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Above Logan Pass

Remains of heavy winter snowfall

August 10/Day 24. I wake up at 5:30. My plan has been to catch the free Going-to-the-Sun

Road shuttle at 7:00 a.m. and ride it end-to-end today to get an overview of the park. But instead I’ll have to sit here until 8:00 so I can run the generator for a couple of hours. Damn! What a waste of time! Park rules allow generators from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., all times I’d rather be out there on the trail.

But nothing in the trailer functions without electricity. No lights, of course, but no water pump and no refrigerator either, since even when running on propane it requires a small amount of electricity to monitor the pilot light. To top it off, the check engine light came on in my truck for the last 50 miles yesterday, and I have to decide what to do about that. Kalispell, the only town of any size, is over 30 miles away; I don’t want to drive several thousand miles only to have to make repairs to my running gear. Such is life.

Avalanche Gorge cataract

Unfortunately, no internet is available unless I go into town several miles away, and then it’s pay-per-hour. Cell service is so poor I can only text intermittently. No voice calls, for sure. I could sure use access to cell and internet to look up some RV service companies in Kalispell; I need to get these batteries replaced. Oh well, I remind myself, that’s why they call it getting away from it all.

But all is not lost. I switch off the generator at 10:00 a.m. and take the free shuttle to the trailhead of the four mile Avalanche Lake trail.

I’m afraid I’ve used up my allotment of superlatives describing the other parks I’ve visited. Should have held something in reserve I guess. Glacier has a grandeur that is so penetrating and exquisite that I’ll only be able to describe the surface of it, at best, and not the moving splendor within that’s at its core.

Mossy forest en route to Avalanche Lake

I’m completely taken aback by the Avalanche Lake trail; it rises into a steep V-shaped gorge that’s covered with moss and all kinds of ferns and flowers. I’m reminded of the Hoh rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula, and indeed, the western slopes of Glacier receive much the same moisture-laden weather from the Pacific as Hoh, only here the majority of precipitation falls as snow in winter—last winter as much as 60 feet in some areas.

Towering cedars flourish, some as large as 4 feet in diameter, mixed together with many varieties of highland pine that I don’t know the names of. A roiling stream churns at the bottom of the V, in some places sculpting polished twists and turns out of solid bedrock, like a water-slide at an amusement park, with untamed torrents of water sluicing downward through the green forest.

When I reach the lake, I’m confronted with an array of jagged peaks, still sporting pockets of

Avalanche Lake

snowpack into mid-August, surrounding the lake on three sides. Melting snow sends rivulets of water cascading hundreds of feet down the treeless mountainsides, through the ring of forest surrounding the lake, and finally into the still waters of the lake itself. How can these two magnificent, dissimilar settings—the towering mountains and the verdant valley—be juxtaposed in such perfect equilibrium?

And I’m wondering: if this, my first real exposure to but a tiny slice of Glacier Park can be so breathtaking—what treasures have I yet to discover?

I soon find out.

A view of Logan Pass with my Camelbak and trekking poles

By taking the shuttle from Avalanche Lake trailhead up to Logan Pass, the summit of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, I’m lifted beyond belief into a fairytale landscape of impossibly sheer mountains, plunging cliffs, green valleys with contorted rivers twisting through them until, at last, we burst above the treeline to reach our destination, the Logan Pass visitor center.

Behind the visitor center a path leads to a boardwalk that climbs even higher, until it gives way to pure snowfields, perhaps 1000 feet above. I’ve had no intention of doing more hiking today, but I’m lured up the path thinking I’ll go just far enough to find a good vantage to take a picture of the visitor center in its natural surroundings. But I continue to climb upward and upward, through two or three snowfields at least a hundred yards wide, stopping many times to take pictures. Higher yet,

Snow field above Logan Pass

I’m told, beyond a curve around the side of the mountain, lies a sublime lake. I’ve come this far—so close—but I’m resigned to begin my descent or I’ll miss the last shuttle of the day. A day of wonderment.

OFF TOPIC: Yesterday evening I rented a pair of trekking poles, which are like ski poles only adapted for hiking. Many Alpinists use them, and I thought they might give some support for my injured foot. As the ranger said, “Up here, four legs are better than two.” And I do believe they helped somewhat. (They were great on the icy snowfields.) I’ll know better in the morning when my feet hit the floor. At any rate, I’ve decided to hobble onward; if anything bad happens to my foot I’ll just get it fixed once I’m back home. I can’t afford to miss this opportunity by just sitting on my ass.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 11, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Oh my goodness! These pictures of the last few days are absolutely awe inspiring. Wow. Blistering 83 degrees, really???? 103 in Texas, not feeling any sorrow here for you with that kind of wonderful weather. If we are lucky, the air conditioner gets below 83.

  2. The Other Brian
    August 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Great writing and photos. I think I drove our suburban for a year with the engine light on – it was a faulty oxygen sensor and nothing really wrong. Hopefully, the same is true for your truck.

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