Camera: Nikon D50
Lens: Nikon 50 mm Prime
Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure: 1/20 second
Exposure Compensation: None
Workflow: RAW Image desaturated, contrast increased and highlights blown out in Photoshop
Archive for August, 2010
Back when we hatched this trip, the plan was for the whole family to run the Seeley Lake Challenge sprint triathlon together. That’s a 600 yard swim, 10 mile bike ride and 3 mile run. It generally takes between 1 and 2 hours. But Tiffany got swamped with work and I had some respiratory adjusting to do with the introduction of a dander machine (i.e. cat) in the house so our training regime never got off the ground.
But Ruth, well, she’d been training for this all summer and despite the rest of the family bowing out, she decided to go for it. Which is awesome. At the last minute, Rachel decided to join her (at this point, no one knew Rachel couldn’t swim…).
On your marks…
Ruth makes good time in the swim (but loses a little time drying off, changing clothes, curling her hair, putting on makeup before she starts her bike ride). But Rachel is nowhere to be found. We suspect that she may have drowned. Finally… she dog paddle out of the water to where Ruth is still getting dressed:
Ruth has some fans… and it’s off on the bikes!
and then running…
And then the final stretch to the finish!
And then we all celebrated.
Oh, yeah. The event organizer saw me with my camera and gave me her contact info. I became the “official” photographer for the event. She even paid me $1. My first dollar as a photographer!
During our adventure on Glacier National Park’s Highline Trail, we saw some amazing sights in still life. But I think it’s the wild life that we saw that will be the most memorable.
As we drove from Flathead to the trail head at the top of the Going to the Sun Highway, Rachel regaled us with a dramatic reading of an account of Glacier National Park’s famous “Night of the Grizzlies.” The story, which has become foundational Montana lore, relates the tale of two fatal grizzly bear attacks in the same night, August 13, 1967. One such attack involved a mother and her two cubs, just a few hundred yards from the Granite Park Chalet.
We were hiking on August 12.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Bear with me.
Right off the bat, we saw the GNP staples. A mountain sheep and a mountain goat within 100 feet of each other and only about 5-minutes into the hike. I’m still suspicious that they were animatronic, placed there before the sun comes up by enterprising tour guides hoping for fat tips from obese RV tourists.
As we hiked, countless ground squirrels crossed the trail all around us. Living in Glacier, they had developed no fear whatsoever of people (and probably come to associate us with food), so they came very, very close. Then, as I was looking down a valley, I heard Tiffany squeal.
That’s Tiff’s Universal Furry Animal Face™ and she’s making it because a marmut had crested a large rock to role into the lunch spot of some fellow hikers. The marmut was very brave… as you can see from the pictures, Tiffany was not. When I later asked her why she had been so trepidatious to feed a furry friend from her hand, she explained that the marmut was a wild animal. Probably smart.
After our close encounter with rodent kind, we set off again, and an hour later, were shocked by another – larger – sample of GNP wildlife. Equally brave, this four-point mule dear marched past the trail at a distance of about 50 yards. I followed him backward for a short distance, when he came across a steep drop framed by trees. I couldn’t have picked a better location if I was creating a digital deer with CGI! At which point, Muley posed. Literally posed. For 5 minutes, he stood there until I actually got bored taking pictures (!) and just stopped for a minute to appreciate the situation.
So there we were, euphoric from our wildlife encounters to that point, not thinking about the story we’d heard about that fateful August in 1967 when the Grizzlies reasserted their dominance. As we walked, another hiker hurried toward us on the trail. He warned that there was a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs just around the next bend.
I had never seen a grizzly bear i the wild. I’ve seen black bears (surprisingly, not in Montana, but in Virginia). But never a grizzly bear. And just around the corner – and a mere half mile from the site of the 1967 attacks – we saw them. Just like the that fateful night, a mother and her two cubs… no more than 250 yards away…
As we watched (and we watched for a long time), the bears walked along the ridge parallel to the trail. The closed the distance slowly until they were 200 yards away, between the Highline Trail that we were on and the Grinnell Glacier Trail. But the two trails merged, and the further they bears moved, the closer they got to the Grinnell Trail. All of the sudden, a man and his two young children rounded a bend and came to within a stone’s throw from the foraging bears. Finally, as we waved them off, they saw the bears and slowly backed away.
Eventually, the bears began to mosey back toward us. As it was about to rain, and everyone was hungry, we decided it was time to go. By the time we left, the bears were withing 100 yards away… and they had noticed us…
We were only in Glacier National Park for about 12 hours, but it felt like we’d been there a week. I can’t wait to go back! More pics below:
From the extreme southwest of Montana, we spend a day in the extreme northwest for some world-class hiking on Glacier National Park’s Highline Trail. Glacier includes some of the most incredible hikes in the world, and the 12-mile Highline Trail is near the top of the class. The first seven miles take you from Logan Pass (the pinnacle of the Going to the Sun Highway), across the ridges to the Granite Park Chalet. The hike entails only 600 feet up and down (the net change in altitude between the start and finish is only 14 feet), so it’s pretty easy, but it cuts through some amazing country.
It’s pretty evident from the photos above, that the weather on our hike was overcast and chilly. Initially, this was disappointing for me as I was hoping for the grand vistas of Glacier National Park, but in retrospect is was a blessing for three reasons. First, by all rights, the Highline Trail in August should have been packed with people. Sure, it’s a long hike, but it’s an easy one that attracts people from around the world. But the weather kept the crowds away; we still saw people, but not too many. Second, the cooler temperatures brought out wildlife – and we saw a lot. Third, while the cliche blue-sky landscapes on this trail are a dime a dozen, the low clouds gave me an opportunity to shoot something unique. The photos are downright spooky at times, but they capture the temperamental personality of Mother Nature. It was stunning.
After a little more than seven miles, you reach the Granite Park Chalet – one of two surviving stone lodges that were built in the park 70 years ago when visitors rode a train to East Glacier and then rode from stop to stop on horseback through the park. We arrived at the Chalet just after the sky made good on its ongoing threat of rain. By the time we walked through the door, we were drenched.
After lunch at the chalet, we realized that we had 4 more miles to go (this time, descending 2,400 feet ) to “The Loop” on the Going to the Sun Highway. We also realized that we were behind schedule (after all the photo and wildlife stops). As we’d left the trailhead, Travis had noted that the last shuttle from the Loop to Logan Pass where we’d parked the car was at 6:15 pM, so we had to haul tail to get there. So we set off down the trail setting a brisk pace until it became clear that someone was going to have to run. Rachel and Travis took off – barely making the last shuttle of the day. And as we descended, the sun finally came out for a few minutes.
Okay, now, I realize that I’ve made several references to wildlife. And posted no pictures. Bear with me (pun intended)… I’ll post that in a second post shortly.
*These photos aren’t necessarily in strict chronological order
After a few days in The Big Hole, we loaded up the cars and drove north to the lake house on Flathead Lake, just outside of Polson. This is a staple of the annual return to Montana, although this year the early August weather wasn’t as cooperative. Cold temperatures hampered by overcast skies and a lot of rain made summer clothes a tough sell and a steady wind across the lake made water-sports difficult. But the lake is the lake and we had a great time!
When we got the the lake, we met up with Rachel’s boyfriend Travis. As a teacher, he hasn’t been able to make our previous family events because they happened too late in August after his classes start, but this time things worked out. Travis showed up at the door after spending a summer of adventure, hiking, camping, hitch-hiking. He had a beard. Which he then gradually reduced over a day or two:
And, of course, we had some fun on the boat too – even though it was cold.
It was beautiful.