Old growth forests, wind swept prairies, ancient glaciers and deep lakes may seem worlds apart, but in this park in the humid Pacific North West, they all inter mingle with plants and animals to make for a truly majestic destination.
We had been to Glacier National Park before, this on our first trip out from picking up Big Henry back in October 2014. However, it had been end of the season and the parks number one feature the “Going To The Sun Road” was already closed, plus, we had only seen the west side of the park. We knew that because of Big Henry’s size we were unable to take him up and over Logan Pass, height limit 10 feet and length limit 21 feet. We also knew that being the height of the tourist season we needed to get into the park early to bag a campsite, this we did at Rising Sun Campground at 8.30am…by the time we went to the shuttle stop at 9.30am the campground was full.
The park offers a free shuttle bus service up to Logan Pass on the “Going To The Sun Road” and also stops at various points along the way where you can get off take in the view or embark on a hike. Traveling this road is pretty much the highlight for most visitors to the park. This 50 mile stretch combines history and unparalleled scenery. The higher elevation sections are closed from mid-October and only re-open after the Winter snows are ploughed at the end of May.
The weather was a little cloudy when we got to the shuttle stop at Rising Sun, all kitted out ready to hike and we had decided to go all the way to the top at Logan Pass and then hike out to Hidden Lake. Ten days previous to us arriving in Glacier their had been a tragic accident in the park. A young forest ranger who had been mountain biking with a friend had inadvertently rounded a corner on the track and rode straight into a grizzly bear….the bear startled immediately attacked and the young man was killed….his colleague escaped unharmed. When we arrived at Logan Pass it was thick with cloud and there was no view and we soon found out that the Hidden Lake Trail had been closed due to a bear sighting there. Not a great start.
So….we decided to head out on the Highline Trail instead…we had done no research on this trail, and yes I know, we should have checked it out in the visitor center but it was so busy already at 10.30am, we just headed out….it was to prove for me to be one of the scariest hikes I have ever done. For those of you not aware I suffer from vertigo…and for those of you who do not understand this condition, when confronted with walking on narrow rock ledges some as little as only 2 feet wide, with 2 to 3,000ft drops below…for us sufferers it is not a great place to be. Initially, I had no indication of what lay in front of us…to be fair, it was so thick with cloud at the start of the trail you could not see much more than a 100 feet in any direction. But the rope hand rail on the rock face to my right as we started down the track was starting to give me a clue….and then maybe 30 minutes into the hike the cloud started to lift. Now for most folk this was just the best news there could be….the views opened out down the valley….emphasis on the word DOWN!
This was the longest three hours of my life to date….that was the length of time after the cloud cleared and I walked pretty much with my face touching the rock wall to the right side as I walked up the valley track and with my left side on the way back. The Blonde, partly having realized the mess she had gotten me into, was magnificent and kept offering words of encouragement and guiding me along the track.
It would have not been so bad except for the fact that by the time we had gone as far as I was prepared to go, then on the return the “late comers” were all in our face, and sidling past someone on a very narrow rock ledge when heights are just not your thing….well, enough said. I have never been so relieved as when we reached the shuttle bus stop to make our way back down.