Monday, September 27, 2010
Update: I will be offering my work at the 2010 Renton Holiday Baazar at the Renton Community Center, November 19th & 20th. Details to follow closer to the dates!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
This is a highly scenic trip that deserves more than the single day I was able to give it. The loop trip totals 19 miles, and it is very easy to tack on more with various side trips, such as No Name Lake pictured to the left, or maybe Upper Two Medicine Lake.
I got an early start to my hike, heading out shortly before first light. Several years ago I did the hike to Dawson Pass on a climb of Flinsch Peak and there were numerous bear warning signs posted along the trail - a definite attention getter when hiking solo! Fortunately, such was not the case for this visit (again, solo).
I made a quick side trip to No Name Lake, a very scenic lake set to the backdrop of cliffs in a deep cirque. After a short break, I retraced my steps back to the main trail and followed it up to Dawson Pass and the scenery that awaited me. From the pass, the South Lewis Range stood tall to the southwest, with Mount St. Nicholas dominating the group. High clouds were beginning to creep in from the west.
I oscillated over climbing Flinsch Peak again throughout my hike. I was sporting a broken toe, and had a lot of miles ahead of me. The climb consists of steep, loose scree with some class 4 below the summit. I decided to side with caution and focus on the hike. But on its upper slopes, the temptation became too much. Up I went!
I kept my visit on the summit brief as a system was clearly moving in. I descended upon a herd of bighorn sheep lazily sprawled about the meadows below. The weather was deteriorating fast now. As I traversed below Flinsch Peak toward Mount Morgan, I was certain to get wet as the skies grew black. However, it never materialized.
Just below Mount Morgan, I passed some backpackers who were equally nervous about the the weather. Coming from the other direction, they were heading into it. Their destination was No Name Lake for the evening. Lucky!
I rounded Mount Morgan and traversed to Pitamakin Pass, passing several groups of day hikers - one pair in cotton t-shirts, shorts and sandals with aspirations of completing the 19 mile loop trip. They had a lot of miles ahead of them in deteriorating conditions.
At the pass a bear warning sign greeted me. Fortunately, there were no signs or sightings of it on this day.
I had hoped to photograph Flinsch Peak above Oldman Lake from at or near the pass, but it was less than appealing under gray skies (I was now east of the divide now where skies were less threatening). Instead, I continued my uneventful descent down Dry Creek and back to Two Medicine Lake, completing a 22 mile day with my added side trips. It was a good, though exhausting day.
Friday, September 10, 2010
The lake is probably most famous for its view from the Wild Goose Island viewpoint, shown here. On a perfect morning, one can catch the reflection of the surrounding mountains in the still waters of the lake. On such mornings, photographers line up side by side in anticipation.
I arrived at the viewpoint on such a morning, after driving over Logan Pass from Avalanche Campground on the west side. In comparison, the viewpoint is only a 1.5 mile drive for those staying at Rising Sun! Fortunately, I was still first to arrive and set up.
Within moments, several other photographers arrived and set up next to me. They were all very pleasent people and a lot of fun to share the morning the with, as is typically the case.
I learned that one photographer in particular had been trying to capture the lake's early reflection for over a week, but had experienced only windy conditions. This morning we were blessed with perfectly still water, so my timing was fortunate. Throw the excellent clouds in just begging to turn pink at first light, and it was a bonus!
To add to our experience, we also enjoyed a full moon to the south. The first image above shows it creating a "halo" as it dips behind the distant peak about 20 minutes before sunrise.
Soon the sky began to turn a brilliant pink as the clouds caught the first gentle rays of the sun - always a glorious experience. This was the highlight of the morning and the sound of camera shutters reflected this (pun intended)! As the sun rose, the cloud layer thickened and the morning turned overcast. Of course, we photographers retreated knowing we had witnessed a spectacular morning, evident by the smiles on our faces.
Just down the road a ways is the trailhead for St. Mary and Virginia Falls at the south end of the lake. Both are just a short hike from the road; 1.2 miles for St. Mary Falls and 1.8 for Virginia Falls. Both are worth the effort!
St. Mary is by far the most popular of the two, and can become quite crowded at certain times. Still, as long as one has some patience, opportunities will present themselves.
As with most waterfalls, cloudy days are best for photography to minimize contrast. Excellent compositions can be had from the bridge, as well as the rock on the far side. (Be careful on the rock though, it can be slick when wet. During my visit, a young lady slipped and fell into the swift current, requiring a rescue.)
During slightly diffused light, photographers must be aware of the potential of the railing shadow across the water during morning hours. Sometimes it can be faint and not so obvious if one isn't watching for it.
Virginia Falls is a mere 0.6 miles further up the trail and is also quite scenic. Compositions abound for photographers courtesy of a path that descends down to lower vantage points. Unfortunately, the sun decided to make an extended appearance during my visit and the scene became much too high in contrast with dark shadows and the brightness of the sun glarring off the water. Did I mention the benefit of photographing waterfalls on cloudy days?
The St. Mary area is a must visit for anyone spending time in Glacier National Park. Don't miss it!