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Summer 2008 trip

[5 Parts]

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
[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


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

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

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

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.


Here's Part 2 - Wall Lake in Waterton and the first 6 days in Glacier.

There are 11 pictures for this writeup at


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

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.


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



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

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)

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



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

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



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 Bender
Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself