Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 2: Apgar Creek Campground to St Mary's

To my disappointment the day before, I had been told that Logan pass was closed for the season. Going to the Sun was one of the prettiest highways I had ever been on, and not only did the closure make it unavailable, it also meant that getting to the East side of the park where sunrises would be prettiest would be a long drive. I had decided to drive up as far as I could to get to Avalanche creek to see what I could see. Besides, someone on the plane the day before had told me that Avalanche lake was quite pretty.

I arrived at the Avalanche creek parking lot to find the place empty, and immediately got out my gear to start hiking up along the creek. I moved as quickly as I could, since I hoped to beat the sun to the lake. It turned out I needn't have bothered: Avalanche Lake was deeply fogged in, and all I got was a monochromatic view of the lake.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors


I looked at the scene and decided that sticking around hoping for the sun to poke through with good light was futile, so I turned around and hiked out. As I hiked back down, I ran into a photographer who had just come from East Glacier. He told me that on that side, the road was open all the way to Logan's pass. Even though it was a long drive in terms of distance, it only took him two and a half hours, since most of the roads were rated for 70mph or faster. That made my decision to visit the East side of the park easy. I hiked rapidly down, slowing only to shoot the the river at a particularly pretty spot, and the gorge.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The drive was indeed very quick, but I also had an additional mission: I had discovered that the gas line anti-freeze was a very bad fuel for my trangia alcohol stove. It burned fine and burned pretty hot, but sooted up my pot really badly, making clean up a disaster. I stopped at store after store looking for real methylated spirits, but eventually had to settle for rubbing alcohol, which was only 70% alcohol. All through the drive, however, I saw that the leaves had indeed changed colors on the East side of the park, which got me more and more excited as I headed towards St. Mary's.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Upon reaching St. Mary's, I headed into the park and found it to be exceedingly windy. In fact, when I found a park bench and lit my stove, it took at least 30 minutes to boil water, since between the reduced alcohol content and the wind my poor stove was simply not getting a chance to heat up the pot at all. With lunch in me, I decided to drive up to Logan pass. It was windy and it was quite clear that as we got up the pass the weather would worsen. Nevertheless, who could pass up Logan pass?
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

There was quite a bit of construction on the road, and about 12 miles in we had to stop and wait for a pilot car to lead us to the top, since there was only one lane of road available for both directions. This turned out to be a good thing, since stopped cars attract big horned sheep, which came close enough for my point and shoot to capture. I realized at that point that keeping my SLR in the trunk of the car was a mistake.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The top of the pass was cold, windy, and overcast. Between the wind and my shivering fingers, even tripod mounted shots were blurry. I spent about 20 minutes there wandering around and trying to get some images, but failed. On the way down, however, I stopped by sunrift gorge, which was the trailhead for my parents' first backpacking trip in 1994, and found a couple of good images.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

For sunset, I hung around lower in the park looking for a place where the sun might poke through the overcast, but that was not to be. I eventually gave up after shooting just tens of images in an hour, and went to St. Mary's lodge to eat dinner, not trusting my stove to cook anything with the increasingly strong wind and rain.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I thought about finding a park campground, but upon driving around town saw an empty gravel space that seemed quite empty, so decided I would save $10 and park there and sleep.

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