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). After several days at Many Glacier, we broke camp and spent a day (of nice weather – oh, the irony) getting settled at the Lake MacDonald Lodge, thereby allowing yet another front to show-up for our planned hike to see Sperry Chalet. The LovedOne decided that staying in the lodge would be more fun than hiking in the rain, so I headed off for the chalet solo, in less than cheery weather.
The trailhead for the Sperry Chalet Trail (12.8 miles roundtrip; 3,400 feet of elevation gain) starts at the lodge, so I just walked out our room and started up. The trail climbs so gradually and smoothly that I hardly noticed the gain as I came to the falls,
and crossed Sprague Creek below Glacier Basin. Just past the creek, I narrowly escaped being bear sprayed by three hysterical backpackers who thought the noise I was making – to alert the bears – signaled a bear attack! I came around a corner in the trail and there they were – with their fingers itchy on their canister’s triggers. It was a close one but it soon became apparent even to these nabobs that bears – even grizzly bears – do not signal an attack by singing Waltzing Matilda off key. They just don’t.
Soon after averting being repelled, I arrived at the chalet, which was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1913 near the trail junction to Sperry Glacier. It went into service in 1914. Over the past century, Sperry has been a beloved destination for generations of families and thousands of hikers. It was constructed of native stone, which has helped it survive being occasionally pummeled by winter avalanches.
The chalet is at a crossroads of various trails,
and commands a great view from its front porch (on a clear day) of the Lake McDonald Valley. It managed to rain only after I entered the Dining Room to enjoy a quick snack. Ha!
I would have liked to have spent more time at the chalet but the weather wasn’t interested in what I wanted. It wanted to get cloudy and rain on me. A lot. So I went back. On the way down, I had to look hard to actually see where the chalet is perched on the cliff.
We weren’t doing wildflowers at this time but Nature came through with some colorful mushrooms to brighten my hike.
As is sometimes the case, by the time I got back to the lodge, the clouds were parting,
and by evening of this, our last day in the park, sunny skies were enroute for our journey home.
But, there are still trails we haven’t hiked and chalets we haven’t stayed in, so we’ll be back….
UPDATE: The Sperry Chalet hotel building was lost to the Sprague Fire on August 31, 2017. Other buildings in the Sperry Chalet complex, including the Dining Room and a trails and utility cabin, weathered the extreme fire behavior thanks to wildland firefighters defending the exteriors of these buildings.