Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Trip to the Melting Glaciers

There are a few self-evident truths in the journals of travels. Wear your most comfortable pair of shoes, if you have none, just buy one. Never wait to take a better photograph. The gamble is not worthwhile in the age of digital photography…the sun and the moon wait for none. Walk that extra mile if that was meant to be your final destination. I realized a more important one; never wait to take a trip to be with nature- if you have the time, and maybe the company, do it right then.  The Earth seems to be changing fast enough for us to perceive and record.
I was at the Glacier National Park in Montana for three days last week. It was beautiful, the weather glorious, the flowers in full bloom, the waterfalls gushing, and the glaciers…melting. Twenty six glaciers remain in the park out of the 150 from a few decades ago, and the rest will be gone in the next twenty years. They blame global warming, but I might blame the Big Bang if I dared to claim I understood the ever changing universe. While this could be a sober jolt to imagination, it is more comforting to know that I made this trip, and that I walked that extra mile.
The tickets were booked three months in advance and the packing a week before, the planning was very nearly perfected, and of course there were last minute hiccups. I ripped the driver’s side mirror in a nasty parking lot the night before, spent the morning travelling to junkyards and auto-shops to fix it next morning, only to walk into work a little after 9, and find an emergency waiting. After a few more hiccups before leaving work and while driving to the airport (not worth mentioning), I was the last person to board my flight. We reached Kalispell, MT late that night, and drove towards the park the next morning.  
The journey began on the Going to the Sun road. I cannot resist mentioning here that the road itself is a modern engineering marvel. Without the intervention of technology, one could not possibly experience this proximity to nature. The narrow two way road winds around the rocky mountains on one side and offers an open view of the wayside pine and spruce trees, the lakes below, the glaciers above and the waterfalls in-between. The Logan Pass was the first stop we made. We chose to hike only half the highline trail that day for fear of meeting stray bears if we stayed in the wilderness for too long. It was scenic, but the constant view of the roads far below was not an ideal supplement. The most exciting part of the trail was meeting a herd of bighorn sheep, and being forced to follow one on the trail for sometime.
Bighorn Sheep
Having hiked a good 7 miles, and an hour’s drive left to the lodge, we decided to catch the sunset at Lake McDonald. Only at the end of three days, did I realize that sunset in this park was really more elusive than anywhere else I’d been. Do beautiful hills, lakes and clear skies seem to form an unbeatable recipe for a sunset…No matter where we went, the sun always managed to stay behind other taller mountains. In fact, I did not find a good picture even on the picture postcards or fridge magnets. However, we were treated to some beautiful hues from the benevolent sky.
Highline Trail

Lake McDonald

We began day 2 early (500 AM), as we had a 3 hour drive within our park to Many Glacier which was the trail head for the 12 mile Grinnell Glacier hike. The first 2 miles were fairly flat but pleasant with views of the Swiftcurrent lake and Lake Josephine. I stood barefoot in ice cold Lake Josephine on both legs of the journey. The return stint was the only tonic for my tired feet that could have kept me going for the last couple of miles. After ascending around 4 miles, we were treated to our first view of the Grinnell lake. I cannot describe the blue and do it justice, but the memory is a treasure in life’s annals. The next view we looked forward to was the possibility of viewing all three lakes from a spot. This too happened soon enough, and it was unimaginable for me that this hike would get any better…
Grinnell, Josephine and Swiftcurrent- Right to Left
and we still continued to hike, the end view completely hidden still. The going seemed to get a little tougher, and well I was hungry, and the trail and the views seemed quite the same now. We may have been a mile away from the end, when I finally sat down, opened my backpack and sneaked out a thepla.  I wished Parks only made trails as long as the view was good, not longer when it remained the same. And interrupting my muse, someone pointed out a corner on the trail, and said, I had to climb the last 0.4 mile around that so-far invisible corner. Oh! We were in a valley of ice, with wind trapped and blowing in circles, the Grinnell glacier partially melted appearing to be a frozen lake at the top of the mountains. It was bliss, and then the shocking realization that this was going to be extinct in 9 years, and would eventually dry up the three feeding lakes.
Grinnell Glacier

Day three involved two shorter and easier hikes totaling 8.2 miles. The first was a visit to the turquoise green Avalanche Lake, and the second to the St. Mary falls and Virginia falls. The beauty of the falls to me lay in their force and the peace that only that sound of water can give. We made our last stop in the park at the St. Mary Lake. Although we could not see the bashful Sun, we did see its blushing colors in the company of huckleberry icecream( I loved the flavor). The moonlit journey back on the Going to the Sun road was beautiful but we chose not to stop for fear of wildlife and dangerous terrain.
St. Mary at Sunset

Close to 28 miles of hiking in Glacier National Park finally lets me bid adieu to my shoes that saw me through Big Bend National Park and Grand Canyon.
I never blogged my trips to the Rocky Mountain National Park and Yosemite, maybe I will, maybe I won’t…but memories are what count.

1 comment:

Chintan said...

sounds like a place that must be visited :)