Lake hikes and beargrass in bloom

This afternoon we went on a quick hike to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. It’s one of the easiest (and thus most heavily traveled) hikes in the park, but the lake payoff at the end is worth the hike. It also winds alongside Avalanche Creek nearly the entire way, so the sound of the rushing water in the dim of the mossy forest is a treat no matter how many times you hike it (and I think I’m closing in on a dozen times). It’s a good thing it’s a gentle hike too, because both Big Country and I were pretty tired at the end… but considering we’re both getting over one heck of a nasty virus, I think we get a bye for being wussies on this hike. Felt good to “sweat the sick out” as we called it, though. Big Country packed Peanut in, and I packed him out. And to tell the truth, carrying 35 pounds of child/backpack on your back makes an easy hike a solid workout.

Fam at avalanche lakeThere are waterfalls running down the bowl into the lake in at least three different places, and even across the length of the lake the din of the tumbling water is a constant presence. While we were hiking it was cloudy and humid, but the clouds cleared a bit while we were at the lake.

There were two chipmunks there that have been completely habituated to people because moronic tourists feed them, so they were climbing all over the rocks we were sitting on, and even climbed on us a bit. Ran over our shoes a few times and once one chipmunk was so bold as to climb up on my leg. Cute, but creepy too; I’d prefer not to get rabies, thanks. Peanut thought it was the funniest thing, of course. When I was very little I called chipmunks “dirt mice” and perhaps we will continue that tradition with Peanut.

There was a beautiful Steller’s Jay flying around the lakeshore while we were there, too, and Big Country got a nice photo of it perched on a beached log.

Steller's jayWe typically only hike to Avalanche Lake once a year, or not even that often, because it’s overrun with people, being one of the most popular hikes in the park, and today we saw a whole lot of people. But we enjoyed the hike anyway, and started keeping a tally of the number of people who commented on Peanut’s backpack being the way to hike, as opposed to using one’s legs.

Beargrass 1

On the drive to the lake and back, of course, there were thousands of beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) blooms in their ghostly glory to be seen through the pine trees. Beargrass bloom in 5- to 7-year cycles, and in clusters. This year is already a great beargrass year; I saw more beargrass today than I have since I first moved to Montana in 2009 (which was also a great beargrass year). And in doing a little beargrass research, I discovered that beargrass is in important part of the fire ecology in alpine regions; the rhizome roots of beargrass aren’t killed by the fire, which allows the plant to bloom again after fire sweeps the area, clearing dead foliage. Beargrass is a lovely plant (don’t pick the blooms! the plant won’t ever bloom again if you do!), and I love seeing the milky flowers contrasting against the dark trunks of the trees.

Beargrass 2

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Another first

We took Jonathan on his first hike in Glacier National Park this past weekend. First we drove most of the way up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The photo above is of Bird Woman Falls. The photo below is of Haystack Falls, another waterfall along the route.

We wanted to go to the top, to Logan Pass, and look around for a while at all the snow still up there, but with the construction we ended up just sitting for a while in an enormous line of cars before we said to heck with it. That’s how it rolls when you’ve got a baby who is hungry and who doesn’t want to be in his car seat anymore. So, improvising, we decided to go on a hike instead. We are trying to get Jonathan used to being in the backpack. We are doing this by taking longer and longer hikes with him, working him up to being in the backpack for a few hours at a time.

We decided to do the Johns Lake hike. It’s short and sweet and it did seem like the perfect amount of time for our son. At the beginning of the hike we could tell he was very interested in all the trees. It occurred to us that while walking through the trees is completely quotidian to us, to Jonathan is was an entirely new experience. Would that I could approach things with such wonder with more frequency in my own life. Having a baby certainly helps with that! We hiked to the lake and kept going to the underpass that goes under Going-to-the-Sun Road and comes out along McDonald Creek.

Remember to wonder, people. Look at something you’ve seen before with new eyes, the eyes of an infant. Contemplate something average in your life and make it wonderful. It’s a refreshing experience.