Thursday, July 30, 2015

Glacier National Park : Fire!

Tuesday, July 21st ~ Today was an R & R day (Rest & Recovery) for me. With the elevation and the hiking yesterday, my body was saying "take a break" even though my mind and heart really wanted to take a hike, I listened to my body. It was after 1 o'clock before I left the campground and drove south along US 89 and turned onto the twisting, hilly, bumpy, Montana Highway 49 to the Two Medicine area. Although I had driven on highway 49 on a previous visit, I had never stopped at Two Medicine.

There were a lot of trails to hike in the area but I chose to walk along the shore of Two Medicine Lake and just sit now and then and enjoy the view. It was extremely windy and overcast. Also a bit chilly, particularly in the shade and along the lakeside. After an hour or so I headed back to the campground.

As I came over a hill and could see Saint Mary Lake, I also saw smoke on the other side and thought that it seemed awfully close to the campground.  When I got to the entrance station, I asked the attendant about the fire. He didn't even know there was one until I pointed it out! But given the fact that he faces the other way most of the time, how would he have known? Anyway, I made it back to my site and sat down for a few minutes, periodically looking over my shoulder and the ridge behind the site.

Within about half an hour of my arrival a park employee came around in her little golfcart and said the campground was being evacuated. The fire had jumped the road and was now on our side of the road about five miles distant. I looked around at all the sites and saw perhaps a dozen or so other people who happened to be in the campground. What about the RVs and tents and other gear in all of those other sites? I didn't know it then, but the road had already been closed to traffic at the Saint Mary entrance station.

I packed up my tent and chairs and went to the camp store to see if anyone knew anything more. No one did.

The camp store is located just outside of the entrance to Rising Sun campground. This was the view of the fire as I left the campground. It had apparently been reported at about 4 p.m. and was 2 acres in size at the time. It quickly grew to 500 acres within the first few hours.

I had stopped a Ranger driving through the campstore parking lot and asked if it would be okay to stay the night at the Visitors Center. He said there wouldn't be any problems since other people were already there, so that's where I went for the night.

This shot was taken about a mile east of the Rising Sun Campground. The dramatic effect of the sun behind the plume of smoke made it appear rather ominous.

The view from the Visitors Center (a portion of the building on the left) about an hour after evacuation from the campground. The Visitors Center was six miles from the Rising Sun campground so, at this time the fire was a little more than 10 miles away.

I ran into several of the people I had met at the campground. We had said hello in passing and I had talked with Leslie for a few minutes on Monday, so we "kind of" knew each other, at least they were familiar faces! Shown above are Steve, Leslie, Luri, and Bob. We spent the evening together sharing stories and food and quickly became camping friends. There were a few other people who joined us, and some others who came and went.

They all still had their gear at the campground and had missed being allowed to go in by just a few minutes. So they, and many others, were waiting and hoping to be able to get in and get their equipment later. The Visitors Center was closed up for the evening at its regular time but we were told the restrooms would be left open.

Lucky for us, the strong winds were keeping most of the smoke high aloft and sending it away from us. This shot makes the smoke look much closer than it actually was.

The smoke-filled air made for a rather dramatic and oddly beautiful sunset.

At about 10:30 p.m. we got word that the Rangers were going to create a caravan to allow campers to go into Rising Sun for 30 minutes to get their gear and get out. So my new friends got in line out on the highway and after a wait that seemed forever, a caravan of about 40 vehicles left for Rising Sun. An hour and a half later, they returned, happy to have their stuff in hand. They said it was pretty smokey in the campground but not as bad as they thought it would be.

Wednesday Morning, July 22nd ~ It was a restless night. I awoke several times during the night, thankful that the smoke wasn't any closer, thinking perhaps the fire was holding steady since the wind had died down considerably at sunset. But at about six or so I got up and out of the van and the air was filled with acrid smoke. You could taste it and it quickly stung the eyes.

The above photo was taken at about 6:30 a.m. At one point we could actually see flames shooting up from the area behind the hill on the right. The sun was behind my back casting its golden rays on the plume of smoke.


It started sprinkling for a few minutes, we even had a rainbow appear briefly. After saying goodbye to my new friends, I left Glacier National Park, taking US 89 south to highway 49, to US 2 where I found a lovely National Forest Campground near the Idaho border to stay for a few days.

I posted this link to the Wildfire Today blogpost on facebook. It was written on the 22nd but has been updated frequently with maps and details of the fire.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Glacier National Park : Fire!" Kinexxions, posted July 30, 2015 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2015/07/glacier-national-park-fire.html : accessed [access date])

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Glacier National Park : Hidden Lake Overlook

Monday, July 20th ~ I was up early this morning and arrived at Logan Pass to a nearly empty parking lot! On the agenda was the 2.7 mile (round-trip) trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook, with an elevation gain of 450 feet.

Conditions on the trail this day were somewhat different from my visit five years ago! Now blanketed with wild flowers, back then this lower portion of the trail was covered with slippery snow!

Clements Mountain dominates the view along the lower portion of the trail. The first half mile or so consists of a boardwalk and stairsteps. Many stairsteps. I didn't take a lot of pictures along the way because of the cloudy conditions but there were a lot of small waterfalls and some little ponds.

First view of Hidden Lake.

The view from the overlook. I walked a little beyond the overlook and found a nice boulder to sit on for a few minutes and to eat a breakfast snack. I was immediately inundated with hordes of mosquitoes. I really didn't notice them on the way to the overlook but they sure made their appearance known once I sat down!

The hike back to the visitors center was more difficult on my knees and hips. Some of the steps in the lower portion were rather high and each one became a little more painful. After a few stops along the way, I made it to the visitors center where I sat and watched the cars go around in circles looking for a non-existant parking space! It was about 10:30 and a few minutes later they closed the parking area to incoming traffic. I drove on down to the valley on the Going to the Sun road and spent most of the day stopping at several pull-outs and taking short walks. Also ventured into the town of Columbia Falls (about 15 miles west of Glacier) and found their nice little library to post a status update to Facebook.

About 4 p.m. I started the 50 mile drive back along the Going to the Sun road to return to the campground.

Looking down into the valley about 3/4 of the way to Logan Pass.

Almost at Logan Pass. The lower "gash" in the mountain is the Going to the Sun road while the upper "gash" is the High Line Trail. In spite of the cloudy, overcast skies, it was another beautiful day in Glacier National Park!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Glacier National Park : Hidden Lake Overlook," Kinexxions, posted July 29, 2015 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2015/07/glacier-national-park-hidden-lake.html : accessed [access date])

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Travel Update... Glacier National Park

It's been 2 weeks and 2 days since leaving Indiana... Thankfully it was a rather uneventful drive through Illinois, Iowa (though I did get a chipped windshield while driving through a construction zone - a "nice" star shaped chip with many tendrils that glitters in the sunshine - my Iowa souvenir), Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Then there was that 600 mile drive through Montana on US 2 - a long, rather lonely, stretch of highway with a lot of small, bleak looking towns. It took me a week, but I made it to Glacier National Park on Sunday, July 19th.

First thing on the agenda was getting a spot at the Rising Sun campground on the East side of the park. I lucked out and got a good site on the first pass through! The "plan" was to stay until the next Sunday morning.

About 11:30 I took off for a hike along the 2.5 mile Beaver Pond Loop on the Red Eagle Lake Trail. It went along the south side of Saint Mary Lake but the lake was only visible for a short distance then the trail went uphill, away from the lake.

Saint Mary Lake, looking toward the South.

The trail narrowed to barely a foot path through these waist and chest high plants. I don't know what they are though. Someone at the campground told me they were native to the area.

Following a brief respite after the hike I drove north about 30 minutes to the Many Glaciers area of the park. I stopped at a pull-out to follow the trail along the lake and to get a picture of the Many Glaciers Lodge across the lake.

When I first saw the moose, its head was fully submerged in the lake and I had no idea what it was. Quite a surprise when it lifted its head out of the water!

Rather strange looking, indeed!

It "browsed" along the lake pulling up vegetation as it went.

It was fascinating to watch as it moved closer to shore then further out, apparently seeking the best morsels. It was a good start to my visit at Glacier National Park!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Travel Update...Glacier National Park," Kinexxions, posted July 28, 2015 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2015/07/travel-update-glacier-national-park.html : accessed [access date])

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day 14 - Pumpkin Springs to Mile 241

Tuesday, September 30th would be another long-mile day, and sadly, it would be our last night on the river. Traveling 28 miles (mile 213 to mile 241) we would run 13 rapids (half of which were very small), go through a bunch of riffles, and take a hike.

The day began at the Pumpkin Springs campsite.

Pumpkin Springs, aptly named, has the shape, color and striations of a pumpkin.

As pretty as it looks on the outside, drinking the water in Pumpkin Springs could be hazardous to your health! It is the only water in Grand Canyon that the National Park Service advises people not to drink. It contains high levels of arsenic as well as other chemicals that contribute to its colorful exterior. We had a view of the water in the spring from the groover and it looked pretty nasty with a lot of green slimey stuff on its surface.

Before leaving Pumpkin Springs, someone (one of the paddle boat rafters, I think) decided that we needed to take a group photo. Great idea!

This was taken by KJ with Patrick's camera. (I cropped it and made some adjustments to the brightness and contrast.)
        back row, from left: Tom, Nancy, DJ, Fred, Sue, Jason, Sarah, Russell, Dar, Becky, Tony and Carrie
        front row, from left: Patrick, Dave, Mary, Tana, and Jim.

Also before leaving camp, we each packed our lunch for a hike later in the day. Apparently, the spot where we would be landing for the hike was not suitable for preparing lunch as usual.

Going through "224 Mile Rapid" with Diamond Peak up ahead. By this time we had already gone through five rapids.

Dar taking a turn at the oars. When she finished, I took a turn at them too. The guides make it look so easy, but it takes a lot of coordination and strength! It's much more difficult to "push" with the oars going forward than it is to "pull" when going backward.

We're still in the "lower gorge" where the canyon walls tower above us.

We stopped at Travertine Canyon, at about mile 229, for a hike to the Grotto. (Photo taken after we returned from the hike. I didn't think to take one from the raft as we approached.) We had to climb (practically crawl) over these boulders before we could even start on the hike. For those of us whose raft was on the far end, it was a little challenging since the hill was a little steeper and there were more boulders. Getting back into the rafts was just as challenging. And now, it made sense as to why we had to pack our lunches before leaving camp!

I was standing in the middle of the stream when I saw Sue and Fred and some of the other hikers returning from the Grotto. When we arrived at this spot earlier, I was advised not to go any further. I had already had problems negotiating my way over and/or around some of the larger boulders and was quite agreeable to staying behind. I played in the stream and it's numerous little waterfalls (bathing sans soap) and ate my lunch listening to the flow of the water over the rocks. It was a brief, soothing interlude, they returned all too soon.

Travertine Falls, at mile 230.5

Matt (with Sue and Fred in front, and Sarah and Jason in the rear) begins his run through 231 Mile Rapid (rated 4-7 on the Grand Canyon scale).

Like ducks in a row, floating toward yet another rapid. I don't know which rapid it was, just that it was about half an hour after 231 Mile Rapid. Starting at mile 231 and ending at mile 236 we ran five rapids (rated at either 4-6 or 4-7). It was almost as amazing as Day 8 when we ran the "Gems."

It was in one of those rapids, from mile 231 to mile 236, that we would have the only swimmers of the trip. By their own admission, the paddle boat crew had become complacent and a bit cocky, after all they had made it safely through Lava Falls Rapid as well as all of the other rapids in the Lower Canyon.

We watched, as if in slow motion, as their raft was carried up by a wave on the right. The right side of the raft went up further, nearly to the tipping point, and the three paddlers on that side simply dropped down, hitting the three paddlers on the left side and throwing all of them into the river. Somehow, Tom, guiding from the rear, managed to stay in the raft. The swimmers recovered quickly and made it back to the raft safely with only a few bruises and a good story to tell all of their friends and family.

Matt and the gang dropping into the rapid mentioned in the previous photo.

Follow the line of Matt's oar and you'll see Sue, just barely visible on the left side of the raft!

We're approaching the end of the journey. Though still within the borders of Grand Canyon National Park, we officially enter Lake Mead a short distance around the bend.

At about mile 240, the rafts gathered and were tied together. We were officially in Lake Mead. We drifted like this for a while then it was time to move on to our campsite.

Pulling in to our last campsite, at mile 241.

For some of us, our sleeping area was this stretch of beach. My spot is between the first two tents. I'm using the paco pad to try and dry the clothes I wore in the raft. There was another section of the beach off to the left that curved on around where others set up for the night. (Above photo courtesy of Sue Elliott)

The blue boat on the right is a jet boat that had brought a motor and other gear needed to take the rafts out later that night. It would return for us, our personal gear, and the rest of the camping gear the next morning.

After supper, the air was let out of the paddle raft and it was bundled up and put into one of the bigger rafts. The remaining rafts were then tied together. A big outboard motor was hooked up and they were driven off to the take-out point at Pearce Ferry, 40 miles downriver. Matt and Tom stayed in camp with us, but the other guides went with the rafts so everything could be unloaded by morning.

It was really sad to see KJ, Allison, Justin, and Chelly leave. Even though we knew we would see them again tomorrow, it brought home the fact that this trip was actually over. And most, if not all of us, truly did not want it to come to an end.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Note: The page Grand Canyon Raft Trip lists all of my posts published about this Grand Adventure!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 14 - Pumpkin Springs to Mile 241," Kinexxions, posted November 13, 2014 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/11/day-14-pumpkin-springs-to-mile-241.html : accessed [access date])

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day 13 - Hell's Hollow to Pumpkin Springs

Monday, September 29th would be our longest day on the river. Traveling 30 miles (from mile 183 to mile 213), we would go through six rapids (two good sized and four small ones). Much of the day would be spent floating in calm waters.

Taken as we were leaving Hell's Hollow campsite.

The darker areas in the canyon wall are remnants of ancient lava flows.

The same lava flow as we passed by.

That group of scientists that we saw back on September 21st studying the Humpback Chub had completed their research and were heading to their take-out point at Diamond Creek (at mile 226).  There were at least half a dozen boats/rafts of various sizes, all with motors, that zipped past us and were soon out of sight.

As a side note, Diamond Creek is the only place in Grand Canyon National Park, aside from Lee's Ferry, where there is vehicular access to the river. However, Diamond Creek Road is a 20+ mile long, non-maintained, dirt and rock road through the Haualapai reservation that starts at Peach Springs. There are some raft trip concessionaires that end their trip at the Diamond Creek take-out.

I don't know if the formation on the right has a name, but we dubbed it "The Cathedral" and we named the formation to the left "The Organ."

To us, the basalt columns beneath the overhang looked like the pipes of a pipe organ.

A huge lava rock in the middle of the river. (Taken about 10:30 a.m)

Ocotillo Cactus were prolific in this area. Taken about 2 p.m.

Just some more interesting formations.

This was most likely Kolb Rapid, at mile 205, since the photo was taken mid-afternoon.

It had a heck of a drop to it.

Jim took a turn at the oars for a while.

If you've been following along on this journey, by now you probably realize that I was totally captivated by the reflections on the river!

Matt's raft dropping backwards into 209 Mile Rapid, the last one of the day.

Holes in blue-gray colored canyon wall...

Getting close to our campsite at Pumpkin Springs and bringing to a close another magical day on the Colorado River.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Note: The page Grand Canyon Raft Trip lists all of my posts published about this Grand Adventure!

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "Day 13 - Hell's Hollow to Pumpkin Springs," Kinexxions, posted November 12, 2014 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2014/11/day-13-hells-hollow-to-pumpkin-springs.html : accessed [access date])