9/13/12

Avalanche Creek Trail

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We hiked six miles today when we put together two trails:  Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Creek Trail.  Trail of the Cedars was a simple boardwalk loop that led off  from the Avalanche Campground within Glacier National Park.  About halfway through the loop, the Avalanche Creek Trail branched off and led to the back country and Avalanche Lake.


The Trail of the Cedars led us through old growth western red cedar and black cottonwood.  Our guidebook informs us that some of the cedar trees are more than 350 years old.  There was a creek and waterfall at about the place where the two trails met and the rocks were polished smooth from the rushing water.  The canyon was beautifully red in color, composed of red argillite rock.  We saw this red rock at various places along the way.


The water in areas of the creek where the flow slowed into pools was cool glacial blue.  Inviting as it was in appearance, I'm quite certain it was cold enough to incapacitate any swimmer within minutes.  It was beautiful to look at, but difficult to photograph in still shots.  Mike took some video of the waterfall, and possibly I will be able to share it with you at some point.  

After taking in the view of the waterfall and creek, we continued on to Avalanche Creek Trail, which was two miles in to Avalanche Lake then two miles out the way we came in.  There was an elevation gain of 500 feet on the trail, but it occurred gradually with much up and down over rocks and roots.  We enjoyed the hike immensely, as we always do, but by the time we returned to our car hours later, our knees and feet were screaming.

As I've said, I always like to know how I'm about to die on any given day.  As we left Trail of the Cedars and commenced to walk on the Avalanche Creek Trail, we were confronted with this sign:


And just to hammer home the point, the sign was accompanied by a poster picturing a young male hiker who had been missing since late July.  It was sad to see.  The trail was very busy today, however, and we passed and were passed by many people both coming and going.  We felt quite safe, but I definitely would not have wanted to strike out on the trail alone at any time of the day.

The trail followed along the creek for about a mile and then led away from the creek until we could no longer hear it.  Then we traveled through dense forest.  There was not a lot to see except occasionally when we came into a clearing.  Avalanche Lake was formed when a glacier hollowed out a canyon leaving a depression that fills from waterfalls of melting ice from Sperry Glacier.  The glacier is not visible from the trail or the lake, but rather sits on a shelf above the canyon and out of sight.  Nevertheless, the etchings on the canyon wall are unmistakable.


We finally came to the designated trail's end and found this natural dam formed by logs that have collected at the south (west?) edge of the lake.  (I'm terrible with directions.)  It is clear that a lot more water collects in this basin and then drains off into Avalanche Creek, no doubt over the tops of these logs.  


Other hikers had informed us that it was worth walking the extra half mile to the other end of the lake where there was a better view.  We took their advice and walked most of the distance.


When we reached this area, we sat in the cool shade on some of the big rocks and relaxed before heading back.  It was quite a sight.  The lake was aquamarine in color with cutthroat trout jumping.

If you look closely at the image below, you'll be able to see two waterfalls--one is almost dead center and a little to the right, the other is nearly all the way to the right of the image.  Our guidebook informs us that there can be as many as five waterfalls in the early spring.


I was trying to capture the reflections of the trees and the color of the water in this next image.  I hope you can get an idea how peaceful the setting was.


Here are some of the smaller things we saw along the way.


Our guidebook informed us that nearly "every mushroom in the book" can be found on the forest floor at the right time of the year.  We did see a few, but it is too dry at this time of the year.  I'm guessing early spring or more toward November is a better time to see mushrooms.


This next little flower was so tiny as to be nearly microscopic.


These little yellow guys were almost like a buttercup, but not.


We saw a lot of these little butterflies landing on the ground.  We considered what they were interested in and decided it must be some kind of mineral or salt.  The lake would have been a better source of water for them.


We've seen these little purple daisies at various places around the park.  They are about as big around as a quarter.


What is this?  Goldenrod?


This next image is representative of what we saw at our feet When we stood at the edge of the lake


And these little red berries caught my eye.


Tomorrow we will leave Glacier National Park and head south toward the Grand Tetons.  We will no doubt spend at least two days getting there.  Our plan is to drive south on Montana State Route 83, which is designated as a scenic highway on our map.  Eventually we will end up on Interstate 90 going to Butte where we will join Interstate 15, which is also designated as a scenic highway.  We will take Interstate 15 to Idaho Falls where we will take US Route 26 toward Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park.  No doubt there will be quilt shops along the way, but I'm not sure how many we will take in.

We are having such a good time so far.  We were very glad we did our hike today, although to be honest, I'm always tempted at the beginning of a hike to whine "Do we hafta?"  My knees and feet have moved into vintage stage, and I find myself wondering halfway through a hike if it will be my last time.  It's a little like childbirth, however.  I always forget about the pain once I've had a chance to down some Aleve and ice my aching joints.  Not that icing my aching joints was any help after childbirth, but you know what I mean.  More to come.

14 comments from clever and witty friends:

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Beautiful but those warning are scary! I like to be at the top of the food chain wherever I go. I'd have to think about this.

Snoodles said...

LOL At least when they tell you how you can die that day, it is an exciting and unusual way to go...after all, you don't worry too much about having bear spray with you at home, do you? Heehee!
Seriously, so glad that your trip is going well and you are enjoying yourselves. Know just what you mean about the Aleve and ice! Your photos are wonderful....love the contrasts of the colors in them. It's so different from what I see here - this is a fun trip so far; thanks for taking us along!

Rachel said...

OK, so today's sign...well, I think it pretty much means "you could die this way today" It just doesn't leave much to interpretation. Stunning lake views, and some beautiful flowers! Aleve and I, well, we are good friends :-)

giddy99 said...

One of the best things at the Glacier Park gift shops was a sign:
"Park visitors are advised to wear little bells so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker, which might cause a bear to charge.
Visitors should also carry a pepper spray can in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear's nose and it will run away.

People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat.
Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper."

gpc said...

How beautiful. I was there as a child and of course too young to have any common sense. We saw many bears in those days, mostly black bears but a few grizzlies, and were always on guard. We were taught to carry two rocks and click them together as we walked and to talk loudly to one another, in order to give them time to run away. I think back and realize how lucky we were not to have any dangerous encounters!

Cathy said...

What beautiful, gorgeous country. I'm glad you took the hike just so we could see the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

WoolenSails said...

I think of that when we go hiking in areas with no people, never know what you will meet up with. But, well worth it to walk there, what a gorgeous hike and views.

Debbie

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

My friend, if your goal is to leave 'em laughing, you succeeded in spades today. Thanks.

Your photos remind me of the sheer magnificence that exists in our world; appreciate the views. I look forward to the Tetons; perhaps I can vicariously go there with you and never have to leave my chair.

Happy Traveling; be safe.

Junebug613 said...

I love these photos! I'm glad you are enjoying yourselves. Those views would have been worth the pain. Maybe try and take something half way through your next hike, to help ease your aches a little. Can't wait for the next post! :)

Kate Brown said...

You make a wonderful tour guide!! I so wish I was there with you, it is just breath taking. When I was last in Montana I heard alot about how the glaciers in the park were melting so fast that in a few years they will cease to exist, is this true?

Teresa in Music City said...

What fun it is to live my adventurous life vicariously through you :*) I've scaled the cliffs of Dover in Ireland, and now I'm hiking the trails of the Northwest!!! I'm so glad you came along and got me out of the house =^..^=

I love your photos today! My favorite is the view at your feet at the edge of the lake. Such a variety of interesting things going on there. And the butterfly with the ruffly wings - it almost looks like a moth. I almost can't wrap my mind around the photos of the mountains themselves! Wow! Just Wow!!!!

quiltzyx said...

Thanks for taking us along on your hike today - and for the aleve & icing our knees at the end too! LOL I'll take some ibuprofen tonight for you too. ;^)

As usual, wonderful photos. I like how, in the one showing the glacial striations, the top green belt looks like a soaring hawk!

Denise :) said...

Wow ... another breathtaking view! I'm glad you all stop and see the "little" things along the way -- I think that's how we do those long hikes without noticing how long they are...we're too busy spotting sweet little ornamentations along the trail!! :)

Kate said...

Gorgeous views. Thanks for sharing your hike. My knees definitely appreciate it! Hope yours have recovered.