A Travellerspoint blog

December 2017

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods: Part II

Back to Glacier National Park

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER. OKAY, SOMETIMES IT KILLS YOU.

We started the day with oversized omelets and stuffed French toast at the Whistestop Restaurant.

23508465108_d745cecf8a.jpg

23508463398_531c91bea2.jpg

37329889772_0c8dd6767c.jpg

23508462048_db4e69eb75.jpg

Okay, I know what you are thinking. This trip has been really boring so far. French toast? Cute restaurants?

Where is the excitement? Where is the adventure? Where are the inevitable mishaps that lead to events like nearly crapping in a shopkeeper’s basket in the crowded streets of Oia, Greece or finding oneself trapped at the end of a long dead-end alley in the slums of Rome? Where is the catastrophic food poisoning on the way home from Honduras?

Apparently, I had saved it all up for one glorious disaster.

An epic fail.

And it was called the Firebrand Pass Trail.

On every trip, I like to do some hikes we’ve never done. The Siyeh Pass hike had been new, but that had been a day hike. I needed a new overnight trip to notch into my hiking belt.

I had settled on the Firebrand Pass hike, a 9 mile journey to a remote backcountry campground with some serious uphill and downhill to tackle along the way.

Our first hint that maybe I hadn’t done enough research was at the trailhead.

37329887782_bd0df88055.jpg

Steve and Al pulled up to the railroad tracks in The Middle of Nowhere, MT and looked at us dubiously as we pulled our packs out of the vehicle and strapped them on.

The location was so unremarkable and poorly designated that we drove past it three times before we finally pulled over and decided this must be it.
“Are you SURE?” she asked. “This doesn’t look like a trail head. There aren’t any signs.”

Matt and I looked across the tracks at a rickety old fence with a paper sign on it and no sign of a trail.

“I’m sure,” I said, waving them off like this was all part of the plan, although I was sweating bullets on the inside. This looked like a place to get lost and poop yourself to death after becoming paralyzed from eating poisonous berries, not a place to hike into the backcountry toward an awesome night at an amazing campground.

“You guys go on and have fun, we’ll see you tomorrow,” I said with more confidence than I actually possessed.

Why had I picked this hike again?

Information on this hike had been hard to come by. It was located in a remote area, far from all of the other trails. It didn’t seem very popular. Yet I had read descriptions of “outstanding views,” “a hike to escape the crowds,” “lightly trafficked,” “a long way away from civilizations,” and “hiking in extraordinary isolated seclusion.”

I was drawn to the Firebrand Pass hike by its promise of beauty and solitude, the two things Matt and I crave most on a backcountry hike. Now I was starting to wonder if I had made a mistake and simply put us on a dirt trail in the middle of nowhere on the way toward nothing.

Because this hike was far outside the “typical” boundaries of the park for most visitors, it doesn’t get much traffic despite its epic scenery. It also requires a steep 2100 foot ascent to the pass, which can experience wind gusts up to 50 mph. Then there is the matter of a heavy pack required if one intends to make one’s way all the way to the lake to camp overnight.

But none of those are the real reason most visitors skip the hike beyond the pass to go all the way back to Ole Lake.

It’s the descent from Firebrand Pass to the lake that gets them. Apparently, not many people are interested in a steep, 2680 foot descent in just a couple of miles on a narrow ridge trail comprised completely of ankle deep, loose scree.

I knew this going in, but felt Matt and I were up to the challenge.

I really should have read the fine print.

The hike started off fine. The first few miles were very pleasant, passing through valleys, meadows, fields of late season wildflowers, and traversing aspen groves. A little way in, we found the sign so we knew we were headed the right way.

37329886182_44bdee8396.jpg

37329882172_6db8f52468.jpg

37329884062_620e98c783.jpg

37103815620_e6de5e2e37.jpg

37312896016_e59e800606.jpg

37312884566_01bdeeb8c0.jpg

37312880356_f6390f8bf9.jpg

37312876206_13e89b07a0.jpg

37312862756_0bbd89ce89.jpg

37329862042_b601c0cd7b.jpg

37329859782_437d2a4909.jpg

37329855082_02c09cab4c.jpg

37329852012_106d7b6ff8.jpg

The day was overcast, which kept the heat at bay, which was nice because most of the hike afforded very little shade.

As the trail started to ascend, we passed 2 of the only 3 people we would see on this hike. They were coming toward us, headed out, as they had only hiked as far as the pass early that morning and turned around.

37359643021_39a9112eb6.jpg

37359638821_4ab3b41037.jpg

37359628511_3a4f296664.jpg

37359624401_c280553f07.jpg

It was two 50-something women on a day hike and they stopped to ask us a strange favor.

Apparently, they had passed a very young woman, hiking alone, with no gear, no water, only a dirty jacket and a book in her hands. As Firebrand Pass is a long hike with no water sources, this struck them as odd. She handed them her phone and asked them to take her photo. As they passed her, they became increasingly worried about her lack of proper clothing and water.

We promised to watch for her if we passed her along our route. Surely she wasn’t headed all the way to the campground.

Odd.

Who hikes alone on a remote trail with no water and a book?

We continued on and at a little over 4 miles we reached the basin below Firebrand Pass. The views were stunning. We could see the route to the pass above and took a moment to enjoy the scenery before heading up.

36690072043_235197fc9c.jpg

36690070103_2d5b465f33.jpg

36690067823_d0bbe7365e.jpg

36690065293_0f5c188818.jpg

36690063183_8420c3c76e.jpg

23508397748_bd8799a45a.jpg

23508394568_e16ddf8082.jpg

23508380018_f2124b73e9.jpg

37884422205_67bf56db6d.jpg

It was here that we encountered the young woman, about 18 years old by my best guess. She was out of shape and inappropriately dressed. She was indeed hiking alone with no pack, no food, and no water. She carried a filthy puffer jacket in one hand and a ratty paperback in the other.

WTH???

We had only a moment to make a tough decision. We still had a 1.5 mile steep climb to the pass in the August heat followed by about 4 miles of steep descent before reaching the lake. There were no water sources that we knew of before reaching the lake, so the only water we had were the 2 bottles that we had in our pack….bottles we had counted on having with us until we reached the lake. One was full and one wasn’t.

And there was this young woman, so ill prepared with absolutely no business being out here.

We gave her the full bottle.

I could only hope that God would reward me for my giving spirit by not letting me die of dehydration before finding more water.

I still wonder if she made it out okay and what her story was. In my dream, she met up with Mister Fabulous on her way out and he threw her dirty jacket aside, wrapped her in his billowy scarf, and they hiked off into the sunset, taking selfies and drinking my water.

We will never know.

It was time to make the long slog up to the pass.

23508392368_3c54765ac3.jpg

When we finally reached the top, we only paused for a second. The wind was so fierce it was hard to stand upright. All we could do was immediately start the hike down the other side.

23508389088_87236545ec.jpg

24898009028_8180fb7970.jpg

Which turned out to be absolutely HORRIFIC.

I don’t consider myself a wimp. I’m no sissy. I have slept in the snow with wet feet, hiked 7 miles down a rugged mountain face in flip flops because my heels were too blistered for boots, pushed a golf cart out of the sand with my bare hands because it was stuck and I was alone with my girlfriend who wasn’t any stronger than I was, and spent several days on a deserted island in nothing more than a glorified tent.

I can endure a certain amount of adversity.

That scree slope, however, was my undoing.

23508386868_8276071505.jpg

First, it was crazy steep. That’s bad enough if you have firm ground beneath you, as opposed to loose gravel so deep it’s like walking in quicksand. Second, the trail was narrow and dropped off on one side. One misplaced step and you’d fall off the edge and plunge several hundred feet below. Third, a trail in loose scree is hard to see. There were countless animal trails that crisscrossed the mountain going every which way and, at times, I wasn’t even sure which trail was THE trial.

And it went on FOREVER.

And FOREVER.

It was like a small planet. A planet filled with nothing but loose, shifting rock. It was certain death.

large_scree2.jpg

scree.jpg

I WAS SCARED, PEOPLE? OKAY?

And then I fell.

Oh, dear sweet baby Jesus in a manger, I FELL.

My feet literally slid straight out from under me, like I was trying to walk down a slope of ice or snow, rather than gravel. I landed on my butt and slid for what felt like an eternity, but that was probably about 1.6 seconds in reality, and managed to grab onto a small branch to stop my descent.

I was so shaken up by this point that I took itty bitty baby steps the rest of the way down.

37103776490_40dc5091d2.jpg

23508382578_4d18f3d272.jpg

23508378328_447fd961c5.jpg

23508375458_f1e8ba15c7.jpg

37329781542_4c9876f81a.jpg

37329776802_b1626909da.jpg

By the time we reached the bottom, my legs were a quivering pile of overcooked spaghetti and my nerves were shot.

Certainly that had to be the worst of it, no?

No.

We started trudging through the woods.

37329771312_97a6cf70ab.jpg

We trudged.

And we trudged.

It was supposed to be a mile to the lake but we walked well over a mile and still found ourselves deep in the woods.

It was getting late. I had jelly legs And I was pretty sure we were lost.

We stopped to pull out the map and, as best we could tell, we were still on the right trail, but it was much farther to the lake than the map showed.

We had no choice but to keep walking.

We walked.

And walked.

And walked.

We were seriously contemplating simply pitching our tent in the woods and turning around to go back the way we had come the next morning when the trees broke and I saw the lake.

And then the sign for the campground.

23508356358_9b6592cd78_b.jpg

23508360818_e18e87e36b.jpg

23508359758_7053b2c086.jpg

23508359068_a6e3f20aa6.jpg

23508357788_9fd6068307.jpg

I nearly cried.

I was so relieved. The day was over. We had a couple of hours of daylight left to enjoy the lake, have a nice camp dinner, and cozy into our tent for the night.

My sigh of relief might have been premature.

As we unloaded our backpacks onto the dirt, we realized one significant item was conspicuously missing.

I hadn’t packed the tent.

We literally stood there in silence and stared, as though we could force the tent to materialize before us. Just maybe, if I stared at that bag of beef jerky long enough, it would become a tent.

On every trip with me, there is at least one moment that earns Matt yet another gold star in his “He Didn’t Kill Her Yet” book.

As Matt simply shook his head in disbelief, I spoke up, “At least I packed the fly.” I shrugged. I was struggling to find something that would make this horrible situation less horrible.

See, there is the tent, your wonderful enclosed capsule of nylon that separates you from the “outside.” Then, there is the fly, a thick cover that spreads over the top and sides of the tent in inclement weather conditions.

Do not make the mistake of thinking the fly is in any way an actual tent. It is essentially a domed tarp.

I had also managed to bring the tent poles and stakes. Just not the ACTUAL TENT.

“Isn’t this the point of camping?” I asked, “Adventure?”

Matt ignored me as he stared at the tent poles, a bag of clothes pins, some rope and a tarp and tried to figure out how to make them into a proper shelter.

Our first attempt was an utter failure.

It stood for a few minutes before starting to deflate, like a sad little balloon, until it was nothing more than a pile of blue and yellow plastic on the ground.

37103742320_089e231f43.jpg

37884423495_8b6c725fed.jpg

38054426274_fa34e30952.jpg

23508354088_d3977e4207.jpg

That’s when Matt figured out that there were loops inside the fly and hooks on the ends that would actually hold the tent poles. What he constructed was a giant shell with no floor that we tied down with rope.

It would have to do.

38740591442_aef4df9479.jpg

While it allowed us to feel like we had shelter, the reality was that it would not keep us warm and that anything with 4 legs ….or eight….or NONE….could scamper, crawl, or slither inside during the night.

At least we were alone at the campground that night. It was a small victory that our calamity could remain a private shame.

The other positive was that the forecast didn’t call for rain.

Now THAT would be a calamity!

We spent the evening enjoying the solitude of the small lake, having a simple dinner, and drinking enough wine to ensure we wouldn’t even know we were sleeping in the open woods without a tent.

23508351998_0a76921df1.jpg

23508350188_664d667dbb.jpg

37329728832_1135d545db.jpg

37329726392_d6c06b3d1a.jpg

37329723892_1e3f29764d.jpg

37329718662_717a2c6ed5.jpg

37329712132_df2e5542aa.jpg

37329710062_0a68a67a36.jpg

37329708032_fdfe1ffa14.jpg

37329705182_79bd4a8d4a.jpg

37329703162_68854c7692.jpg

37329701882_f10f6ab1da.jpg

37329699702_5be13c09a3.jpg

37329698882_a43d200eaf.jpg

37329698072_0f3f48d562.jpg

Sure, to many this toilet simply screams, “Hell no,” but when you have just hiked for 10 hours without a bathroom break while consuming approximately 3 months’ worth of water, this is practically heaven. An actual TOILET in the woods is a miracle. It eliminates the problems of the butt hover or the half-squat, both of which are completely ineffective at avoiding getting pee into your pants which will be around your ankles unless you take the time to remove your boots and take your pants completely off, which you won’t BECAUSE YOU’RE ON A TRAIL IN THE WOODS. Even better, there is a spectacular view and actual toilet paper (provided you remembered to put it in your pocket).

37103746510_2cfa23e199.jpg

37103744690_efc2970b0d.jpg

Granted, there is the lack of privacy to deal with. You never know who is going to be watching.

37329700872_79032a5533.jpg

And, thoughtful as it was, this toilet brush seemed quite pointless.

37103743230_39e9bdf9af.jpg

Finally, the sun dipped behind the mountains, leaving behind a glowing sky that would quickly turn to pitch black.

36689970873_5c5859e061.jpg

36689969363_bccda4d545.jpg

It was time to head to our “tent.”

We had barely placed our heads on our pillows when I heard something LARGE moving around in the woods, just feet away. Maybe it was just that deer. But what if it wasn’t???

We both shouted and flipped on our flashlights, only to hear whatever it was moving away in the darkness.

And that’s when the storm started.

Bolts of electricity from the sky immediately replaced bears in the dark as the scariest thing in Montana.

When referring to “things that pucker your butthole”, the fury of Zeus takes a big poop all over the lowly bear.

We could hear the wind blowing the trees above us harshly, as the thunder cracked and lightning bolted through the sky.

“Really??” I said to Matt, “After everything else today….THIS??? Really???”

“It will be fine,” Matt said, “As long as the wind doesn’t blow our tarp away.”

I immediately reminded him that we were far more likely to die by lightning strike than by being attacked by a bear.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website, YOU ARE NOT SAFE ANYWHERE OUTSIDE DURING A THUNDERSTORM. Being under a tarp on the dirt does not qualify as being inside.

We held onto the edges of our tarp and suffered through the night.

SPAM: THE OTHER WHITE RED PINK MEAT.

36689964013_46237e15da.jpg

Weary, we decamped and had a breakfast of cheese grits and Spam. Perhaps a breakfast made from a giant vat of whipped pig that has been pummeled and poured into an inorganic geometric shape seems unappetizing, and just a little creepy, but after our long night, being alive and eating Spam seemed amazing.

It had been, of course, a miserable way to spend the night, but when we had some time to dry out (and eat some mysteriously cubed meat), we couldn’t stop laughing.

The truth is, it’s not the pleasant nights we spend under the stars that we remember for years to come. Instead, we’ll reminisce about that time we almost died under a tarp in the woods during a thunderstorm. Sure, it’s miserable and hateful while it’s happening, but it’s legendary when it’s over. It’s the experience that sticks with you. Getting lost, getting cold, getting hungry, getting wet, getting scared, and coming out on top; that’s the stuff that makes life worth living.

That’s the stuff we’ll remember.

I’d like to say that, once the night was over, the worst had passed.

In the past 12 hours, I had feared death by falling off a mountain, death by random bear, and death by lightning.

But they were not the worst of it.

In reality, my most terrifying, life-threatening, wildlife event turned out to be the hike back up the scree slope to Firebrand Pass.

36689961303_b2177e8b70.jpg

I realized I shouldn’t have worried about bears and sleeping in the open during a thunderstorm. I should have been worried about that piece of pie I ate and trying to haul it along with a stuffed French toast belly and that extra glass of wine up a steep gravel slope. It wasn’t a bear encounter that was going to kill me.

No, I was going to die by sliding painfully down a mountain of gravel into a tree that was waiting 400 feet below me.

All because I ate that extra pancake.

I literally did a death march up the mountain, bent at a 90 degree angle, hands on my thighs, backpack parallel to the ground like a turtle shell, pausing every 90 seconds to gasp for breath, curse, and cry.

Periodically, I would simply stand and groan loudly, so much so that Matt said I sounded like an elephant giving birth. Matt ,naturally, was practically dancing up the mountain.

For the first stretch, I was cranky. By the middle, I was wretched. Before we reached the top, I wanted to punch Matt in the nose. I probably would have if I could have caught up to him.

The word “miserable” took on a whole new meaning for me. This was not the Firebrand Pass trail, it was the Mount Misery trail. The only reason I didn’t cry is because I couldn’t get enough oxygen.

I should have stayed at home, binge-watching the Real Housewives of Orange County in my sweat pants with my dogs.

I consumed more water on the way up that mountain than I have the rest of this calendar year. Sad, but true.

Somehow, by a combination of stubbornness, the grace of God, and guttural screaming, I made it to the top.

I would have stopped to revel in it, but couldn’t for fear of being blown back down by the 50 mph winds.

We made our way through the golden fields back toward the trailhead.

36689957373_476df8a3d4.jpg

36689953523_c644799b7c.jpg

36689945643_7d2bba6e4f.jpg

37312725486_59a518d607.jpg

37312721056_2eaf1b1bc7.jpg

23508297178_91fb12e535.jpg

36689933853_718575c5ec.jpg

36689931283_56e1eb967f.jpg

Yes - even in the wilderness, Matt checks his cell phone.

He was probably sending a message to Steve and Al to bring the car fortified with alcohol and painkillers.

36689949643_d1e897db78.jpg

I’m sure Steve and Al were surprised to see us climb out of the woods intact. After dropping us off, I am pretty sure they expected to come back to find us dismembered beside the tracks, everything stolen except our packet of Spam.

And you know you have great friends when they immediately open the back of the SUV to pull out cups, champagne, and OJ.

God bless ‘em.

Friends show up to give you a ride from the trailhead. Real friends show up with mimosas.

23508278098_3b329c4542.jpg

They had no idea how much I needed it.

We made a short drive and stopped at Johnson’s KOA for a hearty lunch. The mile high huckleberry ice cream pie was amazing.

37103655810_1b678d1002.jpg

37103653860_e88e2c62ce.jpg

37312689826_d1dcc5a7bf.jpg

37103651290_5f5e770f02.jpg

37103649840_541ae7dc83.jpg

37103647390_871b1a6653.jpg

36689899503_2b992ee937.jpg

36689895773_a669a0d49a.jpg

As we started our drive back across the park, we noticed that, in just the few days we had been here, the smoke had grown so thick that if we hadn’t been many times before, we wouldn’t have known any of the magnificent peaks were even there.

23508280058_5a1d2cc7c3.jpg

23508283368_4e943d5506.jpg

36689894163_b1fc2c7487.jpg

36689891883_cdd9c77ee2.jpg

36689889663_1db21cd471.jpg

36650622644_f715f1075c.jpg

It was about that time that I received a phone call from the Lake McDonald Lodge to tell us that they were closing due to the fire.

Understand that they are only a few lodges in the park with limited rooms. We had booked almost a year in advance to even have rooms. Now, we had to find rooms for THAT NIGHT? Impossible.

As luck would have it, the Village Inn at Apgar had a cancellation.

For one room.

36650613514_36893d6c3a.jpg

36689880623_98b333b9c9.jpg

While it wasn’t exactly the 2 deluxe queen cabins that we had reserved at Lake McDonald, it was the only room left in a 60 mile radius and we took it. Besides, it was a definite step up from the previous night.

We spent a beautiful, if slightly hazy, night on the shores of Lake McDonald at the Village Inn with a spectacular dinner at Belton Chalet.

36650620104_b09c455bbb.jpg

36650615284_1ab248aa0f.jpg

36689878823_6bebfbc948.jpg

36689876713_3fee4f35fe.jpg

36689875413_781ee8aba4.jpg

37359440531_e4f5136351.jpg

37359434301_4b9dece70d.jpg

37359432591_2374607516.jpg

37359430961_2a18998fc3.jpg

37359428971_e2b41173fa.jpg

23508213938_12fc81d77e.jpg

23508213168_c80058edb3.jpg

23508212278_e576ea009e.jpg

Steamed PEI mussels with verde chorizo broth, burrata and heirloom tomato salad, spicy bisque, rich porcini and ricotta mac and cheese with bacon, and bison meatloaf followed by a delightful little jar of banana pudding.

It was almost good enough to make us forget about the awkward sleeping arrangements.

26995351689_5713a0a635.jpg

GONE FISHING

23508211678_15aa075916_b.jpg

We enjoyed the sunrise at Lake McDonald followed by a fat loaded breakfast at Eddie’s of Apgar.

23508210818_6d468608a4.jpg

23508210408_4a0bcf990d.jpg

23508209148_fb05a18b6f.jpg

23508207918_fa7ff44396.jpg

The guys really wanted to do some fly fishing, and we were all exhausted, so instead of hiking up a mountain, we did nothing more than hike the shores of the Flathead River.

It was a beautiful day to do a whole lot of nothing.

37329610242_135cd692df.jpg

23508202478_f28c7e2ec3.jpg

38771193561_7e8aa25925.jpg

23508195618_6528ee66f4.jpg

23508192208_287b56271a.jpg

23508189688_8bc86c2ed7.jpg

37312628336_27fb7107cf.jpg

37312625306_819e7b5f6b.jpg

37312622256_dfd37c141a.jpg

37312620316_fa1a2cab92.jpg

37312614846_2d4bc8642d.jpg

37359395321_f3c4a1ddf0.jpg

37329580262_567bc4940b.jpg

37329578052_14efa36c12.jpg

37329571852_b9b5583e12.jpg

37329568892_619731b65a.jpg

Fishing was a hardship for Al and I, but we endured somehow.

37329595912_fe8112f927.jpg

23508187548_ec253ce058.jpg

I am happy to report that no life threatening events occurred that day.

Our final night in the park was at Belton Chalet. I love the vintage rustic rooms. It’s like stepping back to a gentler, quieter time.

A time without tents and Spam.

36689797573_88a481e222.jpg

36689796513_2b61a4d37d.jpg

36650514524_03e914d007.jpg

We cleaned up and made the long drive down a mostly dirt road through miles and miles of nothing to have dinner at the Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge.

Polebridge is an electricity-free community cradled between the Continental Divide and Whitefish Mountain Range. It’s 27 miles from the entrance at West Glacier, with 13 of those miles on dirt road. Made up of a handful of houses, cabins, a hostel and a few small ranches along the North Fork Road, Polebridge is mostly made up of rustic locals and a scattering of hardy visitors. The hub of the area is the historic Polebridge Mercantile (the Merc) and the Northern Lights Saloon—both powered by generators. It’s a haven for hippies and random dogs, and isthe best place to find freshly baked pastries as big as your head.

I can’t come to GNP without making the long, arduous trip to Polebridge.

23508149758_47134a60a4_b.jpg

You know that dream you have about living way out in the woods? You have that dream, right? Don’t we all have that dream?

Every time I drive out to Polebridge, the dream is alive. In it, I live in a cozy farmhouse where all of the furniture is made out of logs and planks that look like they were wrenched off the side of an old barn. I grow my own food and even MAKE PIE CRUST FROM SCRATCH. I wear flannel shirts and have a golden retriever. In it, I raise fat chickens and goats, even though my parents live on a farm and have that stuff and I know better because that shizz requires a lot of hard work and is full of perpetual animal poop. But in my dream, the animals are self-feeding and cleaning and simply look cuddly and give me eggs and cheese.

Polebridge can do that to you. You can see yourself getting “off the grid” and living in simplicity with a 3 legged dog and a wood burning stove, making your own clothing out of hemp and brewing beer on your back porch.

It’s deliciously authentic.

23508152138_73c2b0b743.jpg

23508142888_ac1cc1ceae.jpg

23508143838_162ec18303.jpg

36650472884_51236841c7.jpg

36650468774_b6fe38d089.jpg

36650470654_886534f836.jpg

Speaking of delicious, it was pizza night at the saloon.

Yes, please.

36650512324_022721df7f.jpg

23508155298_c1ab9bec52.jpg

23508148568_f9696b2af9.jpg

23508146018_a0aed6ef9e.jpg

36650476764_10841d2531.jpg

36650479814_521968968b.jpg

And I’ll have a piece of pie with a blue eyed cat on the side.

A huckleberry bear claw to go? Why not?

36650467814_b2a9b44374.jpg

37359340511_d066f3ac4a.jpg

36650482814_25db2f1e79.jpg

SHOPPING: FISHING FOR GIRLS, EXCEPT THAT WE ACTUALLY COME HOME WITH THINGS.

It was our day to leave the park, but it was good timing, as the Sprague Fire had grown in the past couple of days, covering much of the park in a thick haze and forcing several early closures.

We were heartbroken to hear that the historic Sperry Chalet, a hike-in only lodge high in the mountains above Lake McDonald that we had visited many times, had been lost to the fire the night before.

23906487047_18e161b6d8.jpg

38740115382_da83d93dd9.jpg

The guys has a fishing trip planned and Al and I had a date with some shopping in Whitefish, so we fueled up at Montana Coffee Traders before going our separate ways.

37359339111_dbb9091762.jpg

37359336551_e8ce9b4953.jpg

36650460854_2595ee8530.jpg

36650459474_8150bf2353.jpg

36650457684_a1d767bdbe.jpg

37359324091_7e88b2f5a3.jpg

Whitefish is the quintessential mountain town, replete with rough-hewn logs, fur throws, and lots of plaid things. We managed to do some credit card damage before the guys called to be picked up.

37103411640_0f9bca84a7.jpg

37103409190_464334390b.jpg

37359320401_6891368acc.jpg

37103406570_2031d436a2.jpg

37359315591_0bef3245bb.jpg

37359317661_8a03f05822.jpg

37359254241_1813d8cbaf.jpg

We grabbed lunch at Backslope Brewing before heading in for the afternoon to tackle the laborious task of taking an SUV full of dirty clothes and camping gear and trying to fit it into a few suitcases.

37359313641_eae0338b53.jpg

37359310801_4cddaef6c1.jpg

37359307371_c5355ae0f2.jpg

It literally took all afternoon and involved an inordinate amount of swearing.

Finally finished, we rewarded our hard work with cocktails in the rustic bar of the Tamarack Lodge.

36650385224_d1e5365fbc.jpg

36650387194_5c801605f9.jpg

36650390094_01ac4d5edc.jpg

37312537806_978b84184a.jpg

37312536206_3b9876896f.jpg

Because this only whetted our appetite for small glasses filled with brown liquid, we made a trip to the Glacier Distilling Company before dinner. Glacier Distilling is a locally owned, small batch distillery where all of the spirits are hand crafted and hand bottled in their adorable red Whiskey Barn.

37312535146_c6b7cbc7fc.jpg

37312532646_bfe0a53bee.jpg

36689711403_0e709660f9.jpg

36689708953_0d5331c795.jpg

37312526596_b23ff9d71a.jpg

37312524846_26734d0246.jpg

Then it was time for dinner. I was super excited.

While I was planning our trip, I ran across an article titled, “The Most Romantic Restaurants in Every State.” Montana’s Whitefish Lake Restaurant was listed and we were staying only a short drive down the road.

Built in 1936, the 75 year old restaurant is considered by many to be the best in the Flathead Valley. Housed in an original tamarack log building with cathedral ceilings and fireplaces, it promised to be as romantic as it was delicious.

Not that we would ever know.

I Google Mapped us to the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, where we promptly entered the restaurant and provided the name for our reservation.

The hostess gave us an odd look, but showed us to a table immediately.

37312523356_f6f0d9dee0.jpg

37103418340_51da58c888.jpg

The room was sleek and stylish and had a spectacular view of the lake, but it didn’t exude the historic atmosphere that I had expected. No matter, the menu looked amazing and the place smelled divine.

We dove enthusiastically into the duck nachos and ordered a bottle of red wine.

Everything was delicious. Maybe not quite as romantic as I expected, but the sunset view over the lake was a nice touch.

It was about halfway through my crispy fried quail over butternut squash and fingerling potatoes that I got the phone call.

From the Whitefish Lake Restaurant.

Asking me where I was.

“I’m here,” I said, stupidly.

“You’re where, exactly?” the gentleman on the phone asked.

“At the restaurant. At the Lodge. On Whitefish Lake.”

He sighed. “We aren’t on Whitefish Lake. You are at the Boathouse. No worries. It happens all the time.”

We were at the wrong restaurant.

Sometimes, even I am amazed at how stupid I am.

In my defense….who names their restaurant the Whitefish Lake Restaurant when there is only ONE restaurant on Whitefish Lake and YOU ARE NOT IT?????

Apparently, the Whitefish Lake Restaurant is not on Whitefish Lake, but is at the Whitefish Lake Golf Club, in which case it should have been named the Whitefish Golf Club Restaurant.

So close to eating at the most romantic restaurant, but….NO.

As we dove into the giant slab of huckleberry cheesecake, we felt we had made a good mistake.

37312521486_0228483e24.jpg

37359268571_256b7cbe37.jpg

37103421020_a2a6a79ed4.jpg

37103415510_57b0060e1b.jpg

There was nothing left to do but catch a few hours of sleep before our 3:00 a.m. wake up call to head to the airport.

We were dusty and tired. We had blisters and back pain. I love the backcountry and leaving the wilderness, with all its untouched and pristine beauty, is hard every time. It’s a vacation that is intensely challenging at times and it isn’t always comfortable, but being alone with your thoughts, being alone with your spouse, and being one with the big wide world is indescribable. You solve all of the world’s problems on a dirt trail. You come out a new person. A better person.

The Sprague Fire that burned while we were there ended up burning about 18,000 acres of the park. As a lightning fire (SEE HOW DANGEROUS LIGHTNING IS????) I realize that it is simply part of nature’s cycle and it must happen, but it is still a devastating loss to someone that visits the park to see that natural beauty.

As much as we love it, we’ll probably look to new mountains for our future adventures. In addition to the ravaged landscape, the popularity of the park has exploded. When we first visited, annual visitation was about 1.6 million people. While that sounds like a lot, the park felt vast and empty when we were there. Now, with over 3.2 million visitors per year, it’s just too crowded for us.

I think we plan to step away for a while and let her heal. In the meantime, there are new mountains to climb, new trails to conquer, new tents to forget.

“And into the forest we’ll go, to lose our minds and find our souls.”

38755340002_50f7ed97d6.jpg

Posted by vicki_h 06:59 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (6)

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods: Part I

Back to Glacier National Park

When we are in the mountains of Montana, we forget to count the days. Nothing exists but the crunch of the trail beneath our boots, the fresh air that smells of pine and wildflowers, and the big blue sky that stretches endlessly above us. We forget about alarm clocks and schedules. We go to the mountains to fill our spirits with good things. We come home refreshed.

Going to Montana feels like going home. I can’t explain it, other than to say that I feel like I am my best self when I am there. I feel the most complete and at peace. As much as I love my island home in the Bahamas, my heart truly lives in the mountains of Montana.

In Montana, I feel wild and free.

It was time to go over the mountains and through the woods.

36651398694_00fb653ac4.jpg

ARE WE THERE YET?

A series of airline mishaps got us to GNP in the dark, rather than our original noon arrival time. We did nothing more than crash in our simple cabin at the Apgar Village Lodge when we arrived. It was not the day we had planned. We went to bed grumpy and frustrated, having missed out on a half day of our plans.

We did enjoy a beautiful evening at Lake McDonald, however. We just caught the dying rays of the sun. We spent the night in a simple cabin. Accommodations in the park are pretty basic, but we can't help but love them in all their terrible simplicity.

36690631793_f311553341.jpg

36690630963_01b6347ee4.jpg

37313351376_dd3efa05be.jpg

37313353756_3709c598db.jpg

When we woke up the next morning on the shores of Lake McDonald, all was forgiven.

This place had a magic that soothed the soul. As we gazed across the water at a spectacular sunrise, we simply felt blessed to be in this place.

23508869728_b7a3eef068.jpg

23508866008_b017c44213.jpg

37330328502_0bc35d6629.jpg

We had a quick breakfast in our cabin on our circa 1951 yellow formica table, sipping coffee from our brown diner mugs, and contemplated our day.

37313357556_0e469684fe.jpg

Losing our leisurely entry day meant we had to hit the ground running. No lolling around looking at the scenery to get acclimated. We were hitting it hard with the demanding Siyeh Pass Loop hike. Not truly a loop, the hike would take us 11 miles, ending about a mile from where we began, requiring a shuttle ride back to where we started. In addition to the stunning views, we’d get to enjoy 2300 feet of elevation gain, one reason why this hike was considered one of the more strenuous hikes in the park.

We were worried that the nearby Sprague Fire, which had been sparked by lightning about 2 weeks before our arrival in the park, would create too much haze and smoke to enjoy the hike. The fire had already grown to 1500 acres. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was very little smoke at all. It was a beautiful day for a hike!

24912882998_62c6c6427d.jpg

37330316782_a516ccc1c6.jpg

37104214760_e6b1537864.jpg

36651360534_05b25b9748.jpg

And what a hike it was. Considered one of the most scenic day hikes in the park, it didn’t disappoint. Despite the fact that it was labeled “strenuous,” it really didn’t seem that bad at all. A walk in the park, really.

The trail meandered along Siyeh Creek for a short distance before turning sharply into the forest.

36651363734_e269f853be.jpg

37360129621_a861d0c666.jpg

37360127781_057f6e3987.jpg

37360126151_6070e59b7d.jpg

After a long series of moderately inclined switchbacks, we reached a flat area called “Preston Park,” a glacially carved valley filled with soft meadows and what remained of the season’s wildflowers. Each meadow became larger as we approached Siyeh Pass.

We were surrounded by giants. Matahpi Peak, Piegan Mountain, and Heavy Runner Mountain towered above us as we made our way through the sunny meadows.

36651343634_2b08c3f6d9_b.jpg

36651339914_f3476c358b.jpg

36651334174_f4929ed871.jpg

36651336814_9f0057159d.jpg

After several miles of meadow, we crossed Siyeh Creek. The views were outstanding.

37330291962_37253f04df.jpg

37330289072_e3108b81f0.jpg

37330286502_bdf2d8e441.jpg

36690559273_61a272560b.jpg

37330284162_7420406b76.jpg

It was then that my least favorite part of any hike began, climbing to the pass. We had about 1.5 miles of steep climbing to reach Siyeh Pass.

36690557363_d302cda5e9.jpg

36651307074_e197c4f734.jpg

37313262696_8c3b7ba044_b.jpg

As we made our way up the endless switchbacks, I really didn’t think it was all that grueling, considering the descriptions of the hike I had read: “significantly challenging,” “really difficult hike,” “bring plenty of water and strong knees,” “very steep scree slope.” I could see the summit and it wasn’t that far away.

When I reached it, I realized why it didn’t seem that bad. It was a false summit. We had only just gotten started. From there, the trail rose steeply upward for what seemed an eternity.

36651308724_0375b83b93.jpg

36651303024_b83df125c1.jpg

36651299404_4ed6aac6fc.jpg

36651293534_41456ce6c9.jpg

37360087381_52e6772f15.jpg

36651287314_a9c348d842.jpg

37360079671_5b27dc019d.jpg

36651301304_6ffe76118d.jpg

With every new switchback, I became more certain I should have just stayed at the motel for the day and watched daytime TV in my pajamas, eating vending machine chips.

Unfortunately, I was 5 miles from anywhere in either direction. Fueled by determination (and a strong desire for the Italian Hoagie wedged deeply in Matt's backpack), we powered up the mountain.

The views at the top were …..just…..magnificent.

37313239506_6e158f0fe4.jpg

36651253604_e0b5da1136.jpg

37360078241_3194bf71ce.jpg

37313238296_09c45fdc9b.jpg

37330267142_0f9a03e4bd.jpg

23508773098_3fb9a010f5.jpg

36651259164_42e03abbc2.jpg

36651255194_b65dbe732e.jpg

36651251174_5cf500764f_b.jpg

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down and I generally find going steeply downhill more painful than going up. Thankfully, we were distracted from the steep trek downward by big horn sheep scattered on either side of the trail and views to forever.

37313214846_2929565034.jpg

36651249744_cecd7aa5ca.jpg

36651247874_bc82dbb1a2.jpg

23508756728_d6ba670308.jpg

37313216676_2a606b40f3.jpg

37313211216_78332849a5.jpg

36690481743_f869328f05.jpg

36690471213_b295d263e7.jpg

36690451313_4d895eca6b.jpg

23508721458_02d861d702.jpg

23508722538_6af8268d8b.jpg

37330222252_b888bae020.jpg

37330225892_20708fd620.jpg

When we finally got low enough to be out of the wind and were able to find a spot that wasn’t so steep we’d surely slide to our deaths if we stopped moving, we sat down for lunch.

37313208386_c30d8dbb95.jpg

36690449383_4659cc90ea.jpg

36690447883_80c77ae6fd.jpg

36690444463_e6e9acb5e3.jpg

36690443473_8b4e4a9281.jpg

From this point, it was a long hike through Sunrift Gorge back to the Going to the Sun Road where we would shuttle back to the car and meet our friends as they finished up their Highline Trail hike. The high point of the afternoon was finding a pool of ice cold water we could soak our aching feet in.

36690442323_3e050989c6.jpg

36690439653_66aca7735e.jpg

36690436933_8aeeb93e00.jpg

37359997091_b44379f7d7.jpg

37359993941_3d3a0c68e1.jpg

37359990181_f8da6211fc.jpg

37359985951_6567c4f3a3.jpg

As we neared the bottom, we noticed the thickening haze from the wildfires. The afternoon winds had blown the smoke our way. Thankfully, we were “out of the woods” and headed to Many Glacier Hotel, where we could grab some showers, some dinner, and rest our weary feet.

Many Glacier is a beautiful historic property on the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. One of my favorite moments on any trip to GNP is sitting on the expansive deck in an oversized Adirondack chair, a drink in my hand, reliving the best moments of the day as the sun sets behind Mount Grinnell.

37330175082_ef1b71f677.jpg

37330136822_37c457277d.jpg

37329929052_50db9f8858.jpg

36690426273_eb779c5dc2.jpg

36690425243_9f0bddec57.jpg

37330185462_8955b9772b.jpg

37330181762_6af02ce121.jpg

37330177182_0ed4064bfc.jpg

Sunset gazing was followed by dinner at the best steakhouse in northwest Montana. The Cattle Baron supper club looks like a total dive from the outside, complete with a parking lot full of pick-up trucks and more than its share of neon beer signs adorning the windows. Once you walk inside, you are transported, greeted by gleaming wood, white tablecloths, and candlelight. It’s filled with everything a fancy Montana steakhouse should have: giant wagon wheels, barstools made out of whiskey barrels, antler chandeliers, and Indian headdresses. What’s not to love?

38740118442_174655c3dd.jpg

38740119092_5c4b7bac40.jpg

24898010168_a8c0f82525.jpg

And the steaks? Prehistoric.

And so fresh you might drive past tomorrow night’s meal on the way home.

23906486897_ce232ec2b9.jpg

GUESS WHO CAME TO DINNER?

It’s hard to beat waking up at Many Glacier Hotel, grabbing a cup of coffee, and watching the sun come up. Sure, the coffee isn’t very good and it’s terribly overpriced, but …that view.

Sunrise over Swiftcurrent Lake is majestic.

The sun crawls slowly over the edges of the mountains, first red, then gold, and the water is still as glass, turning every beautiful image into a double vision.

23508679348_1ae55553b9_b.jpg

37330173022_31b2d83117.jpg

37104070510_19f1bed450.jpg

37330170482_26afef8631.jpg

37330169682_a1e890d576.jpg

37330153122_a378c08847.jpg

37330168762_285b85f3d4.jpg

37359964751_a3a52cd7bf.jpg

23508665268_d3823b789a.jpg

36651154414_1780104b59.jpg

Afterward, we headed a mile down the road to the Swiftcurrent Motel where we grabbed a hearty breakfast at Nell’s.

37359933031_a5d94feedb.jpg

37359930851_5ca72735f6.jpg

36651090654_edd8922729.jpg

36651089194_0e9c9aa0f7.jpg

This was also where Matt and I needed to pick up our backcountry pass. Oh yes. We were doing it again. We would be hiking into the backcountry and camping overnight.

So I got 3 pancakes instead of 2.

And I stuffed a few packets of jelly into my pocket.

36651146404_a752c9ab25.jpg

36651125934_1f910e6692.jpg

We did the Cracker Lake hike on our very first trip to Glacier National Park and I was awestruck by the turquoise lake hidden far back in a cirque of mountains. It has always remained my very favorite hike.

While we had returned to do the hike several more times on subsequent trips, we had never obtained a camping permit to spend the night there. This time, I had managed to secure an advanced reservation for one of the 3 coveted tent sites at Cracker Lake for the night.

This broke the 12 mile hike into 2 days. Only 6 miles of hiking in a day was practically leisurely compared to the Siyeh Pass hike, even though I would have a full pack on my back. Steve and Al would hike in with us, but would hike back out on their own while we set up camp to stay for the night. We’d rejoin them the next day back at the Many Glacier Hotel.

36651086894_5839c16475.jpg

36651084794_59f6a51b2f.jpg

The hike back to Cracker Lake started with a trek high around the edge of Cracker Flats. I always look for bears here. It just seems like a place they would be. If I was a bear, I’d definitely be down there.

36651082304_9e114ba2c1.jpg

36651079904_935b3539d4.jpg

37330078542_ba11a3da76.jpg

37330075412_153942b399.jpg

37330069002_be5d42b49e.jpg

"No, I am not easily distracted...oooooo.....is that a bird?"

37330071862_44348c617f.jpg

The trail then entered the forest where it climbed endless switchbacks up and up and up for what literally seems like an eternity. Even though I had hiked this trail at least 5 times before, I didn’t remember it being this difficult. Oh yes, the backpack. There’s a really big difference between walking somewhere and walking somewhere with a bag the size of a small European country on your back.

37330065342_5753f2d2b9.jpg

37330061792_f232fc590f.jpg

Around mile 5, the trail broke out of the forest into a canyon. We still couldn’t see the lake, and the trail wound around and around, over one hill after another, never actually getting to the lake. We were certain at each rise that we’d see the lake on the other side.

The anticipation was maddening.

37313058686_007a7077e0.jpg

36651066264_739135d1c2.jpg

36651062984_659d38e793.jpg

36651059274_077f0bd8d8.jpg

36651054294_b096c9a9d4.jpg

Just before mile 6, we reached the top of a hill and the lake came into view in all its cerulean splendor.

The color of the lake is the result of “glacial flour," fine rock particles from the glacier grinding on the mountains above” suspended in the water, reflecting the light.

It was simply breathtaking.

37359845991_390a2ea9ea.jpg

37359841601_9db6a66ba3.jpg

We spread out on a warm rock for lunch, soaking in the sunshine like a bunch of lizards, and feeling too lazy to move.

37359853381_a6520e924b.jpg

37359849341_9aeff51054.jpg

That’s when Mister Fabulous arrived.

In all my days of hiking in the backcountry, I have never seen anything like him.

A young man in hiking attire that was far too fancy to be practical strolled up to our spot and made it clear that we were exactly where he intended to be. He was alone and carried a billowy white scarf (what the???) and a camera with a selfie stick. Despite our obviously invasive presence, he proceeded to flutter around the meadow photographing himself with his scarf in a dramatic fashion, all while shooting daggers at us with his eyes because our hiking and becoming one with nature was apparently interfering with his Instagram photo shoot.

He was starring in his own movie, and we were bad extras.

I did my personal best to ensure a Cheez-It ended up in the background of every shot.

With lunch over and Mister Fabulous hallway back to the Many Glacier Hotel with his billowy white scarf, it was time for Steve and Alison to hit the trail back while Matt and I finished the last mile to the campground and set up camp for the night.

I was giddy. I had never gone past the overlook point on the trail. For all the times I had been to Cracker Lake, I had never actually been TO Cracker Lake.

37359836361_20dfe7f58e.jpg

37103951260_a597cf24d8.jpg

37103946990_0c2cdf19fa.jpg

37313027616_a79ae0a59c.jpg

The trail took us to a hill overlooking the lake where we found 3 tent sites, each as spectacular as the other. We chose the one that seemed to offer the most privacy from the other two and set up camp.

I couldn’t believe the view from our tent.

37359817621_22171e1ba7.jpg

37359815391_59645c50f4.jpg

37313012356_487a841ed5.jpg

37313010606_d279908075.jpg

Sure, backcountry camping requires a long walk with a heavy pack, a lot of organized planning of gear, meals that are less spectacular than crap you ate in your college dorm room, and there is that whole “setting up camp” business before you can relax, but this view was exactly why we suffered through it.

36650997304_1c7c9c84b5_b.jpg

A backcountry campsite beats front country camping any day. My experience with front country camping was that the only thing “camplike” about it was the tent, but that it was mostly screaming children, the smell of burnt hot dogs and chili, and competing radios with Toby Keith trying to out sing Nascar.

Not this place.

This was pristine. This was perfect. The silence was complete and the air smelled of nothing more than fresh wildflowers.

36651003464_9d135b5373.jpg

36650999424_95238d06f7.jpg

23508550038_680e2c3d91.jpg

36650993364_0a7e2952aa.jpg

23508545648_9c9e75f4ee.jpg

38771194201_2c174a7c17.jpg

23508543668_a8888d594f.jpg

23508541258_fd2cabd74f.jpg

23508540228_93f0d6dc24.jpg

37312993006_9fc7bf4ac5_b.jpg

38740117692_339eb9457e.jpg

We spent the afternoon walking the shore of the lake, laying on the warm rocks and listening to the water trickle down from the mountains above, and simply taking off our shoes to walk barefoot in the water.

Oh, and chilling our wine in the ice cold water.

37103901350_f2a60a023f.jpg

36690203623_584725121c.jpg

36690202063_8a23d44ab0.jpg

Why wine? Because I don’t hike unless there is wine at the end of the trail. Backcountry camping is why wine comes in plastic pouches, people.

Dinner was cheese and crackers (i.e., pasteurized processed cheese food and Triscuits) followed by gourmet noodles (i.e., Ramen noodles with foil pouch chicken and veges), which we almost got to eat hard and raw because I forgot the matches. Thankfully, we were able to use the barter system (which is all you have when you are 6 miles from anything) to secure some matches from our tent neighbors in exchange for sunscreen, which they had forgotten, as evidenced by their bright red faces hiding inside their tent until the sun went down.

36690199573_c94be63d3a.jpg

36690197573_99029f238a.jpg

36690196343_9f801729ee.jpg

37312978486_fec11959d9.jpg

We thought that being this far out in the wilderness would prevent unwanted dinner guests (like screaming children with hot dog sticks and pockets filled with half melted chocolate), but then this guy showed up.

37312968896_1f16eb85bd.jpg

Within seconds, the other 4 campers (all young women) had moved to our tent and stood with me and Matt while we watched to see what the bear would do.

It was only then that I realized the benefit that having small children at a campground would offer. Sure, they seem to only have one volume – SCREAMING – and one speed – RUNNING - but they are also bite sized and typically covered in BBQ sauce and melted marshmallows. I’m no outdoor expert, but if I was a bear, that would certainly sound more delicious to me than a 47 year old pre-menopausal woman coated unapologetically in DEET.

As we watched, huddled together, the bear continued walking at a leisurely pace around the shore toward our side of the lake. I really didn’t want him to keep walking toward us only to be surprised when he discovered his path was covered with smelly humans who had just eaten dinner and probably had some leftover chicken on their pants, so I stood at our tent and yelled, “HEY BEAR!”

Seriously. That’s what they tell you to do in the backcountry camping orientation video you are required to watch when you pick up your permits. It tells you how to pee properly, how not to die of exposure, and what to do if you see a bear.

The answer to that third item, obviously, is to yell, “HEY BEAR!”

I can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, it was my hope that by alerting him to our presence, he would run away.

Instead, the bear just stood there looking at me while I looked at him.

37312973086_188fe3d8d6.jpg

He stared.

I stared.

37312970996_b7a71dc088.jpg

He walked a few more feet and stared.

I stared.

We did this until it got too dark to see him anymore.

Well….hell.

Rather than all 6 of us sitting together in our tent all night (which we seriously considered), everyone eventually made their way back to their own tent, zipped up tight, and hoped their tent didn’t simply look like an airy crepe filled with a delicious meat snack.

“Your odds of getting attacked by a bear are, like, 1 in 2 million,” Matt said as he dozed off to sleep. “Stop worrying, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than get attacked by a bear, and do you know anyone who’s been struck by lightning? I didn’t think so. Go to sleep.”

I went to sleep, stars blazing above….imagining that every crackling twig or swish of grass was most certainly the bear on the hill above, catching a whiff of the pasteurized processed cheese product I had smeared on my sweat pants.

It doesn’t matter that the bear was probably miles away by this time, it is amazing the volume of irrational thoughts that the darkness of a backcountry campsite can generate. When you are sleeping in a tent in the wilderness of Montana, every unidentifiable night noise is clearly a bear coming to eat you in your sleep.

37359764981_cb0fec4c3d.jpg

WHEW. WE'RE OUT OF THE WOODS.

Bears or no, waking up at Cracker Lake was a magical experience. Although, the first thing I did was use the binoculars to make sure the bear was gone.

The light was soft and the air was still and quiet. A lone mountain goat stood sentry on a rock outcropping above us.

37359763441_0b90e5c337.jpg

37359761261_3880c70e99.jpg

37359758311_bf404cc599.jpg

37359756001_d11caef8c9.jpg

37359752291_033f3d1c5f.jpg

37359750791_476b705590.jpg

37359749031_92174b597c.jpg

37359744221_4580b9fcd8.jpg

37359742161_28a479b782.jpg

We enjoyed hot coffee, loaded oatmeal, and crispy bacon before breaking camp and starting the long, and thankfully uneventful, hike back out.

37359740301_19e90a6b64.jpg

We made it back to the Many Glacier Hotel before lunch, met up with Steve and Alison, and drove back toward Babb. Our goal was to drive all the way to East Glacier, about 2.5 hours on the curvy Montana roads.

37329927222_4406d66f7c.jpg

36650919534_2aa145b646.jpg

36650916884_69c100edc5.jpg

36650914584_a4d0f6f350.jpg

We stopped en route at Two Sisters, a funky little place just outside of Many Glacier, near St. Mary. They make a mean burger and some amazing pie a la mode.

36650912574_99ccfc1f72.jpg

37103845030_1a6bde9dbf.jpg

36650908054_bf21a19fbc.jpg

36650910284_97d6e43113.jpg

From there, it was a long and lazy drive to East Glacier Village to the Glacier Park Lodge for the night with a real bed and a real shower.

Matt and I chose to stay in the adorable Gardener’s Cottage which was as cozy as it was cute. Set apart from the main lodge, it gave me a chance to clean and organize our camping gear and repack our backpacks for the following day’s overnight hike.

Because one miserable night sleeping with one eye open in the woods wondering if you will die before sunrise is simply not enough.

37103843120_7ffc42d366.jpg

37103841220_719f7de210.jpg

37329908802_8117874855.jpg

We fortified ourselves with cocktails in the lodge bar before heading to our favorite East Glacier restaurant for dinner. Serranos is a quaint little dive that serves killer margaritas and delicious Mexican food.

37329906802_afbc662903.jpg

37329904912_ee90919e1f.jpg

37329903062_38ddacb71c.jpg

23508475658_de7979f557.jpg

23508473708_a52ae1f1d5.jpg

23508471718_85c1f43669.jpg

23508469518_a27d48ac9f.jpg

23508467328_f5f403b58b.jpg

The platter of nachos was big enough to feed all four of us, but that didn’t stop me from making a valiant attempt to eat them by myself.

I failed.

That night, I was happy to sleep in a real bed with nothing to hear but the sound of a box fan that meant me no harm.

Want to know what else happens in Montana??? Stay tuned for Part II!

Posted by vicki_h 05:49 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]