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Day 251 – Going-To-The-Sun Road, August 24, 2011

What a wonderful day in Glacier National Park!  I started off following the St. Mary’s Falls
trail through the forest along the aqua blue river to numerous waterfalls.  It was such a pleasant surprise as I was
expecting only to see St. Mary’s Falls and Virginia Falls.  There were two other multi-tier falls in
between.  I actually started getting
confused…surely I haven’t walked seven tenths of a mile yet, I kept thinking
each time I got to a falls in between the two that were listed on the trail
sign.  In fact, the two that weren’t
named were my two favorite.  Water
cascaded over the rocks as the river bent around cliffs like a backwards
“C”.  A handful of folks wondered if they
had made it to Virginia Falls yet too…everyone seemed pleasantly surprised to
stumble upon so many waterfalls.

After the three mile out and back hike through the waterfall
filled forest, I thought I would take a short walk along a boardwalk that winds
through an area named Hanging Gardens surrounded by cliffs home to the shaggy
mountain goat.  I expected to stroll a short
boardwalk path that looped through ferns and trees.  Boy was I surprised.  The boardwalk led straight up the slope.  The posted sign claimed a portion of Hanging
Gardens was closed due to bear activity and the trail to Hidden Lake was 1.5
miles one way.  I was standing behind the
visitor center completely ill-prepared…my bear spray, backpack and water were
all in the car.  All I had was my camera
in hopes to snap a photo of the famous shaggy mountain goat.  I looked around at the hundreds of people
meandering along the slope…a few were in my position.  I figured I’d just walk for fifteen or twenty
minutes and return to the car.  My stroll
ended up being an hour hike, partly running up the boardwalk, balancing on
countless patches of snow, tromping up a rocky trail to enjoy an awesome hour
of wildlife!  I may have to look into
becoming a wildlife photographer as it really gets my adrenaline pumping.  I just love seeing the animals.

First I came upon three big horn sheep, and they were
enormous.  Two of them started butting
heads!  Naturally, I missed that shot,
but it was fun to see them.

Shortly, thereafter, I watched a marmot sunbathe on a rock
as another one posed on the ledge for a picture.  As I was standing there snapping some photos,
I heard a kid say to his mom, “Is that a mountain goat way up there?”  His mom asks, “Where?” and he replies, “You

decided not to post the “speck”

see the tall peak…look down to the right…it looks like there is a small patch
of snow, but I think it’s a goat.”  I
used the zoom lens on my camera to pick up the speck.  Low and behold, it was!  I was so excited that I saw one despite it
being hundreds of feet away and above me!
I told, “Good eye”.  A passerby
chimed in, “If you are feeling energetic, there are a bunch up there.”  Goodbye marmots!

I sprinted up the rest of the stairs to the boardwalk,
passed several folks stopped for air while I was just heaving, kept from eating
it on the snow, and asked some other hikers if they saw the mountain
goats.  They pointed to some trees a few
hundred yards away and said there is one up there.  Oh, I just kept thinking to myself, please be
there when I get there.  Don’t get hidden
in the trees.  That mountain goat was
just chomping away at the grass as fifteen people stood there taking
pictures.  It was so great!

I had been gone a decent amount of time and, of course, Petey
had been stuck in VANilla so I returned to the parking lot relatively quickly,
but not before  I stopped to watch the
marmots once more.  This time one marmot
scampered toward the other one and they began rubbing necks and noses like they
were mating.  It was so great!

I left Logan Pass on a mission to take one more hike near
McDonald Falls and to a marshy area where moose are known to root around for
food.  Well, I was not lucky enough to
find a moose nor was it easy to happen upon the loop trail.  Regardless of feeling slightly lost the whole
time, the scenery was magnificent!  I
meandered through the dense forest with many fallen trees that lined another
aqua blue river, crossed a bridge over McDonald Falls, and continued through
the woods to John’s Lake.  John’s Lake,
covered in lily pads was tucked in the woods and the closest thing to marshy
that I could find on the trail…but no moose!

After a lovely day in Glacier National Park, I made a quick stop at Hungry Horse Dam that was nothing to write home about, and then I met up with
Melinda, another horseback riding friend from back in the day.  She is my friend Cat’s mom.  We enjoyed a great dinner, and it was nice to
catch up after twenty years!  I spent the
night at her house which was home to a small petting zoo…not really, but she still
has Cherokee, her horse of 29 years.  AMAZING!!!  ETB

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