Day12 Fri, Aug10- St Mary KOA to Many Glacier Camp

Trip Start Jul 30, 2007
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Trip End Aug 20, 2007


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Flag of United States  , Montana
Friday, August 10, 2007

Day12 Friday, August 10 - St Mary KOA to Many Glacier Campground.
Miles: 226


SUMMARY
-It Was All Going Just a Little Too Perfectly .../listens for the gods to cackle
-Plans Change
-Does Anyone get to Hike to Grinnell Glacier?

-Why Glacial Lakes are so Variably Blue
-The Basics on Glacier National Park Geology
-Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

-Hunting the Retreating Glacier
-Glacier Hikes have Changed Considerably...just as the Glaciers have changed
-All We have to do is Find a New Place to Sleep for One Night

-The Hikers Return - Happier and Wiser
-A Bear Sighting
-Pie or Ranger Talk ....Hmmmmm

-Ranger Talk on The International Peace Hike between Waterton, Canada and Goat Haunt, USA
-Perfect Ending of a Perfect Day


DETAIL
It Was All Going Just a Little Too Perfectly .../listens for the gods to cackle
Pitter pat pat pat...
pitter patter pitter patter.

"It's raining"
"Sounds like a drizzle.  I bet it clears up"
"What time is it?"
"About five."
 
We'd been drizzled on before in Oregon and the old dome tent had held its integrity. 
We snuggled in with hopes of sleeping another hour until the six AM alarm.
 
Drip...
Drip...
Drip...
DRIP..
DRIP...DRIP
 
"RATS!"
"What? Shhhh"
"The tent is leaking and dripping right beside me"
 
It is now five thirty. 
Rory gets up to move his stuff from the tent to the van. 
Outside he can see the edge of the rain cloud waaaay over by the northern horizon. 
It is not raining all that hard but it is steady.

Rory feels somehow stimulated to take one of his old guy late night walks to the rest room. 
Chere has decided to ignore the drips and has rolled over one more time trying sleep until six.  Rory plans on leaving her undisturbed and will hang out by the camp office for a little while.
 
It is just barely light enough to see when Rory returns to the tent.
"Huh?  I wonder why she took the fly off already?"

From inside the tent, "Rory?"
"It's me.  Why'd you take the fly off?"
"Rory, the tent is blowing away!  I'm the only thing holding it down! (giggles)"
 
Rory is sure glad to hear Chere laughing about this. 
A short but strong gust of wind had come through and torn off the tent fly while he was in the restroom. 
The fly was stretched out behind the tent but thankfully had not gone down into the creek just behind the campsite. 

The tent had folded over on Chere and then popped up again several times. 
She was afraid that if she got out the wind would carry it and possibly our sleeping bags into the creek.
 
By now there was no wind and the rain was only lightly spitting. 
We could see clear air around and figured this morning storm was something local that would soon completely clear. 
We folded up the soggy tent and spread the not too damp sleeping bags in the back of the van.
 

Plans Change
By seven we were at (yes, you guessed it) Park Cafe for a hearty breakfast and some good strong Montana organic coffee. 
During breakfast we revised our day's plan.

Chere opted out of the hike to sort out the lodging. She would drive back to the KOA and tell them we were checking out early. Then find new lodging for the night.


Does Anyone get to Hike to Grinnell Glacier?
By eight fifteen we had traveled twenty miles away to the Many Glacier Hotel and were listening with high hopes to hear Rory's  name called to be included on the Grinnell Glacier hike. 
Luck was on his side and he boarded the lake boat that would take the hikers to the trail head.

At the trail head, Ranger Rick introduced himself and gave the standard opening comments about bear encounters. 
Don't challenge.
Avoid eye contact. 
Speak soothingly and retreat.
 
Rory noticed that the leader was in shorts and a short sleeved shirt. 
The air was still very chilly and a little breezy. 
Seeing the Ranger in shirtsleeves, Rory figured that the climbing would begin right away so he packed up his wool shirt before he started sweating it up on the trail. 
Really good decision.
 

Why Glacial Lakes are so Incredibly Blue
When approached by boat the hike to Grinnell Glacier is about four miles long. 
The last three miles ascend about 1800 feet. 
It was now near ten AM and Rory was plenty warm climbing the sunny slopes of Mount Grinnell. 
The hikers had good views of Lake Josephine and Lake Grinnell above it. 
Each had its own beautiful blue green color due to the amount of glacial 'milch' in the water. 
The glaciers grind the rocks into powders finer than flour.  This rock flour stays suspended and reflects the sunlight back to the surface of the lake. 
Grinnell was a mesmerizing beautiful blue green turquoise.


 



The Basics on Glacier National Park Geology
Ranger Rick knew his geology. 









Rory had heard some of the Park geology on earlier hikes but Rick filled in a lot of details. 
The red mudstone contained iron and had been deposited and lithified in the presence of oxygen. 
The green mudstones also contained iron but had turned into rock without the presence of oxygen. 
In chemistry this is called a reducing environment. 

Reduction accounts for the colors on raku pottery, for example. 
The basaltic intrusions and heat caused by overthrusting had created interesting twists and turns in the strata as well has some diorite (igneous) and marble (metamorphic) layers. 

A few more hikes like this and Rory might actually begin to remember this stuff.
 

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Chere returned to the KOA and had no trouble getting the refund on the second night's stay. 
Chere explained that if she could not get to Gmail there was no point in paying the premium for their WiFi. 
They cheerfully explained that they 'block Google' because it put too much stress on their server..?! 
Remarkable.  To think that people might actually use the internet.

While Rory ate peanut butter crackers and an apple in the high cold air of the glacial cirque (defending his trail mix from marauding Colombian Squirrels), Chere enjoyed a tuna sandwich from the Park Café.
Absolutely no pie - repeat - no pie was involved.   

Hunting the Retreating Glacier
After a lunch with views of the glacier, Ranger Rick led the hikers to the retreating glacier. 
The area of rubble they crossed had been covered in ice hundreds of feet thick as recently as thirty years ago. 
Pioneer alpine plants were moving into the protected spots but mostly it was a moonscape. 










It was windy and mostly cloudy. 
The newly formed Upper Grinnell lake was full of rock bearing icebergs. 









Its water was gray from the rock flour. 



















Rick said that when the glacier finally melted away and all the icebergs melted, this lake would change into another blue green gem in the mountains.




 




Rick explained the mechanics of glaciations and took the hikers to see examples of scouring and polishing and calcite deposition. 






He also took them to a magnificent bed of stromatolites, the algae that changed the world.
Freshly exposed, polished and un-weathered, these were the best stromatolite beds that Rory had ever seen.



Glacier Hikes have Changed Considerably...just as the Glaciers have changed
Rick no longer takes his hikers onto the glacier. 
For one thing it is a half a mile further away than it used to be. 
For another, the retreating ice is not as strong as when it was when it was advancing so there are safety issues. 

In earlier days the hikers would have been able to go through an ice cave at the end of the glacier. 
The rangers have all said that that in 1850 there were about 150 glaciers in what is now the park. 
All of these glaciers formed well after the end of the last true Ice Ages during a mini ice age. 
The end of the mini ice age and the beginning of the industrial revolution coincided. 

Today there are only about 24 glaciers in the park and they are expected to be gone within less than 20 years. 
General warming and the disappearance of the glaciers will change the park's environments and ecologies greatly. 
Tree lines are already moving up the mountains and encroaching on alpine meadows. 







Lack of glacial melt and snow melt will change fish habitat downstream and has already changed how and where the bears get their water.
 



All We have to do is Find a New Place to Sleep for One Night
After her lunch, Chere secured a camp site in the Many Glacier Campground. 
The site had spectacular views of mountains Wilbur and Grinnell.
Showers could be had at the Campstore.

Chere dried the soggy tent and fly by draping each over the van in a sunny, windy parking lot.
Keeping each item in place while the mountain winds blew was a bit of a challenge but didn't take much time.
Both was dried in about 30 minutes.

Then she spent the afternoon sketching the trail horses and the guests in the hotel.
She also enjoyed a toasty nap in the back of the van. 


The Hikers Return - Happier and Wiser
The lake boat arrived at four fifteen as scheduled and all boarded for the return to Many Glacier Hotel.  Rory thanked Rick for his insights and explanations. 

Throughout the day Rick's talks reminded Rory of things he's read in the 'All About Glaciers' volume of his 'All About' books back when he was a boy. 
It also brought to mind words from Mr. Zamiski's ninth grade Earth Sciences class. 
Without Rick's local knowledge, Rory knew that he would have walked right past the features that Rick had pointed out.
 

A Bear Sighting
Passengers on the returning lake boat spotted a bear onshore.
The captain immediately announced that if everyone would stay seated on their side of the boat, she would turn it around so that all could have a good look at the bear. 
Having everyone rush to one side of the boat is not good; everyone remained calm and saw the bear.
It was pretty neat.


Pie or Ranger Talk ....Hmmmmm
We decided to eat at the Many Glacier Hotel grand dining room instead of driving the twenty miles each way to our Park Cafe.
This would mean we would miss another shot at Park Cafe pie.
But this would give us plenty of time to see one more ranger presentation at eight PM.

The dining room in Many Glaciers Hotel was decorated in rustic alpine chalet style with the flags of the Swiss cities and states hanging from the high ceilings. 
Big windows looking out over the lakes and mountains gave diners the opportunity to watch for wildlife with their binoculars while they ate.  Most people did bring their binoculars.

There was even a piano player whose earnestness made up for a lack of technical finesse. 
The bison stroganoff and broiled Montana trout were delicious.
The surroundings were dramatic with views of the sinking sun over Mount Grinnell and Swiftcurrent Lake.

It was not our Park Cafe but it was a very fine meal.
 

Ranger Talk on The International Peace Hike between Waterton, Canada and Goat Haunt, USA
The evening talk was titled "Beyond Borders" and explained the origins of the Peace Park (thanks again to the Rotarians). 
The woman presenting the talk was a Parks Canada Interpreter from Waterton and had to be sure to wrap up by nine so that she could make it back to the border crossing before it closed at eleven (see yesterday's rant).
 
The Park is managed as a single entity because the natural world does not really recognize our political boundaries.
Bears don't use borders to determine where they live.
Nor do birds.
Nor do any other wild things.


Ohhhh Don't We Know that Bear in the Film?
We were amused to see Justin, the Parks Canada interpreter on our Peace Hike, in the short movie that was shown this evening.
He depicted a grizzly bear from Canada who wanted to go through immigration at the border during spring time.  He wore a bear hat and gloves and a loud touristy shirt.
He wanted to visit his sweet USA girlfriend, Bertha, who was feeling 'pretty hormonal right about now'.

The movie included Justin/Bear not having the correct documentation to cross the border and included and outtake of disco dancing bears, rangers and border patrols at the end.
Canadians know how to have fun.
 

Perfect Ending of a Perfect Day
We set up the tent in the cooling air of evening. 
It would be our coldest night so far but looked like it would remain clear - a good thing in a leaky tent.

The air was calm, also a good thing since the ground was too hard to get our pegs in and we were not near a glacial moraine full of big rocks that could be used to hold in in place. 
The mountains glowed in the deepening twilight and we snuggled into our lovely, dry sleeping bags.
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