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Over the Mountains and Through the Woods: Part II

Back to Glacier National Park


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





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.


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.














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.





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.


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.










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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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




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.







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?


We started trudging through the woods.


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.






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.





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.


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.
















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).



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


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


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



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.



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.


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.









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.


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.


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.









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.







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.



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.














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.




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





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.

















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



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.




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.


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.







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

Yes, please.







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

A huckleberry bear claw to go? Why not?





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.



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.







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.








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.




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.






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.







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.



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.





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.”


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.



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.





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.




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.


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!





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.





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.





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






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.




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.









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.










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.














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.






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.








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.









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?




And the steaks? Prehistoric.

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



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.











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





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.



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.



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.






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


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.



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.






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.



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



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.





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.





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.


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.












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.




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.





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.


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.


He stared.

I stared.


He walked a few more feet and stared.

I stared.

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


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.



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.










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


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.





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.





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.




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.









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)

Into the Woods: Unplugging in Big South Fork


Picture yourself trapped in the middle of the woods without electricity, wi-fi, or cell phone service. You have no car. The only way to get out is to hike through the woods for miles until you reach a dirt road….a dirt road with nothing on it for 4 miles.

No, this is not a story about how Matt and I crashed the plane and foraged our way through the wilderness surviving on pine cones and crickets. This is a story about our recent vacation “off the grid” at Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork, although, no weekend that begins by hiking your luggage in on a 2 mile trail can really be called a “vacation.”

I have tried and failed to wean Matt from his technology addiction. Even on vacation, he is continuously plugged in. The photos below demonstrate the severity of his dependence on electronic things and the difficult challenge that I face.

Matt on his phone in Hawaii:


Matt on his phone in the BVI:


Matt on his phone in Philly:


Matt on his iPad on Jost Van Dyke:


Matt on his phone in Italy:


Okay, so he's not actually on the phone in that photo. I just wanted you to see that he's reading Twilight, because that's funny stuff.

Matt on his phone at the Chattanooga Aquarium (as evidenced by the "flip phone," this problem has been ongoing for quite some time.....):


Matt on his phone in Anguilla with a curious donkey looking on - I'm pretty sure the donkey is saying, "Man, what are you DOING?"


The only way to uplug Matt is to take him somewhere with no cell phone service and no wi-fi. If there is no electricity and the nearest road is at least a 2 hour walk….all the better.

When I stumbled upon a description of the Charit Creek Lodge, I was immediately intrigued.

"Charit Creek Lodge is a rustic wilderness lodge located in a valley in the heart of Big South Fork. While reasonably accessible, it is both peacefully isolated and remote. It is accessible by hiking, biking or horseback only. The lodge is a wonderful place to escape the modern world. The lodge is completely off the grid with no wi-fi, phones, or electricity. Hand-built fences zigzag the collective area, encasing it within a hollow, emerald grassland peppered with wildflowers. All cabins offer toasty, wood-burning stoves and comfortable bedding. Every meal is fully-prepared beforehand by the staff, dinner experienced by the comely flicker of kerosene lamps. Chosen foods are familiar to Southern, home-style cuisine, featured plates ranging from cornbread and cast iron fried chicken, candied yams and spicy turnip greens, and fresh chocolate cake or apple pie. Bellies filled, residents may proceed to the rocking chairs upon the decks to stargaze into the infinitesimal beauty of the Cosmos, exceedingly clear amongst the solitude of nature. Novels may be read by candlelight or roaring fires kindled outside, all the while listening to the chorus of cicadas, glow bugs streaking the star-ridden sky above. The experience of Charit Creek Lodge is true charm. It offers a classical feel like no other. It returns visitors to their center, their sense of peace and belonging in the world. The spirit becomes reawakened by the placidity of nature in this place, and after gazing back in time here, one returns to the daily grind at home increasingly self-aware."

Forget the placidity of nature and the reawakened spirit. They had me at fried chicken and apple pie.


The drive from Knoxville to the remote dirt road where we would access the hiking trail was about 3 hours, so we grabbed a pizza and hit the road, boots and backpacks loaded and ready.




It was a perfect fall day with a clear blue sky and leaves at their peak.





The drive took us through Rugby, TN. I don’t know how I have lived in Tennessee for 25 years without hearing about Rugby.

Rugby was founded by Thomas Hughes, the novelist famous for Tom Brown’s School Days (don’t feel bad, I haven’t heard of it either). Hughes was an idealist who founded the town to provide a place for the younger sons of titled English nobility and give them a means of gainful employment. Because their elder brothers inherited the family wealth and titles, these youth were dependent on handouts from the family patriarch yet were prohibited by social custom from actual employment. So these younger sons wasted their days drinking, gambling and chasing after loose women.

Hughes’ idea was to provide a place of their own, where they could learn a trade and be productive members of society. He funded the construction of a little Victorian English village in the Southern highlands of Tennessee. At its peak Rugby had 65 buildings, more than 350 residents, a large inn, a weekly newspaper, tennis courts, and even a factory that canned tomatoes. For a short while the experiment seemed to be working.

Unfortunately, when given the chance to spend their days working instead of drinking, gambling and chasing after loose women, the only ones that ended up working were the ones pouring the drinks, dealing the cards, and hiking up their skirts. Within about a decade it became obvious that the settlement of Rugby wasn't working out, and most of Rugby's original settlers moved away or died. (Probably from cirrhosis or syphilis.)

What the late nineteenth century social experiment left behind was this village of quaint and beautiful Victorian homes and a number of mostly English ghosts in the heart of Dixie. Today Rugby is merely a ghost of an ideal village that almost was. What’s left behind is a charming village of beautiful homes, churches, and shops.









We spent some time walking through Rugby’s picturesque streets before getting back on the road for the final stretch to Big South Fork.

After a long drive down some winding dirt roads, we found ourselves at the trailhead. Unfortunately, it was the WRONG trailhead because I am not very good at reading maps. There are several ways to hike into Charit Creek Lodge, the shortest being only a .8 mile hike. This was obviously the one I had targeted because I had to make sure we got there in time for pie dinner. The trailhead I actually took us to required a 2 mile hike. Still, not too bad.




The hike in was a beautiful display of blue sky and show stopping leaves, so I was secretly glad we went the long way.












The trail eventually took us to a clearing down in a hollow where the Charit Creek Lodge sat nestled among the golden trees. There was a main lodge building with cabin accommodations on each end and the communal dining hall in the middle, a kitchen cabin, 2 field cabins, a bath house, and the adorable "corn crib," a small cabin for 3.




Each of the 4 main cabins had a front porch with rocking chairs and a screened back porch, perfect for wasting the afternoon with a good book while drinking in the crisp fall air. The interior of the cabins was made up of one large room with several double sized bunk beds with cozy bedding, some handmade furniture like tables and benches, a wood stove, and a gas lantern for light.










There was also a shiny red cooler.

"What's that for?" I asked, knowing good and well that no one was packing in ice and cold beer.

"Varmints," was the quick reply.

Because we were in the backcountry, we still had critters to deal with. I thought being in a cabin eliminated the need to worry whether or not a bear was going to smell my toothpaste. Apparently this was not the case. We were told that, if we left “smelly” items out, we could expect bears, raccoons, possums, and mice to join us overnight.

Had I known that, I would have simply elected to bring no food whatsoever and brushed my teeth with soap. However, I naively thought a cabin eliminated the potential for a varmint infestation and I had an inordinate number of sugary, carb-y, chocolately things from Trader Joe’s hidden in my backpack.

Thankfully, we were given the cooler so we could store our goodies without any fear of waking up with a mouse on our forehead.

We got our backpacks unloaded, hanging our clothes on neat wooden pegs at the foot of our bunk and headed out to dinner. We barely made it in time.

We were greeted warmly by Booger, the resident dog.




He showed us to the dining hall which was warmly lit with lanterns and set beautifully with mismatched china and mason jars of fresh lemonade.





Dinner didn't disappoint: roasted pork loin, carrot soufflé, green bean casserole, macaroni & cheese, and soft yeast rolls. The food was served family style at communal tables and there was literally more than any of us could eat.


Charit Creek also serves beer and wine for a modest charge, or you can bring your own if you don't mind backpacking it in. I assumed Matt didn't mind and had loaded his pack generously with several full sized bottles.

For dessert, there was a decadent scratch made chocolate cake. I think it was better than my grandmother use to make.

The only thing that could appropriately follow a dinner that good was a nap by the fire pit.



It was so dark in the cabin and the bedding was so comfortable that we all slept late. The soft sound of rain on the tin roof didn't help matters. Eventually, we dragged ourselves out of bed and made some coffee on the camp stove.



We got a fire going in the wood stove and within minutes, our fire alarm was going off because the smoke was drifting into the cabin instead of drafting up the flue. It was so dark in there, we couldn’t see.

We felt foolish and sheepishly opened the doors. About that time, we heard the fire alarm go off in the cabin next door and instantly felt less stupid.

Despite many attempts, I have not yet figured out how to control the weather. Consequentially, I can’t seem to avoid the occasional vacation day that begins with a never-ending torrential downpour.

It was gray and raining when we woke up. We buried our disappointment under piles of pancakes with real maple syrup, quiche, bacon, and cheese grits.




For those of you that aren't from Dixie, I will explain what a "grit" is, although I have found that trying to explain grits to someone from up North is a lot like trying to explain why fish love riding bicycles.

Many people think grits are made from ground up bits of white corn. This is a lie spread by Communists and Yankees. Nothing as good as Grits (except moonshine) can be made from corn. In reality, that mysterious Manna that God rained down upon the Israelites during their time in the Sinai Desert was Grits.

Sure, some grit scholars might disagree with me and say that grits are actually made from dried corn or hominy that is ground and then cooked with water. Obviously, these people have never eaten proper grits or else they would know that they are actually carried down from heaven on angel's wings.

Grits are symbolic of the South, like cornbread, guns, sweet tea, NASCAR and SEC football. Furthermore, it's a sin, comparable to saying "you guys” instead of “y’all,” farting in church, or saying "Huh?" when references are made to the Vol Nation, to put sugar on grits. Grits are appropriately served with salt and butter, maybe the occasional smattering of cheese.

Now you know. Go make some grits. You can thank me later.

With our bellies full of buttery grit goodness and pancakes, there was nothing to do but cozy in and watch the rain from the back porch.



Around 10:00 a.m., the rain stopped and we decided to do some hiking to make us feel better about how many pancakes we had consumed at breakfast. We set off on the Slave Falls trail, planning to connect to the Twin Arches loop and then return to the Lodge. In all, it was about 9 miles of hiking and would get us back with a couple of hours of down time before dinner.

The rain had made the woods soft and quiet and the smell of earth and wet leaves hung heavy in the air.








I love hiking. I love the peacefulness of the woods. I love the sounds and smells. I love the time spent lost in my own thoughts or talking to Matt for hours on a trail.

What I DON’T love about hiking is when there is a “call of nature.” Thankfully, it was Matt that received the call, not me.

We were about 2 miles into the trail when Matt made it clear he had some “business” to attend to and that we should move on down the trail. John, Teresa, and I moved on down the trail for about 15 minutes. I assumed this was a simple stand-up event and thought Matt would have caught back up to us by then. Guessing it might have been more of a “squat and hold onto a tree branch” event, I told John and Teresa to go on and I would wait for Matt.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It had now been about 30 minutes since Matt peeled off. I was alternating between being worried that he had suffered a more serious “event” than anticipated and had to return to the Lodge and being annoyed that I was now stuck in the middle of the woods alone. I didn’t know if I should turn back, keep waiting, or try to catch up to John and Teresa.

After several more minutes, I realized the only logical explanation for that length of time was that Matt was indeed experiencing an unfortunate gastrointestinal episode, no doubt brought on by too much butter and lard, and had returned to camp. That being the case, he would probably prefer to be alone and my best option was to try to catch John and Teresa, who were now a good half hour ahead of me on the trail.

It was about 5 minutes into my solo walk that I started thinking about bears. I don’t usually think about bears in Tennessee like I do in Montana. However, Big South Fork is home to a thriving black bear population. Hiking alone is not a good idea in bear country. Bears are more likely to attack a solo hiker than a group.

I started walking faster.

I found myself looking at every shadow, every hill….What was that??? Did that shadow move?????

Before long, I was literally sprinting up the trail. I decided it was better to trip over a root and knock out my front teeth than to be mauled by a bear. Sure, I may never be able to eat corn on the cob again, but that's what knives are for.

I reached John and Teresa, heaving and sweating.

“What’s wrong?” they asked.

“Matt never showed up. He may be sick,” I said.

“He’s right behind you,” Teresa said.

Sure enough, I spotted his orange jacket about 50 feet behind me in the woods.


Trying to decide whether to be relieved or irritated, I settled on sympathetic, because Matt had obviously had a significantly worse experience than I had.


We made our way back to Slave Falls, which was severely anticlimactic. The fall was little more than a dribble.


The good news was that I had worked up a hearty appetite with all that worry and running, despite the mound of pancakes still in my belly.

We stopped at a clearing called “Jake’s Place” and had smoked trout wraps with cream cheese and dried bananas and mangoes.



After lunch, we completed our hike with the Twin Arches Loop, which was far more scenic than the Slave Falls trail had been. We managed to finish the hike without any more dramatic events.















We arrived back at Charit Creek Lodge around 3:00 p.m. Dinner was served at 5:00 p.m., so we had some down time for naps in the hammock, reading on the porch, or enjoying a glass of wine in a rocking chair.












We returned to the dining room for another spectacular meal: Meatloaf, fried Brussels sprouts, asparagus casserole, sweet potatoes, cornbread, and apple pie.



We wrapped up the night by the fire pit and retreated to our cabin for another cozy night’s sleep.


We enjoyed a leisurely morning with coffee, biscuits and gravy, sausage, and frittata.





Then it was time to pack up and hike out. The hike out was as beautiful as the hike in. Despite the fact that the hike out was ALL UPHILL and that my stomach was distended with a mountain of biscuits, it was a glorious morning.









As I threw my pack on my back, I was surprised to find that I did feel reawakened. I did feel peace. Charit Creek truly was a magical place and it exists as an oasis in the middle of the woods filled with crackling fires, warm friendship, and fluffy biscuits. My spirit did feel renewed.

And that’s not just the apple pie talking.


Next stop: Hitting Asheville, NC with the girls!

Posted by vicki_h 07:18 Archived in USA Tagged hiking tennessee big_south_fork jamestown_tn charit_creek Comments (0)

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park

Bonus! Video!

Posted by vicki_h 10:15 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (0)

Stepping Out of Bounds in Glacier National Park: Day 8

Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Day Eight: Y'all come back now, ya hear?

It was our final day. We love the town of Whitefish but never get a chance to spend any time there on our trips to Glacier National Park, so we had opted to spend our very last day soaking in some luxury at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish.


Incredibly, it was another gorgeous day. We had been so lucky with the weather.



We stopped in Columbia Falls for carbs and caffeine at Montana Coffee Traders.




Then it was on to Whitefish. Whitefish is a quaint little mountain town. You can see the mountains towering in the distance, and it is filled with great little shops and restaurants.



















Like Loula’s where you can get the best pie in the known universe.

Montana. It’s all about the pie.




Matt and I headed back to the lodge for afternoon massages which, after 60 miles of hiking and 7 nights of alternating between sleeping on the ground and sleeping on the world’s hardest beds in the historic lodges, was exactly what we needed.


I’d like to say we ended with a bang – roping a grizzly in the parking lot or riding a bucking bronco into the sunset – but we did nothing more than have one final, quiet, fat loaded dinner.



Tupelo Grill in Whitefish was just the place to have it. We started off with a hummus plate and fried catfish nuggets. I followed that with the panzanella salad: heirloom tomatoes, blue corn croutons, queso fresco, roasted corn, avocado, and a cilantro vinaigrette. As a finale, just to make sure I wasn’t cheating my body of needed carbohydrates, I had the almost famous baked mac & cheese with prosciutto, quattro formaggio, and a panko parmesan crust.






We wrapped up the night with drinks on the rooftop at Casey’s.




Dear Friends, I know I make Montana sound amazing, but it’s not all that great. Really. It’s not. You shouldn’t ever go there.

In an effort to consider your welfare, I am giving you several reasons you should never go to Montana:

Your boss can’t text you here. It’s a wireless dead zone. You know when Verizon shows that map? It’s one of the white spots. Pretty much the whole state. I think most internet still comes on a dial up. Seriously. Your boss, your nagging family members, that telemarketer that always calls you at dinner….they can’t reach you here. Why would you subject yourself to all that peace and quiet? Just crazy.

If you die there, they won’t find your body until July. There is simply too much space. What are you supposed to do with all that room? Go somewhere small. Like Rhode Island.

It’s cold. I mean, summer is only 2 months and winter is 19. You need a parka in July. And where else can you make a snow angel in August? Take my word for it, head south. It’s warmer down there.

There’s just too much beer. They drink it for breakfast. It’s everywhere. You’d exhaust yourself just trying to drink it all. And I’m pretty sure “open container law” means you are required to have an open container at all times. No one needs that kind of pressure.

One word: Glaciers. I mean, with all the global warming, one of those things could break loose and take you out at any moment. And they wouldn’t find your body until July.

You can’t escape the wildlife. If you like bears, wolves, wolverines, bighorn sheep, marmots, mountain goats, elk, moose, deer, beavers, ducks, and the biggest damn cows you’ve ever seen, and you like seeing them all in one day, this place is for you. Really, who needs the stress of a free range cow?

There is nothing up there but crazy, gun toting outlaws. Everyone is packing. And drinking all that beer. And eating beef jerky. That can’t be good.

You might get eaten by a bear. They say that, when hiking, always carry pepper spray and wear a bell. If you see bear scat, you can tell what kind of bear it is by looking at the contents. Black bear scat has berries in it. Grizzly scat smells like pepper and has little bells in it. A person in a sleeping bag? Pretty much a soft taco.

All that steak. I mean, who wants steak all the time? You should go where the broccoli is. It’s very high in lots of nutrients that are hard to pronounce, so that’s good. And studies have shown broccoli helps protect you from colon cancer. Go to California instead. Your colon will thank you.

The Unabomber is from Montana. Enough said. There could be more of them up there. Hiding. With guns. And beef jerky.

So much big sky and fresh air will just mess up your allergies. I mean, if you can actually breathe clean air for a week, what do you think that will do to you when you get back home to the pollution that you are used to? Better keep your lungs sucking on what it knows.

Seriously. Montana sucks. Go tell your friends.


Posted by vicki_h 06:15 Archived in USA Tagged hiking camping national_park montana glacier_national_park kalispell Comments (3)

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