Statistics: mileage 12 miles, ascent 3403′
We awoke to a very cold, cloudy day with snow in the immediate forecast. Our hopes of returning to Logan Pass for another of the outstanding day-hikes in that area were dashed as the Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass was closed due to heavy snowfall during the night. What a difference a day makes!
We scrambled to find a hike in the Lake McDonald area and discovered the Huckleberry Mountain Lookout Trail which climbs to a fire lookout manned by a ranger who stayed there for several weeks between visits to civilization. An important detail we learned from the ranger was that this trail had been ranked as one of the ten most dangerous hikes in the U.S. due to the bears in the area. The ranger continued, indicating that the large forest fire in 2001 had also burned the many large patches of huckleberries, a favorite food of the bears. Since the fire, the bears had not been as aggressive or a problem. (Addendum: As of the end of 2021, however, that hike is currently included in that same list.)
The trail to the lookout began in the forest, crossed a creek and then led to a long steady climb up the mountain. With the elevation gain, we had better views of the surrounding mountains.
Soon we could look back to Lake McDonald which was now at the base of a distant mountain, beyond several ridges.
We did enjoy stopping to have a huckleberry treat from time to time. At one point we realized that a very large bear was in the bushes above us doing the same thing!
The temperature was dropping snow began to fall.
As the snow continued, we came across a group of deer on the trail that took the time to pose for pictures!
This was the day when a packer with his pack mules resupplied the lookout. He had just delivered the supplies and left the lookout when we encountered him. He paused and we had a chance to chat.
The higher we climbed the colder it became; the trees were adorned with a frosty coating.
We were grateful to just make out the Huckleberry Lookout in the clouds and were hoping that we would be welcomed to rest and warm up!
To our delight, the ranger in the tower was most welcoming and glad for some company. As we entered, he offered us a cup of tea and asked, “Do you realize that you have just hiked one of the ten most dangerous hikes in the U.S.?” Until the Moose Fire in 2001 this mountain with its huckleberry bushes had been a favorite of many grizzly bears, so much so that anyone coming to the lookout had to be armed. Judging from the number of huckleberries that we saw, it appears that the bears might be returning!
All warmed up, we said our goodbyes and began the trip back down the mountain, keenly aware of the possible presence of bears as we passed bushes laden with tasty huckleberries!
Safely back in the car, we drove to the small village of Agpar and our final hotel for this summer’s group of day-hikes, The Village Inn. The storm was passing and to our amazement the view of Lake McDonald from the hotel room was superb!
The next morning our marvelous adventure in Waterton and Glacier Parks came to an end, but we will have to return!