glacier


I remember seeing Mount Rainier for the 1st time and was smitten ever since. We were in Seattle just made a right turn looking for a freeway entry and there was Mount Rainier stood majestically right in front of us. Mount Rainier and Sunrise Visitor CenterWe were at least 100 miles away from it and it was still huge like someone painted a half of the horizon with it. It came out of the blue and seemed so surreal that I had to rub my eyes a few time to confirm what I saw.

We had been to Mount Rainier a couple of times but we wanted to go again. We decided to camp at the Sunrise campground on the east side of the park. We soon realized why it was called the Sunrise because it has the best view in the morning. In the afternoon, with the sun in the back plus haze and smoke from nearby fire, it was hard to make out the mountain.

Mount Rainier is a beautiful but deadly mountain. Mt RainierMany people have died from climbing it. I remember looking at it on a clear day thought to myself, “It doesn’t look difficult to reach to the top” because it was so big that it distorted the perspective. In reality, it is a difficult mountain to climb and it usually takes 2 to 3 days for people to summit. When we set up our campsite, we noticed a warning sign about the area being a pyroclastic flow zone that we could be in danger anytime. Mount Rainier has not erupted for over 100 years but it is still active and when it does erupt again, it can be devastating. We made a mental note to run if we felt any earthquakes.

We hiked to Dege Peak in the morning starting from the Sunrise Visitor Center. Last ClimbThe visibility in the morning was great. We hiked away from Mount Rainier and were able to get many good views of the mountain. The slope of the mountain that we hiked on was green and beautifully decorated with beargrass. The hike had a gentle climb along a ridge with valley on both sides until the last 100 yards where it steeped (see right) before we reached the top. At the top we had panoramic view of the surrounding. To the north, it was a valley (see far below); To the east, it had layers of mountains (see near below), reminded us of Smoky Mountains; and to the west, it was the Mount Rainier, peacefully capped with glaciers, enticing mountaineers to go. Perhaps next time we will attempt to climb it.

Hazy in Horizons
North Side

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As I mentioned in the last post, Grinnell Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana, was one of the most beautiful hikes we did on our trip. Here is a close-up map of the area and click here to see it on an interactive map.

Grinnell Trail Map

The trail is shown on the map above as purple dots. The trail was about 12 miles round trip from where we started near the Many Glacier campground. We got to the campground early that morning from the Sunset campground to get a site. Many Glacier was a popular place and we were told it filled up around noon on weekdays every day for the last few days. After setting up the camp, we started the hiking around 9:45am. Susan carried lunch and Bryden (18 lbs) in the Snugli backpack and I took the Kelty Back Country and water. Luckily Kadia, although only 3 and 1/2, was a hardy hiker so I didn’t have to carry her for a whole hike anymore. Her record so far was 5 miles hike to Abrahams Falls in Smoky Mountains NP in June. She was all happy and skipped around on the trail. The first mile was pretty flat. There were quite a few thimbleberries to pick. They are like wild raspberries, quite good. We picked a few to satisfy our curiosity. It took us about 15 minutes to get the 1st lake, SwiftCurrent Lake, a beautiful blue lake like most glacier water fed lakes.

Lake JosephineWe hiked along the lake for a little bit. At the end of the lake before we turned off heading toward Lake Josephine, we can see the famous Many Glacier Hotel in the far distance. We headed up this trail toward Lake Josephine (see photo on the right, point 1 on the map) and ran into this guy, perhaps in his late 50s or early 60s, resting along the trail with a kayak on the ground. He had paddled across the SwiftCurrent Lake and now he was carrying the kayak toward Lake Josephine and was taking a break. The kayak must be at least 60 lbs. I remember thinking that was so cool that I would like to do that in the future. I regret that I didn’t offer him any help but luckily someone else came by later helped him carrying the kayak to the lake.

We hiked along Lake Josephine for about a half of its length to a fork. To the left, it followed along the lake toward Grinnell Lake and to the right, it started ascending toward Grinnell Glacier. At the beginning of the hike, we weren’t sure if we can take two kids on such a long hike (12 miles + 1700 ft elevation gain) so we decided we would make the final decision when we reached this junction (about 2 miles). Susan said she felt okay and because I haven’t had to carry Kadia yet, I was all for it so we started heading up the trail.

Grinnell Glacier TrailA woman with her teenager daughter passed us; the mother was nice and said many flattering and encouraging words to us. She seemed to be strong and hiked with a purpose. Thank you wherever you are. This is a popular trail because of its beauty but not crowded like the Half Dome trail in Yosemite; we ran into a fair number of people: young and old. An old couple mentioned that they were like us 30 years ago with their kids on their back, and now they have all grown up. I really admired them for hiking at their age: I hope we can still do the same 30 years from now. We saw another group with a dad carrying an infant in a front pouch. That was incredible to carry that much weight in front for such a long hike.

After 10 minutes, Kadia started to complain about being tired so I had to carry her for a while. This began a 4 miles stretch of gradual but unrelenting ascent toward the top. Although it felt short as the scenary was spectacular every step of the way. We ran into the mother and daughter again a few hours later, while we were sitting down having lunch at the picnic area near the top. Grinnell Glacier LakeThey encouraged us more and told us there was a big surprise waiting for us at the top. (We ran into them again the next day near the Many Glacier Hotel and they were heading for Wharton NP to hike the Carthew-Alderson trail. We had the same plan but couldn’t find a ride the next morning to the trailhed. I hope you had a great hike there.) We felt recharged with the kind words and the food. With Kadia leading the way, we started the final climb toward the top. And what a surprise it was! The upper Grinnell Lake (see photo on the left and point 4 on the map) was dotted with icebergs, some were floating, some were like sculptures. It was eerie to see that in the middle of the summer when we were wearing t-shirts and shorts. But it was a sight to remember.

I used the Xplorist 500 to keep track of our hike on this trail. On the right, it showed the elevation profile of the trail. I think I ran out the battery toward the end, therefore, the flat part seemed to be shorter on the right. The trail was a top notch trail and highly recommended if you are there. The condition of the trail was excellent and the footing was secure throughout the trail. It was a steady but gradual climb. Take your time and enjoy the scenary then you won’t even notice you are climbing. Hopefully it will still have glaciers for a few more years but it may not last forever as the current prediction has all glaciers disappeared from the Glacier NP by 2020 due to global warming. I hope not and I hope we can do things to preserve this natural beauty. I pledge to work at home more. 🙂

On the way back down, we took a picture of all three lakes, Grinnell Lake, Lake Josephine and Lake Sherburne. Contrary to some postcards, Swiftcurrent Lake was not visible from here (see photo below and point 5 on the map). I think I will write about Goblin Valley tomorrow.
Grinenel Lake, Lake Josephine, Lake Sherburne

I want to take a break from writing about the planning part today. I decided to write some tips we learned on the trip. See here. I will write one per day going forward so check back there regularly for information.

Some friends asked me for more pictures so I will jump ahead to one of our favorite hiking trails on this trip: Grinnell Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana. It is getting late so I will write more in details tomorrow. But here is a teaser.

Grinnell Trail Map

Grinnell Glacier Trail was one of the most gorgeous trails we hiked on this trip. The trail is shown on the map above as purple dots. The trail was about 11.5 miles round trip from where we started near the Many Glacier campground. The picture below was taken around point 3 on the map above showing Ralph with Kadia.

Grinnell Lake