Thursday, August 12, 2010

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park

Logan Pass at the end of the Going-to-the-Sun road is widely considered the scenic pinnacle of Glacier National Park for tourists. Incredible sunrises, sunsets, flower displays and abundant wildlife can all be found here. If one is willing to walk a trail for a couple of miles, these characteristics improve even more.

So it is surprising to know that when the park was first established in 1910, this popular destination was seldom visited. The Going-to-the-Sun Road, always on the list of most scenic roads in America, did not exist yet. Two Medicine Lake, located on the southeast side of the park off Highway 2, actually served as the popular gateway into the park.

Now, Two Medicine Lake is a pretty nice place to visit as well, and I highly recommend it. But it's no Logan Pass. It's interesting to see how the face of an establishment can change. Reynolds Mountain standing tall above the meadows of Logan Pass has become an iconic image of the park and adorned by millions of visitors every year. Yet at the parks inception, it stood in solitude.

Animals do abound around the visitors' center at Logan Pass, and should be treated as wild and respected. Sheep, deer, mountain goats, marmots and the ocasional bear can be seen in the area. Unfortunately, many of the hooved animals can be seen in the parking lot looking for handouts, licking the front grills of vehicles for salt, and eating food and associated garbage left behind (often intentially by picture seekers hoping to draw the animals attention). It's also important to note that the sheep can be particularly aggressive here. Remember, these animals are wild and can be unpredictable.

Ah, but back to beauty of the area. Logan Pass can be spectacular most anytime, but is most special in early morning and late afternoon. I found afternoons to be my favorite for photographing the meadows and peaks of the area. Light here lasts until about an hour before sunset.

Mornings can be nice too, however, and offer a better chance of seeing wildlife in their natural setting instead of the parking lot and roadside.

Last year I visited the park for an extended backpacking trip the first week of August. The flowers were very nice, but a little past their prime in all but a few areas. So this year I decided to plan my visit a week earlier - the last week of July. As was the case at home here in Washington, Glacier NP experienced a late spring and flowers were late in arriving. Instead of catching them at their peak, I was greeted only by yellow Glacier Lilies - the first flower of the season typically to appear. Just when you think you have Mother Nature figured out...

If planning a visit to Glacier NP, there is something much more predictable you should be aware of - the road closures on Going-to-the-Sun Road for construction, Mon -Thur. Due to the closure times, Logan Pass was not available for sunrise or sunset photography for all but a couple of days (weekend) during my visit. As we head into late summer and fall, the sun's schedule will be more on our side. But until then, best plan your itinerary accordingly. This will remain true in coming years as well due to the length of the project, which was recently lengthened by the Stimulus Package.

I hope to share more images and stories from this park soon, including more from along Going-to-the-Sun Road, a thru hike of the Highline Trail, the St. Mary area, Two Medicine Lake, and a 21 mile loop hike over Dawson and Pitamakin Pass with a repeat ascent of Flinsch Peak. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Don!
    Finally got a chance to check out your website, impressive. I especially like all the help and suggestions to get and improve my(the reader) photo's. I was laid up for a week and a half by achilles tendonitis but had reached Wisconsin so was able heal and get treated at home. Hoping to be back on the road this Saturday 8/28. Again gotta thank you for the bag transport, it made the climb of Going to the Sun an enjoyable one,and the minor inconvenience due to our communication miscue is now just a great story that is part of my ride. thnx Ed Moore