Glacier National Park: Hidden Lake

Bearhat Mountain, Hidden Lake, and Mountain Goats

As we had the previous morning, we woke early on Friday, August 3. Our goal was to return early to Logan Pass to do the short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook and hopefully see some Mountain Goats and other wildlife. Then in the afternoon we’d go over to Many Glacier and reserve boat tickets for a hike over the weekend.

I woke with my alarm at 6:30. It was another beautiful, crisp morning.

I offered to drive because the ridiculous Expedition we’d been given by Enterprise was roomier than Dan’s Super-Roo. Plus, since we were only going to Logan Pass and no further on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, I knew I’d be able to drive it.

We piled in and first drove out of the Park to St. Mary Lodge to get some breakfast at the coffee shop in the lobby. Hot coffee, yogurt, and a ham sandwich eased my hangover.

A case in the lodge’s lobby displayed a taxidermied female Grizzly Bear.

I gotta say that the story about this “rogue” bear seems pretty overwrought.

Image: Sean M. Santos

The drive up to Logan Pass was just fine. At about the time that the chasm along the road began to make me feel nervous, we arrived. And it was none too soon, either. Even though it was only about half an hour later than we’d arrived the day before, we nabbed one of the last available parking spots.

Image: Sean M. Santos

As we had the day before, we used the restrooms off of the visitor center patio and got ourselves ready out front of the building before setting off. We started up the path at 8:30am.

From the visitor center, the trail follows the Continental Divide above Logan Pass and below Clements Mountain. It leaves the Divide and crosses a wet meadow (all on a boardwalk) before climbing gently as a packed earth trail up and over Hidden Lake Pass (crossing the Divide from east to west as it does). Shortly beyond, Hidden Lake Overlook is at 1.5 miles with the lake itself accessible another 1.5 miles farther on and down a slope.

Clements Mountain

My four companions ahead of me on the boardwalk headed toward Clements Mountain reminded me of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion approaching the Emerald City of Oz.

Mount Oberlin

With Clements Mountain ahead, Mount Oberlin dominated the view to the right (northwest), and Reynolds Mountain was to the left (southeast).

Reynolds Mountain

The Garden Wall, Haystack Butte, and Bishops Cap

Northeast, over our right shoulders, the great expanse of the Garden Wall still shaded the valley below.

Pollock Mountain above the Garden Wall

Purple Monkey Flower

At our feet, the boardwalk protected the delicate plantlife of the moist alpine meadow the trail crossed.

The boardwalk also helped to keep people on the trail so that they didn’t trample the little plants making the most of a brief summer.

Dan pointed out the remains of an old cable that had been laid in an attempt in the first half of the twentieth century to connect communications between Logan Pass and West Glacier over Hidden Lake Pass.

Clements Mountain and Bighorn Sheep

As we neared Clements Mountain, groups of people standing along the trail indicated wildlife. Sure enough, it was a herd of Bighorn Sheep grazing in the sunshine.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Video: Brandon Hayes and Angela Hayes (no relation)

Bighorn Sheep

As we watched, the herd slowly moved down from a ridge and came closer. Eventually, they crossed the path.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, named for their large horns that can weigh up to 30 pounds on males, inhabit alpine meadows and grassy mountain slopes in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the United States. Their ability to climb steep terrain allows them to find cover from predators. Traveling in flocks and feeding on grasses and shrubs throughout the year, they are one of the few species that can survive winters at high elevations.

National Park Service
Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Clements Mountain

After the area where the sheep grazed, the trail rose up one of the flanks of Clements Mountain on its way to Hidden Lake Pass.

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain

Dwarf Paintbrush and Buek’s Groundsel

Video: Sean M. Santos

Little rivulets of snowmelt crossed the meadow on their ways to collecting as proper streams, rivers, and lakes. This rivulet was headed ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean.

Clements Mountain

Despite the boardwalk, the trail, and the copious signage about staying on them both, multiple people decided the signs weren’t actually for them. The parents of these children, whom we ended up near at multiple points on this walk, absolutely ignored all the signage and actively encouraged their children to break the rules.

Clements Mountain

Reynolds Mountain

Bearhat Mountain

The trail climbed into Hidden Lake Pass, and Bearhat Mountain emerged in front of us, although its lower portions were still hidden.

Clements Mountain

Continental Divide

Bearhat Mountain

Hidden Lake

But once we were over the ridge at at the overlook, we could see Hidden Lake.

Bearhat Mountain and Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake, on the western side of the Continental Divide, is one of the Park’s many lakes in glacier-carved depressions.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Reynolds Mountain

Hidden Lake

After gazing at the lake from the overlook, we discussed what we wanted to do. None of us had much desire to go all the way down to the lake, but we hadn’t seen any Mountain Goats, which we’d hoped to see. So we decided to continue on the trail for at least a short distance. 

Ever since Virgin Islands National Park, Sean and I have had a tradition of getting a small stuffed animal of a species we’d seen in each Park. One animal to represent that Park. As we rapidly approach the half-way point in our odyssey, I’ve begun to strategize which animal we select. For instance, we’re holding off on getting a Grizzly Bear until Katmai. We did not get a Mountain Goat for Glacier Bay, opting instead for a Humpback Whale, because I figured we’d get the Mountain Goat for Glacier (or perhaps North Cascades). We already had a marmot (Yosemite) and a Bighorn Sheep (Zion), so I was hoping for a Mountain Goat for Glacier.

American Robin

We spotted a robin. I always enjoy seeing common wildlife from Chicago in the National Parks.

Mountain Goat

And then, boom, we spotted our Mountain Goat strolling toward us up the trail.

We stopped, along with a family and a few other hikers, to give the goat room. It moved off the trail to munch in some shrubbery immediately adjacent to it.

While we were still standing there taking pictures, a middle-aged white man hiker blew somewhat roughly through our little assemblage. He continued down the trail at a steady clip, and walked right up near the goat, which spooked.

People are the worst.

Video: Sean M. Santos

Dwelling in the rocky cliffs at high elevations throughout the year, the mountain goat, also known as the Rocky Mountain goat, is well suited for survival in the mountains. With two layers of wool, a dense undercoat covered by an outer layer of long hollow hairs, the species can survive temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit and winds of 100 mph. Specialized cloven hooves with traction-creating inner pads and dewclaws provide sure footing on steep, rocky slopes of up to 60 degrees, beyond the reach of most predators. If threatened, they use their size, agility, and sharp horns to protect themselves. Herbivores with a diet of grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, moss, lichen, twigs, and even foliage from conifers, mountain goats have the ability to stay in the alpine through the long winter months free from disturbance.

National Park Service
Mountain Goat with Buek’s Groundsel and Wild Chives

The Mountain Goat continued on its way and acknowledged us as it walked past. We noticed it had a radio collar.

Hoary Marmot

Then, adding to our mammal extravaganza, we spotted a Hoary Marmot.

Mountain Goat Ewe and Kid

A little farther along, maybe thirty yards from the trail, a Mountain Goat ewe and her kid had settled down for a morning rest, looking for all the world that they were contemplating the beauty of Hidden Lake as much as anyone.

Video: Sean M. Santos

Lake McDonald

Terrible People

The terrible family with the children were there too, continuing to be terrible by walking around trampling plants off the trail. Barbara, who is, again, a Chicago Public Schools high school teacher, had had enough and loudly declaimed, “Stay on the trail please.”

Bearhat Mountain and Hidden Lake

Least Chipmunk

Hidden Lake

We started back.

Mount Brown

Gunsight Mountain

Reynolds Moundain

Wild Chives

Mountain Goat scat

Bearhat Mountain and Engelmann Spruce

Mountain Goats

On the way we spotted a few more Mountain Goats off in the distance on the slopes above the lake.

Reynolds Mountain

Heavy Runner Mountain

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain (left) and Heavy Runner Mountain

We passed a film crew that we’d noticed earlier at Logan Pass. We asked them what they were filming, and they said they were shooting a piece about the Park for the Smithsonian Channel.

Neat!

Reynolds Mountain and the Hanging Gardens

Hermit Thrush

Image: Sean M. Santos

In the photo above, Angela and I are discussing the coolness factor of the older female National Park Service Rangers we’d just passed.

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain and Heavy Runner Mountain

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain and Heavy Runner Mountain with Saint Mary Lake

We noticed a large group of people stopped up ahead. Quickly, word spread up the trail that there was a Grizzly Bear far across the meadow on the opposite slopes.

Grizzly Bear

People were helping each other spot the bear, which looked like a light boulder against the green of the meadow. It was easier to spot when it moved. (It’s almost in the exact center of the photo above.)

Grizzly Bear

I helped a man who just couldn’t spot it. Finally, I snapped some images with my telephoto lens and zoomed in on them on the LCD screen so that he could see what I was talking about. 

He went back to scanning with his binoculars. Then he saw it.

“Holy shit! It’s huge!”

We reached the boardwalk and continued down.

Reynolds Mountain

The Highline

Beneath Logan Pass, we could see hikers on the Highline. I paused and grabbed a video tracing the entire route up to the Haystack Butte saddle.

The Garden Wall

Clements Mountain

Just at the end of the trail back at the visitor center, we noticed a white woman decked out in Native American gear. Good grief.

Despite some of the people, it was a great little three mile hike/walk, packed with wildlife, which took us about two and three-quarter hours.

Logan Pass Visitor Center

In the visitor center, Sean and I stamped our passports and bought postcards. I took photos of the wildflower ID exhibition, which has come in handy. Angela picked up Death in Glacier National Park. And I got The Glacier Park Reader. I’ve really been digging the anthologies of writing about the different Parks that’s becoming a thing.

Logan Pass Visitor Center

Multiple vehicles were slowly circling and stalking in the parking area looking for people who were leaving. A woman walked with us to our spot while her husband drove around to meet her. I thought for a moment that there was going to be a fight between her and another car, but it was fine.

With that, we started the drive back down to St. Mary, during which Angela regaled us with morbid selections from her new book.

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