There are two Glacier National Parks in North America, one in Montana of USA and the other in British Columbia of Canada. We had a wonderful time in Montana’s Glacier National Park, spent 4 days hiking and sightseeing, and already wanted to go back soon in the future. It was, with high expectation and anticipation that we arrived at the Canada’s Glacier National Park. We were disappointed. It wasn’t that it was not beautiful in its own right but we were expecting the same scenery as the US Glacier NP, glacier fed lakes dotted landscape. Perhaps there might be some but they weren’t easily accessible.
We arrived in the afternoon then went for a short hike and were rewarded with mushrooms (see previous post). We stayed a night at Illecillewaet Campground and were looking for a half-day hike the next morning, perhaps a moderate hike. The information we got at the campground indicated that Glacier Crest trail was about 2500 ft elevation gain and 6 miles round trip. That sounded like a manageable hike for a half day.
We like hiking. Hiking is invigorating both physically and mentally. In additional to beautiful scenery, we often find other interesting things on trails such mushrooms, flowers, wildlife, leaves, etc. Of course, there is the physical reward that we get from hiking. With the current technology, everyone can be an arm-chair traveler, watching everything from the comfort of a couch at home but, for us, being there in person is an experience that transcends anything that can be achieved from watching. It is very simple: just us against mountains. We don’t think about much else, no worry, no bills to pay and no interruptions. It reduces the stress of daily life.
The hike started out flat and there were many mushrooms along the trail. We took our time hiking along with Kadia looking for mushroom. I was getting worry about the trail being so flat at the beginning because it only meant the climb would be steeper later. After a mile, it started to climb. Kadia started to complain endlessly around 1.5 miles to get a free ride; I eventually relented because we were not making slow progress.
After another half of a mile, we ran across a hiker going down and inquired about how much further to go. At this point, we had already covered close to two miles and about 1100 feet elevation gains so we thought we may have at most another hour to go. The guy told us that we had at least 1 ½ hours to 2 hours ahead of us and the climb would get steeper. We were surprised but trudged on.
We had been hiking on a moderate climb for a while but soon the climb steeped as told and we had to stop about every couple of steps. And it just kept going up and up and never seemed to let up. We had always been judging our hiking trails by the trail, Mount Storm Kings we did in Olympics National Park. That trail climbed 2100 ft in 1.9 miles. It was a continuous climb and almost no rests. We had many trails coming close to the Storm King but never exceeded it. But this one did. We were thinking that this couldn’t be that difficult with 2500 feet elevation gain but it was. Soon we reached 2500 feet elevation gain according to my GPS but the trail was still relentless an uphill climb and the end was nowhere in sight.
Finally the trail flattened out some and we were walking along the crest with Asulkan Glacier on the right. Soon we came to a spot where the trail abruptly ended without any signs. There seemed to be a trail going up against the hill we had been walking along. But it was very steep and seemed to be slippery. We debated for a minute if it was indeed a trail until we saw a group of people appeared over the top of the hill and started scrambled down the trail. Many of them slipped and some of them were on their butts as they came down. After they left, we debated to see if we should go up as going up wouldn’t be a problem but coming down might. We came so far and it was just too hard to give up so we pressed on, with the knowledge that we had hiking poles to help us coming down. See the picture on the left when Susan was coming down a part of this section.
We climbed up the hill, exhausted and hungry, and discovered there was another hill to climb. My GPS indicated that we had already climbed 3250 feet and we were not done. We found a spot to eat lunch. Susan didn’t want to climb anymore so I went up alone, leaving Kadia with Susan and Bryden. The last 250 feet was easy without the heavy load as I practically bounced up to the top. It was a hazy day so the view was a little disappointing. I also saw the Illecillewaet glacier (picture on the left) on the other side of the mountain. Illecillewaet Glacier was down to the Illecillewaet campground where we started this hike but it had retreated this far in the last 120 years.
Glacier National Park used to be premier destination for vacationers in the late 19 century and early 20 century. It had a famous hotel, Glacier House Hotel which rivaled the Banff Springs Hotel and Château Lake Louis. Trains on the Northern Pacific Railway would make a stop at the Glacier House Hotel with the park and the hotel becoming the cradle of North American mountaineering. However, after 1917, a tunnel was built to bypass the Glacier National Park as there were too many avalanches and soon the visits to the park declined and along with the retreat of the Illecillewaet Glacier, the hotel shut down in 1926 and there are only a few stone foundations remaining (see right) to tell us the once illustrated history of the hotel. This reminds me of business here in the Silicon Valley: 8 years ago there were many high-flying companies but a lot of them are gone without a trace. How fickle life can be and how fleeting the fame can be as well.
Hiking back down was easy with the help of hiking poles. We were glad that we brought our hiking poles otherwise our knees would suffer badly. The trail ended to be 8 miles round trip with 3500 feet elevation gains. It was harder than it should be because we weren’t expecting such a hike and weren’t mentally prepared. We barely had enough water to last the whole hike. The scenery of this trail was disappointing given the difficulty of the hike, perhaps it was due to a hazy day. Weather can often make or break a trail. However, this will be the hike we judge the strenuousness of our future hikes by.