#28: Visiting a Glacier

Posted by Megan on November 11th, 2011

 

I’m fascinated by geology, most notably glaciers. They kicked the crap out of the earth and were a fundamental force in creating our landscape as it is today. Here inMinnesota, glaciers did some mighty fine handy work. Not only did they create a mostly flat (and great for running) topography, they also helped carve out the infrastructure for our 18,000 + lakes. Without the aggressive intervention of glaciers,Minnesotawould be North Iowa, and who the heck wants that!

I’ve often day dreamed about going back in time to see what my homeland was like in the days of Glacier Rule. Nowadays, glaciers are hard to find. Surprisingly, there are still more than 50 glaciers present in the continental United  States( and many more inAlaska), yet most are at very high altitude.

Our trip to Glacier National Park, gave Brad and I an opportunity to see glaciers close up.  A moderately difficult hike brought us up to one of the three glaciers left in the now somewhat misleadingly named park.

Brad and I had visited Glacier National Park once before in July of 2009. At that point, there was still so much snow on the trails we were unable to take the famous Grinnell Glacier hike. This time around, our trip fell in September, so the trail was open. 

Brownie gave some priceless bear advice: "Wild bear like to be friends from far away."

 

While going late in the summer allows for better hiking, it’s also during bear season. The park had seen very high bear activity and signs were posted at every trail head warning visitors to beware of bears on the trail. Thankfully Brownie Fudge Bear had given me some bear pointers prior to our trip (“Don’t’ try to hug the wild bears!”) and we also each carried bear spray.

The Grinnell Glacier hike was the first item on our itinerary.  When we arrived at the park, we took a few minutes to take in the beautiful view of the Many Glacier hotel and Swiftcurrent Lake.

Many Glacier hotel is an iconic landmark in Glacier National Park.

 

The hike begins along Swiftcurrent lake.

 We then hit the trail and started the 12-mile hike. Because we started a bit later than planned, we needed to hike fairly fast to get the entire expierence.

The hike was beautiful. I’m an athletic person, yet hiking up a mountain is still always fairly challenging for me. Despite the challenge, I’m always surprised to see hikers of all shapes, sizes and ages making the trek on National Park trails. We saw fat people, old people and middle-schoolers on the way. We even saw a one year old being carried up the mountain in a backpack. That’s impressive! I’m a marathoner and I can barely get my lazy butt up that mountain with a very light and not crying backpack.

The path hosted beautiful panoramic views of the valley and glacial lakes. As we trudged up the mountain, we came across several stopped hikers on the edge of a large field with tall grass. A grizzly bear lingered in the field no more than 50 yards away. We yielded Brownie’s advice and took a brief look, then were on our way.

We said hello to Brownie's long lost cousin, then were on our way.

Near the top of the mountain we stumbled into a herd of Big Horn Sheep. They were literally on the trail grazing. It was amazing to see these unique and majestic animals so close up. If I had been dumber or an Asian tourist I could have easily touched one. We stayed for several minutes watching the group enjoy their afternoon snack before moving on. To avoid disrupting them we had to climb across a steep edge with loose rocks. By the time we were safely back on the trail I had sore ankles and dozens of rocks in my shoes, but it was a small price to pay.

Hi buddies! Sorry to disturb you, we’ll hike around.

 

A few more minutes of challenging climbing and we were there! We had reached the glacier! Ummm…. Where is the glacier exactly?

 

Isn't this just snow and ice?

 

 

 

Look around Megan, the glacier is everywhere.

But that just looks like snow!

Oh Megan, someday you will understand the power and beauty of GLACIER!

As it turns out – Glaciers just look like snow. Who knew! In fact, when you’re looking at a mountain, it’s virtually impossible to determine which sections are just snow, and which are actually glaciers. I’ll prove it! Take my glacier quiz:

I told you it was hard! The answer is in the comment section. And, since you're already there. Leave me a note will ya!

 

Despite the somewhat anticlimactic realization that glaciers are not that interesting from the surface, there was still something very fascinating about seeing a real life glacier. It’s like seeing the ice berg that destroyed the Titanic. From the top it doesn’t look so daunting, but that sucker could take down the unsinkable ship!

 

Hi Mr. Glaicer. Thanks for all your hard work. Love, Megan and Brad

 

Brad and I chilled out (hehehehe) with the glacier while we ate our lunch. We sat on a rock nearby and took in the beautiful view. Soon after we unpacked our food, a curious chipmunk came over to check us out. Despite the fact that we were at the top of a sparse mountain, this sucker was FAT! We soon realized why. He was a master at manipulating the tourist crowd. Not only did he quickly find any crumbs we left behind, he stood on his hind legs and begged for food. He stood ON Brad’s foot asking for food and when he was denied, he took it upon himself to dive headfirst into our backpack and drag out a baggie full of nuts. JACKPOT! Brad saved the nuts and attempted to shoe away the rodent, but before we knew it he was back. I appreciated his tenacity. I could learn a few lessons from this chipmunk!

 

Gimme some food!

 

We took a few photos to prove we were there, then packed up and headed back down the mountain. It was a beautiful day and a great start to our vacation. The glaciers in Glacier National Park are projected to be gone by 2020. At that point do you think they will rename the park? If yes, I’m voting for Curious Chipmunk Park. I think he deserves it.

  • © 2011 Megan Steil