Day five opened with the drumming of rain against the outside of the rental home. Several half-awake and questioning faces emerged from various rooms into the main living space where I was sleeping on the sofa. An efficient but effective, “go back to sleep” from our meet-up leader gave us all the gift of a few more hours of shut-eye. When I’m out of town, there’s always a push and pull between wanting to do and see everything, all the time, regardless of conditions with the very real need to get rest. The one feeds the other. It’s always nice when Mother Nature makes the decision to throttle back a bit easier on you and on this morning it was nice to catch some extra recharge in the batteries.
The rain passed and we decided that day five would best be spent on the yet unexplored west side of the park. Our route would take us along the notable Going-to-Sun Road that transects Glacier National Park. Like most access in Glacier National Park, Going-to-Sun Road is limited time only! I read that each spring when the road must be plowed to make way for traffic, up to eighty feet of snow can be anticipated in spots! Eighty-feet! I can’t even fathom what that looks like. The road is typically opened in June and closes in October. Over fifty miles of highway, the peak of the Going-to-Sun Road near Logan Pass is a series of narrow switchbacks set amidst an impossible ledge featuring equally steep climb and fall on each side of the precarious highway. Add some rain and fog into the mix and it was quite the dicey drive! We stopped along the way as we could, and I found some time to inspect a few of the unfamiliar wildflowers blooming within the park, like the Rock Ledge Penstemon. Should I return again in the future, I’ll definitely make more of an effort to document the road itself through this mountain pass. On this particular afternoon, visibility was low and conditions were wet.
Each side of the park has distinctly different character. Instead of the dry, vast, unimaginably epic mountains on the east side, the west side was green, lush, thick, and wet. The west side resembled the Appalachians more to me in the rain forest-like growth and rushing streams. And it was just that—a lush, rushing stream through the forest—that caught our eye while driving along the highway. A quick stop turned into a good bit more exploration when we all realized that the stream we were photographing must spill into Lake McDonald only a stone’s throw behind us. Shoes were quickly discarded and uncomfortable looks adorned faces as we all awkwardly walked the uneven stones across the icy waterway and along the shoreline trying to figure how to best frame up the stream’s spillway into the lake. The conditions were pretty monotone; however, the characteristic colors (reds, yellows, oranges) of the stones along the creek and lakebed were especially saturated underneath the water, giving the frame enough pop to carry in my opinion. Some might have been miserable with the weather conditions—a constant cool drizzle. For me, this was a welcome break. There’s nothing quite like finding good water on an overcast, rainy day!
Next up, Avalanche Lake. A relatively short hike—made longer mentally by the dark, overcast, rainy conditions—landed us on the shores of Avalanche Lake. Unfortunately, the views were non-existent. Fog filtered over the invisible peaks somewhere above and settled low onto the water’s surface. We were all left to imagine the grandeur of the place during better conditions. Despite the steady drizzle, many other visitors lingered likewise along the lakeshore. Our workshop leader, probably sensing a bit of the frustration with the weather conditions, decided to provide a colorful target for everyone to put the lens on—himself! Wading out into the icy lake and up onto a discarded stump, his glacial blue jacket reflected beautifully into the lake waters and contrasted the monotone atmospheric conditions. We all clicked away, if for no other reason than to exercise the shutter after walking all the way up to this destination!
We rushed around and stood faithfully in chilly winds awaiting sunset on day five; the light never really materialized though.
Day six we planned an early-morning adventure up to Hidden Lake and surrounds. Our plans didn’t quite materialize, however. Stay tuned!