Spring has Come to Montana !
Going out into our front yard, I found that the Buttercups were blooming. They are the First things to bloom in our yard as the snow melts.
Today, April 29th, I decided to do something different with my Blog. The day was almost cloudless and a bit crisp so Debbie and I decided to go for a walk in Glacier National Park. The road (Going to the Sun Road) is open to McDonald Lodge all year, but is only open to hiking and biking from there. I thought it would be different to invite you along, so come with us as we hike along the road and into the woods.
So, are you READY? Come along with us!!!
Often our first stop is at Apgar as we get into the Park. The view across Lake McDonald is fabulous as the Mountains still are capped with snow over the dark blue waters of the lake. We have seen this scene about a thousand times, but we never tire of it. So, we get back into the car and head on up to Lake McDonald Lodge. Today we are not stopping along the way although there are many awesome scenes to see, we are on a mission to HIKE. So, stay with us!
We parked at McDonald Lodge and got ourselves together (no small task) and headed up the Going to the Sun Road. About a mile and a half up the road, we come to a curve with an awesome view of McPartland Mountain. Tired yet? Hang in there we are just getting started!
Our first stop is McDonald Falls. We will take a little break here so you can rest since you are so out of shape! But not for long, so come on!
Photographing McPartland Mountain above McDonald Falls
While we are resting a bit, Debbie is busy photographing McPartland Mountain over the Falls.
There are several places along this stop to photograph or just enjoy the view of McDonald Falls. This is just one of the many views through the trees along the parking area here at the Falls. So, we have tarried enough…. come on let’s get hiking!
Leaves of the Calypso Orchid in the Moss
As we hike out into the forest, where much of the ground is covered with moss, we find the leaves of the tiny Calypso Orchid, one of our main reasons for this hike was to find more of the plants. It’s quite rare here and we are trying to locate as many as we can.
As we get back out on the road we head on up toward the horse bridge that crosses McDonald Creek into what we call the ‘rain forest’. Before getting to the bridge, let’s go off the road to the right down into a small canyon where there is a tunnel under the road. It’s not difficult, so come on !!!
Horse trail canyon
As we get down into the shallow canyon, notice the icicles hanging from the rocks. This area , getting almost no sunshine through the dense canopy of fir and pines above, is quite a bit colder than up on the road.
Horse Trail to the Tunnel
We can’t stop looking at all the icicles along the stone wall.
Interesting mix of color and texture
The moss and colorful rocks offer a kaleidoscope of images along the canyon walls.
The bent tree……
As we get out of the tunnel, there is a tree that is growing out of the rock wall in an unusual loop. Ever wonder how this happened? The trees always seek to find the light. This tree has been here for quite a long time, no doubt.
The bent tree……
Just for size, Debbie stood behind the bent tree. Nature is awesome! (so is she) You can see the trail at the left side and the Horse Bridge in the distance. Here we are walking right along McDonald Creek so watch your footing!!! You don’t want to slip into the Creek, that water is COLD!!! So be careful and come along with us!
Living on the Edge
Here is another example of Living on the Edge!
Colorful rock and icicles
OK, this is the last image of Icicles and colorful rocks and then we’re up on the Horse Bridge.
Falls on McDonald Creek
Up on the Horse Bridge, we get to see this wonderful waterfalls. There is always some confusion as to what this falls is named, as sometimes it is called McDonald Falls and not the first one we came by. The Park Service did put up a sign at the first falls naming it McDonald Falls, but for years this one was called McDonald Falls. It doesn’t make any difference to us, they are both beautiful.
No Name Falls on McDonald Creek
We have stopped here to rest and photograph this Falls many times, so today is no different. We will rest here a few minutes and absorb this gorgeous view before we continue on into the ‘rain forest’.
Looking down into the clear water at the colorful rocks is dreamy. The motion of the water is almost hypnotizing.
OK, you have rested long enough and we are just at the Half Way point on our hike, so let’s go!!!
Western Red Cedar
Just as we get into the ‘rain forest’, we saw this Western Red Cedar tree! The woodpeckers have chopped large holes in it to get to the ants and larva inside. We don’t often see this big of cavities unless it is a nest site. They seem to have just about chopped this tree down!
Walking along the Creek we got our first look at Glacier Lilies in bloom! These grow from bulbs and are a favorite food of Grizzlies. Each bulb weighs about an ounce and is packed with calories! The bears massive paws can ‘plow’ up areas with these lilies and munch on hundreds of bulbs in a very short time.
Large patch of Glacier Lilies
Notice the size of this patch as we walk along the trail.
Leaf of a Calypso Orchid
We spend a lot of time looking at the ground here in the ‘rain forest’ and we sometimes see these small leaves. They are parallel veined and only about one inch long. They are tiny, so don’t miss them, look closely…..
We won’t see any in bloom today, as we are a week or so early, but here is what we are looking for! Usually they start blooming this time of year and bloom through May. These tiny Orchids are often overlooked, but they are a thing of Beauty!!!
Anyway, let’s continue through the ‘rain forest’. Oh, just to let you know, since we are all out here in it, we call this the ‘rain forest’ because the floor of this forest is almost completely covered with moss. Many orchids, mushrooms and interesting plants live in this community. In the summer months there are lots of Indian Pipe growing here.
Mount Brown about the Sacred Dancing Cascades
As we go into the forest and out to the edge of McDonald Creek, you notice that Debbie and I wander a lot, seldom in a straight line anywhere unless we are walking the road. This area of the Creek is awesome and sometimes, not today, but sometimes we see Harlequin Ducks along this part of the Creek. They feed in the swift water of this stream on this side of the park.
Debbie is finding a place to sit down and relax for a little while, so find a seat! We will sit here at the Falls and enjoy it as we eat a snack bar. We still have a couple of miles to go to the car, so rest my friends!
Upper McDonald Falls
Looking up the Creek from the top of McDonald Falls where we are resting, the Sacred Dancing Cascades are beyond with McPartland Mountain in the background.
Lower McDonald Falls
The clear water of the Creek gives awesome views of the lower Falls. We find that the water is really clear for this time of year. We didn’t have near the snow as we did last year. Notice the icicles hanging on the opposite wall.
Icicles and colorful rocks
Hundreds of tiny icicles hanging on those colorful rocks!
Did you see that American Dipper? There were two of them flying over there. They nest around waterfalls, sometimes behind them. The American Dipper, also called an Oozel, is an interesting bird. It does not have webbed feet or any other attributes that would seem to help it feed in the water, but indeed it feeds underwater by ‘walking on the bottom’ even in swift water.
In case you were looking elsewhere and did not see it, here is a photo from awhile back that shows what a Dipper looks like. Notice that the feet, not webbed, have long toes which it uses to hang onto rocks in the stream bottom as it walks along underwater to find insect larva to munch on.
Ferns and Moss
As we continue through the ‘rain forest’ we notice the moss is getting green and the ferns are beginning to show up.
As we exit the ‘rain forest’, Stanton Mountain looms behind us.
Mount Brown above the McDonald Creek Bridge
Looking across the bridge, we see Mount Brown in all it’s splendor!!! Now walk lightly, this Bridge only has a 15 ton weight limit!!!
Looking upstream at McDonald Falls
Looking upstream at McDonald Falls, McPartland Mountain foothills rise above the falls.
As we get on the Bridge, look downstream at the clear water and Snyder Ridge in the distance.
From the McDonald Creek Bridge
Look a this view! Here we are looking at Apgar and Huckleberry Mountains across McDonald Lake. McDonald Lake is almost 10 miles long so the Mountains are a few miles past that. Rarely do we get better views of McDonald Lake than this.
So, did you enjoy the walk so far? We have about 2 miles to hike back down the Going to the Sun Road to McDonald Lodge. Think you can make it? We think you can!!! Come on!!!
Thank You for going along, today! We hope you enjoyed the hike. We sure did!