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My passion is to explore and discover the beauty of this great country of ours, to capture it, and to share it with you. Often, there’s an interesting story to go along with the photos. On these pages, I share not just beautiful images and video clips, but “the stories behind the pictures.”
Before the turn of the century, I had visited one of my favorite places—Glacier National Park— twice with my family. During the second trip, my son was but a year old, and he has no memory of that experience. A dozen years passed before I was finally able to return to Glacier with my son, who by that time was 14 years old. We made that trip in 2006, and I took the greatest of pleasure in showing him all the scenic places I had discovered during my previous trips.
On July 7, we followed Going-to-the-Sun Road westward to Logan Pass, and I decided to stop at the Lunch Creek cascade to take photos of the waterfall, which has Pollock Mountain for a backdrop. Unlike other scenic points in Glacier, there are no trailheads at Lunch Creek. Undeterred by this, my son bounded over the rocks as I snapped my photos, and was quickly out of sight.
He reappeared in a moment, pointing excitedly toward the massive stone shoulder of Piegan Mountain on the east side of the creek. “Let’s climb that mountain!” he begged.
“There’s no trail,” I objected. I was a bit sore from the previous day’s hike, and was not inclined to stray from the safety of our SUV to blaze a trail through unknown territory. Before long, though, I yielded to his enthusiasm. He was reluctant to take his heavy leather jacket along, but I insisted that was part of the deal.
We followed Lunch Creek, climbing stair-like rocks as the creek splashed down past us. While there was no beaten path as such, I saw red ribbons tied on branches and realized that there was in fact a trail of sorts, and at least a few climbers had been there recently. So with renewed confidence, we scrambled up a series of ledges that led away from the creek and toward the south face of Piegan Mountain. After breaking out of the trees, we could see a couple of climbers in the distance, hiking up toward Pollock Mountain.
Up here there were no more ribbons—just a couple thousand feet of rocks, it seemed. But we continued upward, keeping to the greener patches which provided surer footing than the loose stretches of talus covering much of the slope. Though I was getting a good workout and would normally be sweating, the stiff cold breeze kept things comfortable... but every so often, the breeze would turn into a gust, strong enough to make the eyes water, and plenty strong enough to make me lose my footing. A few times, the gusts forced us to sit down until the wind subsided. My son now understood why I insisted on the leather jacket.
The few evergreens on these slopes are kept short and bushy by the winds. In spite of the rocky terrain and harsh environment, I discovered, Piegan’s slopes are full of tiny wildflowers, in bright primary colors—magentas, yellows, and blues—miniature versions of the wildflowers along the highway.
I was enjoying all this, but we had ascended 1600 feet into thinner air and my son was getting impatient with all the “breathers” his creaky old dad had to take. I’m normally not afraid of heights, but we had climbed up so far that distant snow-capped peaks were coming into view. For some reason, the sight was giving me a mild case of vertigo. “We should head back down,” I counseled. “The fun will be over if these clouds get thicker and it and starts raining.”
In spite of my concern, I was glad to have come up this far. From our vantage point, we could see the peaks of the Livingston Range to the west, and had a much grander view of the valley which sprawls in an emerald carpet from the foot of Reynolds Mountain eastward to St. Mary Lake. No way could we have seen it like this from Going-to-the-Sun Road 1600 feet below us.
This is the best way to see Montana, I realized—getting off the beaten path.
One interesting feature we noticed on the opposite (south) side of the valley was the profile of Heavy Runner Mountain, which resembles the head of a buffalo. The mountain was named after Chief Heavy Runner of the Blackfeet tribe of Native Americans.
We turned back toward the west face of Piegan and made better time on the way down. This time, I picked a route which led west below Pollock Mountain. Once we descended to the snowdrifted headwaters of Lunch Creek, we simply followed the creek down Pollock. My son was not too disappointed that we cut our climb short. “I was starting to get hungry, anyway,” he said. A little farther, he added, in a lower voice: “When I get back to the car, I’m going to tear up that sandwich.”
“Maybe next time you climb a mountain, you’ll bring your munchies,” I laughed. “You’re lucky I brought an extra pack of M&Ms.”
But soon enough, we made our way to the upper falls of the creek, and scrambled down alongside the falls till we were back at our SUV. We wasted no time in digging our lunch out of the cooler. Hungry though we were, I resisted the urge to inhale my sandwich and took small bites while looking at the scenery and resting my tired legs.
“I just realized why they call this ‘Lunch Creek’,” I exclaimed as we ate. Corny, but it seemed funny at the time.