Tag Archives: montana
Last Saturday I broke a long standing family tradition. I climbed a peak in the Bridger Range on the first day. Collectively, my family and I have been turned back on Sacajawea and other peaks in the Bridger Range every single time we have tried to climb them. We have been faced with three foot snow storms in the middle of May, heavy gusting snow and wind at the end of August, and other environmental conditions that have forced us to turn back from every single first attempt we have made. At the end of September, I finally broke this streak and bagged Ross Peak on the first try.
View Ross Peak in a larger map
Ross Peak sits in the middle of the Bridger range, tying together Sacajawea, Naya Nuki, and the northern Bridgers with Saddle, Baldy, and Bridger in the south. It rises up from Ross Pass, a windswept clearing to the south of the peak. A well-worn and wide trail winds its way up to the path and abruptly ends. A narrow goat path winds it’s way up towards an abrupt rock wall. Ross Peak hides behind several rocky false summits. It’s a very intimidating sight to those without vertical climbing gear.
As it turns out, there are several rock-filled couloirs that lead to the top of Ross Peak. It’s a long slog up the constantly sliding slope of small rocks to the top, but it’s well worth it. There are a large number of different routes through the couloirs and towers at the top, some much more challenging and exposed than others. I was able to string together a zig-zaggy route up through the rocks that minimized the exposure and risk.
The view from the final summit is impressive as the Bridger Range rises up on either side and Bozeman sprawls out to the west.
All told this hike was a little more than 7 miles. Much more manageable than my marathon Hyalite Peak climb from the previous weekend.
The excellent adventure/writing blog Semi-Rad recently published an article titled “I Don’t Like It, But I Love It: The Long Day“. The author, Brendan Leonard. describes a rock climbing trip with a surprisingly long hike out. The article goes on to describe something called Type 2 Fun. Things are aren’t fun but they are. This is a theory that I definitely subscribe to and one that I got to experience firsthand last Saturday.
I set out with two friends from the Hyalite Creek trailhead at around noon. Our goal was 10,300′ Hyalite Peak. We were loaded down with overnight and camera gear, planning on spending the night at Hyalite Lake. We ascended the 5.5 mile Hyalite Creek trail rapidly, ascending through the forest and gradually entering higher terrain, our travel marked by shrinking trees and remarkably yellow alpine shrubbery.
We reached Hyalite Lake around 3pm and set up our camp on the shore of the lake. Shedding my overnight gear lightened my pack substantially and we blazed our way up the remaining 2 miles to the summit.
The view from the summit was supposed to cover Blackmore Peak, Yellowstone National Park, the Paradise Valley, Hyalite Reservoir, and Bozeman. It’s still quite smoky, however, and the summit of Hyalite is about as close to the Millie Fire as it is legally possible to get. We could see down into the basin that surrounds Hyalite Lake and a little sliver of the Paradise Valley. Still worth it and a very cool place to hang out for a little bit.
After scrambling our way down the summit ridge and bowl, we cooked dinner at our campsite and then sat around. I’m not quite sure who brought it up first, but gradually we began to decide that we wanted to hike out that night. It would make for a 16 mile day with overnight packs and almost 4000′ of vertical gain. We hit the trail back down towards the trailhead at 7:30 and were hiking in the pitch black by 8:30. Covering the 5.5 miles back to the car in a hair under 2 hours, we got to the parking lot at about 9:20PM. My GPS read 16.5 miles total trip distance and my feet felt like numb, bloody stumps. I would never call any part of the two hours spent stumbling and tripped our way back by the dim headlamp beam fun, but having covered 16.5 miles to the summit of a remote 10,000′ peak and back in an extended afternoon was a blast. Definitely the definition of Type 2 Fun.
View Hyalite Peak in a larger map
After shooting waterfalls on my first day in Glacier National Park, I shot the sunset at Goose Island Overlook. This is one of the most famous sunset spots in the park and although the view was excellent, I was treated to a total no-show of a sunset. A black and white treatment turned out reasonably well.
I spent a calm, cool night at a campground just outside the gates and woke up bright and early to beat the crowds to Logan Pass. Labor Day Weekend is one of the last weekends that the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open and the crowds were out in full force. I secured my parking spot and then set off quickly up the Hidden Lake Overlook trail. The boardwalk cut a jagged line through a meadow of wildflowers and wrapped around the base of Mt. Reynolds towards a ridge. At the top of the ridge, the trail cut through some stubby pine trees and ended at a stunning vista of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain.
The haze visible behind the mountain is smoke from the brand new wildfire near Avalanche Lake. More on that later.
Descending from the overlook, I quickly ducked off the trail and into the Hanging Valley area. For a couple weeks at the end of the summer the park service opens up Hanging Valley to off-trail exploration. Tightly gripping my bear spray, I set off down the valley, following a rocky, slimy stream bed. I was looking for Triple Falls, a popular but hard to find slot canyon near Logan Pass. Three streams empty into the small canyon, making for an engaging foreground to go with the stellar mountain backgrounds all around. After about an hour of mucking around in stream beds and snowfields, I finally stumbled upon the falls. This late in the summer, only two of the falls were running, but it was still a blast to find and explore an area I’d seen and heard so much about. I covered Triple Falls in my Waterfalls of Glacier National Parkpost and you can check out the rest of my shots there.
I hiked out following the stream downhill and back to the Logan Pass Visitor Center. I drove west and downhill, heading for the Avalanche area. The western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was as magnificent and scary as the east side. The road is carved into the side of the mountains and at many places there are barely enough room for two cars to pass side-by-side. Couple this with attention-stealing views and it’s a bit risky.
I arrived at the parking lot for the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake only to find that a fresh wildfire had closed the trail to Avalanche Lake. I was beginning to get a bit fed up with the crowds, totally booked campgrounds, and the wildfires and decided that I was going to head back to Bozeman that night. Fortunately, I decided to walk the Trail of the Cedars first. Trail of the Cedars is a wide, accessible path that winds for less than a mile through towering cedars (surprisingly…) and along the banks of Avalanche Creek. At the end of the path I found one of the classic views of Avalanche Gorge that I had been hoping to shoot. I scrambled out onto a rock outcropping and managed to salvage a little bit of my afternoon in the shot that heads up this post and the portrait orientation to the left.
It was a long, smoky, six hour drive back to Bozeman but well worth it. I can’t wait to get back to Glacier, hopefully with some other photographers, to explore the miles of trails and countless landscapes that I missed out on. I’m pretty sure I could spend a whole summer shooting and hiking here and not get bored.
If you like what you see here, you can support my work by sharing this post on your social media pages or using the thumbnails below to purchase prints, cards, and canvases of these images. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the locations or any of the pictures from this trip. You can either leave a comment below or shoot me an email.
I finally made it to Glacier National Park last weekend. I’ve been dying to go ever since I moved to Montana three years ago. It’s a 6 hour drive through lots of empty farm coutnry from Bozeman, but it was completely worth it.
I pulled into the park just after 1pm on Saturday. Predictably, all the campgrounds were full so I drove around the tiny gateway town of St. Mary, MT and found Johnson’s of St Mary, a large private campground on a hill overlooking the town and St Mary Lake. I staked out my campsite, dropped off some gear, and drove back into the park.
St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls
My first objective was St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. I only had the afternoon to hike and I was solo. Not being particularly thrilled with venturing too far into the woods without a partner, I stuck close to the road. The trailhead for St. Mary Falls is 10 miles down the Going-to-the-Sun Road at the head of St Mary Lake. The trail quickly plunges through deep forest down to an intersection with the Continental Divide Trail. After barely a mile and a half of hiking, the trail crosses the river at St Mary Falls. It’s a gorgeous, albeit crowded location. It’s well worth leaving the trail and common viewpoints and scrambling around on the rocky banks of the river to get closer and different views of the falls.
The top of the falls are a little tight and choked off by the surrounding rock walls. In order to eliminate this restriction and to get a different composition, I crossed back over the bridge and walked underneath.
Past St Mary Falls, the trail continues uphill for less than a mile. The hike follows the river and there are numerous waterfalls along the edges of the trail that are not marked or frequented.
After a total of about 2.25 miles of hiking, the trail levels off at Virginia Falls. These falls are much higher and much more dramatic than St Mary Falls. There are multiples levels and steps to the falls, and tons of small pools and drop-offs. It’s a fun area to explore around, although it was mobbed with kids and their families when I was there.
You can check out the GPS tracks for my hike to St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls here: 9.1.2012 St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls on Garmin Connect.
The next day I woke up early and drove up the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. The parking lot fills quickly and I was trying to beat the crowds for my morning hike. I set off up the Hidden Lake Trail at around 9:30 AM. I topped out at the Hidden Lake Overlook and then turned around and started back down to the trail. My objective for the morning was Triple Falls, an awesome set of three creeks that all spill into one small slot in the bedrock. The location is a somewhat closely guarded secret and no one will quite tell you where it is. After about an hour and a half of tramping around in creeks and on snowfields, tensely looking over my shoulder for bears, I finally stumbled onto Triple Falls. The leading image in this post is one of the first shots I took. The water was absolutely frigid and the spray inside the slot was intense, so I didn’t linger very long. I can’t wait to get back though, as this would have been a killer location for a sunrise or a sunset.
I’ve got a ton more pictures from Glacier that I’m still working on processing and those should be posted within the next couple days (Posted Here!)as I find the time.
I made my first trip since November back to Yellowstone yesterday. The first set of park roads opened for the spring on Friday, clearing the way for travel between Mammoth and Old Faithful, including the road to Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was a gorgeous day right with not a cloud in the sky until late in the afternoon. The wildlife were out and about en masse and we spotted the Lamar Canyon wolf pack and the ensuing pack of rabid, insane wolf-watchers, countless buffalo, some pronghorn antelope, some elk, a fox, and a bald eagle.
We started the morning driving out to Cooke City through the Lamar Valley. At one section of the road where the Lamar River runs quite close to the Northeast Entrance road, there were two large packs of photographers packed into the side of the road watching the Lamar Canyon wolf pack on a kill on the river bank. We parked and pulled over and, figuring that there was no reason to be standing shoulder to shoulder with 40 other people in the middle of a huge National Park, started to walk down the road away from the crowd. We were immediately yelled and waved at by an amazingly translucent creepy old man wearing an orange flag vest with “Yellowstone Wolf Project” emblazoned on it. He sneered condescendingly at us that we had just entered the “No Standing” zone and would have to return to the pack. A minute later he was back yelling at another couple who dared to try to walk up the road and entered the “No Walking” zone.
I have no problem with protecting wildlife and managing the human impact on the park. However, one of things that I enjoy the most about the National Parks is that, as long as they aren’t actively breaking any federal laws, visitors are pretty much free to do whatever they want. Not so in Yellowstone near a wolf pack. I have no idea if this guy was affiliated with the National Park Service in any way, but he plainly thought that he was in charge of this wolf pack viewing and appeared baffled that we didn’t know to respect his authority. I have never encountered that kind of managed, controlled experience in a National Park before and it was very off-putting. If I want to view animals from defined areas under the watchful eyes of people on a power trip, I’ll go to the zoo.
Despite our encounter with translucent wolf man, the rest of the day was extremely enjoyable. After driving the Lamar Valley, we hooked south to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Norris Geyser Basin. There is still a pretty decent snowpack in the higher elevations of the park, but hopefully the rest of the roads will be open soon.