Hiking in Glacier
By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
During my time in Montana we traveled to Glacier National Park. While there, we planned on doing a few hikes. As we discussed the possible hikes, my first question for my brother was always, “What’s the up?” I love being in the woods, away from people, but I have never been very good at going up hills or mountains. My brother, on the other hand, is a mountain goat and thrives at climbing. The higher he is, the happier.
We decided on hiking to Ptarmigan Tunnel. It is a 5.5 mile hike with 2,500 feet elevation gain. That is a lot of “up” for me, but my brother, who had done it 10 years ago, assured me it was well worth it. As we walked along the trail in the early morning, I felt at peace, watching the mountains all aglow in the soft morning light and listening to the world wake up. The birds singing, the soft breeze, the fresh air- it truly was paradise for me. At one point, I stopped to take a picture and breathed deeply. It smelled like huckleberries and I knew I was in heaven.
After the turnoff to the tunnel, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other as it became very hard, very quickly, with most of the “up” in the last few miles. However, whenever I stopped to look back at the mountains, it was beautiful. The wildflowers were more abundant the further up we climbed and we were the only two people on the trail at that time so it was absolute tranquility. During one point, we heard the unmistakable screech of an eagle and we both stopped and turned to stare at the sky to try to find it. After a few moments, my brother spotted it first and pointed out the huge golden eagle, floating effortlessly above us, looking for an unsuspecting vole for a meal.
After three arduous switchbacks, I arrived at the tunnel. The view from the top was spectacular. After passing through a tunnel that is tall enough for a horse with rider, I had my first good look at the Belly River and my first (and possibly only) look at Elizabeth Lake. It was gorgeous and the difference between the landscape on the two sides couldn’t have been more dramatic. The Belly River side looked almost Martian with the red rocks and more barren landscape whereas the other side was covered in trees. We walked about a quarter mile down the trail to see Mount Merrit, another beautiful mountain with a glacier at the top.
The hike down was just as spectacular as we faced the amazing view the entire time. I am very thankful I did this hike and wasn’t afraid of the “up” and loved being in the woods again.
© Ramona Flightner