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, I will enjoy a low elevation stroll along the north shore of St. Mary Lake beginning at Sun Point, 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 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 basin for the 300 ft. (91.4 m) deep lake. As I stroll 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. It is a humbling experience.
About 0.5 of a mile (0.8 KM) later I arrive at the tumbling cascade of rapids and waterfalls along Baring Creek. Turning left takes me 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, but I have been there before. To be honest, I have regressed into leisure mode and efforts over the past several days have left me hiked out. I opt to return along Baring Creek to enjoy the beautiful, cascading water.
Beneath the bridge, at water’s edge, slabs of Appekuny argillite give 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 on its way down to St. Mary Lake. The moss-laden walls and lush vegetation create an imposing place of peaceful meditation.
The trail further up Sunrift Gorge, into the large valley beside Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, is breathtaking and documented in a previous post. Today, I will return to Sun Point on the roadside above St. Mary Lake. A sheltered cache of flowers, in full bloom, has escaped overnight frost.
On the way back to Rising Sun Inn I will stop one final time at the viewpoints for Wild Goose Island. It is a perennial favourite and likely one of the most photographed places on the planet. It is always different and special each time I visit.
Back at Rising Sun, a herd of deer have infiltrated the grounds as they feed on shrubbery between the cabins.
This is the final post for this Glacier National Park, Montana trip. I will check out very early for the drive home to Calgary. Early morning cloud cover is at ground level and I drive for over an hour through fog with very 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 tell. If, one day, you find yourself following in my footsteps, please do not fall into Lake Josephine. That should only be attempted by a seasoned professional. Happy trails!