Monday, September 14, 2015

The Iceberg Lake Trail, Part I.

Probably the prettiest hike we took on the trip was the one to Iceberg Lake. It's a pretty darned popular day-hike in the Park, so one is rarely alone on the trail. Also, it's a relatively easy hike of ten miles round-trip with not a lot of climbing. There's a steep section in the first mile, but after that it's petty steady and easy going.

One thing that I can say about this hike is that there is a lot to look at. Some of the route passes through forest, but the lion's share is above tree line and through meadows and open country with limitless views. Since the surrounding peaks loom as vast walls of steep rock, you often feel as though you are in a tremendous amphitheater. This is completely true of the terminus of the hike in the huge glacial bowl where Iceberg Lake is located.

Iceberg Lake was obviously the location of a glacier in recent times. In fact, there's a pretty extensive snowfield that lies just above the lake, hanging on the rocky slopes even late into summer. And the lake is colored with "glacial flour" (finely ground rock) which is produced by glacial action and gives the water a striking emerald hue. In heavy snow years the lake stays full of the icebergs for which it is named, but since there was very low snow in the winter of 2014/15, we arrived to find only two very tiny icebergs floating around on the opposite side of the lake.

Also in normal years, the area is packed with wildlife. I'd been told that it was one of the best areas to see many of the Park's signature creatures. However, 2015 was anything but a normal year for Glacier National Park. We were lucky enough to have pretty clear skies. The forest fires were still holding off the day we made the hike and the air was barely tinged with smoke. It wasn't as clear as the previous day, but almost so.

As for the wildlife, we managed to see a grouse, several types of resident rodents, and a vast herd of Bighorn sheep.

Today I will post photos of the hike from the start until just before we arrived at the Lake.

I had stayed behind at the truck to work on my camera equipment while the others pushed on. So it took me  a while to catch up to them. Here was Andy and Bobby ahead of me as I struggled to find the rest of the group. The air was really clear that day and the views would stop you every few steps.

Scenery to die for.

Vast peaks rising all around us.

We happened upon this grouse. She was speaking to us constantly, or to her two nearly-grown chicks. She seemed very nervous to have us so near her babies, but the pair of youngsters hardly seemed to notice us.

This was the drop-off of a really high waterfall. But it was almost impossible to see it because it plummets into a very narrow chasm. Getting down to a spot where you could take an effective photograph would be difficult at best, and probably very dangerous.

As good a video as I could shoot considering my choices.

We got to a point where we could see ahead to the huge glacial cirque that hold the lake.

Nice shot showing the snowfields above the lake.

I like this shot. Indicative of the rugged terrain through which we were hiking.

And almost to the lake we looked up to see a truly vast herd of Bighorn sheep. The herd seemed to be composed entirely of ewes and lambs. If there were any adult males in there, I didn't see them. This is just a piece of the herd and is a crop of a telephoto shot. Currently I have only one low-quality telephoto lens and it frankly takes grainy photos at distance. When I can, I will purchase a better lens for long shots.

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