On Location: Glacier Park’s Lake Josephine
“One of the prettiest lakes in Many Glaciers Valley is Lake Josephine. This glacier-fed lake covers 137 acres upstream from better-known Swiftcurrent Lake and receives numerous visitors over the course of a year. A highlight of any trip to the east side of Glacier National Park, Lake Josephine takes a bit of effort to reach. The lake is termed a ‘back country lake’ because it it not accessible by car. A short boat trip across Swiftcurrent Lake and a short walk rewards visitors with spectacular views.” – LakeLubbers
Most visitors to Glacier National Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley where Many Glacier Hotel is located see Lake Josephine one way or another. Some see it on a saddle trip to Grinnell Glacier at the far end of the valley. Others hike and a few climb the peaks on either side. Most take the motor launch across Swiftcurrent Lake from the hotel, walk over some forested moraine on a paved trail, and then take another launch to the head of Lake Josephine and back. If you are new to the park, the launches offer a quick way to see the mountains with a guided commentary from the boat crew.
Lake Josephine was named after the former Josephine Mine on Grinnell Point. The boat crew will point out the entrance to the mine. When I looked inside the mine many years ago, it still contained the wood tracks on which the carts moved. Tourists are always told there are bears inside. The Blackfeet name of the lake is Nitáki (Lone Woman).
The trail alongside the lake to Grinnell Glacier is probably the most popular on the eastern side of the park. The glacier has gotten much smaller since I first saw it when I worked in the park in the 1960s. But it’s a beautiful six mile hike. It will require some effort, though, if you’re out of shape or not acclimated yet to the altitude. The more adventurous will climb to the top of the Angel Wing for an even better view. There’s a stream, loose rock and a snowfield to consider, but this is by no means a technical climb.
Since I know this area well–and consider it my favorite place on the planet–I set many scenes from the upcoming new second edition of my novel Sarabande alongside this lake and the neighboring valleys.
Here’s the beginning of the novel:
Sarabande bled on the leading edge of the Angel Wing while the moon was dark. The grey-green rock at the summit accepted her flow without complaint. Yesterday, Gem said sky wasn’t a fit place of renewal: dark woods and tents served best for bleeding. “Tccch,” she said without finesse, “why expose yourself on that strange spur of rock at the high end of the valley? You’ll catch a cold sitting on unforgiving stone above that cold glacier.”
Indeed, but it suited her.
During the night, Sarabande heard the beating of her heart. She heard the voice of water flowing eastward out of the cirque that hugged the glacier snugly against the Continental Divide. Water called her attention to a world on the other side of time, a world with a road running truer across the plains into dawn than golden eagles, a world with destiny straighter than cedar arrows, a world called the World of the Dead. There was a dead horse alongside the road. Past the horse, an angry fire gave off black smoke that lifted away from the prairie and the straight road like a prayer.
I’ve used this area for several novels because of the beauty and magic I find there. Sometimes it’s odd hiking there with other people who almost seem to be walking through my fictional scenes without realizing it.
You can reach Many Glacier Hotel and its adjoining valleys from the West by following U.S. Highway 2 eastbound to East Glacier, and then heading north on state highway 49 to U.S. Highway 89 via St. Mary to Babb. From there, Glacier Park Route 3 leads you into the valley. You can also drive or take a park bus from west to east across the park on Going to the Sun Road. From the east, you reach the hotel from high way 2, picking up U.S. 89 toward Babb at Browning. Amtrak’s Empire Builder serves East Glacier and West Glacier during the summer season where you can catch buses into the park.
By the way, if you plan to stay at Many Glacier Hotel, make your reservations very vary–the previous winter–because it fills up fast as do the nearby campgrounds.
The new second edition of my contemporary fantasy “Sarabande” will be release November 1, 2015 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing.
Grinnell Glacier Trail – at “Hiking in Glacier”