Take three hikes, blend in a handful of waterfalls and a dash of clouds. Moisten with some early summer snow fields. Toss with mixed greens in the form of alpine flowers, and what do you get? The ideal environment for Oreamnos americanus, the mountain goat, and Ovis canadensis, the bighorn sheep.
As you walk the mile to the Falls, the trail transitions through meadow, forest and finally a rocky outcropping which grants your first view of the 100-foot waterfall. I love how the water falls directly off this rock shelf.
James Schultz (Apikuni) was a noted author, explorer, guide, fur trader and historian of the Blackfoot Indians. Schultz wrote articles about the Glacier area for a new magazine called Forest and Stream. Its editor, George Bird Grinnell, was so taken by Schultz's description of the land that he paid a visit to the mountains in 1885. Grinnell was so inspired by what he saw that he spent the next two decades working to establish Glacier as the 10th national park.
The trail was mostly forested until the last half hour. Given that we had started this hike at 11.45, we were grateful for the shade in the (Montana) heat of the day. As much as we would have liked to linger at Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake, the mosquitoes who favor the shade were prevalent. Best to keep moving!
We don't typically go "off trail", but the red dot required that we do so. It was clear others had done the same, as a fairly clear footpath led to the observation point. The opportunity to get the view above is one of the many benefits I am sure that will accumulate from this volunteer gig.
No one was in the campground as we passed back through; given the time of day, I suspect this particular site would be empty for the night. I must admit that annoyed me a bit. Most of our applications for back-country camping permits have been denied, so I just expect that most of the time the campgrounds should be full!!! Despite our frustration, we do plan to a future camping trip along this way - it's another route to access the Belly River area, one of our favorites (see these posts from last summer: Lost for Words, A Slice of Paradise, Up, Up and Away.)
By the time we reached our hotel for the night, we had been awake since 5 am, and had hiked 10.6 miles while climbing 3,100 feet. We were ready for some chow, an adult beverage and then, bed!
The next day, we took the time to enjoy a cooked breakfast before heading to the Iceberg Lake trailhead. (And if you are keeping score, it's still goats = 0.)
Both days, we entered Glacier National Park through the Many Glacier entrance. This is one of the few access points that does not require a vehicle reservation, so we were anticipating some traffic at the entry point. That was not the case, thankfully. In fact, the entry station was not even staffed!
The on-line guide to Glacier National Park trails noted that bears frequent the area, especially the segment before Ptarmigan Falls. We did not see any, but today's check shows that the trail beyond Ptarmigan has been closed off and on since July 17 due to grizzly bear activity. Glad we did this hike on July 13!
Roughly three miles from the trailhead, we emerged from the forest and from this point we had our first good views of our destination. Looking toward the left, we could see a cirque with a couple of large snowfields lying on the cliff walls. In the basin just below those snowfields is Iceberg Lake. (Can you see Man Without Hat in the center right of the picture below?)
Shortly thereafter, the trail reached the bottom of Ptarmigan Wall and began heading in a west-southwesterly direction. The Wall, towering more than 1500 feet above the trail, is known as an arete, defined as a thin ridge of rock separating two valleys that have been carved by glaciers. In this case, the Ptarmigan Wall divides the Many Glacier Valley from the Belly River Valley.
Score: goats - 3!!! It was quite exciting, and a thrill to share the experience with others! With that done, we could focus on enjoying the scenery and the return hike!
Orange sticks marked the way to the lake, the first time we have ever seen that. I believe it is meant to protect the magnificent alpine wildflowers that will emerge as the snow recedes.
Sitting at an elevation of 6,094 feet, Iceberg Lake is in the shadow of mountains that tower 3,000 feet above. Hence, the lake receives little sunshine, thus allowing ice and snow to accumulate on the water and on the surrounding cliff walls. This didn't stop at least one visitor from going for a dip!
As we finished our break and snacks, threatening clouds had begun to gather, so we hoisted our backpacks and bade Iceberg farewell. We were surprised to see this small lake a short way down the trail - we must have been so anxious to reach the goat observation point that we didn't notice it!
I am not sure which mountain pops up in this picture below, but I love the contrast of the smoother edges and brown shades, compared to the knife-edge of the Wall.
It seemed quick when we arrived once again at the Falls. Despite the spots of rain that had been peppering us on the way down, we paused for a break.
With the prospect of a three-hour plus drive home, we did not tarry (except to take some flower photos!)