Sunday, August 15, 2021

Mosaic Monday #143: Up, Up and Away

Our final day of hiking in the Belly River area, measured at 11.72 miles, was not the longest section of our July backcountry camping trip (see first/second day and third day).  On the other hand, the 2,445 feet of elevation gain - now, that would get anyone's attention!  It was three times more than any previous day.  Using one formula I found on the web, this equates to 244 flights of stairs!  But you won't catch me complaining!  Elevation gain = extensive views!  Elevation gain = workout!  And we knew a special reward awaited us at the end.  If you want to know what it was, read on, my friend!

As I mentioned in my last post, we rose at 6 am with the intention to dry our tents and depart by 8 am.  (When hiking steep terrain, it's always better in the cool of the day.)  However, due to the rain the day before, and the time it took for the sun to peep over the mountains, drying was a slow process; it was closer to 9 am by the time we bid farewell to the Elizabeth Lake campsite that had been home for two nights.

1.6 miles into the hike, we paused at the foot of Elizabeth Lake to replenish our water and to drop a layer of clothing; we knew we would heat up quickly as the trail immediately began to ascend.  Initially winding through forest, the trail eventually emerged onto a massive red scree field that extended as far as our eyes could see.

Without trees to obscure the view, Nephew could capture panoramas such as the one below.

Redgap Creek crossed our path, offering a welcome opportunity for a break and a water refill.  This butterfly seemed to be after a drink too, perching on Nephew's Camelpack mouthpiece!

As we continued to climb, we gained a unique perspective on our whereabouts for the last two days.  The sandy bay in the picture to the right is the spot we saw the moose, and around the corner from that is our "beach".  Directly above that, high on the mountain, is Old Sun Glacier.  From down in the valley, we could glimpse only a small section of the glacier.  At this height, the ice mass is visible in all its glory.  

The vegetation became quite sparse on the upper reaches of the scree field.  It always amazes me that there is vegetation at all, and that it seems to be thriving!

Yes, the landscape below can support many forms of life.

I reveled in the blue skies and puffy clouds.  In the picture below, I love how the trail disappears around the corner.

A solo hiker passed us on our way up, and we saw no one else until just before the section of the trail that is enclosed with a stone wall.  A couple were headed down, and we carefully perched on the uphill side of the path so they could squeeze around us.  Tumbling down this scree field would not make anyone's day!

As we approached the path on the rock wall, we could see something falling from the trail.  What???  Three members of a trail crew were shoveling rock chips from the path onto the scree field below.  One winter's worth of accumulation was enough to almost fill up the path to the top of the rock wall.  Apparently, this is what kept the tunnel closed until a few days ago (as it does every summer).  The trail is not deemed safe until the chips are removed - walking on them without the protection of the wall would surely lead to a rapid slide downhill!

This is the panoramic view that the hoary marmot enjoys every day (of the summer)!

This video shows the marmot picking up a rock in one paw, and appearing to eat or lick it.  I have seen other animals in Glacier National Park licking rocks for essential minerals, and I am guessing the marmot was after the same.  Or maybe he dug up a forb that we could not see!

As you can see in the video, plants manage to find a foothold in this rocky environment.  I snapped a few of them.

The scar in the rock leads to the Ptarmigan Tunnel, built in 1930 through the Ptarmigan Wall at an elevation of 7,200 feet.  The 250-foot manmade tunnel allows hikers to avoid a strenuous climb over very steep terrain between the Belly River Valley and Many Glacier.   Two opposing steel jackhammers drilling from either side of the tunnel, and a series of ten-hole rounds of dynamite gradually broke through the mountain in less than three months.  

As soon as we reached the tunnel, I felt like Alice in Wonderland: the whole world turned upside down.  Near total isolation transformed to a return to civilization.  People everywhere.  People who want to hike only as far as the tunnel.  People carrying silver umbrellas to protect themselves from the unrelenting sun on the south side of the mountain.  "Surreal" does not seem to capture it.   We enjoyed well-deserved snacks on the Many Glacier side of the tunnel, and then we hoofed the remaining 5 miles to the parking lot without any real stops.  

It was hot on this side, and I believe I drained my Camel Pack by the time we reached Many Glacier.  I can't tell you how satisfied we were to reach the parking lot and see my vehicle waiting for us!

And even better was to find that the RTIC cooler kept the beer, cider and wine cold for 5 days, in fairly warm temperatures!  Cheers to my nephew and Man with Hat - a glorious adventure in every way!

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
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Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 

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  1., what gorgeous country! 2,445 feet of elevation gain is just shy of the highest point in New York State. Thanks Angie for hosting, enjoy your week ahead.

  2. The beauty of your area is amazing and breathtaking! Oh, the Marmot is pretty cute!

  3. Angie, what an exciting Post. I admire your physical condition. 277 stairs are a lot, I know it from a tower here, but in the mountains we need more of Power, I believe.

    Wonderful post. Have a good week.
    Happy MosaicMonday and thank you for hosting.

  4. Wow! Thank you for sharing this amazing journey. The views and photography are breathtaking.

  5. Wow! Thank you for sharing this amazing journey. The views and photography are breathtaking.

  6. Wow! Thank you for sharing this amazing journey. The views and photography are breathtaking.

  7. 7200ft= 2194.560m. That would make me sick, probably! And to climb with backpack. I think I am quite strong but I would never manage to do that hike. I am amazed. But as you mention, you got some great scenery to enjoy. You really deserved that cool drink. :)

  8. Higher elevation is amazing for great scenery, and you certainly were rewarded! Gorgeous!


  9. What an awesome hike! Your photos are wonderful. Kit

  10. So much beauty all around. That tunnel is amazing. Can't imagine blowing a hole through a mountain. Sounds like the marmot is sharpening its teeth on that rock. :) The end of trail beverages would definitely hit the spot.

  11. Well done on the hike and thank you for sharing you photos of the beautiful views, flowers and creatures Angie. I have not seen a marmot before. I bet you were happy to find cool drinks when you got back to the car!

  12. Wow, your hike and camping trip sounds amazing. The scenic views are just stunning. The marmot is a cute critter. Gorgeous photos. Take care, have a great day and a happy new week!

  13. Looks wonderful, but I think my long distance hiking days are over. Enjoy and travel safe, and thank you again for the link up

  14. Wow! Our hiking here in Florida would be like a walk in the park for you! What a wonderful hike. I would have asked my nephew to carry some of my stuff! I know you had a memorable trip!

  15. *Sigh* As we hunker down in our Lockdown No6, what a delight it is to read your post, Angie, look at the gorgeous photos and travel vicariously in the confines of your blog...

  16. PS: Thanks for hosting, Angie, it is greatly appreciated!

  17. My word that was quite an adventure. My hat is off to all of you. I am afraid my camping/hiking days are over but I am still active by being outside and walking everywhere. I like that you showed the wildflowers and gave us their names.

  18. Happy to hear of camping fun. Luv the wildflower mosaics.


  19. Amazing vistas, trails and scenery that I will never see in person but I can certainly enjoy because you put the effort in. Thank you for sharing. God's creation is something to behold! Congrats to the three of you!

  20. Wow! What a climb. Epic views and a cool tunnel. Amazing hike. I wish I could accomplish that.

  21. Angie, Congrats on that hike. Good of you to take the photos you take along the way! Thanks for sharing and have a great week. Sylvia D.

  22. Wow! That's quite a hike and the photos are gorgeous.

  23. Spectacular doesn’t begin to describe these views! Haha … I didn’t realize Man with Hat didn’t always wear said hat on these treks. This time he was Man with Hat in Hand. During an Alaskan Cruise, I saw how quickly glaciers can melt and learned more about their impact on the world.

  24. What a fun adventure, Angie! Love the views. Hiking over scree can be precarious. The tunnel is unique.
    We are going to the Rockies (Canadian) in September and are looking forward to some good hikes, too.

  25. Amazing views. What a hike! looks like such a fun trip.

  26. Hi Angie,
    Unfortunately, I am late today and do not have a link. (I'll make up for that next week.) Our beloved red cat Maxwell has died, so I'm not quite myself. But your account of your breathtaking hike was a good distraction. The landscape is really great - and I was particularly impressed by the hoary marmot and the view that the marmot enjoys every day!
    All the best from Austria
    PS: We saw a butterfly that looked very similar to yours...

  27. Beautiful hike, beautiful scenery, beautiful Marmot.

  28. A wonderful trek there Angie. Those super landscape photos proved that at those high elevations and in the pure air, real distance can be deceptive.

  29. gorgeous!! you are so fortunate to be able to hike these trails and to enjoy the cool tunnel!! the panoramic view that the hoary marmot enjoys every day is spectacular. i enjoyed watching him munch away!!

    pretty butterfly!!

  30. and i enjoyed seeing the 3 of you!!

  31. You all deserved that reward at the end. Like you, I'm always in awe of the alpine wildflowers that continue to bloom in such unlikely places -- unlike you I have never worked that hard to see them (thankful for Colorado and Oregon places with roads to high places). But also very grateful for your generosity in sharing the remarkable views that only intrepid hikers like you can see (and deserver!). Thank you.

  32. WOW!
    Your area is breathtakingly beautiful.
    What great photographs you've shared here, thank you.

    All the best Jan


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