Highline Trail, Glacier NP, July 19, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014 This was Randy’s last day with us so I left it up to him to decide what he wanted to do. He decided he wanted to hike the Highline Trail. The trail started up in Logan’s Pass, traversed the cliff, and paralleled the “Garden Wall” which is part of the Continental Divide. The Garden Wall is a rocky spine that separates the Many Glacier area of the park and the Lake McDonald valley. This trail is carved into the Garden Wall. We had seen hikers doing the trail on multiple days now and kept asking ourselves “How can they do that?” We were about to find out. Other people had told us it was scary, but worth the time, so Randy wanted to give it a try. He is also somewhat afraid of heights, but wanted to challenge himself and I was crazy enough to go with him. Bob didn’t want to go with us. His fear of heights kept him from joining us on the “trail of death”. (Those were Bob’s words.) We all slept in this morning from a late night around the campfire, but after making our decision to hike the Highland Trail, we got ourselves moving and were on the road by 9:00. With traffic, and today being Saturday, it took us almost an hour to get up to Logan Pass. When we left the campground (El. 3000′) the temp was 64 degrees. The smokiness in the air was the worst it’s been since we’ve been here. By the time we reached Logan Pass (El. 6,646′) the wind was blowing 20 mph and the temp had dropped to 53 degrees. Brrrr!

People up at the pass were wearing down parkas, gloves, and wool hats. Ran and I had on shorts and light tops. We decided to start out on the trail and if we got too cold we could always turn back. Chances are the trail would be somewhat blocked by the wind. To start, the wind whipped through the exposed valley meadow and it was cold.

Then came the scary part. We had to walk on a rocky path that cut into the cliff, producing a ledge 3-5′ wide with a 1500′ sheer drop. Randy was goofing off here, but the trail became more treacherous.

To make us feel safer, they provided hikers with a green garden hose “handrail”. Really?

The views were spectacular when we had the courage to stop a minute and look. Randy kept telling me to keep going….not to stop.

We came upon this snowfield on the path. What now? Do we have to hike over it? Once we got closer, we could see that the trail went between it and the rock wall.

We could see waterfalls everywhere and down into the valley far below. The cars were tiny specks from above. The highway looked like a tiny, thin line. 

Once we got past the cliff part, the trail led us into the forest where marmots ran wild.

Parts of the trail took us over snowfields and running creeks that cascaded as waterfalls farther down the cliff.

The trail took all different forms…through meadows, traversing the side of the mountain, and sheer cliff dropoffs.

Our goal was to go 3.5 miles to the halfway point where switchbacks lead you to a huge snowfield where hikers usually stop to eat their lunch sitting on the huge boulders there. We got to the point (with some direction from other hikers) that we could see where we wanted to be, but the smoky clouds began settling down on the mountain tops. It would be cold on the snowfield if the wind was blowing across the valley. It would probably be nice on a warm, sunny day, but not so much today.

What little sun there was, was totally blocked out and it looked like it could even rain. If it rained with lightning, that would be a disaster up here on the mountain. We made a decision to turn around and head back. The walk back was easy as the majority of the trail was level. We encountered 1 mountain goat on the path. He looked at us and we looked at him. Who was going to move? We let him pass before continuing on.

We still had to face the “cliff” on the way back, but somehow it didn’t seem as narrow or as scary as it did the first time. We felt the wind on the cliff a little stronger on the way back, but we were braver now.

The hard part was over, but we still had 250′ of verticle climb to finish up the hike to the parking lot. We felt alive and so accomplished after our hike. We were proud of ourselves. 

Down at the parking lot, the wind was still whipping the flags and it was cold. We hopped in the car, put on the heat, and turned on the heated seats. We were toasty all the way back. Our hike out took 1 hour and 20 minutes (with stops for photos, etc.) and the walk back took 1 hour. We were back at the campground by 2:30. We told Bob all about our adventures and he was happy to have stayed back at the campground. We decided we had time to check out a new whiskey distillery down the road in Coram, MT. It was called Glacier Distillery.

It was cute little place, nicely done with a tasting room.

You could taste a sample of 4 whiskeys of your choice for $4.

We ordered a sampler and gave it a try. Man! By the looks on our faces after taking a sip, you could tell they were nasty tasting.

We had a few laughs, took some water to wash away the taste, and we were on our way.

Next stop…Packers Roost–a local tavern. It was named after all the men who came out of the mountains packing their goods looking for a place to rest.

We had a couple of Moose Drools and PBRs and chatted with the locals. It was a very cool bar inside.

After finishing our beers, we headed back to the campground and hung out until dinner. To celebrate our hike today and conquering our fears, Bob grilled steaks and we had a great “last” dinner together. Randy bought some Jiffy Pop at the camp store, so we had that old fashioned childhood favorite around the campfire.

It must have been improved since we were kids because it didn’t turn black and burn. We shared one with the family next door who had 3 boys. They loved it!

We had a great campfire and enjoyed a beautiful night. We turned in at 11:00 as Randy had to catch an early flight. What a great last day we had with Randy!

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