Sun Point on St. Mary Lake once hosted a chalet in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
Today’s plan, to hike Piegan Pass from Going-to-the-Sun Road, is undone by heavily overcast skies on a gloomy, cool day. Surrounding summits disappear into low ceilings showing no potential for retreat. Alternatively, a low elevation stroll along the north shore of St. Mary Lake beginning at Sun Point is a short drive west from Rising Sun.
Sun Point is a large, rock outcropping which protrudes into the lake’s shoreline. Sun Point was formerly the home of Sun Point Chalet which entertained visitors between 1913 and 1942. Some old foundations still remain visible. On the far side of the lake is a large peninsula which is reminiscent of a huge version of Spirit Island at the far end of Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
St. Mary Lake is a large, turquoise gem formed when long-departed and massive glaciers which topped surrounding summits shaped the valley and created the massive basin for the 300 ft. (91.4 m) deep lake.
Strolling along good trail in forest above the shoreline, some of the exposed bedrock is more than a billion years old as the Rocky Mountain uplift, 65 million years ago, competed with the grinding weight of massive ice deposits. The hike is a humbling experience.
About ½ a mile (0.8 KM) later the hike arrives at the tumbling cascade of rapids and waterfalls along Baring Creek. Turning left leads down to Baring Falls, a small but impressive, tiered waterfall cascading through argillite into a cozy rock amphitheatre.
The trail continues to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls about 2 miles further. Virginia Falls is spectacular and definitely worth the effort if you are in the area.
There is a very short distance to the elegant stone bridge which supports Going-to-the-Sun Road and provides a route underneath to the beginning of Sunrift Gorge.
Beneath the bridge, at water’s edge, slabs of Appekuny argillite provide testament to its long-ago existence at the bottom of an ancient sea. The action of waves is markedly visible on the surface.
A short way further north is the viewpoint to Sunrift Gorge, a narrow rift in rock walls that guide Baring Creek towards St. Mary Lake. The moss-laden walls and lush vegetation create an imposing place of peaceful meditation.
Trail further up Sunrift Gorge, into the large valley beside Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, is breathtaking and documented in a previous post. Today, the return hike to Sun Point on the roadside above St. Mary Lake will reveal a sheltered cache of flowers, in full bloom, which has escaped overnight frost.
On the short return drive to Rising Sun one final stop is enjoyed at the viewpoints for Wild Goose Island. The viewpoint is a popular and perennial favorite which is likely one of the most photographed places on the planet. Wild Goose Island and St. Marys Lake are always different and special on every visit.
Back at Rising Sun, a herd of deer have infiltrated the grounds to feed on shrubbery between the cabins.
This is the final post for this Glacier National Park, Montana adventure. Early tomorrow morning will begin the drive home to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Early morning cloud cover is at ground level and the first hour is driven through fog with limited visibility.
Over the duration of this 10 day adventure, the weather could have been better, however, in the mountains, it could also have been a lot worse. There is an old Irish proverb that says, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather. There is only being dressed inappropriately’.
Total driving distance is 1,152 KM (720 miles). There are good memories and stories to keep and to share.