Friday, July 18, 2008

Backcountry Diaries.....Hang on was a wild ride

Sunday, July 13 - Day 1 Hiking: The Loop Trailhead to Many Glacier (11.6 miles; 2,888 feet up in elevation; 2,255 feet down; Swiftcurrent Lookout = additional 1,200 feet)

The crew was geared up and ready by 5:45am Sunday morning.
We loaded Deuce (Andrea) & BJ's cars and Kerri & Evan (neighbors) were gracious enough to ride with us to Glacier so they could bring the cars back. On the way up we stopped at Belton Chalet for breakfast and it was so good and so cute!
Everyone grubbed, used a real toilet and we continuted up The Going to the Sun Road to The Loop. The hike started out fine....everyone was trucking along nicely for at least a couple of miles. Eventually the altitude got the best of me and David and we laid back and did our own pace. We met the rest of the group at the Granite Park Chalet and Andy waited there with us so we could rehydrate. Because we were slower, we ended up hiking with a few other people, two of which were watching a grizzly while overlooking Heaven's Peak. After hiking Swiftcurrent Pass, we finally got a downhill 4-5 mile jaunt. Everyone but me and David did a side hike on Swiftcurrent Pass up to Swiftcurrent Lookout. David and I stayed back to watch the packs since we couldn't leave them unattended and had a nice lunch of spam and crackers, fig newtons and power bars while chasing marmots away. When the others returned with my camera, we saw the amazing views they saw from the top. And they were Amazing.
On our downhill run, Randy & I got really close to a mountain goat and we all got close to a big-horn sheep. Two people in front of us came running BACK to us with their bear spray drawn and said the the big-horn seemed aggressive. I guess a pack of 10 people scared him away, because he ran up the mountain, although he looked injured.

The scenery this first day was amazing and as hard as the day was for us (dehydrated and NOT acclimated to the altitude), it was so worth the view. Waterfalls, cliffs, wildlife......amazing.

Once we finally reached our campsite at 8:00pm we set up camp, ate dinner and lights out. We have a repeat hike tomorrow to new and equally amazing places. Although my blisters on my heels are the size of quarters and David's knees might need to be replaced, we are going to try.

Andy & BJ have been MOST helpful and encouraging and I can't thank them enough for pushing us to do it. They are awesome!!
Monday, July 14 - Day 2 Hiking: Many Glacier to Elizabeth Lake Head (11.7 miles; 2480 feet up in elevation; 2518 feet down)

Today is Monday, July 14, 2008 and it is bright as can be at 9:00pm in GNP, Montana. Today we woke up around 6:30am and got everything together, ate breakfast and started hiking at 8:00am. We left Many Glacier and originally took the wrong path....great! After turning around, we started a pretty hefty ascent to Ptarmigan Falls. David's knees, which began hurting on yesterday's descent, fired up badly on this run. I stayed back to hike with David and we met the rest of the gang at The Falls. It was so beautiful. The remainder of the day followed suit....since David wasn't able to use both legs at full capacity, we did the next three legs at our own pace.....meeting up with the rest of the guys at a designated spot. Our next stop was Ptarmigan Lake. There, we rested, ate lunch, made water and most importantly, re-bandaged my blisters.

The next hike was up a path to the Ptarmigan Tunnel. It wasn't as bad as it looked from the lake, and the view got increasingly more amazing. David trudged along, even though his knees were aching terribly.

When we made it through the tunnel,

the view on the other side was equally amazing. All the rocks on this side were red.

So we started our descent and it was so awesome. David's knees really started hurting on this run because of the intensity with which we were descending. After a good break, we started back but we slowed up tremendously. We eventually made it to the foot of Elizabeth Lake where Andrea & BJ were waiting on us. The rest of the guys went on to the camp site and set up shop. We had 1.6 or so miles to go to get from the foot of Elizabeth Lake to the head of Elizabeth, where our campsite was. It was SO nice to get my boots off and my blisters were NOT happy with me. David's knees were pretty much shot at this point as well. On our way to the head of the lake, we saw a forest ranger (Tracy) on her horse (Bandit) and stopped to ask her what our options were with David's knee. We decided that we would take her up on her suggestion and hike to the ranger station in the morning, camp at Gable Creek and hike to the Chief Mountain Trailhead where customs was. From there, we will get a shuttle into Waterton, Canada and be there one day early. David's knees would probably be able to handle tomorrow's hike to Glenn's Lake but Wednesday's hike to Stoney Indian Pass is way steeper and longer than any hike we'd done to this point. With the potential intensity of that particular hike, we think its safer to head into Canada early after 2 easier days of hiking. So, tomorrow will present its own challenges for us but we'll get through it no problem. Again, Andy, BJ & the rest of the gang were amazing.

I couldn't leave this picture out because this is Helen's Lake....a beautiful part of GNP and this was our view as we were coming down off of Ptarmigan Tunnel. There isn't a bad view of anything in this park.

Tuesday, July 15 - Day 3 Hiking: Elizabeth Lake Head to Gable Creek (Becca & David)

Today is Tuesday, July 15 and today was a relatively good day. We woke up to a family of deer and BJ's amazingly consistent and wonderful farts. I couldn't help but laugh EVERY time I sensed his functions and was so happy that Andy was in the tent with him and not me. BJ fixed us all a warm breakfast of eggs and bacon and although it was soupy, it was tasty. David and I had already decided that we would split from the group and head to Gable Creek Campground instead of Glenn Lake Campground. So, Andy, BJ, David and I hiked 5.something miles to the Belly River Ranger Station. On the way, we passed Dawn Mist Falls, which you can only see if you are in the backcountry so setting our eyes on that falls, was particularly cool.

The scenery around the station was so awesome. Surrounded by mountains, but wildflowers and fields in the valley. Andy & BJ left after we switched some food since we'll be in Canada a day early and they headed to Glenn Lake to meet up with the guys. David and I set up camp, ate lunch and took a good long nap through a light rain shower. We got up around 6:30pm to eat dinner and walk around the area

We spoke to some fellow campers, who, as usual, were all very nice. Kevin and his dad are here from Virginia and packed way to heavy for their backcountry adventure. They met up with Stephanie and John at Cosley Lake Monday night at 9:30pm and shared a campsite since they couldn't make it to their designated campsite. So we sat with them while they ate dinner. Steph and John are from Denver and very cool. John will be doing a scuba diving trip to freakin' Antartica in February. We also met a couple from Ohio who is house-sitting in St. Marys and came out for a couple of days. There's also three friends from Cornell who came from Washington DC, Chicago, and Washington State for summer vacation. A little while later, two guys strolled in with enough wood to build a house and started a fire for us. They are camping here tonight and work for the governement. They are in the park doing some very intensive and thorough stream research. Very interesting and one of the guys looks JUST LIKE Steve Weigel but as a mountain man instead of a beach bum. THEN, about 6 people came into the camp and they were with 2 leaders (Amanda and Slice) who were heading up an SCA (Student Conservation Association) volunteer group for a month. The kids were between 15-18 years old. Two have graduated high school and one girl, Madison is an amazing fiddle player. She played a few strings and we settled into a comical game of Mafia. I was killed off in the 2nd round, asked if I was Kevin's mom (Kevin is 15) and everyone thought David (aka Red Shirt) was the killer. Funny game! But, bed time was calling and here were are!

Tuesday, July 15 - Day 3 (The other 6): Elizabeth Lake Head to Glenns Lake Foot (7.3 miles; 260 feet up in elevation; 290 feet down)
Today the rest of the guys left Elizabeth Lake Head and went to Glenns Lake Foot. For the most part, it was a level hike with a substantial water crossing over the Mokowanis River. Apparently the water was FREEZING and came up to about their thighs. Just prior to that, Dogg had a slight misstep in a creek right before Dawn Mist Falls and got pretty wet as well. This particular campsite was right on Glenns Lake and was awesome. They laid around on the beach, had great conversation and chilled on the coldest night they'd had so far. This was also the day these guys had the great pleasure of meeting Robert....a jewish New Yorker who sounds just like Woody Allen. When asked what his occupation was that allowed him to travel and backpack as much as he did, he said he just waited on his loved ones to die, he did NOT invest in the stock market, and he was preparing for World War III. He also mentioned how awesome it was to have a girl hike with you (referring to Deuce) and said it reminded him of the song, "Jesse's Girl." YIKES. Did I mention the fact that he was wearing cut off jean shorts to hike in. Wow.
Wednesday, July 16 - Day 4 Hiking: Gable Creek to Chief Mountain (David & Becca)

Today is Wednesday, July 16 and what a day it was for all of us. Since David and I had a somewhat restful day yesterday, we thought today would be pretty easy. And for the most part, it was. We woke up a little bit late because it was raining and the fly cover made it darker in the tent. So we dealt with the rain and packed up for the hike. Once we started the hike, the terrain was awesome. Soft, rolling hills of wildflowers with mountains framing it on every side.
We had a couple big hills in the first four miles as well as some breathtaking views. We'd been warned about the last two miles of uphill switchbacks and by the time we realized where we were, we only had 1.6 miles to go. We ran into four people from Tennessee who were heading down and they had a GPS so for the first time on this day's hike, we were able to guage our pace. We'd been rolling at roughly 2 miles per hour, which was good for David.
The ascent slowed us down a little bit, but not much. We reached Chief Mountain Trailhead at 11:00am....3.5 hours after we left and 6 miles easily over.

The only bad thing was we had to wait over 2.5 hours before the shuttle to Waterton was scheduled to come. After a nap, lunch, playing with an 8-week old Newfoundled puppy named Walter, talking to some fellow Gable Creek campmates and using the pit toilet numerous times (toilet paper was a high commodity at this point), we WATCHED our shuttle FLY by the trailhead.

They didnt' stop to check if anyone was waiting for them and they made it through customs before we could decide what to do. Around 2:00pm, we decided to walk down to US Customs and ask them what we should do. They were useless and we kept walking into Canada. SO, we hiked into Canada! That was the one thing we were going to miss by splitting from the others but we actually did it!

Customs let us through and as confused as they were, they made plenty of phone calls to help us find a ride into Waterton. Basically the shuttle service said we needed a reservation in order for them to stop. It might be a good idea to inform the rangers (who were our only source of information in the backcountry) of this small detail. So, at this point, our options were to 1. hitchhike 2. wait on a Waterton shuttle that MIGHT come at 4:30 or 5:00pm (yeah right) or 3. Go back to Many Glacier (which was our FIRST stop on this adventure). Needless to say, we parked ourselves just outside of the Canadian Customs House and waited. We don't know what we were waiting on......someone nice enough to ask where those two homeless-looking people were going or perhaps a shuttle that I really didn't think wasn't coming. We stayed there about an hour or a little more. David went inside to use the phone a few times and somewhere over that hour, the boss man (Don) said he'd take us. He was originally from Sasketchewan but lived in Alberta now. He worked seasonaly at this border crossing because it was only open during the summer months. We threw our gear in the back and piled 3 deep in the front seat of his truck. He drove us all the way to the front door of our hotel (25 min) and told us bits and pieces of what we were looking at. We paid him, grabbed our stuff and checked into our hotel. While walking up to our room, I realized David was missing something major: BJ's trekking poles. We had left them in Don's truck. SO, we decided we couldn't do anything about it at the moment so we went to get some basic toiletries that we'd been doing without over the week. After our first shower in 4 days (and it was as wonderful as you can imagine), we went to the laundromat to wash our nasty clothes. During that time, we walked around Waterton (which was way cute), shopped and looked at menus for something other than spam (although I developed quite a love for that stuff).

We ate dinner at Tuscana and it was amazing. Around 9:00pm, we decided we'd had enough and went to bed. I need to mention how awesome the Canadian border control is because before we left for dinner, David called them to make sure he hadn't left his poles there. The guys didn't see them but said they'd call if they got up with Don. Believe it or not, they did call back to let us know they hadn't located the poles but they would get up with us if Don called them back. How awesome are these guys? So, we might have to drop by Customs on the way out of Canada to get BJ's poles. Kudos to the CA Border Patrol. Hopefully the rest of the gang had a good hike today. We look forward to sharing tons of stories over a couple of beers.

Wednesday, July 16 - Day 4 Hiking (The other 6): Glenns Lake Foot to Kootenai Lake via Stoney Indian Pass (14 miles; 2,448 feet up in elevation; 2975 feet down)
Today, the Wisconsin boys, Andy & BJ hiked from Glenns Lake to Kootenai Lake via Stoney Indian Pass. This was to be the longest day of hiking with 14 miles and possibly the steepest inclines and descent. For the most part, everyone felt great starting out.....hiking up Stoney Indian Pass was awesome because it was the last pass, the sights were amazing and basically, it was the highlight of their hiking. It rained for the first hour then cleared up. They had a nice break and opportunity to make water at Atsina Lake which had a view of both Glenns Lake and Cosley Lake. This hike also encountered 3 un-bridged water crossings. Once at the top, they stayed there for about an hour and a half....ate lunch, dried their tents from the nights' rain and relaxed, enjoying the spectacular views. They decided to leave about the time that Robert showed up at the top. On the way down, there was a substantial snow field with Stoney Indian Lake on one side of wrong step and you could be in 10 feet of water with a full pack on......not a good thing. But they all made it down to Kootenai Lake campground safely. Once at camp, Casey shot an awesome video of a family of moose that basically hung out a good while. They were walking through the lake, dipping their heads, drinking water, whatever moose do in a lake.....but the video and the proximity that Casey was to them was awesome. This was also the night that had lots of mosquitos, Rambo Jim was born, and the family of deer hanging out at the tents. Pictures of Rambo Jim and the views from Stoney Indian Pass are to come.
Thursday, July 17 - Day 5 in Waterton for David & Becca:
Today is Thursday, July 17 and David & I got to spend the whole day in Waterton. BY THE FREAKIN' WAY.....DON BROUGHT BACK THE TREKKING POLES! He's so awesome. And so I digress..... We woke up around 8:30am and slowly got ready....very excited to wake up in a real bed, have a real toilet and sink and most importantly, shower. We went to Pearl's for breakfast (bagel & coffee) and were treated to the most polite 14 year old boys we've ever met.

After Pearl's, we walked up to Tamarak Outdoor Store and shopped for a while. I got a Prana shirt with "Home Grown" on the front in honor of dear old McKenzies Mill. David got a hat and a shirt. After that we checked out of our first hotel (Waterton Lakes Lodge) and took our packs to the new hotel. We walked down to the lake front (Waterton Lake),

around town and to Cameron Falls.

We went to Zum's for lunch and had the most awesome Hippie wrap and Buffalo Chicken Ceasar wrap. As we went back to the Crandel Mountain Lodge to check in to our rooms, the 0ther 6 had made it to Waterton and were chillin on the deck. It was such a great sight to see them after a couple days of absolutely no contact and no clue as to what could have happened. After we checked in and all the others got much needed showers, we went back to Zum's for dinner.
The Big Scoop for dessert (ice cream if you couldn't figure it out) and I have to say that Andy might be the SLOWEST eater alive when it comes to real food, but ice cream hasn't got a chance with her. After eating and a long day of hiking for the other 6, Casey decided to shut it down and head back to the room. The rest of us walked up to the famous Prince of Wales Hotel - which was amazing. My camera had died at this point, so I only have pictures of Prince of Wales from town.
Dogg has the group shot from up there. After that, we trekked back down the hill to town and ventured into the one bar in town: The Thirsty Bear Saloon. We drank a few beers, played pool and just had fun hanging out with each other without having to think about smellables to put on the bear pole, making water, hiking a ba-jillion more miles, etc. Around 10pm, the karaoke started and it got REALLY lame......very "WEAK SAUCE"as Dogg put it. Sooooo, we left and went to bed.

Thursday, July 17 - Day 5 (The other 6) - Kootenai to Waterton (approx. 10 clue on the stupid elevation in Canada)
I want to back track here and tell about the other 6's hike into Canada because it was TOTALLY different than ours. Although I ended our day with all of us eating dinner, its important to feel what they were feeling leading up to us seeing them on the porch and eating dinner at Zum's. SO, this day was supposed to be a relatively flat, 10-miler. Although the hike through the remainder of the park in the US was somewhat flat (rollers, I guess), they trudged along with nothing really spectacular to look at. It was thick with no view. At the boundary line separating the US from Canada, there was a marker, but no border control. There was simply a sign that said they needed to call Canadian Customs upon arriving in Waterton to let them know they were in the country. Crazy! So the highlights of crossing into Canada include eating lunch, Andrea & BJ kissing while standing in two different countries and BJ taking care of business (you have to understand that we all did this over the course of the week because you have no choice but to go in the woods). But he got to do it on the boundary line. Quite cool. SO, after all of this excitement, they enter Canada and are super-ready for Waterton. Unfortunately, the Canadians, when picking the route with which to send hikers, they figured they would smack them around a little bit and give them some brutal hills to tackle. The last mile was straight up and miserable. Apparently, several of them lost all of their will when, after crossing a couple big hills (or mountains), they could still see that last incline that did not have any swithbacks. So, they made it to Waterton and that is where the rest of the story meets with theirs on the porch of the Crandel Mountain Lodge.
Friday, July 18 - Day 6 - Waterton to Kalispell:

Crandel Mountain Lodge was quite possibly the most hospitable place I've ever stayed. We woke up and (suprise suprise) went to Zum's for breakfast!
So David and I ate at Zum's for 3 of our 4 meals in Waterton. After a super good breakfast, we piddled around and ended up back at Crandel to check out. We had an hour and a half between checkout and when our van was picking us up so we sat on the porch and reminisced. The girls who worked there baked us batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and even ran to the post office to pick up Andy & BJ's package that was supposed to be delivered on Thursday. Again, so nice and willing to do whatever we needed to make us happy! Around 12:15pm, Jim and four New Zealand ladies rolled up in our mini-bus and we started back to Kalispell. BJ introduced himself to the ladies by letting out a massive and very smelly bodily function. They gave him plenty of shit for it and told the driver to "leave the smelly bastard" while laughing (or was that gagging?) It was awesome. Once we got home, Andy & I went to the store to get burgers and fixins' while the fellas stayed back and relaxed over beer and polish horseshoes. Dogg fixed amazing hamburgers and Shawn fixed amazing potatoes on the grill and rest of us enjoyed it immensely. We had an awesome time sitting out on the deck, eating, talking, laughing having pull up contests and just hanging out for our last night all together.
We went back inside to watch Casey's video of the trip, which I hope to get on here somehow and flipping through my 400+ pictures on the TV. We shut it down a little after midnight, EXCEPT for BJ who decided to get up a go for a run about 1:00am. Crazy!

The many faces of Friday night...kind of glad to be back in civilization:




Casey & some geek on the computer

Deuce & David

1 comment:

Becky said...

Becca- I love this quote by you..."Although my blisters on my heels are the size of quarters and David's knees might need to be replaced, we are going to try."