Appistoki Falls is at the end of a short spur off the Mount Henry Trail in the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. It is a brief jaunt back to the main trail. I am carrying a standard pack and I recall the trailhead sign mentioning Scenic Point about 3 miles (4.8 KM) distant. It seems a waste to discard 260 ft (79.2 m) of elevation, plus, the day still has time and potential. Unfortunately I have left the hiking guide-book in the car so I am uncertain of the elevation required to achieve Scenic Point. At the end of the hike, I discover the guide lists the Scenic Point hike at 7.2 miles (11.6 KM) return with a net elevation gain of 2,242 ft. (701 m). Had I known this, I might not have tackled this amazing hike on a day dedicated to rest and relaxation. Fortunately, I did not know beforehand. The trailhead is at about 5,200 feet (1,585 m) of elevation. Gain in elevation is aggressive on excellent trail over long switchbacks up the steep side of Mount Henry. Within the first few minutes I pass by the top of Appistoki Falls.
The terrain is arid and rocky with clusters of flagged (bent in the direction of prevailing wind) and bleached tree skeletons created by powerful winds and deep snow cover for most of the year. Mats of juniper hug the steep slope at the beginning. Today there is an intermittent, gusty breeze and predominantly clear skies with cloud cover gradually building. It is a normal, superb day in the mountains.
The vistas are fantastic and just keep getting better as I hike relentlessly on long switchbacks up the steep face of Mount Henry towards Scenic Point. Appistoki Peak is directly across the valley from me. I am hiking back and forth above Appistoki Valley towards a huge bowl of incredible colours and beauty. Two Medicine Lake gets smaller and the view opens up to include Pray Lake at the east end of Two Medicine Lake and even a portion of smaller Upper Two Medicine Lake above the west end of Two Medicine Lake. Massive Rising Wolf Mountain, with its distinctive red crown, dominates the view over the lakes. Interestingly enough, I can see my car in the parking lot throughout most of the climb. It is reduced to an indistinguishable speck as I hike on talus slopes and encroach on the cairns at the pass for my first view of Scenic Point, still quite a ways in the distance. The redeeming factor is the climb is eased by a flat stretch on the final approach with a small hill climb at the end.
The view from Scenic Point is about fabulous scenery and overwhelming distance. In spite of the altitude and harsh environment, the ground is ablaze with richly coloured, ground-hugging, alpine vegetation. Lichens are plentiful and range in color from orange to black. The red rock outcropping has sheer drops to the valley. Prairie stretches across the high plains to the Sweetgrass Hills. I estimate the horizon is 200 miles (320 KM) away. I can see the curve of the earth. Below me, at the bottom of steep cliffs, and 2,500 ft. (762 m) of air, is an awesome view of Lower Two Medicine Lake. The Mount Henry Trail continues on to East Glacier but after a rest I will return the way I came. Scenic Point is a noble goal but the real show is the hike up and down between the pass and the trailhead.
I am back at the car shortly after 5 PM and drive north on Mountain Road 49which is another thriller. The narrow, paved, twisting, rollercoaster road has unprotected steep cliffs on one side and sheer walls of precarious, gravity-defying, shattered rock on the other. There is no place to pull over and trying to take in the ever-changing view while driving is likely my riskiest adventure of the day.
I arrive at Rising Sun Inn at 6:30 PM, check into my semi-detached cottage # 7B, and then have supper at Two Dog Flats Restaurant which I prefer over Swiftcurrent Inn’s menu.
For the first time in my life, I have a dinner entrée of chicken strips and waffles. Apparently this is rapidly gaining popularity in Southern California. The choice is excellent with Huckleberry butter and syrup. My room is small. The shower is tiny in a bathroom so small the sink is in the bedroom. It will be my home for the next 3 nights and I am fine with it. The location is central and the surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful.