Grinnell Point from the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake
Today we decided to make an easy day hike, called Grinnel Lake Hike, which mainly leads us through woods, but also passes Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes and finishes with some beautiful views of Grinnell Lake. And of course we had to add the short side trip to the Hidden Falls as well :-) We started at the east side of Swiftcurrent lake. We started hiking in the morning on the north side of the lake, and on the way back we took the south side.
We opted to do the 'walk-only' option, which is about a 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) hike. But you can make this into a really short walk, taking the boats that cross the two lakes. That will reduce the actual walking to only 3 kilometers (under two miles). This also causes that the trail is quite popular, so an early start is recommended to avoid the crowd.
Boat Swiftcurrent Lake
Not only the lake is called Grinnell, but also the falls, mountain and glacier. They are all named after George Bird Grinnell, who was an American anthropologist, historian, naturalist, and also writer. He was much engaged in preserving wildlife, and especially the endangered American buffalo. He was influential in establishing Glacier National Park in 1910, and he participated in the naming of many features in the Glacier region.
View towards the Many Glacier Hotel
view of Mount Wilbur
The 'Many Glacier' area is known for its great concentration of bears. And I can only agree, as we spotted quite a few bears in the area. On the downside it also meant that quite a few hikes were closed during our visit due to bear activity.
This trail, the "North Shore Josephine Lake Trail" was open, but had a bear warning sign. This hike passes slopes that are full of berry bushes, and therefore is sometimes called the "Lunch Table": grizzly and black bears love coming here to eat these berries. And although I never counted on seeing any bears here myself, we actually did!
And instantly I had these mixed emotions between "OOPPS, a BEAR, what do I do now?!!", to "WOW, a BEAR, fantastic!!" Luckily the bear didn't pay any attention to us, but kept its distance focusing on the berries on the slope instead. Although the bear looks close-by in the photo, it is actually quite some distance away: long live the zoom-lens :-)
American cow parsnip (don't touch! This plant can cause skin irritations)
The route is mainly through a heavily wooded area, but, not all of the time however. Once in a while there are breaks in the woods that allowed us some wonderfull views of the lakes and the surrounding peaks. And of course we try to capture those moments with our camera as much as possible :-)
Hidden Falls and the Cataract Creek
There is a little side trail that will lead you to Hidden Falls, and of course we had to do this little detour! The trail is easy to find; it is located right at the suspension bridge over the Cataract Creek.
The sign at the bridge indicates 0,2 miles, but in practice it is a very short walk. But quite steep for a short while however.The overlook of the Hidden Falls are beautiful and well worth taking the detour for.
I can only imagine how it looks during early summer, when there is so much more water flowing in the creek and at the falls due to the melting snow. No wonder that those big tree trunks are tossed about and tumbled on top of each other like tiny matchsticks (photo above). I can only imagine how much force of the water is needed to do this!
On the last part of our hike to Grinnell Lake we met this not-so-shy deer. We stood still, just looking at it, and waiting for it to disappear. But very much to our surprise it just kept getting closer and closer! So much so that it was almost at a distance that I could touch it. It stopped 4 meters away from, ate some grass and then it slowly went away. She was not alone though, she had two fawns with her that were waiting some 20 meter away further along the lake shore.
And finally we arive at our end destination: Grinnell Lake. I just love seeing these turquoise-coloured glacial lakes! But unfortunately it is getting cloudy and the turquoise colour of the lake isn't showing as much as it would have with some sunshine. But it is still a beautiful sight!
And in the distance, at the far end of the lake, we see the impressive Grinnell Falls. The falls cascade down the mountain, starting at the glaciers above it (photo left).
I am always intriged by the vibrant blue colours of glacial lakes and what actually is causing the amazing blue tones of the water. And the explanation is actually rather simple. The force of the glacier grinding across the bedrock as it slowly moves downhill, grinds up these rocks into fine rock particles. The material is so small that is becomes suspended in the meltwater and is transported to the lake. This finely grained material is also called rock flour, or glacial flour.
The glacial flour isn't itself turquoise-coloured, it is actually grey. But apparently the tiny particles of rock flour suspended in the lake are just the right size to reflect more of the blues and some of the greens than any of the other wave-lengths. So when the blue sky reflects off these tiny particles in the water, it makes the water appear turquoise-coloured.
I have seen similar lakes where you can also can see this effect, and making them look spectacular. Similar types of lakes that I have had the joy to see and pop into my mind are Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo in New Zealand, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, and Peyto Lake in Canada. And also lake Bled in Slovenia. Some day I hope to write more about my visits to all of these lakes as well :-)
The dark clouds in the sky is also a signal for us to make a move, there seems to be some bad weather on the way in. So instead of wandering further along the lakeshore, we decided to make our way back. We take one last look at the beautiful lake, before we retrace our steps back to the trailhead. It is more like a very brisk walk, and I guess we walked at least twice as fast as the way in. But the trail is an easy hike and we are back at the trailhead in no time! And more important, before the rain starts :-)