Tuesday, July 5, 2005: I planned to take the ranger-led hike to Iceberg Lake. It didn't start until 8, so I took some photos and did some birding around Many Glacier and Swiftcurrent Lodge. Around Many Glacier, I found Common Loon on the lake and Snowshoe Hare on the nature trail.
The hike to Iceberg Lake was led by Kara Benson. She and her husband Dave come to Glacier every summer and have been doing so since he was studying the White-tailed Ptarmigan for his doctoral dissertation. The hike is a long one, 10 miles with a 1200 foot elevation gain (the distance includes a quarter mile each way from the Swiftcurrent parking lot to the trailhead). It was a surprisingly big group for such a hike, more than 25 people. Early on, we got a look at where we were going. We couldn't see Iceberg Lake, but we could see a snow chute that leads down to it. The area we passed through was completely different 70 years ago. It was then old growth. But a crown fire (the Heaven's Peak fire) raced over the Swiftcurrent Pass and swept down to the lake in August, 1936. Many Glacier Hotel was barely saved. Many of the other buildings in the area burned down. The forest will not be completely grown back in my lifetime. The hike first visits Ptarmigan Falls. After that, you can go left to Iceberg Lake or right to the Ptarmigan Tunnel (which wasn't yet open for the season).
|Mt. Wilbur||Iceberg Notch||Ptarmigan Falls|
We took the left fork. As we crossed some meadows, we stopped for an introduction to the wildflowers. Starting with the first person in line, the ranger assigned us flowers (or sometimes trees or shrubs). After you got a flower, you stayed with it and explained it to each of the group as they passed. Everyone got at least one flower and a number of people got a second. The scenery on the trail was absolutely gorgeous! The photos are only a pale reflection of what was there. I didn't do much birding on the hike, but I couldn't help noticing the Varied Thrushs calling on the way up. As we neared Iceberg Lake we started seeing Mountain Goats up on the mountains. Eventually, we found a dozen of them. The hike ended at the lake. We spent some time at the lake. I left well before the ranger. At this point in the trip, she was a faster hiker and caught me at Ptarmigan Falls.
|Iceberg Lake||Iceberg Notch||Iceberg Lake|
|Floating Ice||Towards Iceberg Lake||Relic?|
|Towards Iceberg Lake||Mountain Lake||Beargrass Meadow|
I didn't have anything definite planned after the hike as I figured I would be tired. I was right! By the end of the trip, this kind of hike won't faze me. As for now, I took a nap before going to dinner. I caught up some on the trip report during the evening.
|Red Squirrel||Many Glacier Hotel Lobby||Many Glacier Hotel Fireplace|
Birds: 100. Mammals: 11.
Many Glacier, MT
Wednesday, July 6, 2005: This morning I joined the bird walk around Swiftcurrent Lake, led by Dave Benson (mentioned in yesterday's account, he teaches at Marian College in Indy). Before we left the hotel, he pointed out a Moose on the other side of the lake. It wasn't very birdy today. We only found about 30 species, including Loon, Dipper, both Kinglets, and Fox Sparrow. We walked around Swiftcurrent Lake and down to Stump Lake before returning to the hotel, about 3 miles. Afterward, we went to look at a Calliope Hummingbird nest near the Swiftcurrent Lodge. The nest was there, but no hummingbird. (In fact, I saw no hummingbirds during the entire trip.)
After that, I started the drive to Lake McDonald. I ate lunch at St. Mary's, then drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Lake McDonald. As it was midday, the parking lots were crowded, so I decided to just drive through this time and return later when the crowds were smaller. My next stop was the Trail of the Cedars boardwalk. Unfortunately, it was being repaired and you couldn't walk the whole thing. I ended up doing both sides to the construction area and backtracking, making the walk about 1.5 miles. It's quite different from the eastern part of glacier and I enjoyed being among the big trees.
|Hummingbird Nest||From the Loop||Bird Woman Falls|
|Bird Woman Falls||Haystack Falls|
Later in the day I returned to Going-to-Sun Road and took a number of photos. The parking lot a half-mile west of Logan Pass had Mountain Goats. When I got to Logan, I found a Bighorn Sheep in the parking lot. Some people who didn't have any sense were chasing the sheep trying to get a picture. Me, I just found a spot that the sheep was being driven to (safely tucked behind a parked car) and waited.
|Mountain Goats||Bighorn Sheep|
|Bighorn Sheep||Columbian Ground-Squirrel|
Later, I stopped by McDonald Creek at the end of Lake McDonald to look for swifts. Pretty soon, I spotted my life Vaux's Swifts overhead.
Birds: 110. Mammals: 12.
Lake McDonald, MT