A Grand Day Out
Snow shuts down much of Glacier Park. Only a handful of trails remain accessible. A large proportion of the wintertime hikes I’ve done in Glacier begin at Lake McDonald Lodge and head up the Sperry Trail. The first part of the trail seems dull, colorless, and wearying. Heavy traffic beats a wide path in the crusty snow. Thick trees keep light out; the trail is dim and uninviting.
But an hour of brisk hiking changes everything. We enter a beautiful world. Snow rests softly on all the bushes and trees. It is quiet. The trail is narrower, since few people venture this far. After a couple hours of hiking in the trees, the terrain opens up and we enter a giant, avalanche swept bowl. Upon cresting a small rise, a lake appears in the bottom of the bowl. Ice falls and avalanche chutes decorate the scenery in every direction. Mt. Edwards, the Little Matterhorn, and Mt. Brown rise steeply, forming the picturesque basin. Welcome to Snyder Lake.
An early start and a vigorous pace on the trail have carried us to Snyder Lake fairly early in the day. We now have ample time to enjoy our surroundings. Once in more open terrain, we find ourselves exposed to severely cold wind. A cluster of trees at the lake provides some shelter, and we cluster ourselves behind the trees. Presently, though, a patch of blue appears directly above, and within 20 minutes, wind is replaced by sun. Energized by the fantastic conditions, we wander around the basin. I found a gentle, brushy slope, incapable of avalanching, and skied a couple thousand feet of soft undulating snow.
Compared with the harsh wind and stinging snow of two hours earlier, this weather feels tropical. We all grow lethargic and bask in the sun. We brew up some tea, savoring the warmth of sun and the hot beverage. Time flies though, and we prepare to evacuate before sundown. Northern days are short, and fun makes the time go faster. Eventually, we come back to the dark tunnel of trees, where we don headlamps for the final leg of our journey. In the car on the way home, we all reflect on the wonders of our grand day out.