Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Nice Hike in Herron Park, Montana…

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While in Kalispell Montana we decided if we mountain hike more than 5 miles we will take the next day off to recover by doing something else or by doing a shorter hike. One day when the temperatures were sweltering (the high was 91 degrees that day) we took off for the cool waters of Flathead Lake in Lakeside Montana. We sent the entire afternoon lounging by the water and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Before heading home for dinner we stopped at Tamarack Brewing Co. for a nice cold craft beer to cap off a great day.

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Another evening at happy hour with our new RV friends and near neighbors, Jerry and Nancy, we were talking about places to hike nearby. We mentioned we were looking for some easier hikes so Jerry and Nancy had some ideas. They lived in Lakeside for many years so they know this area well. They suggested we go to Herron Park and hike the hills there for one of our easier day’s hike.

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Herron Park is about 440 acres in size and is owned and managed by Flathead County. Some of the trails spill over into the land owned by the Plum Creek Timber Company and onto an easement provided by John Chase. After a short drive west we pulled into Herron Park and found a trailhead for the horse trail.

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As the name of the trail suggest this trail is for horses as well as hikers/bikers.  Along this mostly open grassland trail we walked along as zillions of grasshoppers cleared out in front of us as we hiked. As we entered the edge of the Ponderosa Pine forested area we continued on  until we turned onto a spur trail to the Plum Creek Road (on an abandoned dirt road). We followed it as we slowly climbed in elevation until we found the Overlook Trail which we followed to the top of the small mountain (about 3850 in elevation).

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At the top, at an area called Foy’s Overlook, we were able to see down into several of the surrounding valleys below, including a valley where Foy’s Lake is located. Foy’s Lake has a brilliant blue color primarily due to its alkalinity and because of the presence of a glacial material often referred to as glacial milk. Whatever the reason the lake is stunningly blue and a wonder to look at from atop the mountain. Also from the top it was fun to watch the hawks soaring over the tree tops…

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As we continued down on the overlook loop trail we heard lots of nuthatches and chickadees. I called up a group of black capped chickadees and some landed within a few feet of me as I continued my “phsssshing” sound to attract them. It was fun seeing these little guys as I have only seen them one other time when I was visiting the temperate rain forests in Northwestern Washington state.

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We kept giving up elevation and found the Direct Route” trail which took us back to our car. We had only planned on about a 2-3 mile hike but Sharon’s mapping app recorded nearly 4.5 miles. Oh well, so much for a down day of hiking…We are certainly enjoying our stay in Montana and are glad we decided to stay for a month as we have lots of plans for more to see!

NOTE: We are in Kalispell Montana until September 12, 2016. Then we will head over toward Spokane Washington most likely…

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hiking the Highline Trail to the Haystack Pass…

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The last time we were visited Glacier NP two years ago we hiked the 11.5 mile trail known as the Highline Trail. That was one really great hike… but also very tiring. We remembered the trail in sections with the first section being from Logan Pass hugging cliffs to the Haystack Pass, then the section from the saddle across mountain meadows to the Granite Park Chalet and lastly the grueling stretch from the chalet downward to the Loop parking area where we caught the shuttle back to Logan Pass to our car.

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This time we packed a lunch and decided to forgo doing the entire 11.5 mile hike and opted instead to hike slowly to the saddle, have lunch and then hike back to Logan Pass. Hiking only a mere 7 plus miles instead of 11.5 sounded better because both of us recalled despising that last four miles of the longer hike which was pretty much straight downhill through a previously burned forest. We didn’t find that last section fun nor very appealing.

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The trail seemed to have more people on it this year but they thinned out as we hiked beyond the first mile and even more so before we reached the second mile. The scenery on this hike was simply breathtaking as the timber gave way to sub-alpine flora. Wildflowers were fairly abundant but not nearly as prolific as when we last hiked this trail in the month of July. The bear grass which was so magnificent in our July 2014 hike had already finished flowering for the most part in August of this year.

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We did see some mountain goats high atop the mountain ridges above our trail and also ran across a lone ruffed grouse who showed us the way on the trail for awhile before wandering off into the brush. As always, when in Glacier, we were staring in wonder at the beauty of such a place and are ever thankful we as a society were wise enough to protect this beauty.

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As we reached the saddle for lunch we enjoyed looking across the horizon and down to Lake McDonald far below. The Going to the Sun road also squiggled like a snake below the trail. Little cars moved slowly toward Logan Pass… Lunch was fantastic at the top and it is always amazing how good a simple sandwich can taste on the hiking trail. Topping it off with a few grapes we finished up and started the slow 3.6 mile trek back to Logan Pass.

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We are glad to be here a month as it will give us time to explore a few new trails but we decided we had to start with some of our favorites while the weather has been so great…

NOTE: We are in Kalispell Montana until September 12, 2016. Then we will head over toward Spokane Washington most likely…