Sunday, September 25, 2011

Glacier National Park :: St. Mary and Virginia Falls

Sunday, September 18th - - Just prior to going to Alaska in July of last year, I stopped for a few days at Glacier National Park (you can read about that visit here and here). I figured since I was in Montana again I might as well stop in for a visit. The fact that my friends Sue and Fred were returning from a fantastic adventure in the Yukon Northwest Territory and would be at Glacier for a few days was additional incentive.

I arrived at St. Mary on the northeast side of Glacier National Park in the early evening and found Sue and Fred at the KOA campground there. For the next few hours I was entranced with tales of their trip north and impressed with the incredible pictures that they took. I will also admit to a touch of envy – the trip was amazing!

Monday, September 19th - - It rained during the overnight hours of Sunday. It was wet, foggy, and very cloudy this morning with temperatures in the 40s. A mid-morning attempt at taking a hike was aborted when we arrived at the trailhead in the pouring rain. We returned to the campground where we relaxed and chatted some more while it continued to rain off and on.

At about 2:30 we noticed that blue sky was beginning to show through the thick layer of clouds. It was truly amazing how quickly the wind blew those clouds away! And then we saw that Mother Nature had left behind a light dusting of snow on those mountains.

Well, maybe more than a light dusting!

We decided to try the hike to Virginia Falls again, hoping that the clouds and rain and snow would be gone by the time we arrived at the trailhead. Considered one of the easier hikes at Glacier, the trail was 1½ miles long, dropped 260 feet to St. Mary Falls then gained 285 feet on the way to Virginia Falls. It was a well maintained trail but had some rocky areas and other areas with tree roots, which meant you had to watch where you were stepping much of the time.

The trail ultimately takes you to Virginia Falls but a little more than half way there you cross the St. Mary River (shown above, looking East) on a foot bridge.

The view from the footbridge, looking west! I will never cease to be amazed at the power of flowing water and how it can cut through hard rock. This is the lower portion of St. Mary Falls.

And this is the upper portion. Standing on the footbridge you could feel the power of the water hitting the sides of the canyon walls – the bridge was quite solidly built but it was moving ever so slightly and vibrating as the water passed beneath it.

The trail meandered through the forest. We were thankful for the patches of sunshine as it was a fairly brisk 45 degrees. There was just a light breeze, otherwise it might have been a bit uncomfortable.

These pretty little flowers were seen all along the trail.

We passed several small waterfalls while continuing on to Virginia Falls. That golden colored spot on the lower left is a bit of sunlight coming through the foliage and striking the water.

Virginia Falls is a multi-tiered cascading waterfall that simply takes your breath away. I'm including two shots of it because I couldn't decide which one I liked best... You really do need to double-click on the images for a larger version to truly appreciate the falls.

Not quite as sharp as the previous photograph, I was attempting a more “artistic” slow-motion representation of the moving water. (No tripod, balancing the camera on one of the nearby rocks, and trying to hold it steady!)

Sue and Fred at the lower portion of Virginia Falls.

Yours truly, standing at the base of Virginia Falls. Thanks to Sue for taking the photo. It was a wonderful hike, except for a slight slip at one spot, thankfully though no damage was done.


Jasia said...

Great pics, Becky. I've always wanted to try one of those slow shutter shots of a waterfall too. First I need to find a waterfall. ;-)

Barbara Poole said...

Love all your photos, and its nice to see you with Fred and Sue, whom I also follow. You are so fortunate to be back at Glacier a second time, I'll only see it, through your pictures.