Over the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to explore Glacier National Park. I also ran a half-marathon with friends, hiked to exhaustion, met new friends, discovered different trails, photographed marmots, a brown bear, mountain goats, and chipmunks, experienced great views and scenery, met Native Americans from the Blackfeet tribe, left with a buffalo tooth necklace(Native Americans remove teeth from dead buffalo, clean and process them, and make them into necklaces using deerskin, or sweet grass), and much more. In this post, I reflect on my hike along the Cracker Lake Trail in Many Glacier (East Glacier National Park).
The scent of wildflowers and earth drifted up my nose as I began the trail around a tea-colored lake(Not Cracker Lake). Giant hemlocks, pine, cottonwoods, and red cedars barricaded the trail as it started to ascend. My buddies were with me, but we eventually all increased the distance between us, hiking at our own paces, some stopping to take pictures(me) and to breathe in the fresh, alpine air. However, we would eventually catch up with each other.
There have been many trails, National Parks, and Monuments, and wildernesses I have backpacked, hiked, camped, and kayaked, but each one has been unique, whether it is because of the ecosystem, weather, terrain, or the company I am with, or that I am alone. Most of these activities have been in the Appalachian Mountains, being I reside in the southeast; however, I had the chance to explore the wilderness out west, and I took advantage of it. Glacier National Park in northern Montana has its Rocky Mountains and valleys running to the Canadian border in Alberta, Canada. The majestic wilderness, glaciers, and sheer rock wall mountains did more for me than my imagination predicted on Cracker Lake Trail. Sunlight streams down on the jagged mountain in the photo into the far bottom left.
Some of the trail cut through an old forest while much of it was opened up. There were various colors of rocks along the trail. The photo on the bottom, to the far left with the jagged wall, had what appeared to be a small cave burrowing into the side of it. It was possible to scramble up the slope but would require time and effort I wanted to put toward reaching Cracker Lake and completing the hike before night. The trail was clear enough to view the slopes and snowy peaks. A river streamed through vegetation and sedimentary layers of multi-colored rock.
As the trail led closer to mountains, the mountains walls became larger, and I understood how small I was among the alpine tundra, fauna, flora, and the giant mountain slopes. It is difficult to see, but there is what looked to be a larger marmot or a beaver on the rock-face in the picture on the bottom right.
In the photo below, the jagged wall barricading the path ahead tells me I am nearing Cracker Lake. The water (snow melt) at Cracker Lake is a majestic turquoise. If you look around the rock-walls carefully, you may be able to spot a mountain goat walking along the narrow ridges. On the trail, a mountain or valley was always in sight, and every once and a while, a marmot or chipmunk would scuttle from the green, lush vegetation. I’d had to be quick to snap a picture of them. The snow blanketed beach makes for fun sliding. The water is frigid as you could imagine, so I did not enter the lake beyond dipping my toes in. A few friends decided to dip their whole bodies, and their reactions were enough to convince me to stay on land.
As you can see in the picture below, the various colors of the tundra and mountains surrounding the turquoise lake make this look magical. And once I arrived and stood, shrinking among the alpine wilderness, smelling the flora, listening to the marmots that make sounds similar to a bear whistle.
If you are exploring East Glacier National Park, Cracker Lake Trail is a must do. It is 13 miles, but you can add some more distance to make it 16 miles. There is a primitive campsite at the end of the trail where Cracker Lake is. The trail has been rated strenuous, due to the length of the trail, ascending, and a few river crossings. With the alpine tundra, flora, and fauna in danger of disappearing along with the glaciers that still remain, makes any trail in this environment essential.