The Highline Trail
25.08.2012 - 02.09.2012
“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir
One of our favorite hikes in the park is the hike to Granite Park Chalet. There are several ways to do this hike and we had tried most of them. We had hiked up the tough and steep 4 mile Loop Trail to the Chalet and then 8 miles down Swiftcurrent Pass into Many Glacier. We had hiked the 7.5 mile HIghline Trail and then down the Loop Trail. We had hiked out the Highline and then back the way we came.
The one that we had never been able to do, but had always wanted to, was to hike in on the 7.5 mile Highline Trail and then hike the 8 miles into Many Glacier on the Swiftcurrent Pass trail. This particular hike requires that you start at Logan Pass and you end at the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge, about an hour and a half drive. The logistics of this hike always proved too difficult for us to work out. However, we had friends with us on this trip that would be able to drop us off at Logan Pass and pick us up at the end of the trail the next day.
I had also always wanted to spend a night at the hike-in only Granite Park Chalet, but had never been able to secure a reservation to this rustic lodge. The reservation system opens in October and will take reservations for the short 3 month summer season for its 20 or so rooms. It fills up so fast and so far in advance, that you have to plan well in advance to get a room. I had done my homework this time and Matt and I finally had a reservation.
Not only were we finally going to be able to do the HIghline-Swiftcurrent hike, we were going to have the pleasure of staying at the Chalet overnight.
That's why, when I woke up the morning of the hike to find that my heels had something akin to a 3rd degree burn on each, I quickly wrapped them in tape and shoved them into my boots before Matt could see. I wasn't going to miss this hike for anything.
I was moving slowly, but I was moving, and that was good enough for me.
We drove from St. Mary back to Logan Pass along the GTTS road, taking in the majestic views along the way.
When we got to Logan Pass, I thought I was going to faint when I stood and tried to walk. I gritted my teeth and got myself going. We had 7.5 miles to hike today and we had all day to do it. As long as I walked slowly, I knew I'd make it.
The first part of the Highline Trail is a rush. You find yourself teetering on a narrow rock ledge high above the road. A cable has been anchored into the side of the mountain for the faint of heart. It's a great way to get your blood pumping early in the morning.
The views along the Highline Trail are simply outstanding. Words fail to adequately convey how beautiful it was that morning and photos simply can't capture the enormity of it.
We stopped for lunch about halfway. We found a big flat rock with a view that went on forever.
Pardon me sir, do you have any Grey Poupon?
After a lunch of italian meats and cheese on an asiago bagel, we powered on.
The views only becoming more beautiful as the day progressed.
It was about 3:00 when we finally arrived at the Chalet.
Granite Park Chalet was built in 1914 by the Great Northern Railway to provide back country accommodations inside Glacier National Park. It was the last of the chalets built by the railroad and one of the only two back country chalets that have survived. Today this rustic lodge continues to provide comfortable lodging to hikers willing to pay about $200 for a tiny log room with no electricity or running water, noisy bunk beds, and walls so thin you can hear the people in the next room roll over in their sleep. It's the most expensive awful room you'll ever pay for, and the most wonderful.
The experience of being at the Chalet was incredible. We were shown to our room and spread our blankets and sleeping bags out on our beds and hung our flashlights so that we could see once it got dark. We took our food to the common kitchen where we were given a bin to keep our food in and where we signed up for a time in the kitchen when we could cook our dinner. Each guest gets a 30 minute slot in the kitchen to make their meal using the propane stoves, dishes, and water provided by the Chalet. There is a common dining room with a wood burning stove that provides a warm and cozy place to eat.
It was still early, so we decided to take advantage of the warm sunshine and soak in the scenery.
First, I had to get my boots off so that I could put on my flip flops. My feet were absolutely raw at this point, and all that tape I had wrapped around my heels was now embedded in my shredded skin. It was a mess. I looked at it and said to Matt, "I want my mom."
No matter how old you get, when you are hurt, you still want your mom to make it better.
It took me about 20 painful minutes to get the tape and bandages off my feet. WARNING: THIS PHOTO IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.
My feet were a damn mess.
But it felt good to have them freed from the boots at last.
When it was our turn in the kitchen, we made salads and jambalaya with summer sausage. The view was better than that of any restaurant.
After dinner, we watched as the moon rose on one side of the Chalet and the sun set on the other.
The sunset was an explosion of color and the sky looked like it was on fire.
As the dark arrived, we settled in our room. Our room was one of several in a log structure with a stone floor. I could hear a guy snoring in the room to our right and could hear the people to our left each time they rolled over in their beds. I suddenly understood why they sold ear plugs at check in. But the blankets were soft and the room was warm. I finally managed to fall asleep, despite the throbbing in my heels.