This was another of our sort’a bi-annual visits to this great park. This year we divided out time between Many Glacier Hotel on the east side and Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side, with the idea of doing some of the trails we’d missed before (or which had been closed due to bear activity). There were fires south near Missoula and the air was thick as we entered the park, but, thanks to a passing front that cleared the air during our first night in the park, it was almost clear (there was still a faint red tinge in the air) for the next two days. Today, however, a front moved in, taking some of the thrill out of our hiking plans.
For our last hike on the park’s east side, we picked the very popular one to Iceberg Lake (9.4 miles roundtrip; 1,200 feet of elevation gain). The lake sits in a large east-facing cirque that keeps conditions there on the cool side – which were made even cooler by the change in the weather.
We actually started on the Ptarmigan Pass Trail, then split off on to the Iceberg Lake Trail just past Ptarmigan Falls. After crossing Iceberg Creek,
we arrived at Iceberg Lake, along with about 30 or so other hikers. The gloomy skies and cold wind combined to make the angular white on black shapes on the towering dark walls of the cirque seem unusually threatening.
But, as promised, the lake was filled with bergs. We found this minimalist ice on water aestheic strangely attractive – the beauty is in the juxtaposition of the shapes and not in their color.
Thus, colder, but aesthetically enlightened and still smiling, we headed back.
It was good we’d started this hike at our usual early time because, despite the gloomy weather, on our way back we passed 40+ more hikers on their way up! Aside from the Grinnell Glacier hike, this was the busiest hike we’ve been on while in the park. Going early also meant we were back at the lodge when the weather finally gave it up and crapped rain and sleet on all the hikers still at the lake. Our hearts went out to them as we drank Irish coffees at the hotel’s bar…