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Friday, August 13, 2021

2021 Glacier National Park: June 27th - Going to the Sun Road and Hidden Lake Overlook

 After doing laundry in the morning, I got back in time to pick up the kids and then drive to the rendezvous location to pick up Arturo. Both Arturo and Peter had gotten entry tickets, so Arturo could do the switchero: get into my car wearing a mask, get us through the entry gate, and then get off and get back into Peter's car. We caught up, and I told him about the book we'd use to do that wonderful hike the day before. "Oh, so it was you who checked out that book. No wonder I couldn't get it." It spoke volumes that both of us never even considered buying the book rather than checking it out from the library.

To our surprise, there was no 2.5 hour wait time to get into the park as feared. We basically just zipped through the checkpoint. To my dismay, there was also no hang tag. We would have to show ID and the entry ticket every day we wanted into the park! Well, that meant we had to make the most of the one day we had.

Driving along the Going to the Sun highway, we saw e-bikes, which was the only vehicle allowed without an entry ticket, but bicycles were required to be off the road between 11am and 4pm, so there was definitely a short time window for them as well! The road itself is spectacular, and the kids begged to get off and see the weeping wall. I'd never been in the park in July before, and the amount of water coming off the mountains was nothing short of spectacular!

At the Logan Pass visitor center, we parked the car. Because we'd started the day so late, I decided that the best hike for the day was the Hidden Lake Overlook. I had hopes to make it all the way to Hidden Lake, but given how much snow I'd seen the day before I wasn't hopeful.

We had just parked the car and walked over to the curb when someone told us that there were bighorn ship across the street! We walked over and sure enough, there was a herd of bighorn sheep grazing, just below the snow. That was pretty exciting.

I had told Xiaoqin before the trip that Glacier National Park was the only place in the US where the scenic beauty could match that of the Swiss Alps, and on that day, the Hidden Lake overlook did not make a liar out of me.

The kids were delighted by the outlook of snow in late June, and went about playing in the snow, which meant that the hike was slow progress.
Xiaoqin, despite her hiking sticks, felt nervous about walking in the snow, and the crowd didn't make her feel better, as she saw one after another ill-equipped tourist slip, slide and fall, though of course, on snow the most that could do was to make your pants wet.

After a couple of miles she decided to turn around with the kids. The kids were happy enough to play in the snow, so but I opted to keep going, as the scenic beauty was one I could not turn down, and I was confident that I could make it up to at least the overlook and back without them having to wait for too long.

Sure enough, once over the hump, the trail became much less snowy, though no less beautiful. At the overlook, however, the view of the partially-iced up Hidden Lake was something to behold, as was the mountain goat and mountain marmot.
I reveled in the beauty of the place, snapping photo after photo, and then turned around and hiked back. This time, I remembered my mountaineering training and post-holed down at speed with stability, depending on the waterproofing on my Columbia Montrail to keep my feet dry, which they did.

Back at the car, we left the crowded parking lot, went through a tunnel, and found a pullout with such scenic beauty that we were content to eat lunch there, staring at the waterfalls coming down the mountain.

Post-lunch, we visited the Jackson Glacier Overlook, right next to which was the Gunsight Lake trailhead, upon which I had taken my parents backcountry camping for the first time way back in 1994. That was the trip that converted them to backcountry camping, having complained every mile to the Gunsight Lake campground, only to shut up when a mountain goat greeted them at the entrance, and when that night, the moon lit up the surrounding mountains in layers and elk bugled in the distance, they had the temerity to ask me why I had only booked the place for one night!

Going down to St Mary's we stopped again for photos but the kids were done with hiking for the rest of the day, so we turned around and drove back to the Apgar visitor center, where I wanted to scout out the location of the backcountry permit office. It was a good thing I did, because at the visitor center, I learned two things: (1) the backcountry permit office was in Apgar village proper, not at the Apgar visitor center, and (2) if I wanted a chance to get my ideal itinerary, I'd better show up at 6:00am, not 7:30am! I scouted around and found the backcountry permit office, and resolved to show up at 6:00am the next morning. The forecast was for 100F heat in the valleys as low as 4000' (e.g., Bowman Lake), and the itinerary that was given me was Cracker Lake, which had no trees and would have been cooking hot, in addition to being a dead end so we'd be stuck there two nights with nothing to do in between. 

That night, Xiaoqin picked Cowboy Up restaurant in Somers for dinner. They had outdoor seating but it was hot, and the owner was packing heat, and not the kind used for cooking. nevertheless, the food was awesome and we ate everything with relish. I was very pleased with the food!

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