Tag Archives: Lake McDonald

First Backpackers In Glacier

The HistoryHistory has shown that people have been backpacking in Glacier National Park for centuries.

Some of that first backpacking took place at Logan Pass. I hear numerous people talking about driving to “Logan’s Pass” to see the sights or walk up to the Hidden Lake Overlook. Well folks, the correct name is Logan Pass and here is the history behind the name.

Reynolds Mountain from near Logan Pass Visitors Center in July.

Reynolds Mountain from near Logan Pass Visitors Center in July. Snow in the winter is much deeper.

Logan Pass was named for Major William R. Logan, first superintendent of Glacier National Park, from 1910 to 1912. With an annual salary of $3,600, Superintendent Logan faced a lot of dilemmas such as poaching and an enormous forest fire in 1910.

The park also had very few trails. He hired rangers and started making plans to build more trails. At that time, there were only two trails crossing the mountains, one from Lake McDonald to Saint Mary Lake and the other up the McDonald Creek Valley and over Swiftcurrent Pass to Many Glacier.

Logan is also credited with the concept of building the Trans-mountain Road which eventually became the Going-to-the-Sun Road. He would not see his idea of the road become reality; he died in 1912.

The Native American also frequented Logan Pass and they have left a rich history.

This pass has been used for centuries upon centuries before the first whiteman arrived on the scene. It was a well-traveled pass used primarily by the Kootenai Nation and Salish People and occasionally by the Blackfeet.

Schultz wrote that the Blackfeet called the trail to Logan Pass the Ancient Road. He noted that “this pass was used by West side tribes, first the Snakes and later by the Salish and the Kootenai tribes.”

IMG_4061 R

A small portion of the McDonald Creek drainage and the lower section of Logan Creek below Bird Woman Falls.

The Kootenai called this pass, Packs-Pulled-Up.

As you drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road from the Loop you see the deep valley below Bird Woman Falls. This was where the Kootenai People would travel to cross Logan Pass.

In a tradition thousands of years old, the Kootenai would use snowshoes to cross the passes to go hunting on the east side of the mountains between January and March.

The Kootenai would follow McDonald Creek (Sacred Dancing Creek) from Lake McDonald (Sacred Dancing Lake) to the mouth of Logan Creek  and then follow the creek all the way to the headwall below Logan Pass.

From there the Kootenai used rawhide straps to pull their packs and each other up the ledges on the wall. Men would also stand on each other’s shoulders and help each other as they ascended this steep section. At times only men were on this trip but at other times women and children were along to help.

Sliding down the snow slopes near Logan Pass in July 2014.

Hikers on the snow slopes near Logan Pass in July 2014.

Once on top, at present day Logan Pass, they would send their bundles sliding down slope into the St. Mary River Valley. After sending their bundles they slid down and then walked to frozen St. Mary Lake and proceed to hunt buffalo and bighorn sheep along the shores of the lake.

Backpacking has long been the way of life here in Glacier and history has just proven it.

For more on the history behind the names check out What They Called It. This book features stories about the names along Going-to-the-Sun Road and is available on my website.

Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park? I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at info@climbglacier.com and I will see what I can find out.

Blake

© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015

Where I Could Have Died

Sometime places we go are memorable for one reason or another.

I remember seeing Mount Rushmore with my fiancee on our trip back to college in Minnesota. I remember “almost” drowning in Avalanche Lake when I was with extended family. I remember my first close encounter with a grizzly on the Red Eagle Lake Trail. I also remember getting my first Schwinn Stingray bicycle, a yellow one with a banana seat and high handlebars, and my first fishing pole.

I certainly remember the day I could have died on Mount Vaught. It was that day that I learned a lesson about climbing in 90 degree weather. Some days it is important to know when enough is enough and that particular day we should have turned around after summiting Stanton Mountain Vaught’s neighbor to the west.

To make an ugly story short I ended up descending 6 miles and 6,000 feet with every muscle below my waist cramping … not a good time. My doctor friend told my wife that he was concerned that I might not make it out.

Stanton Mountain and Mount Vaught are reflected in a calm Lake McDonald.

Stanton Mountain and Mount Vaught are reflected in a calm Lake McDonald.

Mount Vaught is 8,850 ft. / 2698 m. feet in height. It is the dominant mountain on the northwestern end of Lake McDonald. When seen from Apgar Village, a portion of the peak is blocked by Mount Vaught’s shorter neighbor, Stanton Mountain. It can also be seen in front of Heavens Peak from the Flathead Valley.

National Park Service records indicate that the mountain is named for L. O. Vaught, a prominent Illinois attorney. Vaught spent his summers exploring the park and was influential in preserving the park by encouraging that it be set aside for future generations.

stantonvaught 111 R

The writer near the summit of Mount Vaught with Heavens Peak on the right.

The park archives contain a fascinating group of manuscripts, called the Vaught Papers, that contain loads of information about various people and events around Apgar and Lake McDonald before and just after the park was formed in 1910. Much of this work was a result of personal interviews as well as letters gathered by Vaught.

In 1895, Vaught joined other prominent men like George Bird Grinnell and William C. Pollock in negotiations with the Blackfoot Nation to secure “The Ceded Strip.” This area includes all of the lands, in present day Glacier National Park, between the Continental Divide and the border of the Blackfeet Reservation. This was done to reduce conflicts between the settlers and Native Americans.

Schultz wrote that the Kootenai called this mountain BIG OLD MAN MOUNTAIN.

Blake was feeling good at this point but soon the pain would arrive.

Blake was feeling good at this point but soon the pain would arrive and the day would become quite challenging.

You might not ever want to climb to the summit of Mount Vaught but when you see it standing on the skyline above Lake McDonald you will maybe remember some of your “firsts” memories both good and bad.

Our lives are made up of memories and the best ones are those that you can share with others. Thanks to men like L. O. Vaught some of the memories of the Apgar area are preserved for future generations.

Join me again and learn a bit more about the stories behind the names in Glacier National Park.

Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park? I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at info@climbglacier.com and I will see what I can find out.

Blake

Copyright 2015 Blake Passmore