Glacier National Park: Two Medicine Lake

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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We spent our first day in Glacier National Park exploring the Two Medicine area. After our Aster Falls hike, we headed down to Two Medicine Lake for our ride with the Glacier Park Boat Company.

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Two Medicine got its name from the Blackfeet Indians. Each year, the clan seer would have a vision quest to determine where the tribe should build its ceremonial medicine lodge. One year, two seers from separate clans had visions of the same place which became known as Two Medicine Lodge (later shortened to Two Medicine.)

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We boarded the Sinopah, a 92-year-old enclosed wooden boat which has been cruising Two Medicine Lake from the park’s beginnings. Built in 1926 for the Great Northern Railway’s tourism company, it was named after the daughter of Blackfeet chief Lone Walker. Sinopah is also the name of one of the mountains towering over Two Medicine Lake.

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On our 20 minute ride to the other side, naturalist Hailey named the mountains we were passing and shared the tribal folklore behind some of the names. She told us that there are no glaciers on the Two Medicine side of Glacier National Park, even though we could see large snow fields that appeared to be glaciers. To be considered a glacier, it must be 25 square acres, 100 feet tall and show some signs of movement.

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We docked at the Twin Falls trailhead and hiked it with our boat captain/naturalist Nathan. We rode the 3:00 boat back, this time with Nathan providing commentary (along with some groan-worthy jokes) and Hailey driving. As we approached the general store and other buildings, Nathan pointed out the Swiss-inspired architecture.

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The general store, which carries souvenirs, camping necessities and has a small snack bar, was originally one of the park’s lodges. Louis Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad, built most of the lodges like Swiss Chalets because he considered Glacier National Park to be the ‘Alps of America.’ He wanted to encourage wealthy easterners to use his trains to ‘See America First’, rather than voyage to Europe.

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To see my other Glacier NP/Two Medicine Posts, click the following links:

Location: 2 Medicine Rd, East Glacier Park, Mt 59434

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/11/1910

Date of my visit: 6/23/2018

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This is the boat house where the Sinopah spends the icy winters

Glacier National Park: Aster Falls

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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We spent our first day in Glacier National Park exploring the Two Medicine area. After visiting Running Eagle Falls on the way in to the park, we parked in the lot by the General Store. There were plenty of spots available at 9 AM, but none when we left in the afternoon.

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The trail to Aster Falls begins at the South Shore Trail-head at the end of the lot and gently winds 1.2 miles up towards the falls. There are clear directional signs at each juncture. We passed by the lake, wildflower fields, beaver ponds and woodlands on our ascent.

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We’d been told to look out for moose, bears and other wildlife. We’d brought bear spray after being warned we’d need it. But all we saw on this hike were some chipmunks and woodpeckers.

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There was still snow in the higher elevations and the melt meant there was water everywhere. We navigated around mud, puddles and runoff as we hiked. The falls were pretty powerful as well.

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After the falls, we decided to keep hiking up the trail to Aster Park Overlook. This was a more arduous climb, gaining about 500 feet of elevation in less than a mile via steep switchbacks.

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When we got to a large clearing, my daughter and I rested and enjoyed the view of Rising Wolf Mountain. Rising Wolf was the first white man to live with the Blackfeet, having fallen in love with Chief Lone Walker’s daughter, Sinopah. Born Hugh Monroe, he was re-named Rising Wolf because of the way he got out of bed in the morning (on all fours.)

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My husband decided to jog up the rest of the way which was only a little further because we could hear him calling for us. But we were exhausted and needed to be back by the lake for our reservations with the Glacier Boat Company. We waited for him and then hiked down to the shore.

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To see my other Glacier NP/Two Medicine Posts, click the following links:

Location: 2 Medicine Rd, East Glacier Park, Mt 59434

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/11/1910

Date of my visit: 6/23/2018

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Glacier National Park: Running Eagle Falls

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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We spent our first day in Glacier National Park exploring the Two Medicine area. We started out early and made the pleasant drive across Route 2 from Columbia Falls to East Glacier. The Two Medicine entrance to the park is about 15 minutes north of East Glacier.

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Just before the main parking lot at the lake is a smaller lot on the right for Running Eagle Falls. This is a great place to start as the trail to the falls is flat and less than a mile round-trip. At 8:30 in the morning, we were the first car in the lot.

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The trail begins as a woodland trail, dotted with wildflowers. In no time, we were standing on the banks of the pristine Two Medicine Creek with the sound of the falls roaring nearby. Since we were there early in the season, the snow was still melting and the creek looked more like a river.

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We encountered a local couple on the trail who said they visit Running Eagle often. They said that in late summer, when there is less water, it shoots out of the side of the mountain instead of falling over the ledge. When we looked more closely it seemed to be doing both.

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The falls are named for Running Eagle who was a female Pikuni warrior in the 1700s. Traditionally, only men fasted and went on vision quests. Nevertheless, Running Eagle persisted and ‘found her medicine’ above the falls. She went on to become an influential and legendary leader of her people.

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She was killed leading a raid in Flathead territory when she was 30. She was buried in a tree overlooking the falls by her people. This is a sacred place.

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To see my other Glacier NP/Two Medicine Posts, click the following links:

  • Running Eagle Falls
  • Aster Park
  • Two Medicine Lake
  • Twin Falls

Location: 2 Medicine Rd, East Glacier Park, Mt 59434

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/11/1910

Date of my visit: 6/23/2018

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Flathead National Forest-Whitefish Mountain

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Flathead National Forest covers over 2.4 million acres of which about 1 million acres is designated wilderness. Pinchot, the first chief of the US Forest Service, promoted ‘managed conservation’ (rather than preservation like the NPS) for our public lands, allowing for responsible, partial commercial use of National Forests.

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The 1.4 million acres of Flathead National forest which are not designated a wilderness area are used for two ski resorts, logging, limited berry harvesting and cattle grazing.

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Our flight landed in Kalispell, Montana in the early afternoon. Not quite ready to take on Glacier National Park, we headed over to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Whitefish Mountain Resort is inside the boundaries of Flathead National Forest, which shares its Northern border with Glacier National Park.

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We rode the ski lift to the Summit House. We had a choice of open chair lifts or enclosed gondolas. We opted for the open chair…photo opps always take precedence over being warm. It was 57 degrees Fahrenheit and windy at the summit.

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The Summit House opened in 1990 and houses a nature center with a Forest Service Education Center in the basement. We stopped in the gift shop for a souvenir pin.

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Outside, we took in the views of the surrounding Rockies and Flathead Valley. There was still quite a bit of snow, even in late June. We walked a little on some of the clear trails at the top, enjoying the smell of pine that wafted in the air.

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We’d intended to hike the Danny On trail back down to the lodge, but it was closed due to snowy conditions. The Danny On Memorial Trail is a National Recreation Trail, with the shortest route to the base lodge being 3.9 steep miles. This is why the trail is closed when ice and snow are present.

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So we improvised and took the chair lift halfway down the mountain. The best views were on the lift ride down the mountain. Then we rode the alpine sled back down to the lodge.

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Location: 3808 Big Mountain Rd, Whitefish, MT 59937, USA

Designation: National Forest

Date designation declared: 2/27/1897

Date of my visit: 6/22/2018

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