Thursday, July 9, 2014 At 3:45 AM a couple of gusts of wind came through the campground and shook the trailer. I heard it and felt it. The vent flap for the stove started flapping with the wind, so I got up and went outside to close it. I looked up at the mountains and could barely see them. It was so hazy that all I could see was their outline. Even with a 3/4 moon shining, it was hard to see them. We found out from the Ranger this morning that the smokiness was due to forest fires in Alaska. If you remember, we had the same kind of situation in southern Montana, but they said that was from the fires in Canada. (We heard nothing about the Alaska fires on the news.)
We got moving early as we wanted to do some hiking today. Our original plan was to catch the free shuttle at the Visitor’s Center to avoid driving on the Going-To-The-Sun Road with all its construction and avoid the limited parking at the trailhead. We left the campground around 9 AM and checked in with the Ranger at the entrance gate. She said traffic had been light and she thought we wouldn’t have any trouble finding parking at the St. Mary Falls trailhead. So we decided to drive the 10.5 miles on the Going-To-The-Sun Road (with a 10 minute delay for construction). There was no breeze, so the mountains again showed their reflection in the lake.
This is where we waited for 15 minutes due to construction.
The road was dusty as we made our way through the construction zones. We had to keep our windows closed to keep out the dust.
We got to the parking area and got the last parking space at the trailhead. What luck! We noticed this motorcycle and trailer from Wisconsin. Packer fans are everywhere!
The day hike information sheet that we picked up at the Visitor’s Center, described the hike to St. Mary Falls at 0.8 miles of gentle slopes. It was a very pleasant hike, mostly in the shade. We started around 10 AM.
We got great close-up views of the mountains and the lake.
The immensity of some of the trees along the way was astounding as seen here!! What a giant Douglas fir it was!!
We reached the St. Mary Falls and it was well worth the hike. I would hike anywhere to see falls. They are always an awesome sight!
There was no observation platform to view the falls. Nature provided us with smooth rock ledges to use.
The falls cascaded down multiple levels to reach the St. Mary River below. Wow! We crossed a bridge to get to the other side and continued on to Virginia Falls, another 0.3 miles.
We ran into some hikers coming down, who said we just had to check it out. We hadn’t read about it anywhere, but saw signs for it on our hike to St. Mary Falls. So on we went. We had to ford a stream to get to our destination.
It wasn’t long before we reached our ultimate goal.
It was another shady, easy hike and Virginia Falls amazed us! You can walk out on the rock ledges as close as you want to get.
This cascading water was moving at a thunderous speed. I just had to see if I could get closer. I walked over the rock ledges to see if I could get closer. I could reach out and touch the icy, cold water from the falls, but I couldn’t hold my hand in it for very long. My fingers went numb.
From higher up, I could got a different view.
Bob discovered this large pile of animal droppings near the falls. We’ll have to research what animal might have left it.
We hiked back and stopped to take this shot before leaving the falls.
It was an easy walk back to the parking lot–only to find that the trail brought us back to a different location. Ooops! We must have missed a turn somewhere. Not to worry! It was only a short walk down the road to the parking lot and on to the next falls. We drove the 1/2 mile down to the Sunrift Gorge pullout. Again, we got the last parking space. We’ve got the best luck! This hike was only 0.3 miles–an easy walk up a set of stairs to see where the river had cut through the rock to form a narrow gorge.
Sitting there on the ledge was so cooling from the updraft of cool air coming from the stream.
From there, we found our way underneath the bridge to the trailhead for Baring Falls.
Baring Falls trail was a short walk of 0.5 miles that kept descending, so the walk back was a little steeper, but not difficult. The trail followed the river down to the base of the falls. Near the top of the river, it flowed over this piece of green slate creating a beautiful color of water.
We had to cross this unique “two lane” log bridge to get a good view of the falls.
It was spectacular! It fell multiple levels to reach the river below.
We spent some time there enjoying its coolness and then headed back to the car. We had done 4 waterfalls in 2 1/2 hours. What a feat and we weren’t even breathing hard! Ha! We made the easy drive back down and got another great view of St. Mary Lake.
The temp in the mountains was 64 degrees, but by the time we got down to the bottom, it was 82. Still….a perfect day for hiking. The tour boats were out on the lake by now, adding to the beauty.
Things were hopping at the lodge as we came through town.
We got back to the campground around 1:00, picked up some wood for a campfire, and hung out in the shade under the awning watching the campers file in. A constant breeze was blowing as we enjoyed having the campground to ourselves while everyone was out and about doing their thing. We had a later dinner and watched some TV until things cooled off a bit. As the sun set, you could still see the haze around the area. The sun’s rays lit up the clouds as it dipped below the mountains.
Tomorrow we are scheduled to do a 4 hour trail ride out of the Many Glacier area of the park. It doesn’t start until 12:45, so we can sleep in and spend some time checking out the Many Glacier area before our ride.