We left early hoping to avoid the crowds at Logan Pass. I’m thankful that we did as our 8:30 arrival time found the parking lot already 2/3 full.
Today’s first hike was to an overlook above Hidden Lake, right on the Continental Divide above Logan Pass. The hike to the overlook was about a mile and third up a series of wooden walkways along alpine meadows and beautiful views of mountains. Last year we attempted the hike but ended up blocked by snow about half way up the trail and had to turn around because we were ill equipped. This time we made it up and were greeted by this:
It was a stunning view that my wife and I took in for about ten minutes. Even with the throngs of people on the wooden overlook the feeling was quiet and serene. Almost too quiet.
“Jeff, can you come over here for a second?”
My wife’s calm tone raised my awareness and I headed over to the opposite end of the overlook and looked down into the meadow.
It was a smaller grizzly bear digging around not that far below us from the deck overlook. I was oddly not frightened; maybe it was the crowds that were present or maybe it was the fact that the bear didn’t really seem interested in us. It roamed for awhile and then took off down the trail toward Hidden Lake, which was already posted for a bear activity warning for hikers. Satisfied with our expedition we began our trek back down. As we crested the Divide and started down the planks we noticed a ranger looking south into an alpine meadow.
“Large grizzly”, he said and he pointed down into the meadow and sure enough, probably a good third of a mile away, was a massive bear cavorting in a small stream. It also seemed totally oblivious to the stream of humans heading down the mountain and was perfectly content taking sprints in the stream while occasionally stopping to tear up the ground. We watched the bear frolick for a good forty minutes and were witness to the very reason you are told not to run. That beast of a bear was flying down the valley. It could easily have caught even a fast runner it moved so effortlessly across the alpine terrain. It was mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time.
We moved back to Logan Pass and crossed the Going-to-the-Sun Highway to the Highline Trail, renouned for it’s cliff edge trail and overall beauty looking into the heart of Glacier National Park. We held up and waited for someone to travel with as to follow the doctrine of grizzly bear smart travel and a young couple that was on a honeymoon from Tennessee showed up. We chit-chated as we passed the “bear frequenting” warning and slowly made our way along the first half mile cliff face, peering over the side at the road hundreds of feet below. We managed another third of a mile before we came upon a huge pile of bear scat. All four of us didn’t want to push our luck and turned back. We watched a few bighorn sheep roam the cliffs above us before we said our goodbyes (they where heading home tomorrow) and my wife and I began our way back towards Kalispell. We decided to talk one more look at Avalanche Lake so we stopped at the trailhead and made the trek up to one of our favorite places. At the parking area we noticed a huge line of cars being stopped from heading up the hill towards Logan Pass. Thankfully we got up there early enough to avoid the traffic!
Avalanche Lake was not quiet. Throngs of people had staked claims to various parts of beaches, including a youth group whose minister felt that his voice was going to be much more articulate than the wonderful voice of silence. Why go to such a place and conduct a sermon?
We leave tomorrow, sadly, and I’m already missing this trip.
Trails hiked: Hidden Lake Overlook, part of the Highline Trail, Avalanche Lake.
Miles hiked: 8.25