Friday, September 19, 2014

Glacier Park Running

Leah running down to Lake Ellen Wilson from Gunsight Pass.
I was able to finally get up to Glacier with Leah for Labor Day weekend. We did not do much up-front research, and as a result, ended up on the justifiably popular trails every day.

Day 1 - Jackson Glacier overlook to Gunsight pass to Sperry Chalet to Lake McDonald

With an early departure from Missoula, we were done with the drive, campsite setup, and shuttle by early afternoon. We started running from the Jackson Glacier overlook in a heavy downpour. Fortunately, the rain abaited shortly after starting out, and the run up to Gunsight lake was easy and quick. We continued up to Gunsight Pass, where we chatted for a few minutes with a group of NRCS soil scientists who were collecting baseline soil surveys in the park.  Pretty cool.
Neon arm warmers in full effect on the climb to Gunsight pass.
We continued down to the spectacular Lake Ellen Wilson, and enjoyed every step of the trail to the Sperry Chalet. After a quick lemonade stop in the Chalet, we ran the last 4 miles with ease, returning to the highway with 20 miles of absolutely gorgeous running under our belts. A super nice family from Kalispell gave us a ride out of their way to the campground - thanks guys.
About to drop to the Sperry Chalet.
Day 2 - Siyeh Pass backward - Sun point to Siyeh bend

We took an easy day, hiking and jogging the 10-mile Piegan pass loop. From Sun point, we hiked up toward Siyeh pass, taking a long break under a rock as a series of cold fall showers blew through. Once the storm abated, we blasted over the pass, then jogged down to Preston park and out to the car. We ran the last half hour or so in a steady downpour, which left us cold and eager to hit the road. Fortunately, a nice father/son duo give us a ride, saving a long cold wait at Siyeh bend.
Climbing to Siyeh pass, moments before the rain started. 
Leah cruising down from Siyeh Pass.
Rolling down soggy trails in the rain below Preston park.
Day 3 - Siyeh bend to Piegan pass to Many Glacier to Swiftcurrent pass to the Loop

A cold and wet evening and night didn't sap our motivation, so we headed out early for the longest run of the trip. We were able to once again hitch a ride over the pass. It was foggy and wet and spitting rain, which had us cursing the weather forecasters once again, since "wintery mix" would have been a lot more appropriate than the "mostly sunny" forecast. In any case, we jogged and walked to Piegan pass and pushed over the top during a lull in the precip, running down the impeccable trail to treeline as rain spattered the Many Glacier valley in front of us. We continued down miles of soggy but enjoyable trail to the Many Glacier hotel for a nice long lunch break.
Final push to Piegan pass.
From the hotel, we jogged up to the trailhead, then jogged the flat miles to Bullhead lake. Along the way, we happened by a group of hikers who pointed out a Grizzly bear low on the flanks of Mount Wilbur. Wildlife sighting - check. We walked the entire magnificent climb up to Swiftcurrent pass. Pushing over the pass, we ran down to the Granite Park chalet just as a round of showers rolled through. We were happy to sit them out in the comforts of the chalet. From the chalet, we ran down to the Loop, feeling good and enjoying the last few miles of a 26 mile day and 50+ mile weekend.
Coming up to Swiftcurrent pass.
Leaving the Granite park chalet.
While pounding the trails was fun and the only viable option given the weather, I can't wait to return and hit some more of the high peaks and ridgelines in the park.

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