TIO Montana: Glacier Park, #2

Last Year's Burn, Hiking To Virginia Falls

Wednesday morning dawned gray and cool. Our intrepid group was in the car by 0730 for the drive up to Glacier Guides’ headquarters just outside the Park’s West Entrance. We soon loaded two vans, and headed up Going-to-the-Sun Road, the clouds increasing as we climbed, eventually raining hard enough to require windshield wipers. Our drivers/guides Tarek and Charlie never faltered. Charlie, it may be remembered, was our hiking guide and boatman on our hike/raft trip on Monday.

Once over Logan Pass, the weather cleared a bit, so our hike to Virginia Falls was breezy and cool, with only occasional drops of rain.

St. Mary Falls, Through the Burn

Initially we hiked through a larch forest which had burned last year, the trees standing stark against the gray sky. The payoff, however, was a good view of St. Mary Lake below, and a generous new cover of grass, low bushes, thimbleberries, and lots of brilliant fireweed.

St. Mary Falls

 

Our Stalwart Crew

The out-and-back distance of this hike is only about 3 1/2 miles, so we soon had descended to St. Mary Falls, at the head of the lake. Naturally, we had to stop for photographs of this beautiful set of three falls. This was also a time to get acquainted with our fellow adventurers. One family is headquartered in Pittsburgh, and had considered buying a second home in Telluride. They were familiar with our second daughter’s family and their businesses in Pittsburgh. Small world stories should by now be expected, but somehow continue to surprise.

Matt, Living on the Edge

After St, Mary Falls, we started up toward Virginia Falls, a short hike uphill. Another of Glacier Park’s renowned beauties, Virginia Falls is heard before it is seen, and before reaching the base of the Falls one is treated to a beautiful water-carved, very narrow gorge. In all, quite beautiful.

Virginia Falls

Virginia Falls

We enjoyed our lunch just below the plunge pool for the Falls, enjoyed more visiting, then began the easy walk out, boarded our vans, and returned over Logan Pass (in somewhat clearer weather, which improved the views) back to Glacier Guides’ base.

Charlie, Susan, Clint at Virginia Falls

Charlie, Susan, Clint at Virginia Falls

That evening our family had a delightful dinner at Los Caporales, in Columbia Falls, a pleasant end to a great day in Glacier Park.

 

This morning we opted for something a bit different. We drove on Highway 2 around the south end of the Park to the East Glacier entrance, past the Glacier Park Hotel, erected by the Great Northern Railroad, and opened in 1913. We continued up to Running Eagle Falls, which entailed a short walk from the parking lot, to see a beautiful waterfall, coming out of an oval hole in the rock. The sign back at the parking area tells the story of Running Eagle, a warrior woman, who, contrary to custom, had a vision quest at this sacred place. She is described as being beautiful, strong, and of admirable character. She died in a raid on another tribe, and her body was returned to her home area. We spent a little time at Two Medicine Lake, just above the Falls. Though I’d never been here before, the Two Medicine Country is familiar through the writings of one of my favorite Western authors, Ivan Doig.

Back at Glacier Park Lodge, we had a great lunch in the casual dining room, just off the lobby, then walked around the hotel and grounds, listened to our grandson, Matthew, playing the old piano in the spacious lobby, took the requisite photographs, then headed back to our cabin at North Forty Resort.

Our final family dinner was at Cafe Kandahar in the Lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort, small and intimate, with great food and service. We were comfortable enjoying the bar offerings and a bottle of Oregon pinot noir as 20 year-old Matthew was our designated driver on the way home.

Tomorrow, we part ways with our family: they back to Bellevue, with little time before Matthew leaves to start his sophomore year at Champlain College in Burlington, VT; and we to Townsend, Montana to catch up with friends at the Townsend Rodeo, another place I feel I’m home.

 

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Clint Viebrock

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