Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chickamauga Dam Recreation Area

Lora and I headed out to canoe the North Chickamauga Creek at the Greenway. After backing down to the boat ramp, we noticed that it was a five foot drop down to the creek. The water was a little low for us. So we headed to the dam and tried the Lakeshore Marina and then the Gold Point Marina which both turned out to be gated marina's. We crossed the dam to the Chickamauga Dam Recreation Area and put in there. We ate lunch right across from the marina.

We paddled to the Coast Guard Base, across Kings Point, and into the slough next to Booker T. Washington State Park. It was a beautiful day full of sights. We got to see the Coast Guard Ship "Ouachita", four raccoon's, lots of ducks, birds, lots of boats, fish, turtles, and a sunk truck.

When we got back to the ramp, there were many people on the dock and two patrol cars at the ramp. As we came around the dock we saw the top of a ram pickup floating in the lake. The guy had just got his boat fixed and was going to try it out. He backed up, got out, pushed his boat off the trailer when the truck started coming on back........Every fisherman's nightmare!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Glacier National Park

Day One: After a late plane arrival due to missing a flight attendant, we slept in. We headed into town, ate breakfast at "The Night Owl", stopped by the grocery to stock up fridge, officially checked in to our cabin at North Forty Resort, and then headed to Glacier.

After getting our park pass, we stopped by the visitor center. We found out that the Going-to-the-Sun road was closed at the Weeping Wall due to snow. We figured that we would do Avalanche Lake today. A five mile hike including the "Trail of the Cedars Nature trail". This is a very popular trail and we met many folks on it. It's a easy trail to a beautiful lake with the trail going all the way to the far end of it.

After our hike we took the Going-to-the-Sun road up to the Weeping Wall where it was closed. We made a few stops along the way just to take in the wild looking mountains. We also got our first black bear sighting along side the road at a bear jam. When we turned around at the Weeping Wall, you could see ahead towards Logan Pass was under a blanket of snow.

On the way back down we stopped again for some views and then stopped at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge to check it out. We stopped at the West Glacier Restaurant for dinner which also had some great food. On the way back to the cabin we took a side trip to the Hungry Horse Dam. It is the 11th most highest dam in the US at 564 feet.

Day Two: We headed out to hike to Snyder Lake. This trail is less popular than Avalanche Lake because it is 8.8 round trip with a gain of 2,047 feet. Very beautiful and rugged. Trail is a lot more overgrown than the popular trails, but worth it! Once we got to the lake we went around to the far end and did some rock climbing on the rock slide. We went over to the waterfall and decided not to attempt the rock climb to the upper lake.

After our hike we went over to view the McDonald Falls which is real pretty. Then we did a loop drive out Camas Road to 486. Spectacular views of the Glacier Mountains, areas of old burn, fens, and large barren mountains. We got to see some deer along our drive and the North Fork of the Flathead River. It was a wonderful day. We stopped in Columbia Falls at the Three Forks Grille which had some great food.

Day Three: We headed over to Many Glaciers part of the park. It started out great with a sighting of a grizzly right off the get go along with some mountain sheep. That was before we got to the trailhead. We hiked the 9.8 mile Iceberg Lake trail which is really really popular. Lot of people every where. We got to see a black bear, grouse, chipmunks, lots of mountain sheep, and a beautiful lake.

After getting back from the hike we hiked down to Fishercap Lake to see the moose. After no luck there we hiked to Swiftcurrent Restaurant for dinner. Again, we hiked to Fishercap Lake to see a moose. We saw a doe and fawn, an elk, but no moose.

On the way out of Many Glaciers we saw another grizzly and two more black bears along with sheep.

Day Four: Another wonderful day. We headed to Bowman Lake for a 11.4 mile hike to Numa Ridge Lookout tower and back. We stopped at the Polebridge Mercantile to ask for directions and I had to scope out the bakery. Treats for later....

We thought we would have the trail to ourselves seeing no one on the road going into the park. The parking lot was full. But surprising enough, most went on the lake trail not the one going to the tower. There were deer at the trailhead. It was a beautiful hike up the mountain. We watched loons on the lake.The tower was locked and not manned and it was too windy to stay long. The cloud covered it  before we started down. Back at the lake we soaked our feet and didn't have to break ice. We drove to the bakery as fast as we could on the dirt roads in the rented Chevy Impala wishing for the Subaru we requested. Huckleberry/cream cheese pastry, cookies with more chocolate chips than you can count.

On the drive back I spotted a black bear. We stopped a Ranger to ask where to hunt for moose, he said that was illegal. After a quick explanation we got directions to Howe Lake. A fast 2 mile walk in got us grouse and a bald eagle but no moose. and a quick hike out before dark.

Day Five: We started with a drive across the Going-to-the-sun road where we got to see some mountain goats. The road is awesome, just hanging off the side of the mountains. We stopped at Logan Pass to check out the center and then headed on to St. Mary. At St. Mary we saw some of the forest fire damage they have been fighting up to this week. From St. Mary we headed up to the Canadian border where Lora got in trouble with the border patrol. He had an attitude with the badge. Said that there would be trouble if we crossed the line and then said "mam you need to get out of the open lane of traffic". There were no cars to be seen for miles.

So we hiked the Continental Divide trail, the Pacific Northwest National Scenic trail, and the Belly River trail. Actually they are all the same, but we hiked down to the Belly River and back.  We met lots of backpackers on this trail and got to see another grouse. On the way to Two medicine we saw another black bear on the side of a mountain.

From there we headed to the Two Medicine area and hiked the 0.3 Running Eagle Falls trail. Lora found something on the ground and asked me what it was. Moose poop! The falls was really cool as it came out of a cave.

We then hiked 1.1 miles to Aster Falls. I was telling Lora this was a good place for moose when she asked "what is that brown thing?" It was a cow moose standing in the swamp. LORA GOT TO SEE A MOOSE! We continued to the falls passing a few hikers. On the way back Lora spotted another black bear on the side of the mountain over us. Soon we heard a noise and turning to look, we found a bull and a cow moose walking through the woods. This is a really exciting trail.

We ate in East Glacier and then toured the Glacier Park Lodge. It is an old lodge built by the railroad all out of logs. Lora put on a musical performance of Amazing Grace on the 100 year old piano for all the guest in the lobby. I am proud of my woman.

Day Six: Today we traveled the Going- to- the- sun road and the sky was clear so we had wonderful views of the tops of the mountains. We headed over to Many Glaciers and hiked the 11.4 miles round trip to Grinnell Glacier.

We saw two black bears on the way in to the trailhead. This is a beautiful hike along three different lakes. Lora spotted a family of moose down below. Buck, cow, and calf all walking along a river. As we continued to hike up the side of the mountain we stopped for lunch at an overlook. We could not see where the trail went along the mountain above. We just had to continue climbing and then you could see the trail cut out of the side.

As we continued we had our first Grizzly encounter. Luckily for us it was just a mom and two cubs. They were on a downward angle going the same direction that we were on going on a upward angle. When it got close for our paths to cross, we were ahead and made the choice to just keep going. After climbing up to the glacier, we warned everyone that was up there that the grizzly's were going to be joining us. They never did come up so after spending quite some time at the glacier and we saw some other families come up, we decided to go down. As we were leaving we heard the familiar sound of an iceberg rolling over. It was impressive. We saw from everyone looking up that the bears were still there just further up the mountain.

On the way down, Lora again spotted a moose. This time it was a huge bull with a very large rack. We continued down to the lakes where we took time to cool our feet in the water. As we were sitting there, I noticed a large herd of Bighorn sheep up on the mountain side.

After our hike we got to see another two black bears on the mountain side and another herd of sheep. We went to the Many Glaciers Lodge for dinner. They were celebrating their 100 anniversary of the Lodge. We had a wonderful dinner. On the way out of the park we saw a grizzly with a cub on the side of the mountain. Then on the drive to St. Mary, we passed another black bear on the side of the road. When we got on the going-to-the-sun road we saw two more black bears. Our bear total came to 7 black bears and five grizzly's. We had a total of four moose, three grouse, and a snake before we got back to Logan's pass.

Day Seven: Today we decided to walk like the mountain goats, we drove to Logan's Pass and hiked the Highland trail. It is cut into the Garden Wall Divide with shear drop offs, but doesn't get smaller than a foot wide in sections. We hiked seven miles to Haystack mountain and back. This is also a very popular hike with lots of hikers. The sights were awesome! 

Next we headed three miles to Hidden lake. The view was wonderful from the top. It was a 550 feet ascent and 675 feet descent to the lake. When you get to the lake, cross the creek and continue along the South side of the lake for some more beautiful scenes. We saw six mountain goats here. This adds a mile to your hike.

Day Eight: Today's hike reminded us of some of our Colorado hikes with the shell rock and open basins with a trail wondering through them. We went over to Two Medicine and hiked the Mt. Henry trail to the Scenic Point. It is 3.1 miles one way with a climb of 2350 feet.

Our first viewing was Appistoki Falls and then you start the real climb to view the basin. There is a false top where you climb through a pass and into another basin. From this point you can see the Scenic Point in the background. We had one area of snow along a drop off which of course checks your nerves. Once on top you can see some 100 miles across the plains. Wonderful hike!

After our hike we went down to Two Medicine Lake and soaked our feet a while and relaxed a bit. Then we celebrated with some huckleberry pie at the only restaurant that also served sweet tea in Montana, The Whistlestop Restaurant.

Day Nine: The last day of hiking for us. Can we pull off another amazing hike? YES! Back to the Going-to-the-sun road to The Loop. We hiked the four miles up to the Granite Park Chalet. This is a hostel used by back-country backpackers. The hike is through an area burned in 2003. What a beautiful comeback! We saw our first deer when we got our first sighting on the chalet. We also got to see a hawk and an eagle soaring in the wind over our heads as we hiked. We took a break while watching the group of people close down the chalet for the season. They were boarding up the windows and doors as the snow goes up to the roof. One window, we noticed the cover has nails sticking through it all over. We found out that this is bear proofing. 

From the chalet we decided to hike some more so we headed to the pass to the Grinnell Glacier overlook. It was a short 1.4 mile hike. We forgot to add the uphill points. 1000 feet in 0.6 of a mile. On that 0.6 mile we saw a mother grizzly with two cubs, four big horn sheep, and five mountain goats. 

We almost got to see a grizzly feeding on some stupid hikers. They were standing too close and taunting the grizzly. She started towards them and they got the hint. She took over the Highline Trail and stopped many a hiker from getting anywhere for about an hour. 

On the way back down to the car we passed four deer along side the trail. 

Summary: Montana is very blessed to have such a beautiful area that is still wild and untamed. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We met a lot of wonderful people from all over the world. Bear spray? Well a seasoned local told us "Do you know the difference between black bear poop and grizzly poop? Grizzly poop has bells in it and it smells like pepper!" The main thing is to be very aware at all times when in the area. Moose harm more people than any other animal in the US. If anyone wants to know, the way we covered the park is the way to do it!