After our not-so-easy-rest day, we had some thinking to do. One option had been to go up to Waterton Lakes in Canada but last summer’s forest fires had us concerned about what hiking we could do (later in our trip, Kelly & I went up to Waterton and found the park to be lovely but definitely in recovery mode). Instead, we decided to head out and do two of our favorite hikes from our first trip. Both hikes had previously been lovely but left us wanting more. We had strange lighting at Virginia Falls and had lots of cold fog at Iceberg Lake.
On this day, we started our hike at the very popular St. Mary Falls Trailhead before 7 am. The sun rises in the summer in Montana so early that this start didn’t even feel like a struggle. St. Mary’s Falls, which we had enjoyed in good lighting last time, was too sunny to enjoy. But Virginia Falls was perfect. It was rushing with early season snow melt and we had the whole place to ourselves (all three viewpoints). On the way back down to the parking lot, we ran into a few hikers but overall, the hike was delightfully quiet.
Next, we headed up to the Many Glacier region to the very popular Iceberg lake. By now, we were starting with the throngs of hikers. We were still able to find parking and although the trail was busy, it was still enjoyable.
Last time we went to Iceberg, there were less than 15 hikers up there enjoying the views of ice floating in blue waters with us. On that day, every hiker was huddled up together behind this one shrub that was providing coverage from the wind. Hikers would take turns peeking out from behind the bush to take in the beauty of the lake and then quickly retreat.
This visit to Iceberg Lake was a whole different story. A light breeze and sunny weather made for the most wonderful scene. The lake shore is full of rocky areas and hundreds of hikers had found quiet spots to sit for a picnic. We climbed up on a moraine for a higher view of the mesmerizing water. The weather was so lovely that we sat for Kelly to shoot four time lapses (~20 minutes each). On our way down from the lake, we had our first encounter with grizzlies. A mother and two cubs were right above us grazing in a grassy patch. Dave and Kelly whipped our their lenses but they retreated before we could snap any photographs (I can’t say I was disappointed about this!) We waited for awhile to see if we could spy them on the slope above us but had no luck.
After this hike, it was time for some laundry. We snagged snacks and wafts of WiFi from the KOA in St. Mary’s village. Ice cream for dinner and then early to bed to get ready for the next leg of the trip.