Posts Tagged ‘Glacier National Park’

It started out as a piecemeal operation with a slew of texts. I was going on the PNT and thought I might be out alone for a bit. Then, I heard Karma was going, but slightly later. Then, Crosby decided that working was lame two and a half weeks before I wanted to leave. Then, ED got wind of this and put in her two weeks, booking a plane ticket for the 23rd. We started making a plan from there. When we weren’t leaving until later, Karma joined and booked a bus ticket for the 24th. After Crosby’s sisters wedding on the 26th, we would depart on the 27th.
Crosby and I picked up ED at the airport, then found The Darkness’s hide a key and started making dinner in her apartment. The next day, we meandered around Seattle until Karma’s bus got in. When it did, we grabbed him, went to REI, and caught the ferry over to my Mom’s house. Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee caught the same ferry to come over for dinner and let us pick their PNT brains since they had just hiked it in 2014.

After dinner and a bonfire, we had packed our brains full of pertinent information.

We had two more bonfires, helped Jane celebrate her birthday, went to Game of Thrones trivia, and left at 5:15am in Glen, my van. First stop was to pick up my Mom’s cousin Babs who was heading out with is to help my Mom get Glen back to her house.

Glen, the van.

All of us settled into the van, taking naps, listening to cassette tapes, Babs’ camp songs, eating, and taking to the road. Glenn drove pretty well and had plenty of space. He also had plenty of electric plug ins to continually charge phones which allowed me to finish keeping up with my blog.

Eventually we made it to Glacier where we took a out stop at the CDT at Marias Pass to say hi to the trail. East Glacier was only a ten minute drive away so we were at Serranos/Backpackers Inn quickly.

There we found Laugh Track, Anchor, Top Shelf, and Bard, some fresh CDT sobos. We chatted with them, got our packs together and went to bed for an early morning at the Two Medicine Ranger Station.

The bottom of our permit.

We dutifully got there before it opened and got the exact permits we wanted. However, our permit said “itinerary not recommended” on out due to snow fields and a “water hazard”‘and the ranger using the permit continually twisted that we were a month early.

Mom and Babs dropped us off at Chief Mountain Trailhead and we began hiking after the requisite pictures. The trail wound down toward a river snaking through lush fields of wildflowers.

We took several breaks to enjoy the river, some shade, or flowers until we reached a sign that said “waterfall.” Taking the short trail down, we found a beautiful waterfall emptying into a crystal clear blue swimming hole. We only hesitated long enough to take a picture before wading into its cold depths. It was definitely cold. Right as we got out, Laugh Track, Anchor, Bard, and Top Shelf walked up and we all realized we were set to camp at the same site that night.

Chilling with some CDT sobos.

When we finally moved on, we did reach the campsite in decent time and found Coyote. We set up tents and tarps, then headed down to eat. Coyote was also hiking the PNT and we had been told to keep an eye out for her from Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee.

The four CDT sobos came not long after and we all had a blast hanging out and sharing a few things.

Anchor: Man, you guys packed out and are sharing beer and whiskey and we didn’t think to bring anything out.

Karma: I remember my first hike…

In the morning, we got a decent start waking up, eating, and leaving before the CDTers even woke up. Coyote came with us and we began going up Stony Indian Pass. The trail was so well graded that out made for a good first big climb. We passed lakes, wildflowers, and were grateful for switchbacks. 

We took a nice long break on top of the pass examining the snow we were about to go through. There was some, but not a shit ton.

Almost instantly, we crossed snow and put on micro spikes. It was a bit of bushwhacking mixed with trail bits. Part way down, we had to cross a neat little snow patch on the corner of the lake.

The lake was so awesome, we took another long break before descending down to the valley bottom. 

The CDT monument visit #2.

We encountered pesky mosquitoes, flustered border patrol agents, and a few boost tourists at goat haunt looking at us in a peculiar fashion. Coyote stayed there that night while Karma, ED, Crosby and I went to visit the CDT northern terminus. It was an extra 6.2 miles, but it was worth it to see it again. We saw a boat there with scuba divers and we tried to scheme our way into a ride. It unfortunately didn’t pan out.

Crosby: How’s it going?

Boat dude: Great!

Karma: Find anything?

Boat dude: Some beer cans…

We walked back and all crammed into one campsite again at Waterton River. Coyote found us the next morning as she headed toward the monument and Canada. We headed off toward Brown Pass.

Right beforehand, however, we found the perfect spot. A glacial lake with a jumping rock hurting out with nothing underneath. We scanned around. We could see the bottom just fine with no ledges or oddly placed rocks. We saw two ways out back up the bank nearby. Jump!!!


After quite a few jumps and brains seemingly turning into slushies, we hit the top of the pass in no time and took another side trip up to see Hole In The Wall. It was an extra two miles one way, but it too was worth it. The trail climbed at ghee pretext grade and we walked up to find a good spot to sit and admire the wall of waterfalls. We saw no one and could not count the number of waterfalls-there were too many to count.

On the way back down, we began seeing a few other people, two of which admired our umbrellas. We hit the campground by Bowman Lake, found a spot, and sat down to cook. We met some peyote from Boston and one from Mississippi who we later learned had hiked the AT, named Porch.

After an amazing star viewing night on the crystal clear lake, we trotted down toward Polebridge, Montana.

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The Darkness: “I’ll take the Moose Drool please.”Me: “I’ll take the Pigs Ass Porter please.”

Waitress: “That one’s fun to say! Can I get you two frosted mugs for those?”

Both: “Yes, please!”
Backing up, we had an easy ten miles into East Glacier with a well graded 2,000 foot climb. We had to cross through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for three miles and the “trail” began what Ley referred to as the real CDT. It split off several times, was 4×4 track, went over several blowdowns, and became massive mud pits at points. Sometimes it was hard to tell the nuff apart from the horse shit.
As soon as we got into town, we went straight to the first restaurant and got burgers/veggie burgers and beer.
We checked out the other hostel and decided it was dark and less inviting. The Darkness resupplied at the store while I got my package from the post office and we spent a chunk of time ripping apart and making larger priority mail boxes to fit our ice axes. The post matter laughed and said he’d been doing it all week and had some good ideas.
Heading back to the other hostel, smartly named after food, Brownies, we saw two guys who looked liked overwhelmingly clean thru hikers. We approached. They were indeed thru hikers, one of which flipped up from New Mexico and the other of which was going sobo, but they had hiked together on the PCT. They were Fun Sized and Lighthouse.
Town chores began to take a long time – like showering 8 days of dirt off, doing laundry, packing the food bag, blogging, posting pictures, and chatting with Fun Sized and Lighthouse as well as two other flippers, Ridge Runner and K2. And hiker midnight is at 9!
Our plan *was* to get up, eat, and leave mid morning, but then Scallywag, E.D., and Patch rolled in and The Darkness and I decided to zero. That meant significantly more time for blogging and other chores. Later, another rolled in, Whistle, and it was quite a fun zero day.
The next morning after breakfast, The Darkness and I made our way out of town getting confused in the golf course exit, but did finally find the 4×4 track eventually. It was HOT and we came to several choices in the track over about three miles and had to pull out the guidebook to pick. We reentered the national park again and contoured the bottom of it for quite a ways. It looked as though for a few sections, the park service took a weed whacker and cut a foot wide path, then ran out of battery for a mile, then another chunk.
Treeboo caught up to us and we walked with him for a little bit. We decided to inquire about an interesting individual who we met previously who seemed to want to find himself in the wilderness.
The Darkness: “Did you meet John?”

Treeboo: “hahaha the guy in five fingers heel planting?”

The Darkness: “Did he have food?”

Treeboo: “Yeah, he got some from day hikers…”
Treeboo was a long distance runner too, so once we stopped for lunch, we never saw him again. Our food bags were massive with six days of food in them and we needed to eat them down a bit.
We continued heading toward Marias Pass and stopped at a pay campground for some water and a map break. Up walked a dirty individual who introduced himself as a section hiker going from Helena, MT to the Canadian border. Naturally, we asked for beta. For starters, he said the official CDT contoured a burned ridge for eight miles and was basically a pile of blowdowns for that amount of time. Translated: eight mile obstacle course of downed trees with no shade. An alternate trail followed a creek the whole way lower down. Great, cod creek…hot day…sounds fantastic…for tomorrow.
I was tired, so I packed about three liters of water and headed up the hill away from the pay campsite toward an area that looked flatish on the map. The Darkness wanted to go camp down by the creek on the alternate two miles later, so she did that and I found a nice, wooded flat spot above the pay campground. Why pay for camping???
In the morning, Scallywag, E.D, and Whistle walked up as I finished breakfast and said they camped immediately outside of the pay area, but walked back for the privy in the morning. Classic. They had also talked to the section hiker and wanted to take the wetter alternate. They headed on and I was about 15 minutes behind.
I found where the CDT split off to contour the ridge, but it wasn’t marked at all and the turn was not obvious for sobos. To have taken it, I would have needed to turn more than 90 degrees to my right.
The alternate was a well kept trail, probably because of equestrians. There was quite a lot of fresh horse shit in the trail. The first ford of the creek was a cold, refreshing easy start to day and almost reached my knees. I found The Darkness after the second ford putting her shoes back on in an attempt to keep her feet and growing blisters dry. I just plunged straight in with the winning combination of Teva sandals and Darn Tough socks each time.
We found the other three in some willows around mid morning snack time and by then I had lost track of the number of fords…I stopped counting at 8.
After the break, we continued in toward a forest service cabin that the section hiker told us about thinking it would be a cool place to eat lunch. Before getting there though, a horse startled me from the trees and I looked over to see an older gentleman with a cowboy hat, his daughter, and five horses.
Guy: “Where are you walking from?”

Me: “Today, or in general?”

Guy: “In general…?”

Me: “Canada.”

Guy: *looks pensive?* “Where are you going?”

Me: “Mexico.”

Guy: *Eyes bug out* “uh huh…”
We talk about a few other things and I said we wanted to eat lunch at the cabin and he said they were heading that way too.
Finding the cabin, we noted the brilliant orientation of the porch so that it became shady in the afternoon and the shade increased as the afternoon passed. The cabin was locked, so we enjoyed the porch. Then, the guy in the cowboy hat showed up.
Guy: “So…would y’all like some cold beer?”

Us: *Eyes bug out* “Yes, please!”
Out came cold Miller Lites and on a day when the sun melted us, they never tasted so good. The guy had an entire horse dedicated to coolers in the saddlebags! Now, that is smart traveling. We’ve been doing it wrong the whole time!
We had three route choices from the cabin for the next few miles, so we showed him the map and he instantly told us the middle, red route was the best of the three options which was also what Ley suggested too. Then the guy offered to pack the beer cans out too!!!


The well oriented shady porch


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The Darkness: “It’s just before 7am… I’m going to the ranger station to see if we can get repermitted so we don’t have to do two more twenties in a row. Wanna come?”Me: “I’ll get there…I woke up around midnight and thought my head was downhill, so I flipped and didn’t flip the sleeping pad and now my stuff is confusing.”

The Darkness: “I heard…so your head was at the short end?”

Me: “…yeah… I’ll get there, go ahead”
No such luck on getting repermitted. Although, The Darkness did report that the ranger’s eyes bugged out of his head when he heard we made it through the Highline trail.
In that case, we went to get breakfast and the boxes of food we had sent. I did manage to get on the restaurant/hotel Wi-Fi during breakfast, but it was slower than dial up. I had odd visions of the AOL slow signing on process while I tried to load a few pages.
After going back to the campground, we packed up our stuff and food bags. It was also a slow process despite having a pass and twenty miles to do.


We did manage to leave around 10:30 and stumble our way out of RV land. We worked our way up Piegan Pass slowly but surely with heavy food bags. We took the trail around the north side of the lake per Jonathan Ley’s map’s advice. The weather was beautiful, every water source flowed, and the grade eased up at a steady rate…life was good. We meandered up the u-shaped valley until a beautiful spot on top. Two others we had met at the campground, Sarah and Jo, leap frogged us to the pass. Breathtaking views broke away on either side.

We came down the pass through a thick forest and plunged down to cross the park’s one road. Cars were everywhere and we left promptly back into the woods. The Darkness and I stopped in Reynolds Campground to cook dinner because it was almost 7 pm and we still had five miles to go.
Instead of doing a 30 mile day out of Many Glacier, we opted to hike five miles off the CDT to Gunsight campsite thereby doing two twenties instead of a thirty.
After a thorough debate on breaking the permit and staying at Reynolds instead, we decided it was too close to the road and therefore too large a chance of getting caught, so we hiked onward and upward.
Gunsight campsite was beautiful and the five miles would have been fine if we had energy. We barely had enough energy to hang our food, pitch tents, and pass out.
Clink. Clink. Clink. “Shit, it’s a bear! Heeeey bear…” “Damn, I don’t have my bear spray…”
I look at my watch. 2:04 am. Fuck. I don’t hear anything but these idiots. I roll over and fall back to sleep.
In the morning, I went to eat breakfast and talked to a cool dude from Utah who said the “bear” was actually a deer and the Portland guys were freaked out over nothing.
I had no energy that morning. I should have drank a liter of water and had a snack before bed after those last five miles but didn’t, so I sat and pounded well over a liter in the morning with my expertly packed granola and probiotic powder (thanks Mom!!). Two others came to eat as well and also wanted to know what the Portland guys were yammering on about the previous night.
We all got to talking and the usual thru hiker stuff of “what have you hiked” and “what year” and “Do you know ____” kinda stuff when something interesting happened.
Dude: “I hiked the AT in 07.”

Me: “oh, do you know Hop-a-long?”

Dude: Cracks up hysterically…”Yes, I hiked with her!”

Me: “Were you part of the ‘swat’ team then?!”

Chick: “oh no, the famous swat team!”

Dude: “Yeah!!! I’m Misplaced!”

Me: “I’ve heard so many stories about you after hiking with Hop-a-long on the PCT in 2012!”

Misplaced: “Oh no, now that’s a small world!”
After a lengthy breakfast, I headed out a bit before The Darkness. Trotting down the trail, I looked for the brilliant swimming hole I had spotted the previous evening. It was the summer solstice, i.e. International Hike Naked Day, however, I thought the park service might give me a ticket for that, so I thought I’d settle for jumping in some glacial melt water naked instead.
I found the spot, and like I remembered, it had no trail to it, so I bushwhacked about 25 feet down to it, bringing my bright orange pack with me. Within a few minutes, I managed to wade waist deep into the stream. Then I looked up. A person was walking the trail up toward Gunsight. A person with a walkie-talkie. A person in a drab green uniform. Park ranger. Shit Shit Shit. I froze…literally and figuratively. The ranger either didn’t see me or was choosing not to bother. I waited. My legs were beginning to numb. I ducked under and shot straight back up again after the cold surrounded me. I got back to the creek bank and dried off and threw my hiking dress back on. Safe.
I bushwhacked back up to the trail soaking wet banging my calf hard on a fallen log and jumped into the trail right before The Darkness who gave me an interesting look as blood ran down my leg. Luckily, she had the permit and the ranger checked it. I patched up my leg, got the rest of my stuff on, and said I’d meet her at the junction back with the CDT.


The swimming hole.

We had an “easy” 20 mile day on the schedule, five miles of which we had already completed. The rest of the day’s agenda included: waking ten miles around Mary Lake through incredibly brushy trail which varied between waist high and over my head high as well as five nukes through a burn.
The ten miles around the lake was easy enough but the bear scat kept getting more fresh with more flies as we walked. I began singing random 90s songs that came into my head when a musky, mothball smell entered my nose. Sure enough, around the next two bends, a dark mass of bear began running away from me. Great. Now I get to follow it.
I proceed with caution hoping my tone deaf 90s songs will scare it away. Into the burn I went, where I could at least see further. The fire ecology going on there was great. Fresh batches of thick lodgepole grew in some parts and fields of purple lupines grew in others. And then I got the sense that I wasn’t alone. A bit later, I saw a bear mass moving away from me again. They appeared to be different colors and the second was definitely bigger, but I didn’t get a good glimpse at either to see what kind of bears they were.
That evening, The Darkness and I camped at Red Eagle Lake and had the campground to ourselves. We picked the campsite with the least widow makers near it in the burn.


The friendly marmots

In the morning, we had a mere 15 miles and one pass, so we were excited. We passed and leap frogged Sarah and Jo. We slogged up Triple Divide Pass and took a nice long break on top with some very friendly marmots. So friendly that they were trying to lick all our stuff and ourselves. Except, then they felt the need to try and steal a trekking pole and an ice axe. They didn’t get very far, but it was still surprising. They wanted that salt. We are salty beings!

The Darkness: “You lick me, can I lick you marmot? Can this be a two way relationship?”

Sarah: “Take what you can get!”

Then Canadian Ken came.

Canadian Ken: “You all are the prettiest ladies I’ve seen all day!”

The Darkness: “Are we the only ladies you’ve seen today?”

Canadian Ken: “Yeah, how’d you know that?!”
We headed down the pass and up to Morning Star Lake to camp. In the morning we ate breakfast with some South Texas folks who had some very distinct views on Obama. They were also wearing blue jeans and flannels while warming theirs hands over a Coleman stove they carried up still in the cardboard box.
I busted out of there pretty quickly and followed the snow upward following some sort of canine tracks. This pass seemed considerably easier, but we only had to go up 2,000 feet or so and had only 12 miles.
There was one drift near the top of Pitamakan Pass (which I decided to call pita makin) which could have been sketchy, but it was really soft so it went fine in sandals.
We took a long break at the top. Jonathan Ley’s map suggests that for more adventure, we should traverse Mt Morgan above Cut Bank Pass and the normal trail down by Old Man Lake was only fine if we were old men. Well, my knee felt like an old man.
While we sat and enjoyed the pass, an older guy named Bruce from Missoula came sauntering down from the other side of Mt Morgan with a spectacular wood handle ice axe and a great white mustache.
The Darkness: “Where’d you get that ice axe?”

Bruce: “I made it”
And that was that.
Ten minutes later an Italian man named Mateo trotted up from Two Medicine with a shit eating grin on his face.
We said hi and he paused, leaves in his trekking poles and unknowingly showed off his gigantic quads.

Mateo: “I am from the Italian Alps and I work as a park ranger there. This feels like home!!”
And he trotted away, bouncing quickly down the trail in the opposite direction.
At Two Medicine, we went to the store and found the “backcountry” site with help from a friendly dude who was missing some teeth, wearing a Yeti t-shirt.
Dude: “Well, I was fishing over yonder (points to a point by the large creek) and saw a moose the first day. Then I was fishing over yonder (points to a different spot) by the bushes and there’s a beaver pond. I just about needed more fishing line! Oh right, the backcountry site is yonder (points in the opposite direction into RV land).”

Me: “Thanks dude, I like your shirt!”

Dude: “Thanks, it’s my cousin’s! I’ve been looking for him!”
On our way out the next day we ran into him again.
Me: “Good luck finding your cousin!”

Dude: “Thanks! I offered him a beer and a hot dog last time, but haven’t seen him!”

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Tamar came with us on the Highline trail and it was great to have her along. We went up steeply from Fifty Mountain Campsite and traversed several steep snow drifts. Since we had ice axes and microspikes, we used them. The snow was still fairly hard in the morning, so it was harder kicking steps. It was nice to alternate between drifts of who had to kick. It was a lot of on again off again with the microspikes.

The Darkness kicking steps over a snow drift.

The two parts we had been warned about were a drift called Cattle Queen and one called Ahern. Cattle Queen was a piece of cake compared to the other steep stuff we had already done that morning. It was still solid and not steep. We couldn’t hear water under it yet.
We found a meadow that looked over to Ahern Drift and ate lunch there examining the short, but very steep section. Since we were some of the first few to be permitted for the Highline trail, we had no idea what to expect.
In the way between the meadow and the first, we crossed a few other drifts and found one gigantic Cascadia footprint in the mud. Someone had been here and it was most likely a thru hiker.
We stopped before the drift. Some very melted and refrozen colossal steps went across the drift. They were very obviously made by someone well over six feet tall.
The Darkness: “Who wants to kick steps?”

Me: “I’m game, but if you’re super excited to, I’d be fine with that, too.”

The Darkness: “I’ll put you a beer if you kick the steps.”

Me: “Done.”
She speaks my language!
The first few steps were softish. The “steps” already there were so big that those of us in the 5’2″ realm needed two extra steps between the somewhat existing ones. Then the second somewhat existing one would be for the wrong foot. That meant that we could rekick only every other already somewhat existing step.
I begin being able to kick ten hard kicks per step.
The Darkness: “Make that two beers.”
I asked her to keep an eye on our progress so I could have a more narrow focus of making solid steps. I’d rather not use my WFR skills if one of us fell and had trouble self arresting.
The Darkness: “About 40%”
The wind started picking up.
The Darkness: “There’s a small storm brewing over there coming toward us, but it’s super isolated. What do you think?”

Me: “I haven’t heard thunder…I say keep going, you?”

The Darkness: “Yup”
Ten minutes later it sprinkles. Then hails.
Me: “Remember how we stopped early yesterday so it didn’t do something like hail on us?”

The Darkness: “Yeah. 50%.”

Me: “I think it jinxed us.”
A large gust of wind came through and I had to back step for balance. The middle of the slope was very icy. Once the gust stopped, I began trying to kick steps again. Fifteen kicks and I barely have a step. I make sure I’m stable and use the ice axe to hack out a step. Much nicer. Foot placed. Ice axe moved forward. Next step is the same. Hack hack hack. Then the snow goes back to too hard but not icy.
The Darkness: “60%”

Me: “We should probably have helmets on for this.”

The Darkness: “These epiphanies you’re having are fantastic.”
The hail stops. Slow but steady. The slope gets steeper. A foot sized rock is in my way.
Me: “I’m going to knock this rock down.”

The Darkness: “Do it. 70%”
I knock the rock and all three of us watch the rock tumble for over a minute past the snow and continue tumbling down the rocks.
We’re almost to a small moat.
Me: “My body wants to stake the most, but my brain says that’s a dumb idea.”

The Darkness: “My body’s saying go but my heart is saying no…”

Me: “… If you wanna be with me, baby there’s a price to pay…”

The Darkness: “… I’m a genie in a bottle…”

Me: “…gotta rub me the right way…”

The Darkness: “90%”
The snow got softer. The steps got easier. Then solid ground! I sat down shaking with hunger and ate. Tamar was cold so she hiked uphill a bit to warm up. A new storm was brewing with some powerful wind and we were glad to be over the hardest part.

The rest off the Highline trail was fairly smooth with one nasty patch of blowdowns. We parted ways with Tamar at the junction where she could get to the road and we could go to Many Glacier.
The Darkness and I ate dinner before hiking over Swiftcurrent Pass. For me, that was breakfast cookies. Tasted delicious.
I was slow up Swiftcurrent Pass, but coming down over the other side was spectacular. There were some snow patches, but it was easy to find the trail again. Cut into the side of the cliff, the trail wound down switchback after switchback trading glimpses between a wall of waterfalls and beautiful sky blue lakes which reflected the mountains.
As soon as the snow drifts stopped, I switched back to my sandals and my feet breathed a sigh of relief. Dry socks and sandals felt so great. It even made my knee scream a little less.
We stumbled into the Many Glacier car camping campground to find our “backcountry” site which was labeled as such despite the plethora of RVs in close proximity. This was also different, I learned, than the hiker/biker site. However, flush toilets were great!
We managed to set up our tents and pass out.


Ahern Drift on the right.


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“Don’t say we’re hiking to Mexico at the border crossing, Yogi says they won’t believe you,” I reminded the car.”We’re just hiking through Glacier National Park, right,” The Darkness agreed.
As we approached the Canadian border, border patrol asked us the usual questions and we answered.
Border Patrol: “Where are you going today?”

Me: “We’re going to hike through Glacier National Park”

Border Patrol: “So, you’re driving another six hours then?”

Me: “Um, no the Glacier National Park right there…I can throw a rock into it.”

Border Patrol: “Ah, Canada has a Glacier National Park, too eh”
After we get through with a minor misunderstanding about bear spray, we made it to Waterton Lakes National Park (in Canada) and find a parking lot near Waterton Lake. The Darkness and I reorganize our packs and eat a bit. My amazing Mom, who offered to drive my car back to Seattle, helped and watched.
Right as we started to leave, it began to rain. Mom did manage to take a picture of us before we set about trying to find the trail. The first park was actually paved, which we got a kick out of.
We walked along the west side of Waterton Lake up and down over the cliff sides for several miles talking and being lightly rained upon.

Border monument

Then, out of nowhere I saw a privy! How convenient! And just a little bit further was the border monument. The rain had stopped for a bit and we took the opportunity to take a bunch of photos.
After another few miles, we came to the campsite that we were supposed to stay at according to our permit. The border patrol station we had to check in at was a mile further. I was hungry and wanted a snack, so we took a twenty minute break at the campsite and set up tents.
As we walked toward the border patrol station chatting, two bulky dudes came toward us, the bigger one treading lightly in five fingers.
Border Patrol”Can you both read?”

Us: “Yes…”

Border Patrol: “The sign at the border says come immediately to the border patrol station”

Us: “That’s where we’re heading now.”
There’s never any point in arguing with border patrol.
Border Patrol: “Can we see identification?”
We hand them our passports.
When he flips open the passport The Darkness hands him, he says,
Border Patrol: “Have you really been to the south pole?”
I knew immediately then that something was wrong and that one of us had my Mom’s passport and she had one of ours. We went with them to the actual station.  At that point other agents proceeded to use other methods of verifying The Darkness’s identification with her driver’s license while another agent told me where I could get a singular bar of cell service. I went to make sure that my Mom could get into the US and we didn’t have to hike the 9 miles back and switch passports. One of the border patrol agents said we should just keep hiking because they couldn’t actually deny entry to US citizens. I did not know that fact. Finally I managed to get through on roaming and after hearing mom got in, we continued back to the campsite, convinced they had cameras there. I suspected a pair of boots hanging in a snag near the food hanging pole.
On day two, we left the campsite with cameras and motion detectors and hiked over toward the highline trail. We had a steep climb ahead of us. The Darkness was ahead as we checked a sign for a trail junction and walked past it.
The Darkness: “Bear!”

Me: “Shoulder hump… It’s a grizzly…”
We both started talking to it, bear spray extended and it paused to look at us. A long moment passed and the bear seemed to decide that we weren’t moving (even though we were slowly backing up) and it turned around and went down the trail in the direction we wanted to go. And that’s the closest I’ve ever been to a grizzly…about 40 feet. Too close.
After seeing a griz that soon in the day, we felt more focused as we proceeded. The trail read quite brushy, but easily identifiable. After crossing a short stream, we heard something moving. As we rounded a bend we saw a backpack…just a human. So we didn’t startle him too much, we approached and said,
Me: “How are you doing?”

Guy: pauses to think. “I’m old.”

Me: “That’s a good response. I’m Veggie.”

The Darkness: “I’m The Darkness.”

Guy: “I’m Wayne, where are you two heading?”

The Darkness: “Granite campsite, you?”

Wayne: ” That’s a huge day! I’m just heading to Fifty Mountain Campsite. It’s always full of grizzlies!”

Me: “We’ve already seen one by the ranger station today.”
Wayne let us pass him and we discovered that I tend to move uphill a bit faster and she moves downhill a bit faster, so I led uphill when,
Me: “Bear!” It didn’t see us. A very distinct shoulder hump on an extent large mass lumbered in our direction. ” Hey bear…” I wanted it to realize we were there.

The Darkness: “That’s a big bear…hey bear…”
The larger griz looked at us for a moment, opened its mouth then ran straight uphill into willow looking bushes. That one was about fifty feet away…still too close.
When we got up higher, the trail started playing “now-you-see-now-you-don’t” with the snow in the trees and I put the damn trail runners on instead of my sandals to kick a few steps. I figured that if I was carrying them, I should use them. My feet rebelled…it felt wrong.


Bear prints!

We got to a large snowy meadow and crossed it toward Fifty Mountain Campsite. The meadow turned back to grass and yellow wildflowers toward the end filled with small boulders scattered about. I kept staring across at the rocks when one moved. Not a rock. Bear.
This one is about 200 feet away. It’s lumbering around eating some plants. We stop. It smells us and climbs on top of a rock to watch us. We sit and watch it. We decide that we should eat lunch and watch the bear across the meadow. We can’t tell what type of bear it is from that distance without binoculars. The bear leaves and heads toward the campsite. A few minutes later, another larger bear, with a very clear shoulder hump lumbers across the meadow toward the first meadow bear. Four bears in one day!
After lunch, we walk toward the campsite and where the last two bears went. As we peak at the campsite, the sky behind is looks like it’s going to explode. The entire horizon where the clouds moved from looked dark and had filled with thunderheads. We had a discussion. It was already 2:30pm and we still had another 12 miles to our campsite over Cattle Queen and Ahern Drift.
We decide to stay put despite what our permit says because we didn’t know how much more snow we would have to cross since no reports had been made about the Highline Trail when we got permitted for it. We set up only one tent in the back and hid under the trees for only a brief amount of rain.
After a bit, we went down near the “food prep area” and found Wayne. He thought we made a good decision. A woman named Tamar comes and the four of us have the campsite all to ourselves.
Right before we go to bed, Tamar says, “I think I’ll come with you two in the morning over the highline.”

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As the previous post gave away, I will be starting the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) going sobo in mid-June of this year, 2015!

Most of the motivation to go south is that I need to finish this semester of grad school.  I’ll then take next semester off.  I’ve been getting a lot of shit for going the “wrong way,” however it’s getting me more excited.  Most (if not all) of the nobos have already started this year and their pictures are making me jealous that they get to start sooner.  While I’m waiting for some of the snow to melt in Glacier, I’ll be hanging out on the beach in Washington.

I am ready to embrace the brutality and get a firm kick in the ass!


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