Winding my way home: Last day in Montana

I got up at 6 o'clock on Monday, August 8, thanks to a wake-up call from a Prince of Wales Lodge phone computer, and was on the road by 6:45. I made it to Logan's Pass by about 9, having stopped for a great breakfast at Park Cafe in St. Mary's. This was the whole reason for getting up early: I wanted to hike the 3-mile trail to the continental divide (and lookout to the east). By 11 a.m. the parking lot is so congested they officially close it, and then periodically (every half hour) let in a few cars. So frankly, unless you get there early, or you're lucky, you don't get to do this trail. It is the heaviest traveled trail in the park, and apparently by mid-afternoon the stream of people climbing up the boardwalk is like a people-superhighway. This is a bit surprising, as the first half hour (one mile) is steadily uphill - like going up stairs for a half hour. This isn't a lazy walk in the woods. Very much worth it!

  1. A fairly tame "wild mountain goat" naps just a yard from the path. Perhaps he is looking to be discovered, as he is in prime spot to be photographed by dozens of hikers.

  2. Probably at some time I will compare notes and photographs, and figure out the names of all the hills and mountains...

  3. The same guy.

  4. After the first half hour of somewhat-difficult climbing (on boardwalk and steps), there's an easy 15 minute stroll to this lookout. This is now 1.5 miles from Logan's Pass. This is the view to the west. In theory, you can see Lake McDonald way in the west.

  5. Another peak that you see from the lookout. This lookout is also the continental divide. I was going to pour some water to see if some went to the west and some to the east, but figured my chances of running that experiment correctly were slight, and I'd be better off hoarding my water so I could drink it on the way down. After my first day when I was surprised by the heat and the sun and the steepness of all the hiking trails, I became water-obsessive, and always carried (and drank) two liters.

  6. The sign at the lookout, declaring this to be a "Subalpine Habitat". (They keep on pretending these mountains are like the alps. They are wonderful and sublime, but I don't think they are like the alps. On the other hand, "subalpine" is just a useful handy way to describe the type of things that grow there.)

    The sign reads:

    The glaciers that carved this basin stripped the land of vegetation and soil. Pioneer plant species, such as lichens, slowly recolonized the rocky landscape. Over thousands of years, a thin layer of soil developed and now supports a surprising diversity of plants and animal species. Mountain goats are frequently observed browsing on lichens and sedges that have gained a foothold in the glacier's wake.

    Mountain goats are able to scramble about the steep terrain. Their hooves have numerous ridges for extra friction and their toes spread to improve grip. (Now that's a trick! -editor.)

    Subalpine plants are adapted to the thin soil and brief growing seasion of the high mountain world. Moss campion grows in dense cushions to help deflect wind and retain moisture.

    This photograph was taken from near the summit of Reynolds Mountain, the high peak to the left. The view looks southwest to Sperry Glacier and Lake McDonald.

    (And now, the items that are pointed out, left to right:)

    Sperry Glacier, Lake McDonald, Hidden Lake

    I hope that info might explain some of what's in the panoramic photos I took!

  7. Layers: rock, tree, flower.

  8. Looking to the east, on the way back to Logan's Pass.

  9. Rock and water.

  10. The same mountain, from a bit further down the path.

  11. A younger-looking mountain goat looks quizzically at all the humans clustered around, holding odd silver and black boxes to their faces.

  12. Waterfall

Marianne Mueller
Last modified: Tuesday, August 9: back home in Palo Alto, Montana is now a dream