Monday, September 26, 2011

Glacier National Park :: A Visit With Jack Frost

Tuesday, September 20th - - We drove as far as we could from the east side on the Going to the Sun Highway – to Logan Pass. The highway had closed for the season at midnight on Sunday the 18th; not because of the weather but so that construction crews could work on the road.

On the way up to Logan Pass. Can you see several waterfalls toward the center of the picture? They can be seen if you double-click on the image for a larger version...

Clements Mountain and the beginning of the trail to Hidden Lake.

We walked a (very) short distance on the Hidden Lake Trail... The snow that I encountered in July of last year was no where to be seen, but I think there will be plenty of snow very soon!

In one section of trail, wildflowers blanketed the meadow.

We decided to walk a ways along the Highline Trail. Even though it was late in the morning there were traces of frost on the trails in the shaded areas, especially along the first portion of the Highline Trail. (As always, double-click on the image to see a larger version.)

Perhaps it was a good thing that the Going to the Sun Road was closed since the valley below was covered with fog.

You can see a little of the Going to the Sun Road on the right side of the above photo, just to the right and above the top of the fog.

Since the “season” was over, work crews had removed the chains along this section of the trail, parts of which are very narrow with a rather long fall if one should happen to slip! Crews were working on the trail around that far bend and we were reluctant to attempt to pass by them so we returned the way we came. After a short break for lunch, sitting in the glorious sunshine and taking in the awesome views, we went to the 'Many Glaciers' area further north in the park.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Glacier National Park :: St. Mary and Virginia Falls

Sunday, September 18th - - Just prior to going to Alaska in July of last year, I stopped for a few days at Glacier National Park (you can read about that visit here and here). I figured since I was in Montana again I might as well stop in for a visit. The fact that my friends Sue and Fred were returning from a fantastic adventure in the Yukon Northwest Territory and would be at Glacier for a few days was additional incentive.

I arrived at St. Mary on the northeast side of Glacier National Park in the early evening and found Sue and Fred at the KOA campground there. For the next few hours I was entranced with tales of their trip north and impressed with the incredible pictures that they took. I will also admit to a touch of envy – the trip was amazing!

Monday, September 19th - - It rained during the overnight hours of Sunday. It was wet, foggy, and very cloudy this morning with temperatures in the 40s. A mid-morning attempt at taking a hike was aborted when we arrived at the trailhead in the pouring rain. We returned to the campground where we relaxed and chatted some more while it continued to rain off and on.

At about 2:30 we noticed that blue sky was beginning to show through the thick layer of clouds. It was truly amazing how quickly the wind blew those clouds away! And then we saw that Mother Nature had left behind a light dusting of snow on those mountains.

Well, maybe more than a light dusting!

We decided to try the hike to Virginia Falls again, hoping that the clouds and rain and snow would be gone by the time we arrived at the trailhead. Considered one of the easier hikes at Glacier, the trail was 1½ miles long, dropped 260 feet to St. Mary Falls then gained 285 feet on the way to Virginia Falls. It was a well maintained trail but had some rocky areas and other areas with tree roots, which meant you had to watch where you were stepping much of the time.

The trail ultimately takes you to Virginia Falls but a little more than half way there you cross the St. Mary River (shown above, looking East) on a foot bridge.

The view from the footbridge, looking west! I will never cease to be amazed at the power of flowing water and how it can cut through hard rock. This is the lower portion of St. Mary Falls.

And this is the upper portion. Standing on the footbridge you could feel the power of the water hitting the sides of the canyon walls – the bridge was quite solidly built but it was moving ever so slightly and vibrating as the water passed beneath it.

The trail meandered through the forest. We were thankful for the patches of sunshine as it was a fairly brisk 45 degrees. There was just a light breeze, otherwise it might have been a bit uncomfortable.

These pretty little flowers were seen all along the trail.

We passed several small waterfalls while continuing on to Virginia Falls. That golden colored spot on the lower left is a bit of sunlight coming through the foliage and striking the water.

Virginia Falls is a multi-tiered cascading waterfall that simply takes your breath away. I'm including two shots of it because I couldn't decide which one I liked best... You really do need to double-click on the images for a larger version to truly appreciate the falls.

Not quite as sharp as the previous photograph, I was attempting a more “artistic” slow-motion representation of the moving water. (No tripod, balancing the camera on one of the nearby rocks, and trying to hold it steady!)

Sue and Fred at the lower portion of Virginia Falls.

Yours truly, standing at the base of Virginia Falls. Thanks to Sue for taking the photo. It was a wonderful hike, except for a slight slip at one spot, thankfully though no damage was done.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rustic Montana Barns

Sunday, September 18th - - While traveling back north on state road 541, along the Montana Bale Trail, I saw these two barns near the road and just “had” to stop. I love the colors on the weathered siding, especially on the barn on the left. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds and a brisk wind was blowing...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Montana Bale Trail :: What the Hay?

Sunday, September 18th - - It began 22 years ago as a good-natured spoof between two neighboring ranchers but, according to the Montana Bale Trail website, it has become a nationally recognized celebration and in 2003 was named as Montana's Tourist Event of the Year. I heard about it on the radio one day but as it was more than a two hour drive, I decided not to go. Then, looking at the map to determine my route to Glacier National Park, I realized I'd be going through the area.

A one-day “festival” of sorts held on the first Sunday after Labor Day, the two towns in the area (Hobson and Windham) have “special” events that day. There were reportedly 50 or so “am-hayzing” displays of hay bale sculptures, most created by local farmers and ranchers, along the trail (a 21 mile long loop on state highways 239 and 541 just south of U.S. Highway 87). Many of the hay bale sculptures remain for days and weeks afterward – lucky for me!

Most of the sculptures were named and generally included the word “hay” or “bale” in one form or another. The detail on many of them was rather incredible and ingenious.

I'm just Smurf'Hay.

Rise of the Planet of the 'Hay'pes.

Some were even more simplistic than this Toots 'hay' Roll.

But a lot of work went into this one. The sign in front of it said “Mudhay Days - May June”

It was one of the more elaborate sculptures.

Wild Bale Hickok was quite impressive though.

From his head...

To his toes boots.

But the one I thought was most impressive was “Hay-wo-Jima”

Proud to say Made in the U.S. Hay.

The wind had taken its toll on the soldiers, with the one on the right being almost blown over, but you get the idea...

It was a fun and interesting way to spend an extra hour or so on the long drive to St. Mary on the north-eastern side of Glacier National Park.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


All photos taken on September 10, 2011 - - Southwest Montana

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Creatures Great and Small

You may be somewhat tired of seeing pictures of Buffalo and Prairie Dogs but I find them to be rather fascinating creatures. Photos taken on September 9th and 10th.

A herd of domesticated bison.

This one was getting a little too close for comfort, with only a few strands of barbed wire between it and me! Like cows, they are curious creatures and this one simply wanted to figure out just what I was.

The eye of a buffalo. Their hair looks stiff and wiry but it isn't. Not that I reached in to pet them or anything silly like that – the Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota had a buffalo skin on display that you could touch. It was very soft.

A nearby Prairie Dog Town offered a fine photographic opportunity. He's sounding the alarm to warn others of my presence. Even with the long zoom of the camera, I couldn't get really close. This and the other images below are cropped quite a bit.

I had never seen a prairie dog do this before and almost missed the shot! A nearby sign had a similar image and it said that “Once danger has passed, the prairie dog emits the 'wee-oo' call to notify other members of the colony that everything is okay”. I'm not convinced that is what it was doing as I didn't see very many that were out of their burrows.