Sunday, November 10, 2013

Glacier National Park: Cracker Lake

Glacier NP – 8/17/13 – Cracker Lake – 13.2 Miles

Up and at ‘em for our first hike in Glacier NP, anticipation building and very excited!  Free range cows were a fun bonus on our drive to the Many Glacier area of the park. 

The Cracker Lake trail begins at the parking lot of Many Glacier Hotel, a stunning scene hugging the edge of Swift- current Lake with Mount Grinnell rising up on the far shore.  It felt a little surreal to be looking at this postcard.  Heck, the next eight days felt like walking through a postcard. 

Marta was at the head of the line as we hiked to Cracker Lake, part of an ongoing conversation filled with questions, catching up, history of the area, flora and fauna.   She educated us on late summer berries, a bear buffet, and how to tell if thimbleberries are ripe.    We sampled as we walked gently but steadily uphill, all staying together except for Jeff hanging back from time to time for photos. 

Thimble- berries:  yum!



Yogurt covered raisins?  Don’t know what plant this is but these are not berries

Walking past Lake Sherburne on the back side of Many Glacier Hotel

I noticed that Marta carried a canister of bear spray on her pack belt.  Yes, she sometimes hikes alone and has seen some bears but never had to use her bear spray.  When I began my Smokies hiking project back in 2008, I had anxiety about safety hiking alone and asked Marta how she overcame that when she thru-hiked the AT.  She gave me one word:  repetition.  You practice and get used to it. 

Found this when I stepped off the trail for a potty break:   Pinedrops, about three feet tall

Pinedrops detail

Our first look at snow.  Do you see the black “cave” hole at the base where the snow is melting?

Looked as though the clouds were “boiling up” like steam from behind Allen Mountain.

Marta on the trail (Allen Mountain)

Nodding onion

Don’t know the name of this one, but it was abundant along the trail

Our first glimpse of the cirque, the steep bowl- shaped hollow created by glaciers at the upper end of the valley.  Mount Siyeh is the peak at the upper left and Siyeh Glacier is the snow field in shadow on the left.  Cracker Lake lies out of sight (for now) at the foot of the cirque.

Cracker Lake, looking like opaque, almost milky turquoise glass, due to the glacial silt suspended in the water.  Exquisite, no?

Close-up of Siyeh Glacier

We walked around the western edge of the lake and up onto a rock where we took turns posing for this daring-looking scrapbook photo

There are campsites along the edge of the lake (see the tiny tent at the bottom?)  Campers must cook their meals and store food at a separate site about a hundred yards away from the tent sites.

We spent a leisurely lunch hour by the lakeshore, basking in the sunshine and marvel- ing at how lucky we felt to be there.  Our expectations were already exceeded on Day 1!  Jeff, Marta and Cathy soaked their feet in the water – looked pretty cold to me. 

Time to head back (Jeff’s photo)

On the return hike, more flowers:  Indian paintbrush

Blanket flower


Crossing Allen Creek

The hike back went quickly, but perhaps not fast enough for Ken when he got stung inside his lower lip.  I didn’t realize it until we arrived back at the parking area and saw that his lip was swelled up and looked pretty painful.  At the Many Glacier Hotel he applied a bag of ice to it and a cold beer helped as well.  We all sat on the front deck looking out over Swiftcurrent Lake and enjoyed a cool beverage to celebrate our first day in Glacier National Park.  We didn’t even know that tomorrow was going to be even more incredible. 

Back to camp at St. Mary’s and wonderful hot showers.  Our friend Brandon joined us for the rest of the week.  We had a huge meal at Johnson’s Family Style Restaurant, including huckleberry ice cream pie. (We had some form of huckleberry something every single day).  We played a little poker, which I wasn’t good at before and my skills did not improve.  The sky was still bright at 9:00 p.m. when I crawled into my sleeping bag with my book, Blood Lure, by Nevada Barr.  (She writes whodunnits set in national parks and this one featured Glacier NP.)

Full moon (Jeff’s photo)

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”   ~Rachel Carson



1 comment:

Linda W. said...

I love Glacier NP! How wonderful you had a whole week to explore it. I'm looking forward to reading your other hike recaps.