretty, rugged peaks with snow patches on them and several waterfalls coming off of the peaks - just beautiful. There was a small lake in the basin, but the trail didn't go near it. After the basin was another hard up that had me huffing and puffing most of the way. I finally reached the top and saw Ice Lake to the right. It was a stunning lake with an electric blue color and many wild flowers around. And there were lots of marmots in the area. I found a nice spot at the bottom of the lake and took many pictures of the lake and the peaks above (180 degrees) - the peaks were mostly jagged, one was pyramid shaped, with shades of orange and grey. It was a lot of effort to reach the lake, but the scenery was definitely worth the effort. I continued around the lake and reached the smaller lake near by and eventually re-joined the trail (the trail never actually reached Ice Lake). I headed up to Fuller Lake (another huff-and-puff up) and had great views down on Ice Lake. Fuller Lake itself was a disappointment as Ice Lake was much, much prettier. There was an old mining shack near the lake, but it wasn't that interesting. I didn't stay long at the lake, opting to return to Ice Lake and spend some time there. The clouds started rolling in around 12:30 - afternoon showers are common in the Rockies. I got drizzled on a little bit during the hike back down, but not too much and it never really rained. After the hike, I drove over to Silverton and stopped at the visitor center and picked up a brochure on the town's historic buildings. Silverton is an old mining town with many buildings dating from the late 1800s and many are national historic sites. I walked the town, matching buildings to the brochure and reading about them, and stopping in some of the shops (playing tourist). Afterwards I drove part of country road 2 - the Alpine Loop scenic drive (after 2 miles, it's dirt road and after 7 miles, it's 4-wheel drive only). I saw several mine ruins and some old mine buildings along the drive, but the ghost towns of Howardsville and Eureka didn't have much interesting left. I returned to the national forest area and got a free campsite near the highway (instead of the fee campground 4 miles in). Thursday, July 31 I headed up the Alpine Loop some and hooked a right up the Cunningham Gulch valley along another dirt road. The road was rougher and I made it to the area I had planned on reaching - the road actually continued for 3/4 mile up to the trailhead, but it was recommended for 4-wheel drive and I parked at an old mine (not much left) area and walked the road to the trailhead. Alongside the road were several marmots squeaking. The road dipped down, crossed a creek, and reached the trailhead. Crossing the creek was fun as there was no bridge and I got lazy and simply took my shoes off and barefoot crossed instead of pulling out my water shoes (my feet did not appreciate the rocky crossing). Up for the day was a hike to the Highland Mary Lakes. The trail headed up through the forest with a creek running down nearby. There were a number of rusting mining water pipes next to the trail early on, but that ugliness was soon left behind. There were a number of wildflowers along the trail, but nothing like the Ice Lake hike. After a couple of hours, I reached the first lake. It was pretty, but I think I would have been more impressed if I hadn't done the stunning Ice Lake hike the day before. There were two other larger lakes in the area and I reached them both and had the same reaction (pretty). The lakes were surrounded by rounded green mountain tops instead of rugged or distinctive peaks (though there was one distinctive peak in the distance). I wandered around the highest lake for a bit and then sat for a little bit lakeside at that lake and also the middle lake before heading back. I looked at a number of mining relics along the drive out. There were two buildings way high up on a mountainside that I wondered how they got built. I stopped at the Bureau of Land Management building in Silverton and got some information about the Handies Peak that I thought I might do on Sunday. I tossed aside renting a jeep as I was going to have drive on half of the Alpine Loop dirt road to get to the Redcloud Peak trailhead and couldn't justify spending $150 for about 20 miles of the loop that I hadn't traveled. So then I was back on the road, heading for Lake City, a long half-loop drive from Silverton. I did stop again at the Red Mining Company area and snapped a couple of pictures. The construction delay was only about 20 minutes this time. At the top of the half-loop drive, I stopped at the Elk Creek area of Curecante National Recreation Area and got a needed shower. I continued the drive and reached Lake City with some rain. I did get a pretty rainbow as I headed along the Alpine Loop drive to a campground. Friday, August 1 The loop road had fooled me as it was a mild dirt road to the campground and about 2 miles past. They say the road is passable for 2-wheel drive vehicles to the Redcloud Peak trailhead, but my car sure didn't enjoy those last 4.5 miles. You know it is a really rough (potholes and big rocks) road when it takes about 30 minutes to go such a short distance. Fortunately I was heading up early enough that I didn't have to worry about traffic coming the other way. Up for the day was a hard hike to one of Colorado's 14ers - mountains over 14,000 feet elevation. The trailhead was at 11,600 feet and Redcloud Peak has an elevation of 14,034 feet. And it is about 4 miles to the peak. So that means I was going up, up, up. It turned out not to be a fun trail. There was a snow field covering the trail about an hour in to the hike, but there was a narrow trail above it. Shortly after that was another snow field, but no trail around it so I had to go through it - hiking over snow in August. The third snow field was okay as I could walk near the rocks and it wasn't as steep (more snow in the area further on, but none on the trail). I reached a milder section of the trail as it headed up a green valley with some wildflowers (again spoiled by the Ice Lake hike). There was a small pond along the way with a number of pikas eeking away as I passed (they sound like a child's squeeze toy). Then it was more of a hard up to a ridge. Then it was a nasty hike heading up through loose rocks and loose dirt, sometimes at a steep up. I really wasn't enjoying this hike with such a rough trail and nearly turned around with the peak less than half a mile ahead, but convinced myself to summit. The views 360 degrees were pretty with distant views of a good chunk of the Rocky Mountains and various other peaks. I arrived at the peak around 11:30 and rested for a bit. Sunshine Peak, another 14er, was about a mile away (with a drop and then climb) and I had decided not to go there as I was tired and had been told it was about 2 hours there and back (and the Rockies are known for afternoon storms and clouds were forming on other peaks (but clear above)). But after my rest, I caught my second wind and, before I knew it, I was heading down for Sunshine Peak. After about 30 minutes, I had started up and saw that I had a steep up right in front of me as well as a lot of rough up to reach the peak and decided to turnaround and head back to Redcloud Peak. It took me another 30 minutes to get back to Redcloud and I sat there for a while (and took pictures for a group that arrived while I was there). The down from Redcloud was as nasty as I thought it would be. I slipped a number of times, but didn't fall. A couple of times I crabbed walked a short ways down some of the steeper sections. I was thankful when I finally reached the ridge. The down from the ridge was only slightly better as there was still some loose dirt to slip on. As I was approaching the pond area (a milder area), my foot went out from under me and I landed on my rear - made it through all the hard stuff and fell on a easy section. It also took out my shoe (part of the rubber on the bottom detached from the leather) and I have had to finally retire my beloved hike shoes (overdue as they don't have much tread left). I rested near the pond and enjoyed listening to the pikas eek (couldn't spot them, though). I took my time heading down, even though the clouds had rolled in and were threatening - I was past all the hard stuff. I got drizzled on a little late in the hike, but the storms stayed away (thunder in the distance). It wasn't a fun hike, but I don't regret doing it. But I did decide to toss aside the Handies Peak hike for the next day as I was afraid there would be more of that nasty talus rocky junk. So with one full day of hiking left, I decided to return to Silverton and repeat the stunning Ice Lake hike (I've never ordered them, but that is probably a top 10 hike for hikes I've done). I decided to take the little longer half-loop to Silverton, instead of repeating what I did the day before, and headed through Creede, Pagosa Springs, and Durango. I stopped in the malt shop in Pagosa Springs and got a chocolate malt, mmmm. I arrived in Silverton around 10:30 pm and again took advantage of the free campground in the national forest. Saturday, August 2 The difference between a weekday and a weekend - I had Ice Lake to myself when I arrived on Wednesday (other people were hiking, but not a ton); on a Saturday the parking lot was over half full around 7:30 am. But what a beautiful hike. The trend continued of clear, blue skies in the morning with the clouds rolling in for the early afternoon. I hiked the hard up, enjoyed the many wildflowers in the lower basin, and hiked the harder up (still with many wildflowers). I had heard about Island Lake being above Ice Lake on the way down from Wednesday's hike and thought I'd go there this time. I talked to someone from Houston who had been there before and he told me how to get to Island Lake. Just after the top of the climb, I headed right through the meadow to the creek. I put my watershoes on and made the wet water crossing and put my shoes back on at the other side (resting some). The trail up to Island Lake was a thin one that was harrowing at times with its steepness and going along a rock slope. The trail went through the bottom of an orange mound (probably left over from mining days) and was nasty with loose dirt and the footpath at an angle (not flat surface). I made it a little over half way through that before my nerves gave out and I decided to turnaround. I very slowly made my way back (with the Houston man and another couple watching to see that I made it safely - they then continued on) and decided that a long visit to Ice Lake was good enough. I went lakeside and enjoyed the splendid views (though slightly marred by blue tent that was too close to the inlet stream) of the electric blue lake and distinct peaks above. I stayed at that spot for over an hour. While there I discovered that my sandwich never made it to my backpack - had made it in the morning - so I finished a granola bar and started on a second one. Since I was missing lunch, I decided I'd have a big dinner in Silverton. After my long visit lakeside, I wandered around the lake, hoping to see some marmots in an area I saw them before. Didn't see any (guess there were too many dogs around (dogs are allowed on the trail and many people bring them)). I took my time heading down. The clouds had rolled in while I was at the lake and I actually got sleeted on for a short bit before it turned to rain. I found a nice spot and waited the rain out - it didn't last more than 20 minutes. I finished the hike and then found a spot near the creek that wasn't too buggy and finished the last 20 pages of my book. I went into Silverton and stopped in the Visitor Center to read menus and decide where I'd have dinner. I picked a nice spot and easily had my biggest meal in over a month - almond pesto chicken, mixed salad, bread, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, and a thin slice of cantaloupe. So far my body hasn't revolted from actually having vegetables. I again took advantage of the free campground (there are no campsites, just find your own spot - besides that, the only thing it doesn't have that the fee site in the area has is picnic tables). Sunday, August 3 I took the steep and short drive down from the Alpine Loop road near Silverton to the bridge in front of the Arrastra Gulch and parked near it. The map said that 2-wheel drive cars could make it along the road up the gulch, but I decided I had tortured my car enough and would walk the length of the road. There were a number of mine ruins in the area and some of the tram towers and lines and even some cars were still up between the Mayflower Mill (still standing, open for tours) at the bottom of the valley and the ruins of the Mayflower Mine at the top of the valley, so that was neat. The miners used to ride up the tram in the cars at the start of their shift - they definitely weren't acrophobic as the cars sometimes were as high as 50 feet above the ground. I reached a three route junction and couldn't figure out which one was the one I wanted. I took the first one and it ended shortly. I took the second one and it ended after 1/2 mile (fortunately level) at private property and a man there told me which one I wanted as well as giving me some information about the Silver Lake trail that I was considering doing. So I took the third junction and continued heading up. After another junction (taking the correct one this time), the road got rougher and I was glad I left my car behind (though could have taken it to that junction). The road went well below the mine and two tram towers near it (with the lines down) and then made two steep switchbacks on the now very rocky road (4-wheel drive only past the first switchback) and ended slightly above the mine. The area looked like a mining junk yard with tons of rusting metal including rails, pipes, boxsprings, and even two rail cars. There were actually two entrances to the mine at the area - one was cemented up and the other one was open, but the people who arrived (in jeeps) after a bit told me that the ceiling was crumbing, so I didn't go in it. I didn't like the looks of the Silver Lake trail - a narrow path and looking very steep at times, not much of a trail - and even pulled my binoculars out to take a closer look. I decided not to hike it, but (of course) started up it for a short bit before deciding that my initial impression was correct and turned around. I declined the jeep travelers' offer of a ride down and hiked back to my car, getting more looks at the mine ruins and tram artifacts along the way. I thought there would be a number of mine ruins visible from the road between Silverton and Durango (having done the drive the night before in the dark), but was surprised that there were hardly any. I gave some relatives of mine in Alamosa a call and told them I was in the area and, surprise, would they mind a short visit. Once they figured out who I was (it was an out-of-the-blue call), they were happy to have me visit. I again stopped at the malt shop in Pagosa Springs and had a hamburger and hot fudge malt. I stopped at the cemetery near Monte Vista and visited my grandparents' gravesite and then drove by the Knoop homestead (between Monte Vista and Alamosa) for the first time since the family sold the farm a few years ago. As I had heard, the new family had torn almost everything down and it didn't look like the farm any more - only the dairy barn (and even that had the milking equipment area removed), garage, and two grain silos remained from before. They had taken an old wooden tow cart with wood-spoke wheels and hard rubber tires from the junk area in the back (and I assume cleaned out that area) and placed it in their yard - I had come across that wagon during one of my explorations in my childhood and always found it to be neat (but couldn't figure a way to get it out as it was in the back of the area and half buried), so that was nice to see it survived and was being displayed in the yard. I drove by the Gray cabin and was happily surprised to see it still standing and by the old school house and was disappointed that there was no historical sign (had been declared a historical building a few years ago) and the yard was overgrown. Then it was on to Alamosa and I spent the evening visiting and talking with relatives. Jim and Betty Gray hosted me for the night and I slept in a real bed for the first time since June 28 (having slept in the car the entire trip, where the backseat was made up as a semi-comfortable bed). Monday, August 4 I visited some more with Jim (just celebrated his 80th birthday and was my grandpa's nephew) and Betty in the morning. I decided I wanted a picture of that wagon and Jim offered to drive me out to the farm and he told me some things about the area, the farm, and his past that I hadn't heard before. I mentioned that I was disappointed that the new family had taken down the old outhouse - it was even a two-seater (but since they had kids, I could understand the removal). Jim said that it was actually built by the WPA during the FDR administration. I was surprised as I hadn't heard that the WPA built outhouses as part of their program. The outhouse holes used to be fairly shallow and would have to be cleaned out or covered and a new one dug every once in a while. The WPA dug deep holes that would not have to be cleaned out. That reminded Jim of an event from his childhood. He said the popular prank on Halloween was to tip outhouses over. His mother would not let he and his brother join his friends in doing that, so he and Herb went out a couple of hours earlier and moved some outhouses a few feet. The next day, he asked his friends how the outhouse tipping went and his friends said they fell into a couple of holes and had to stop early. I finished up my visit and decided to stop by the Great Sand Dunes National Park on my drive out (I wasn't going to be getting home this day and didn't want to get out of the mountains before I stopped for the night due to the temperature outside the mountains). I figured I'd only last an hour or two as sand dunes really aren't my thing. I stopped at the visitor center and took their advice of wearing closed-toed shoes (not sandals) as the sand gets really hot and then headed over to the dunes and walked on them for about 45 minutes before I was ready to head on out. I took a longer route back that put me further down on the ankle-deep river and then walked barefoot in the river back to my car. Again with some extra time, I took an out-of-the-way scenic drive to I-15 by heading west from the Sand Dunes, then north through the valley and over the mountains, then east along the Arkansas River valley, and then southeast alongside the mountains and eventually reaching the highway. I reached the town of Trinidad and started looking for the ghost town near Raton Pass that I've always seen on the drive to Alamosa. I spotted the ruined church that has always been visible, then looped back looking for a way to get closer. I tried, but the church is now on private land with no trespassing signs and I wasn't able to get a better view than what is visible from the road (though I did find out that the town's name was Morley and it shut down in the 1950s). I stopped at the visitor center in Raton, New Mexico (closed, but magazine rack in front) as I figured that would be where I'd spend the night. I read about Sugarite Canyon State Park, about 5 miles away, and that sounded like an interesting place to visit (and had campgrounds) and headed there. I walked the 1/2 mile loop through the old mining town ruins (only the post office (now park headquarters) was still standing, the rest just foundations) and took the 1/2 mile (one-way) up to an old coal mine (not much there, not worth the extra hike). The town of Sugarite was formed in 1910 for supporting the coal mining in the area and closed in 1941. It was interesting and worth the little visit (plus a cooler night than if I had continued an hour ahead into the Texas Panhandle). Tuesday, August 5 I woke up early to start my long drive. About 30 minutes from Raton, I drove 5 miles off the highway for what was to be a short visit to Capulin Volcano National Monument (an old cinder cone volcano that was covered with trees). Well, it ended up being a much shorter visit than I had planned as the park didn't open until 7:30 am (it was 6:30 am) and that included the road up to the volcano rim being closed. So I drove back to the highway and continued my long, boring drive through the Texas Panhandle (some of the dullest scenery outside of Kansas). After driving almost 8000 miles on this trip and on the last day, just north of Quannah a rock hit my windshield and I got a nice big starburst that needs to be fixed (likely replaced), grumble. I made it home around 4:45 pm (Central) and sweated like crazy unloading the car. I did bring some clouds with me, but no rain so far. So, the total tally for the trip: 38 days; 8,164 miles driven; passed through 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces; visited 4 Canadian National Parks, 13 US National Parks and Monuments, 4 National Forests, and 3 state parks; and hiked many, many miles of trails in beautiful and/or interesting places. patricia