A Travellerspoint blog

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 7

MMMmmmm.......SPAM. Said no one ever.

Day Seven: MMMmmmm.......SPAM. Said no one ever.

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Without electricity, waking up in a room at the chalet can be a cold, dark experience. We got dressed inside our sleeping bags, groomed ourselves out of a Ziploc bag, and ran to the warmth of the common building where we could sip coffee by the fire inside and make breakfast.

It was another beautiful day.

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I made us a breakfast of hashbrowns topped with cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes.....and ......spam.

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Yes. Spam. I am not ashamed. Spam travels well. Any food that has a shelf life of "indefinite" is a food you want in your backpack. Maybe not in your stomach, certainly not in your intestines, but definitely in your backpack.

The horse disagrees.

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We managed to hang around long enough to see the mule train arrive with supplies. Since the chalet is inaccessible by roads, supplies must be brought up a steep, winding 4 mile trail called The Loop. I would hate to be the guy that got to carry the mattresses.

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It was our final hike of the trip, so we wanted to make it a good one. The first part of the trail took us up and over Swiftcurrent Pass where you can see forever.

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Our hike would take us past the farthest lake. Really. And I mean that one waaaaaaay in the back.

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After the pass, there is a steep descent on a narrow ledge. This seemed to be the trip for ledges. You’re welcome, Matt.

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As we dropped into the valley below, we found a plethora of juicy, ripe huckleberries just waiting to be picked.

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Did you know that Montana has the largest grizzly population in the lower 48? It’s a well-known fact that they mostly eat roots and huckleberries. A lesser known fact is that they berries generally come from inside humans who at the berries earlier.

We stopped for lunch at the lake: Peanut butter and jelly bagels with dried bananas and Snickers.

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The last time I did this hike, I was wearing flip-flops duct taped to my feet because of some serious blisters. I couldn’t believe how much easier it was in ACTUAL BOOTS.

The end of the hike took us through the valley, through forests, wildflowers, waterfalls, lakes, and streams.

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And dangling chipmunks.

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And a moose! All my years of trying to see a moose out here and I manage to see two in one trip.

Apparently, all they do is stand in the water and eat.

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Our reward was a giant cup of huckleberry soft serve at the Swiftcurrent store.

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As we made the drive back to the west side of the park, I was still in awe of the beauty of this place.

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We checked in to the Belton Chalet, just outside the west entrance to the park. We had never stayed here before, and I was immediately enamored with the quaint, historic inn.

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Until they left a note on my car.

My very dirty car.

Oh, the shame.

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But it was time to celebrate! We had hiked about 60 miles, climbed sheer rock faces (okay, with cables, but still….it was scary), teetered on narrow ledges, and narrowly escaped death at the jaws of ferocious wildlife. What? Those ground squirrels can be aggressive with the Fig Newtons, I’ll have you know.

We started off with drinks at the chalet lounge.

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Then it was onto dinner at their world class restaurant. We started off with more cocktails. Of course. Then it was on to steamed Mussels served in a lager beer broth with jalapeno, chorizo, roasted cherry tomatoes, farm fresh greens & grilled toast. Next up was their southern mac and cheese, locally made penne in a pimento cheese sauce topped with sliced chorizo and crumbled pork rinds. Who doesn’t love a good pork rind? That was followed by a hot bowl of their savory potato soup. Finally, we shared the Montana Wagyu Delmonico Steak with scallion bacon cheddar mashed potatoes topped with smoked paprika chili butter and the Montana buffalo meatloaf wrapped in hickory-smoked bacon and served with a port wine mushroom demi and roasted shallot mashed potatoes with savory creamed corn.

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THAT, my friends, was worth hiking 60 miles for.

Posted by vicki_h 10:32 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (0)

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 6

There are no shortcuts to any place worthwhile.

Day Six: There are no shortcuts to any place worthwhile.

Our destination of the day was Granite Park Chalet and the only way to get to it was to hike 7+ miles. We had a 7:30 a.m. shuttle to catch, so we only got to see the first rays of the sun as they peeked over Many Glacier.

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The shuttle took us to St. Mary, where we waited for 45 minutes in the freezing cold for a very late shuttle to Logan Pass. There were about 8 of us that had gotten there at 8:00 am and had been waiting for a very long time in the cold when the shuttle finally arrived. Apparently, someone had not shown up for work so the early shuttle didn’t run. As we all wrestled with our large backpacks and headed toward the van, a slick couple in brand new shiny hiking suits that had just shown up practically knocked us down as they ran in front of us all and jumped on the shuttle.

Oh hell to the no.

You see, the shuttle didn’t have enough seats for everyone who was waiting. God bless the shuttle operator who escorted them off, as they cussed and made faces, and made sure everyone that had arrived on the 7:30 shuttle was seated first. She then filled in the few remaining seats with others who had been waiting longer than Mr. and Mrs. Slick Pants. They were left on the sidewalk scowling.

I am always amazed how some people can be so self-absorbed that they give no thought to common courtesy.

No matter. It was a beautiful day to do the Highline Trail from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet.

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As we made our way across the ledge that starts the trail, I couldn’t help but think of the headline from just a few weeks earlier:

CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF A GRIZZLY KIND ON THE HIGHLINE TRAIL

The narrow ledge drops 15 stories to the highway below. It’s only wide enough for single file and it stretches for just over a quarter of a mile.

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Now imagine if you were THIS guy:

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That’s him going in one direction and a bear coming in the other direction.

See. It can always be worse.

I’m pretty sure thinking about ice cream did not help in that particular circumstance.

The Highline is a hike that we have done several times, but it never gets old. Our favorite way to do the hike is to hike 7 miles from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet, stay overnight, and hike 8 miles out over Swiftcurrent Pass into the Many Glacier valley where our car would be waiting.

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We saw marmots. We saw bighorn sheep. We saw fat ground squirrels. We saw incredible views stretching in every direction.

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We also saw Mr. and Mrs. Slick Pants. Apparently, another shuttle had arrived about 10 minutes later, and without any packs, these two were making time. Probably trying to outhike everyone with backpacks so that they could get to the Chalet first and drink all the chocolate milk and get the best seats by the fire.

We scowled at them as they went by and I secretly hoped that trail karma would bite her on the butt. Maybe she’d break a nail or get her shiny new suit dirty.

We stopped for lunch in an area I like to call the “valley of the boulders.” Giant rocks are strewn everywhere and it’s easy to find one with a spectacular view. At this restaurant, every seat is the best seat in the house.

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Summer sausage with cheddar cheese and wheat thins, a granny smith apple, and a fig bar never tasted so good.

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We continued on with more marmots, more bighorn sheep, and more amazing views. We even treated ourselves to a few huckleberries.

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We reached the Granite Park Chalet in the early afternoon. That left plenty of time to simply enjoy being there.

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The chalet is hike-in only and there is no greater experience than getting to spend the night. After all the day hikers pack up their lunches and leave, it is a mountain refuge, quiet and calm, with views that take your breath away.

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Each group signs up for a turn in the kitchen. Since we didn’t have to carry cookware or our propane stoves, we carried more food!

Yay! Food! In case it’s not obvious by now, I hike for the food.

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Dinner was easy but delicious: angel hair pasta with pre-cooked meatballs, marinara, and parmesan cheese, an Italian salad, and tiramisu in a cup!

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As we ate, an incredibly thick fog rolled in on top of us. It was eerie. You couldn’t see the tree line from the Chalet.

We ended the day hanging out in the chalet’s common room by the fire with hot tea and cocoa listening to the staff tell stories of the chalet’s history as the fog crept in around us.

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Posted by vicki_h 13:36 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (0)

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 5

The Bear's Hump: Harder Than Milking a Grizzly, and Half as Fun.

Day 5: The Bear’s Hump – Harder Than Milking a Grizzly, and Half as Fun.

We woke up to the smell of freshly baking muffins and yawned deeply between crisp sheets that had been lined dried and pressed with lavender. The Northland Lodge was just what my aching body needed.

So was a day off.

Our original plan had been to get up at 0-dark-thirty and drive back to Montana in time to catch an 8:30 a.m. boat to the Grinnell Glacier hike in the Many Glacier are of Glacier National Park. When I mentioned this plan, the rest of the group started plotting a coup that involved ropes, a gag, and burying me beneath all those suitcases.

Screw hiking. I wanted muffins.

We slept in and spent the morning doing nothing more strenuous than slathering butter on hot muffins.

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With no real plans for the day, we decided to drive around Waterton Village. It was small and quaint and literally overrun with deer.

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After that, we decided to drive out Red Rock Canyon Parkway before leaving Waterton because I had read that you were likely to see bears there.

We only saw one bear.

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The views were worth the drive, though.

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We did a short, two mile stroll that took us to a waterfall and ran along the side of the Red Rock Canyon.

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Because I simply couldn't bear the thought of giving up a complete day of hiking, I convinced everyone to do the Bear’s Hump, telling them it was only 1 mile each way.

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What I didn’t tell them was that you gained 750 vertical feet in that one mile, on 18 switchbacks. Some of the switchbacks were so steep that I’m pretty sure I could kiss my own butt as I walked by.

And it was HOT.

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We climbed. Then we paused. Then we climbed. Then we heaved. Then we climbed. Then we lay in the dirt crying. Then we climbed some more. I think Teresa was devising ways to kill us all in our sleep as we went up.

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But the views when we reached the top…..all I could say was, “Wow.”

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We had a 360 degree view that included Waterton Village, the lake, and the mountains beyond.

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We even saw a bear. Sort of. Really. I think that’s a bear. Or a big fuzzy black pig. I really can’t be sure.

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The one thing I’ll say about the Bear’s Hump: going down sure is more fun than going up.

Before we left Waterton, we had a picnic lunch by the lake: tuna salad sandwiches, grape tomatoes, and cheese-its.

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We made the drive back down to Montana and re-entered Glacier National Park at the Many Glacier entrance. This has always been, and will always be, my favorite area of the park. The mountains are giants. The lakes are blue and still. And the Many Glacier Hotel is majestic.

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We headed to the lounge for drinks to take the edge of the sore muscles. Yes, Matt got another pink Martini. He just can’t help himself.

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As we sat out on the expansive deck, looking over Swiftcurrent Lake, we got to watch a moose frolic in the water. Mostly, she just ate. And ate. And ate. I guess it takes a lot to fill up a moose.

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It was time for Matt’s favorite dinner of the trip: the Cattle Baron Supper Club.

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What looks like a dive from the outside, is actually an oasis of steak awesomeness on the inside.

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The bathroom, however, leaves something to be desired.

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A bottle of red wine, a salad, a filet cooked perfectly rare with their house potato covered in god-knows-what-creamy-deliciousness, a loaf of freshly baked bread, and a slab of coconut cream pie and all was right with the world.

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Okay, almost right. Sometimes you need an authentic Indian headdress to really complete the meal.

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Posted by vicki_h 12:19 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (3)

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 4

Walk faster. I hear banjos.

Day Four: Walk faster. I hear banjos.

Matt and I had a boat to catch, so it was “up and at ‘em” very early. After a breakfast of oatmeal with nuts, brown sugar, and dried fruit and some bacon, we said “goodbye” to Crandall Lake and hiked back to the car.

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Matt and I dropped John and Teresa off at the Carthew Alderson trailhead so that they could do that amazing hike and then drove to Waterton Marina to catch the early morning boat to the Crypt Lake trailhead.

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I had been intrigued by the Cyrpt Lake hike ever since seeing it described as, “a test of nerves,” “one of the most unique hikes you will ever do,” and “the Indiana Jones adventure of the Canadian Rockies.” It was featured by National Geographic as one of the world’s most thrilling hikes.

It is a 5.5 mile mile hike back to the lake with a 2300 foot elevation gain, with a round trip return making it 11 miles. And it includes a boat, a cliff, a ladder, a tunnel, a cable, maybe some snow, and an icy lake. Twice.

Sign me up.

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One reason Matt and I hike is for the solitude, so we knew that getting off of a boat with 50 other people starting the same hike was going to mean we had to go really fast to break free of the majority of the pack. Given that the first part of the hike consists of a seemingly never-ending series of uphill switchbacks through the forest, this fact pretty much SUCKED.

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Most people dawdled at the dock, but we set off with the ambitious few that charged right in. Only 2 small groups managed to out-hike us and I am pleased to report that it was a group of 20-ish boys and 3 teenage girls.

We may be pushing 50, but we can still hang.

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The initial series of switchbacks was brutal, but goat-boy Matt ran up them like it was a stroll in the park, so I did my best to keep up.

At some point, Matt spotted another couple in the distance gaining on us.

“Hike faster,” he said. “I don’t want to get passed.”

Matt has road rage even on a hiking trail in Montana.

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I did my best. I hiked faster. Uphill. My legs were SCREAMING. I couldn’t breathe. I was getting dizzy from the lack of oxygen and the vertigo from the steep slope below me. Every time Matt looked behind him, I was farther behind.

“Faster.”

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No matter how fast I go, I can never keep up with Matt. He has the internal speedometer of a cheetah and has two speeds in Montana: 1) Sitting by the fire drinking hot cocoa and 2) Running uphill with a full pack.

It became a forced death march. Hiking was supposed to be FUN. This was not fun.

I scrambled to catch up, repeating a mantra to help me keep going forward:

Ice.

Cream.

Ice.

Cream.

I started dreaming of a dripping ice cream cone, the one I would get when we got off this God-forsaken trail and would eat like a woman on death row.

When all else fails, ice cream works.

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We managed to stay ahead of the other couple, much to Matt’s delight, but part of my soul died in the process.

The trail continued high up a cliff until we reached a section covered with loose scree. This gave way to a narrow ledge. The trail was only about a foot wide and the drop was a long one. If I fell off this trail, I would not end up in Mexico, I would be swollowed by center of the earth.

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This is where Matt got his payback. Matt HATES heights. And ledges. So a high ledge was his idea of torture.

“You didn’t tell me about this,” he said.

I told him just to keep thinking about ice cream and he’d be fine.

The exposed ledge leads to a ladder drilled into the rock face. The ladder goes up about 10 feet, leaving you dangling over the vast expanse of the valley. When you reach the top, you have to carefully hoist yourself onto another ledge and crawl through a 100 foot tunnel. A surprisingly tight tunnel.

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Acrophobia was replaced by claustrophobia.

I passive-aggressively hoped he would start to hyperventilate.

And it just kept getting better.

After the tunnel climb, there was another steep, narrow ledge. This one was so bad they had installed steel cables to hang onto. You had to use the cables to climb about 100 feet straight UP the cliff on the ledge.

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Awesomeness.

I like to think Matt was crying on the inside.

After the cables, it was a quick hike back to Crypt Lake.

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There were still some snowfields hanging over the edges of the lake, so we knew the water was frigid. That didn’t stop the crazy few from stripping down and jumping in.

It’s a tradition.

Screw tradition.

I kept my butt parked firmly on a warm rock. Like a lizard.

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We spent a good hour at the lake. My legs needed a break and Matt’s nerves needed one. We enjoyed the sunshine as we ate our lunch: smoked trout, spinach, and cream cheese pitas with cookies and an apple.

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Then we got to do that whole mess again. In reverse.

I loved it.

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We got back to the boat dock with about an hour to spare, so we soaked our aching feet in the ice cold water of Waterton Lake.

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The boat ride back was a mixture of satisfaction, relief, and downright jubilation. We had all survived! Yay! I celebrated with an ice cream.

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We met John and Teresa at the Northland Lodge. No camping tonight – it was time for a hot shower and a real bed! Or three real beds, as the case may be.

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We headed to the Bayshore Inn’s Lakeside Chophouse for dinner.

The outstanding views were almost as good as the platter of nachos so big you could hide in it.

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We shared a local bison tasting platter and I finished off with a giant plate of carbs and fat: fish n’ chips.

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Hey, I had earned it.

Posted by vicki_h 05:51 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (3)

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 3

Canada. Like America, but with bigger beers.

Day Three: Canada. Like America, but with bigger beers.

It was breakfast in the car because we had an ambitious day planned. First, we had to make an hour drive from St. Mary to Waterton Park in Canada. Then, we needed to stop at the visitors’ center to pick up our backcountry camping permit for that night. Finally, we had to make a 30 minute drive to Cameron Lake where John and Teresa would drop us off at the Carthew Alderson trailhead before heading back to Waterton Village to do their own hike at Bertha Lake.

The rain and gray skies had cleared out and we were treated to a bright blue sky day.

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Matt and I had tried to hike Carthew Alderson 4 years earlier, but had actually been snowed out. SNOWED OUT. IN AUGUST. We had a perfect day to do the hike this time. The mirror-like views from Cameron Lake were outstanding. I knew we were in for a fantastic day.

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Carthew Alderson is a one way hike, stretching 12 miles from Cameron Lake and ending in Waterton Village. Gaining just over 2000 vertical feet in the first 5 miles, I knew the first half of this hike would have my gluteus maximi screaming with rage.

The first mile took us through a deep, quiet forest. It was early morning and the dew was still thick on the leaves. As we went up, up, and up the endless switchbacks, there was no sound except the soft padding of our feet on the trail.

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That, and my heaving breath.

Matt leapt up the mountain like a gazelle.

At just over a mile, we reached Summit Lake, an absolutely stunning spot to stop for some water and beef jerky.

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And an oxygen break for those of us who hadn’t just leapt up the mountain like a gazelle.

Gazelle, my ass. I was breathing like a 3 legged elephant in labor.

With twins.

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When Matt asked me why in God’s name I was wearing blue pants, I responded that I was going for a “cute outdoorsy lumberjack” look. He said I had achieved a “deranged elf” look.

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From the lake, the trail turned steeply uphill, climbing the exposed face of Mount Carthew. As the trail broke free of the trees, I saw the thin zig-zagging line that showed me where I was headed.

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Dear Lord. Why do I do these things to myself?

At this point I was hoping my tights were Superman tights and would give me superhuman powers. Like the power to keep walking uphill until I died. And then keep walking.

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We climbed for what seemed like DAYS when we reached a loose scree slope. One wrong move and I would slide down that mountain. Forever. I’d end up in Mexico.

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Eventually, we reached the windy summit. It was simply magnificent.

THIS is why I do these things to myself.

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We spun in a circle, taking in the very enormity of it.

The views stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see.

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When I started getting dizzy from all that spinning (very Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music like), Matt decided we needed to head down the other side before I ended up falling and sliding to Mexico. At least they would be able to find the body thanks to my superblue pants.

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As we descended toward the Carthew Lakes, the views simply got more surreal. It was hard to take in so much beauty.

It was just so BIG.

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We stopped between the lakes for a trail lunch of a turkey club wrap, fig bars, and baby carrots with hummus. With a view of the lake below us and a waterfall above us, it was simply awesome.

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We continued our way down, down, down, past lakes, past waterfalls, through the valley…and then it was all over. Despite the grunt factor, the hike had been amazing. It’s hard to put into words how I feel when I am out there, staring up at that enormous sky, surrounded by towering mountains, looking ahead for miles and not seeing another soul.

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When John and Teresa dropped us off, none of us had any idea what time we would finish. We were all meeting at Cameron Falls in Waterton Village, where our trail ended. Taking a wild guess, I had suggested they meet us there at 4:00. Guess what time we walked out at Cameron Falls?

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(It was the Superman tights. I told you they had super powers).

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We rewarded ourselves with ice-cream and set off for another hike.

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No. I am not kidding.

Sure, my legs felt like spaghetti noodles made out of jello, but that was no reason not to throw on a 25 lb. pack and hike back to a campsite, now was it?

Dear Lord. Why do I do these things to myself?

I managed to do the hike back to Crandall Lake campground by doing it with a giant 16 oz can of Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider. We all need a little help sometimes.

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The trail to Crandall Lake had more uphill than I remembered, but the hike was still relatively short and easy. It would have been easier if I hadn’t been belching up apple flavored beer.

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Crandall Lake is an idyllic spot. The small lake is surrounded by mountains. The tent sites are nestled on one end of the lake in the woods.

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The best part? You can have a fire.

Most backcountry campsites don’t allow fires, but I made it a point on this trip to find those that did. There is nothing like sitting by a crackling fire after a long day of hiking. Sure, it makes you go to bed smelling like a hobo, but camping doesn’t exactly make you smell like a rose anyway.

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I made dinner while the guys got us a fire going: Rice topped with chicken and a spicy chipotle sauce, green beans and roasted potatoes, and herbed cheese rolls from the Polebridge Mercantile. While we ate, I had a surprise hidden in the fire: orange fudge cakes (hollowed out oranges filled with devil’s food cake batter, wrapped in foil, and left in the fire to cook to a delightfully gooey consistency).

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De-licious!

We enjoyed the warmth of the crackling fire until it started to get dark, then it was time to head to the tents for a good night’s sleep.

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Posted by vicki_h 06:46 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (5)

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