Cracker Lake Sept. 14, 2013

What a beautiful day it was at Cracker Lake!

To see an aerial view of the trail and lake with mountain and other names, use this link:

We had many additions and cancellations, but in the end, Christi K, Chrissie, Katie, Christi's friend Allison and Sue drove up to Many Glacier and met Christy O from Bozeman at the trail head--after a bit of searching around a very full Many Glacier Hotel parking lot for a spot and to find Christy. One last thing, Allison brought Montana Bear, her three-year-old son's, stuffed animal, so she could take pictures of the bear at the lodge and the lake.

We got on trail at 9:15, encountered a few horse riders along the way, and just two other parties. We arrived at the lake at 1:15 and reached the red rock outcropping, the traditional lunch spot, at 1:30, about a half hour later from projections.

At the lunch spot, several parties were there, including some of the horseback riders. Those who had been to Cracker Lake before were surprised to see riders clear at the lake. Usually, they turn around at the Cracker Flats Loop about 2 miles in.

Some in the party said they had seen three grizzlies, silverbacks, with one reported cub sighting at the far end of the lake. We ate lunch, all the while looking and looking for the grizzlies, but didn't see any. As we were packing to leave, Chrissie said she spotted one and she did. Katie used her binoculars and saw not one, but three, all silverbacks. Then everyone started seeing them as the bears roamed the creek bed that feeds into Cracker lake. Christy K got some pictures of two of the grizzlies--and we don't mean Montana Bear! Please share them, Christi!

We saw the mine tailings as well as some leftover equipment from the old Cracker Jack mine but we didn't see the cracker lake goat (or mountain goats in general).

As we were preparing to leave a second time, whom did we see coming up the trail but Tammy! We had thought she was hiking Piegan Pass but she decided to go to Cracker Lake as well. We also met Mary, from Kalsipell, who didn't want to hike alone, so she joined our group and may hike with us again.

The grizzly sightings and chatting with Tammy put us a bit later getting headed back, so we hustled, taking three hours instead of the four+ it took us to get to the lake. Unfortunately, at the Cracker Flats turn off, we got stuck behind a trail ride that was traveling more slowly than we were so the last mile wasn't too pleasant following the behinds of the horses.

Not much for berries left. We saw a few snowberries, a handful of mountain ash, Redosier dogwood, two bunches of beautiful but deadly bane berries and a few huckleberries, but most had been eaten.

For flowers, a few remaining showy asters, some yarrow, a harebell or two, fireweed gone to seed and that was it.

For mountains, on the way up, we had Mount Allen on our right, Mount Wynn on our left and Siyeh and Cataract to the front, with what is left of the Siyeh glacier draining into Cracker Lake. On the way back we were looking straight at Altyn Peak.

As we arrived back at the trail head, Tammy had caught back up to us. We decided to eat at Swiftcurrent together, but there was at least a half hour wait, so instead we dropped Chrissie at the camp ground with Tammy and headed down the road to Two Sisters, after sending Christy O ahead to get us a seat.

We were sad to learn that the Park Café had closed, and for good-- the owner has sold it. So we don't know if Pie for Strength is a thing of the past. Glad I have my t-shirt to remember it. Johnson's was closed as well. The season for Glacier is almost over, so we were glad to catch the end of it.

Looking ahead:

Link to Katie's photos--right click on any you want to download

Christi K's pics