Sunday, July 24, 2022

Mosaic Monday #184: Going for the Goats

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 I wrote in my last post, these three hikes would be our initial opportunity to participate in the Citizen Science program, collecting data on the Mountain Goat and Bighorn Sheep populations in Glacier National Park.  Any guesses what we found?  Read on, dear friend, read on!

First destination: Apikuni Falls.  Not only is there a debate on how Apikuni (or Appekunny) Falls is spelled, but also of its meaning, either "white-spotted robe" or "scabby robe".  The white man who earned the Indian name of Apikuni (James Willard Schultz) married into the Blackfeet tribe and lived with them for many years.  "Scabby robe" refers to one who is badly tanned with many hard spots.  

The hike to Apikuni Falls requires little effort and provides rewarding views of Many Glacier Valley, including Lake Sherburne (see above).

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. 

As you get closer, you can see a series of cascades below the main waterfall.

At the waterfall, we checked the Avenza Map app on my phone, which showed the goat observation point (a red dot) some distance to the right of us (a blue dot).  It seemed simple enough, until we looked to the right.  No discernible trail.  Rocky scree with questionable footing.  And steep. Hmm.  Not ones to give up easily, we began the scramble.  Within 10 minutes, we concluded this effort fell into the "not a good decision" category.  Clambering up is one thing - how would we get down?  And we had barely moved the blue dot any closer to the red dot!  Volunteering has its limits, especially when life-endangering!

We settled for enjoying the mist from the Falls, and I felt I could spare a few minutes to shoot some flowers since we had budgeted an hour for goat observations.

Check out the slow motion of the falls.

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.  

Glacier National Park is beautiful now; I can only imagine how it was then!!!

On the way back, the higher elevation provided an even more expansive view of Many Glacier Valley.

Ok, if you are keeping score: goats - 0.  Just down the road from the trailhead for Apikuni Falls is the starting point for Poia Lake.  Poia is a Blackfoot name also known as Star Boy, a magical hero of Blackfoot mythology who is the son of a mortal woman named Feather Woman and the immortal Morning Star.

The first mile of this 8.6 mile round trip is STEEP, a preface to the total elevation gain of 2,400 feet.  Thankfully, the expansive meadows with a wide assortment of wildflowers were enough to keep me distracted!

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!

From the lake, we climbed to the top of the ridge, and then the trail began to descend.  Surveying the topography, it was clear we would have more climbing to reach Poia.  We were starting to get hangry!!!  

Around this point, we saw the only person we would see on the trail to Poia, an interesting contrast to the dozens of hikers we saw on Apikuni and the hundreds we would encounter on the final hike.

We left our fellow hiker in the dry streambed and climbed a rocky escarpment.  We knew we were getting close to our destination when we passed the campground.  We did not pause until we reached the goat observation point (the red dot!)  Boy, was it worth it.  Outstanding views!

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.

The breeze on this promontory kept things cool even though we were in full sun at 2.15 in the afternoon.  We satisfied our hunger with snacks before we started our observations.  Sadly, not a single goat or sheep in sight.  In fact, no footed critters anywhere - not even the ubiquitous marmots or ground squirrels.  

(We had seen several piles of bear scat along the trail, but no bear sightings either.  I suspect any bear would have been resting in the shade!)

We kept ourselves cool with wet neckcloths, dunked in the lake and streams we would cross.

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!

Before we left home, I had spoken with a friend about a recent hike, and I was shocked to learn she had not been able to complete the hike due to snow.  "Take your Traxx," she advised.  We did, and wondered what lie ahead when we saw this sign at the trailhead.   (Warning - hazardous snow and ice conditions exist 2.5 miles ahead on Iceberg/Ptarmigan Trail (right after Ptarmigan Falls)).

We chatted a bit with several of our fellow hikers; one noted that she had been here three weeks ago and the snow had been manageable.  As it turned out, she was right.  (And when we returned to the trailhead, someone had removed this warning sign!)

It was hard not to notice the dozens of people on this trail; a marked difference from near-total isolation on the Poia trail the day before.  I suppose it's popular because it only climbs 1200 feet and round-trip distance is 9.6 miles.  And did I mention the spectacular views?

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!

Check out the slow motion videos of Ptarmigan Falls.

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.

For the last 20 minutes of the hike, the trail was snow-covered, but manageable.  A trail crew was clearing the drainage channels to encourage water to run off the trail rather than in it!  I asked about the footbridge installation, and was told it is in place.  (Seasonal footbridges are exactly that - removed in the fall and installed in the spring.)  Yay - otherwise, it would have been a cold crossing!  

We arrived at the goat observation point (the red dot), which this time was just to the right of the trail.  Within the first 10 minutes of setting up our spotting scope and pulling out the binoculars, we had locked on two goats!!!

(Many hikers asked what we saw, and we invested a fair amount of time explaining the Citizen Science program, and sharing our spotting scope so they could catch a glimpse of the horned creatures!)

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!)

As we neared the end of the trail, around 3 pm, we were amazed and a bit chagrined to see the number of hikers just setting out, with Iceberg Lake as their destination.  A rough calculation indicated they would be returning no earlier than 8 pm.  While the sun stays long in the sky at this time of year, the bears come out "after business hours", so you want to be off the trail by early evening.  Not to mention the weather.  It was raining a little more when we ended our hike, and was seriously splashing it down after we came out of the gift shop.  I said a silent prayer for all of them, and carried on.

It had been a wonderful series of hikes, and I am grateful that we have the ability to enjoy Nature's bounty.

**I may be slow commenting this week, and Mosaic Monday will take a break on July 31st.  See you again on August 7!

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  1., what a wonderful neck of the woods! The snow looks refreshing on the HOT summer day!!! Thanks Angie for hosting the party.

  2. Wonderful hikes! The waterfall is amazing and the lakes are gorgeous. The nature is so beautiful in Montana.

  3. Such a super hike! So happy you get to do what you love so frequently. There used to be a quilt company named Thimbleberries, and know I know what that is. Thanks.

  4. Fantastic photos from your hikes.

  5. WOW, such wonderful photos and stunning scenery!

  6. Oh my. Absolutely fabulous country. Wonderful flowers!
    Thank you for hosting, Angie.

  7. Glorious waterfalls and glacier scenery, Angie! It is wonderful that you are volunteers checking on wildlife. When we visited Glacier we saw the goats up close when we hiked along the Hanging Garden Trail off Logan Pass. They are fairly gentle animals.

  8. Adventure, adventure... wonderful scenes in this nature around your path, Angie. I admire your good condition.

    Nearby ... I wished, I could write one comment without Google kick me out 🤣

    Happy MosaicMonday. Have a wonderful week 😘

  9. Dearest Angie,
    you did three hikes in beautiful surroundings - waterfalls, lakes, snow and ice, forests, rocks - and finally even three mountain goats... Far away, but a success. Luckily you didn't put yourself in any more danger!
    I wouldn't welcome an encounter with a grizzly bear either. But I think that if there are so many hikers on the road, a bear will not want such an encounter, too, and will rather withdraw...(?)
    I believe you that the hikes were strenuous - in my 1st linked post I also tell you about a strenuous, very hot and poorly shaded hike in Mallorca with a breathtaking view (and some less strenuous excursions). In my second post, on the other hand, you can refresh yourself with snow, because there I tell, among other things, about the blackout of October 24, 2003 due to an early onset of winter. But there are also a few current flowers and garden animals to see ;-)
    You've been on the road a lot this summer - another little break, so have a good time until August 7th!
    All the best and hugs from Austria,

  10. Hello,
    Glacier NP is a beautiful place. I love the mountain views, the wildflowers and waterfalls. It is neat finding the goats and volunteering to count the goats. Great hikes and beautiful photos. Take care, have a great new week!

  11. Wow! What a magnificent post, Angie! Great natural beauty and wonderful photos really make me feel as though I were there with you!

  12. It really does make me thankful it has been designated as a National Park! What a treasure and how wonderful to get to hike there. Some of your day hikes are so strenuous that I couldn't do them if I had a week! lol Love your photos! Happy Monday!

  13. Your red arrow images looked like moon shots☺
    Happy hiking.

  14. You can be forgiven for missing a week with a place like that to visit, really beautiful with stunning scenery

  15. Wowza - what great hikes! I love hiking near waterfalls - they're beautiful and relaxing... something about that moving water. You captured a lot of amazing views.

  16. Wow, what an amazing trip! I'm loving the photos, so beautiful!

  17. Spectacular views! Thanks for sharing.

  18. Wow, absolutely amazing scenery. I am with you however if the trail gets too difficult to err on the side of caution. We do have to remember that what goes up must come down. We had a tricky situation last year that could have come horribly undone.I learnt my lesson. And the warning sign for bears! I think that would make me change my mind about the hike. Thank you so much for taking us to these amazing places. Stay safe! Enjoy your week, and thank you again for the link up. It is cold and wet here. Indoors persuits are more the thing for now.

  19. That is epic! I couldn't do it, but I enjoyed your fun!
    (ツ) from Jenn Jilks , ON, Canada!

  20. You two really get to enjoy so much beauty because of your amazing efforts on these hikes you are determined to complete. Those alpine flower meadows are amazing and all the other flowers you spotted on these hikes. Beautiful. Hard to believe we are at the end of July already. Blessings.

  21. ps - and thankyou for the videos and wildflowers :)

  22. Wow … what an incredibly beautiful place. Exhilarating and heart-lifting! Haha … and I have to say I've often looked for the right way to explain being "hangry". Now I know it really IS a word. :))

  23. I can't think of a better way to spend your time, Angie. Do you carry bear spray with you?

  24. Beautiful nature, the videos are .excellent Angie.

  25. WOW!
    Goodness me, what an amazing post this is.
    Your narration, the photographs and video just brilliant, thank you.

    All the best Jan

    PS As I type this it's the last weekend of July, so sending early good wishes for the new month of August.

  26. I've only been to glacier once, when I moved from Florida to Edmonton Alberta. Spectacular. You are so fit, and what a great photo of you and hubby.... so good! Hope you frame it.

  27. What an adventure you had. Great hikes, wonderful scenery, and seeing goats in the wild and no bears. I'll take that.

  28. A wonderful adventure with fantastic hikes, photos and narrative. Beautiful country out there so glad to see you take advantage of nature's gift. Thanks for sharing Angie, I enjoyed it too.

  29. Wow, Wow, and WOW! Fantastic photo's. The sky is sooooooo blue. The water falls, the flowers, the views. I can't do the type of hiking I used to be able to when I was younger. Too many sprained ankles through the years. Recently in Park City, we were climbing on a rocky trail that we were told was fairly flat (apparently their idea of flat and ours are differnet). But, after awhile we decided going on wasn't a wise idea. Coming down is always harder. We've been to many Natl Parks, but not Glacier. Thanks for the pictures.


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