Time to hike in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
For more than 25 years the drive south from Calgary, Alberta, Canada past Glacier National Park in Montana, on the way to hiking missions in the American Southwest or Mexico, prompts the glance right and the utterance, "Gotta get in there one day!".
This is the day.
The plan is aggressive and begins with traveling south from Calgary very early to grab a hearty breakfast in Pincher Creek on the way to passing Waterton Lakes National Park, in Alberta, Canada.
Driving is under sun but a big storm in the distance lies exactly in the path of planned travel. The slightly longer route on the Chief Mountain International Highway will pass through a generally less busy border crossing into Montana, USA.
A couple of roadside stops in Waterton Lakes National Park are threatened by approach of inclement weather and there is a ferocious wind where the scenery at higher elevation is incredible. Entrance to Montana at the Chief Mountain Border Crossing is early and swift.
The drive south in the 2008 Dodge Charger is smooth and comfortable with a trunk packed full with hiking gear. South to Babb, on the Blackfeet Reservation, and around Chief Mountain, then south to Glacier Route 3 along the north shore of Lake Sherburne.
The road trip continues through the mountains to the entrance for the northeast Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
Purchase of a reasonably priced annual pass will save substantial money over the course of the adventure as entrance and exit from Glacier National Park will occur many times.
The rain has finally joined the trip and the first hike in Many Glacier, en route to checking into accommodation, requires suiting up in rain gear for the short dash from trail-head parking.
The short run across Apikuni Flats proceeds through horizontal, stinging rain into the nearby more welcome comfort of protective forest.
The trail to Apikuni Falls is a short and easy 1 mile (1.6 KM) each way with an elevation gain of 710 ft (216 m). The word ‘Apikuni’ (Appekunny) means 'Far Off White Robe' in the Peigan Blackfeet language. The trail ends at a nice overlook to the falls. To get closer to the falls will require a wet rock scramble in high wind and rain. Bring it on!
Winds are at 40 mph (64 km/hr), gusting to 50 mph (80 km/hr). The camera is at the ready, tucked inside the rain jacket. Scramble to a new position. Pull the camera. Aim. Compose. Fire. Tuck the camera. Repeat. Military discipline and precision.
Wind is whipping rain and water from the falls in a cyclonic action at the base of the cliff face.
The rain subsides on the return hike but the gusting wind maintains it's strength. There is fresh snow on top of red Apikuni Mountain.
It seems only fitting the initial hike of the Glacier National Park adventure becomes a character builder in challenging weather.
Check-in at the nearby modest, but comfortable, rustic motel-style accommodation at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is completed prior to the short drive to gather intelligence at the Ranger Station.
The day ends with the short drive around and past the end of Swiftcurrent Lake to explore the historic Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
Many Glacier Hotel is a Swiss-style hotel, built in 1915, which hosts a rich and fascinating history. The day ends with an excellent Irish coffee while planning the subsequent day’s hiking itinerary to Iceberg Lake before returning to Swiftcurrent Inn for an outstanding and well-deserved supper.
The next day hiker's lunches are ordered at the front desk for pick up at breakfast the next morning. The room's amenities are running water and electricity. More than adequate.