Birthday Present 2017

Well, tell us how your trip went. We all want to hear about your special experience.

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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby JustMike » Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:03 am

Part 2

Tue, Aug 15th
Day Trip to Swiftcurrent Lookout
Day 2, 2nd night at Granite Park Chalet
4 miles round trip, 1,600 ft ascent and descent


A scurry starts as quiet hours end at 6:00. By 7:00, the kitchen is filling with guests pulling their breakfasts off the shelf. The two Glacier Guides leaders, ?Jen & Vince, are cooking up this wonderful egg and hash brown mixture with fresh looking pineapple. I try not to gawk as I make my coffee and get down our breakfast for the next 11 days, cereal in Nido instant milk. The morning dawns beautifully and nearly smoke free. Joy, I tell you!

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We’ve decided on Swiftcurrent Lookout, highest maintained trail in the park. Good little test for the legs too, some 2000 ft Elev in 2.5 miles. Very shortly one gets that iconic view that is vintage Granite Park Chalet.

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As we ascend, we see two guys in the midst of trail maintenance hauling rocks…they are singing, happily. I say, “you guys are the modern day equivalents of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp)” and with a very proud ‘Yup’, they talk about ‘getting’ to do this season after season. Taking almost no time for a break, they are back to grading the trail with purpose.

Our feet seem lighter now not hauling those heavy cotton bags of rocks. There’s a stream off left and I see the fuchsia pinks of my favorite, the Lewis Monkeyflower. Lots of lavender asters and yellow buckwheat showing today. Shortly before reaching Swiftcurrent Pass, the sign for the Lookout directs us left.

The switchbacks start. Mike notices a couple coming from the top actually running down. Soon we find out why as that chill wind whips us. We break out the fleece, hat, wind jacket & pants.

Also we meet John coming down, a 70-something defying his age, who manages the Mt. Brown Lookout trail proudly – “That’s My trail”. But today he was getting in his 5000 vertical feet of exercise having come up from The Loop in hopes of seeing Buck, who normally is manning the lookout. Buck has a mandatory day off from his Swiftcurrent Lookout post every 12 days. Buck has been doing this for some ?13 years, would’ve loved to have met him but that’s what doing it a next time is for. John is pure positive energy and one gets the sense that these Montana, especially Glacier, folk have tough written in their DNA.

Great to arrive at the Lookout on such a spectacular day!
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And what sights, looking South at Swiftcurrent Glacier, Mt Gould.
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Northwest to the Livingston Range
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And a nod to our friends at Esatto, a boot shot toward where we’re headed, Northern Highline and over the Divide toward Belly River
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Met a cute couple up there who are traveling the major parks of The West that happened to meet in Lebanon, TN. Small world, as is too often said, but indeed feels that way when you’re way up there.

Hated to leave but making our way down we were rewarded with a Golden Eagle swooping back and forth below us. Saw it so close that I could make out white splotches in its cinnamon brown wings.

Eagle Video Link:
https://youtu.be/q6Rcmlh43IM

Back down at Swiftcurrent Pass Cairn, I add my stone to the many which honor HockeyRef (Andy), who added so much to Glacier Park Chat and who loved this hike the most: Highline to Many Glacier via Swiftcurrent Pass.

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Back at the Chalet a beautiful relaxed afternoon, chatting with other guests.


Wed, Aug 16th
Day Trip to Grinnell Glacier Overlook
Day 3, 3rd night at Granite Park Chalet
3.2 miles round trip, ~1,000 ft ascent and descent


Yet another blue sky morning at the Chalet. Taking time for catching up on my journal. We have it easy today, just going up to Grinnell Glacier Overlook, some 1000 vertical feet in 0.8 miles. Probably didn’t start until 10:00, with plans for lunch up there.

Mike enjoys the PB&J I brought
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He goes out on ledges that feel totally ‘dicey’ to me. I follow but clearly adds new meaning to being “on edge”…what views though
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Me and My Buddy
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Coming down I feel like trying to capture some color and get down in & amongst the fireweed.
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Picking huckleberries on the way back, we must have introduced 12 youngsters about how to identify them. Never gets old seeing their delight. Mike has about 4 observers watching

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After we returned to the Chalet, Mike asked about the water situation at Fifty Mountain and we were sent to Ranger Mike Satler’s residence. He welcomed us in and was glad to check with the dispatcher who would check with The Potters (in residence for the summer out at Fifty). Mike has been the Granite Park Ranger for many, many seasons (?14) and has stories about rescues, fires, and bears that we could have listened hours to. He also has the responsibility for clean water & sewer issues which he & Mike conversed at length about. No small challenges there. Then he also talked about garbage dumping practices that were going on 50 years ago this August when Night of the Grizzlies happened. They used to dump garbage off the side hill from the Chalet so guests could see the Grizzly bears. Boy, did they change practices!

This evening was also special b/c Granite Park Chalet’s own Kathy Phillips Aasheim (concessionaire of both Chalets and employed since the 70’s at GPC) took us through the decades of the Chalets with wonderful stories. She is living Glacier Magic with infectious love of the place and commitment to keep it pristine as she says ‘for our children’s children’. Wish so that I had videoed her talk, just a wonderful lady. Spent time visiting with her after about some of our favorite Sperry moments and showed her the picture of Mike bringing Renee (Sperry’s manager) the prints he had made of our favorite night shot with the goat. She loved that.

(Renee from last Aug)
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With the need for an early start tomorrow, Mike settled our tab and asked for early access in the kitchen to our food for packing.

Another evening of Awe

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Next time, the backpack begins…

Thur, Aug 17th
Granite Park Chalet to Fifty Mountain
12 miles, 1890 ft ascent, 1800 ft descent
Day 4, 1st Day of Backpacking Trip


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Afraid we took seriously the end of quiet hours at 6:00 b/c it was time to get to it. Going through the inventory in each of our packs, we split the tent and divvied up the food. We usually like to have all our food together in Opsaks (smell proof Ziplocs) when in Bear country but the amount this trip requires pushing packages into every nook and cranny. Went down to grab a quick breakfast, and savor that cup of coffee. Kathy came by to wish us good luck on our adventure and said we were in for some incredible views.
Later than we'd like, we're on trail at 8:30 and have a Bluebird Sky.

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Trail starts off with a gentle grade & winding through fir trees. Not able to see far as Heavens Peak waves us goodbye
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In a couple miles we top out a rise and can finally make out Mt's Kipp and Cathedral, the base of which is our objective. Kipp & Cathedral are just left of the brim of Mike's hat.
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More traversing hillsides with wide open views now. The Trapper Creek Fire from years back have all the trees like a ghost town. Rounding a hillside and into shadow we pass under a snowfield on dry trail. It wasn't until reaching Ahern Creek that we realized we'd gone thru Ahern Drift without knowing it. Didn't have to bring those YakTrax after all. They'd only blasted August 8th so it was a surprise to see it that melted.

Ahern Creek is lovely and lush. Beautiful pinks, yellows, lavenders & whites along the stream. Wish we had time to go up to Ahern Pass and look onto Helen Lake. Mike also spots 2 mule deer up high. Iceberg peak looms above.
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Looking ahead at Ahern Peak
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A look back at Ahern Drift, snow well receded above trail
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Now for the descent, down thru shaded trees, some switchbacking. Toes really not doing well in the boots. My sense is that I'm gonna lose that right big toe-nail. Left little toe winces with each step. Left knee starting to sing as well. Fireweed guides us in to Cattle Queen Creek and seems the perfect lunch stop. Mike sees several Bighorn well camouflaged in the cliffs above.

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The Creek at Cattle Queen
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Now its business. Sun is full on and we face 4 miles of up. Feels like we've done so much elevation gain but Mike's GPS doesn't lie. Try to drink in between huffing and puffing. Take electrolyte chews. We look back to see the fire at Sprague Creek start to blow up, the warm winds are just whippin'. It's too hot today.

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Now heels are starting to rub. Pack off break seeking what little shade one can find under alder. It's slow going and the pack just feels like a bus, weighted down with the nine days of food. Trudging forward, making small gains but hamstrings & gluts are talkin' to me. too many breaks. Mike's extremely patient. Tedious. What's torture is being able to see Kipp & Cathedral, so close yet terribly far. I top the saddle to finally start the descent into Fifty with no celebration, just a hobble.

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This mile of down is really torture, the feet ache badly and left knee has me wincing. Arrive at camp with little fanfare, en route to bearboxes to store huge cache of food. Nice campsite in shadow of Cathedral.

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Retired GNP Ranger over 25 years Gary Moses comes over to greet us. He explains the low water situation and where there are pools we can get our stores from. He notices my bum knee and explains who would be in Camp if I should need help tomorrow, indicating that people come in so injured that sometimes they need accommodations made or evac. Said very calmly that over the years he'd seen everything. Like Mike Satler, bears, fires, law enforcement issues, search & rescue...and responsible for Fifty to Logan to West Glacier. Was there for the rescue of the Father/Daughter Griz attack on Grinnell Glacier hike that required short haul helicopter on the Dad with a C2 fracture. Great guy Gary Moses, true love for the Park and still so involved after retirement.

My spirits are much improved out of my boots & with some rest. Mike and I both respond to pain with degrees of nausea but have learned big time that skipping dinner is not allowed. A group of 8 Russians gathers at dinner talking about how incredible the Sue Lake Overlook was today. Not in the cards for me today but I was so glad for them. Sunset offers consolation though and I'm gifted these images at Fifty Mountain.

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(ETA: Day 4 write-up + photos)
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby TnTammy » Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:57 pm

A few notes:

I had mentioned early on about being sure to pack our passports which one might wonder why if we were doing the Northern Circle.

From the start, we were really concerned about the fire situation and getting too remote. Hearing the stories of "Tinder Box" conditions and seeing other fires blow up if the winds wanted to wreak havoc, i was really leary about being all the way in at Fifty. I told Mike that we'd better take our passports if we needed to exit Goat Haunt as an escape route from fire/smoke. When Gary Moses, Ranger at Fifty, was saying that he'd seen about everything in his 25 years, we got on the subject of wildfire. I mentioned that we'd brought our passports just in case and he thought that was a really good idea.

The Boot Problem. Thought some might be curious as to if those boots had been adequately broken in. I got them about a year ago (with custom orthotics) and had many practice miles invested before an 8 night backpack in Grand Canyon last March, where they were incredible! During a hike in June, we encountered a downpour where the boots got saturated. Later stuffed them with newspaper to dry. The toe box shrunk considerably. Mike followed videos about restretching the toe box, as we didn't have time to send them off to the company before our trip. Practice hikes after that were OK but never as great as they were before. So i started this trip suspecting discomfort could be a challenge. :shock:

We've since written the bootmaker and plan to send them off with hopes that he/she can restore them to their former level of comfort. So hopefully there will be a nice resolution to this story that i can post in the "Backpacking Gear and Such" section.

If I ever return to Fifty, we must make it to Sue Lake Overlook! (EarMtn's pic of that place is still seared in my mind :) )
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby JustMike » Fri Nov 10, 2017 7:21 pm

Part 3

Fri, Aug 18th
Fifty Mountain to Stoney Indian Lake
Day 5, 2nd Day of Backpacking Trip
8.2 miles, 1725 ft ascent, 2800 ft descent


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Morning came too early at Fifty but was indeed crystal clear, fresh and beautiful.

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Determined not to be held up by my knee or other issues, I applied compression tape in support of that knee and taped over all the pressure points on my feet with trusty Leukotape. Also took time at breakfast to tape up the ankle of one of the Russian group. Legs are pretty good as Mike massaged in arnica the night before. Today would be a Bear (figuratively) and we both knew it so best to get going. Cresting the hill coming out of Fifty we found two more really swift streams, which would have been a good water source if those pools at the end of the campsite go dry in this drought. There are remnants of a stone cabin at the crest and talk about a nice view!

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With 6 miles of descent ahead we best start getting down. Much of it was shaded & cool through fir trees with glimpses of a mountain.

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Followed by breaking out to see that we had a whole lot more left to get down to the valley floor.

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This is one of very few waterfalls all the way down, everything else were dry creek beds and much of the vegetation absolutely crusty. Tinder box conditions just as the Rangers have so aptly described.

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Reaching Waterton River is joy, it's just refreshing and lovely down there. Would relish staying at this Ranger Cabin in fact.

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But now the work really begins, a brutal steep up to Stoney. My poor tootsies were killing me! So I shed the boots in favor of my Tevas. Not many pics follow of the climb but in the midst we ran into a fellow coming down and looking somewhat familiar. I asked if by chance he was a Chatter, and if he was Paul? Sure enough!! We talked for a moment and I was glad to have finally met him. We both wondered how Joyce was making out with alternative plans r/t Sperry bring shut down. Didn't hold Paul up for long as I think he was headed all the way to Waterton Camp. Soon we resumed our very slow and laborious ascent. Mike actually left to go ahead & situate his food and pack then come back for me. We've never separated on the trail before so this was a big deal. I proceeded with every bit that I had and actually made it to the top of the switchbacks (another 1000 ft), nearly there, when he returned back for me. So I carried my own proudly in to camp and he was most complementary. Damn, that was rough! Sun going down over Stoney Indian Lake.

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So relieved to have these two huge legs of the trip behind us. At dinner, Mike sees two Mtn Goats on the cliff side above and we watch the white figures amble about. Again nauseated but making ourselves eat, we are very much looking forward to tomorrow and the days ahead to provide some R&R.

Sat, Aug 19th
Stoney Indian to Mokowanis Junction
Day 6, 3rd Day of Backpacking Trip
5.7 miles, 1000 ft ascent, 2410 ft descent


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'Spirits Soar, Legs Less Sore'

The cool breezy morning at Stoney Indian is characterized by the wispy lofty clouds above. Here's looking Northwest.

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Somehow these conditions just make that morning coffee even more precious. We had our cereal & warm drinks in the breakfast area about 9'ish, our brother & sister campmates from Idaho had already gone. Two very fit fellas came into camp and recognized us. We had met last year at Thunderbird Pond and took their pic with a huge moose in the background.

August 2016
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So last year they were attempting to climb all five 10,000 ft peaks in the park and were on their way to do Cleveland but that night we got an incredible storm that snowed so much they were unable to complete.

Back to our morning at Stoney, our climber friends had just arrived from Kootenai, were leaving their hefty packs on the bear pole and headed once again to tag Cleveland with the approach over Stoney Indian Mtn. They were from Columbia Falls and had their families at the park in support of gaining the five summits. They'd already done Kintla, and spent some time 'undesignated' at Agassiz glacier area. Said they live for these two months of the year. Made my woes of the last two days efforts seem minuscule and gave an inspiring lift to our spirits.
On trail by a leisurely 10:30, and it was still cool and breezy for our switchbacks out of Stoney

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Very near the Pass we surprise the Buttz Family, three ewes and two lambs who were enjoying grasses in the meadow until we interrupted them. The Buttz crew only posed their backsides for us but clearly kept glowering back at us like, 'can't you guys move on already!' "Ok,ok, we get the hint". Hard to see but they're in there, patiently waiting out our departure.

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Enjoyed every bit of the hike up to Stoney Indian Pass and was so jubilant at the top the I jumped up in the air with a big WooHoo! Which the young couple on the other side rounded just in time to laugh at. Cute first time glacier backpackers who were kind enough to take our pic...glee still on my face

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And here's the view that greeted us at the Pass. Even with the dark clouds, I still had that Sound of Music moment. Just Awesomeness!

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Making our way down was absolute Joy. This high country area is similar to some of our favorite in the park like Hole in the Wall Country and that of Sperry. It's a 360 degree experience impossible to capture in a snapshot. Towers behind, ahead, streaming waterfalls, glaciers, high lakes, and though past prime, still some nice color from asters, buckwheat, purple gentian and pearly everlasting. As we descend the berries start to catch my eye, then we hit it, the monster berry patch. Hucks were plump, dark and yummy!! I yell, "pack off!"

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Stuffed ourselves as we also collected enough for tomorrow's cereal. I seriously had to stop myself for fear of all the fiber in those berries. My night at Mok Junction would be better if it was not spent in the outhouse, ;).

I looked for an offtrail path where people might make their way over to Sue Lake but couldn't see the way. We continued to descend alongside magical waterfalls and found a spot that sang, we must have lunch here.

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Link to short video of our lunch spot
https://youtu.be/caLX-8EmaIE

Little further we finally see the chain of lakes that we would call home for the next few days: Glenn's & Cosley.

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The guy taking our pic was a hockey fan and told me to yell 'Go Preds' so nice expression there. You'll notice on top of my pack the Lucilight, solar powered...works great, thanks Joyce!!
Made our way down alongside a second powerful waterfall before sinking deep into foliage in the valley. Stopped a moment to consider what this tree must have been through to be so contorted. And Mike often remarks when we see a big tree up high, how old it must be b/c they have such a short growing season.

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Poor Mokowanis Junction has no pics. It's a perfectly adequate space with 5 campsites in nice shade but without a view; doesn't really hold a candle to others in the area. We had a site under a huge ?douglas fir with broad boughs. A sprinkle came and seemed like we didn't feel a drop. Soft brown needles were like a carpet under our tent. Cozy place for a night's sleep. There was a young crowd of 8 twentysomethings that came to the prep area rowdy after a great time over at Mok Lake and the Falls. Then our Idaho Brother & Sister made it in, which was curious b/c they left Stoney before us. Turns out Brother wanted Sister to go off-trail across the high country, so they passed Sue Lake and made it to a viewing point over Margaret. His pics were IN-Credible!!! And Sister was SOoooo sore and remarked some of that off trail was real sketchy. These kids are GNP newbies and had this big day. Well, they made Mike and I laugh so much over their sibling antics. Never lost their sense of humor over the day's episode or past episodes. So Cute, those two and clearly the best of friends.
Off to bed, feeling much better about our trip, and welcoming the coming days that offer some R&R.

(ETA: Added video link to our lunch spot.)
Last edited by JustMike on Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby teapot57 » Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:22 pm

Tammy,

I am thoroughly enjoying your trip report. You are a great writer! I must admit that I have read ahead on your blog, but will savor each re-read that is posted here. I would love sharing the trail with you and Mike someday! You have me thinking of starting a blog of my own to record my hiking adventures.

Bravo!
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby TnTammy » Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:48 pm

teapot57 wrote:Tammy,

I am thoroughly enjoying your trip report. You are a great writer! I must admit that I have read ahead on your blog, but will savor each re-read that is posted here. I would love sharing the trail with you and Mike someday! You have me thinking of starting a blog of my own to record my hiking adventures.

Bravo!
Tina


Awww Tina, Thanks so much!!
Maybe Mike & I could tag along up to the Sue Lake bench if you go with Paul. :arrow:
Yes, we must share the trail some time in the future! 8)

Was tickled about the blog b/c it holds so many possibilities. My trail journals go back more than 20 years, and though it may seem like a waste of time to reread those...to us, what remains fresh is the sense of joy in discovery about a place and putting it with the photos.
Also was thinking maybe a section on ‘Places With Cool Rocks’ and showcase some neat geological features from our travels. Mike’s a geological engineer and i have a love affair with landscapes so that’s caused us to tromp in a few out of the way spots. Plus, he does a nice job with that Nikon sometimes. :wink: Also need a Wildflowers section with just a collage of favorites.
So, at this early stage, think we’d say the blog has been a lot of enjoyable time spent. Plus, we need to hear Teapot’s stories! Feel free to PM Us if you have questions.
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby paul » Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:09 am

Hi Tammy,

I'm really liking your trip report!

By the way, that brother and sister were my camp mates at MOL the day I went to Sue lake. They were a really funny duo! You were right about their brother sister antics. It was refreshing to see! I think I planted the idea of getting to Sue lake in the brother's head after showing him some of the pictures from the day. He was definitely stoked for it and she was "like no way after seeing that Grizzly bear today!" :)

The two climbers from Columbia falls were my camp mates at Kootnei. Those guys were incredible, doing all 5 10K footers on one trip!
We are in the mountains and the mountains are in us. - John Muir
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby TnTammy » Sat Nov 11, 2017 2:37 pm

paul wrote:Hi Tammy,

I'm really liking your trip report!

By the way, that brother and sister were my camp mates at MOL the day I went to Sue lake. They were a really funny duo! You were right about their brother sister antics. It was refreshing to see! I think I planted the idea of getting to Sue lake in the brother's head after showing him some of the pictures from the day. He was definitely stoked for it and she was "like no way after seeing that Grizzly bear today!" :)

The two climbers from Columbia falls were my camp mates at Kootnei. Those guys were incredible, doing all 5 10K footers on one trip!


Big Smile Paul!!

We loved those Idaho Sibs and how interesting that they were at MOL with you, where they heard about Sue Bench. We thought it strange that 1st time Glacier Backpackers would do that off-trail hike...Someone inspired them! :wink: Then they must have come up to Stoney on the day we met you as you headed for Kootenai. They had the night at Stoney with us (met them at breakfast the next morn as they were leaving) and did Sue Lake that day, Sat 8/19. We met again that night at MOJ where she was so whipped but both of them in great spirits. Well, i can assure you, they had marvelous pics that they were pleased as punch about...so you probably made the highlight of their trip! :arrow: I bring up their route b/c i probably wouldn't have considered their itinerary of Stoney and back into the belly but it makes a lot of sense as that leg from MOL to Stoney is one of the finest and you'd get to do it twice in returning the following day. NICE.
Mike remembers them talking about a grizzly encounter at Margaret...so we were really on bear alert when up visiting up there.

Folks might enjoy alittle video of that area from further down
https://youtu.be/caLX-8EmaIE

Agree with you that Climber Dudes were IN-Credible, and so nice! Did Cleveland on the day we left Stoney and we think did Merritt 2 days later on Eclipse Day.

Ya know Paul, in our brief time to chat on the trail, I didn't get to say Thank You. 1) for pics that you posted years ago of Mokowanis Lake that made us for sure want to visit there, and 2) for your TR's (and Heff & MissG) about Northern Traverse...which helped us determine, OH, We Gotta Go There (Frances, Hole & Boulder Pass). In passing, you would probably not know that the efforts you'd put in on those TR's would really impact other cyber people that much...but it really did! So huge thanks and maybe we'll get the chance to buy you a Huckleberry Brew someday. 8)
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby paul » Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:47 pm

Yep, those two sibs said they were headed to Stoney the next day and then back down to MOK the day after. I'm glad they got up to Sue Lake! Both of them seemed pretty tough for being newbies. They hiked into MOL from Chief mountain which is a good 14 miles and then climbed up to Margaret lake that evening. Not too shabby!

I'm glad that you got something out of mine and Heffs TRs. I know most of my information about camping, hiking and climbing in the park came from people on this chat page. So I guess I'm just giving back a little :) a Huckleberry Brew or Fat Tire would be nice :)
We are in the mountains and the mountains are in us. - John Muir
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby JustMike » Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:03 pm

Part 4

Sun, Aug 20th
Mokowanis Junction to Glenn's Head
Day 7, 4th Day of Backpacking Trip
0.4 miles (yes, that's four tenths), 0 ft ascent, 38 ft descent

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'Tam & Mike Take the Day Off' at Glenns Head


Like a long sought Oasis, we have reached today.

Arose smiling that we didn't have to care what time it was. No rush to get out of that sleeping bag. But sun through the tent wall taunts us and we do have Huckleberries to go with our cereal, so why not. We break camp and load up packs to take to the food prep area.

A family of 4 heads out over Stoney Indian Pass toward their destination of Kootenai. We're joined for breakfast by Idaho Brother and Sister, who are in remarkably good spirits considering how sore she was yesterday. They are seriously enjoying some Mtn House Biscuits-N-Gravy, each person downing a bag that is 2 portions...hey, they'd earned every bit of that. They told us of their other brother who bailed on the trip at the last minute so he was left at the Mall in Missoula. We cracked up that they just dumped him. Mike assured them that they had rights to give him a hard time for life on that. The young lady has hopes of a degree in nursing and of traveling to Nashville, so we talked about how she could combine those two dreams. Now living in North Dakota, we heard about the trials of living and raising a family there. Hard working kids who are very centered on taking care of the family. Special. Too soon they were off to Cosley.

Then we started visiting with the 8 kids from Michigan. They were so lit to be in Glacier and all that they'd seen. They were telling us about Gros Ventre Falls, and how great their trip had been up to this point starting at Slide Lake. We answered some questions about how far it was from Chief Mtn Customs to the place they parked at Chief Mtn Overlook. They'd gone over Blackfeet Territory to get to Slide and then climbed Chief the next day. They were telling us Slide is a favorite spot and they'd like to spend several days just exploring those environs. They'd come up and over Gable Pass to access The Belly and reported that descent down Gable as treacherously steep the way I'd seen others describe it. Super nice energetic kids loving their big Glacier trip; they're sure to reflect on that years from now.

Not too much to say about our big hike today. I walked in my sandals. It was delightfully easy and there in no time. And what a camp spot.

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Within a few steps, this dreamy beach where I've wanted to stay for years. Mike dons a smile, soaking up the sun after a bath. Fresh clothes drying after washing out the salt. The shelf of Glenn's goes way out so the shallow water warms nicely in afternoon sun...heavenly for a dip!

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Even heated water in the food prep area do that Mike could shave for the first time in 7 days. Heating the water gave me an afternoon cup of coffee, a welcome luxury. We took a lonnnnng nap, and spent more time looking out onto the water, doe and fawn across the way, ducks in the distance. Caught up on my journal while Mike looked at the topo map.

Dinner was chicken teriyaki, not a favorite of Mike's but at this point they're all tasting similar. Two fathers with Two Sons join us. It appears their first time with either stove: jetboil vs. pocket rocket lookalike. Again, first time Glacier backpackers and loving it, but not entirely confident about their gear. They seemed to have a few questions for us e.g. How long do our fuel canisters last, what is our favorite Mtn House meal, what is the hike like tomorrow (which was going over Stoney Indian Pass). Great they are doing this with their sons. Made us wish Nate was with us. Starry night at Glenn's with the Milky Way sprawled above. What a perfect day!


Mon, Aug 21st
Mokowanis & Margaret Lakes Day Hike
Camp at Glenn's Head 2nd night
Day 8, 5th Day of Backpacking Trip
6.1 miles, 811 ft ascent and descent


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"Not Justa Nother Day"

My eyes opened at about 6:00, all comfy in my sleeping bag, with my first few thoughts being lit with the possibilities of the day. The previous day's R&R really hit the spot and I find that I can't wait to get out there.

A few steps out to the beach at Glenn's and what unfolds before my eyes is simply dreamy.

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This moment alone really rings true to me why we go to all the trouble. The perfect stillness, the mirror of Pyramid Peak in soft light, the beautiful Loon song. My senses are full and blessings abundant. Wishes that my family and friends could know this experience. I sit on my little cushy pad on the beach, just knowing any moment some grand creature will come out to drink. To my delight, a little red headed duck family of five scoot by breaking the glassy watered surface silently. I'm giddy.

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A little while later, much further up the beach, a doe comes out to delicately take her drink. I feel like I'm in a Bierstadt painting.

Returning the 10 steps to camp, my eye notes a large dark silhouette move in the willows. I fumble a bit with the bear spray in my hands to get it ready....my gut tells me it's a very large black bear but a few seconds later, a very large head starts to raise up hauling the weight of two very large antlers in velvet. Holy Moly...it's feet from our tent! I'm a mixture of a little bit scared and gleeful!! :)

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I call out "Michael" twice in a very direct tone indicating, 'I need you to get out here'. Oh Man, was he psyched to see Bullwinkle. He got the GoPro and I tried to capture with iPhone but our moose stayed frozen, staring at us and looked like he might wanna get irritated. Mike said, "Turn Around". I looked confused and he goes "turn your back to him"...which I did, and the moose dashed for the lake as if that was just what he was waiting for.

Short moose video link
https://youtu.be/JHlo_Mf-x3c

He went down the beach a bit and came up into another campsite. I thought about calling out to warn the other campers but was sure that could rouse their curiosity and they'd open the tent surprising the big dude and something bad would happen. So we go to the food prep area, having our coffee and cereal when there he popped out on the trail 15 yards ahead. Eating away on baby branches of this or that, I'm sure hearing our conversing and not caring. Another Glacier magic moment that just seemed incredible.

Speaking of incredible, we've got an eclipse to catch. So we finish up eating, make our day packs using the lid of my backpack and a sac for clothes, and excitedly head up the trail to Mokowanis Lake. I had in mind to see the historical astronomical event from Margaret but Mike wisely knew we wouldn't get that far in time. Mokowanis was exquisite, with a perfectly still mirror image. What a beauty!

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And the sun rose enough in our westerly direction to overcome Mt. Merritt about 10:00 MST to be prime.

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Mike proudly broke out the specialty glasses he'd protected for eight days just for this once in a lifetime solar eclipse. We forded a few little outlet streams to get the best spot and waited.

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Well, first we saw PAC-Man, then a Gibbon Sun, til finally 90%ish of the sun was covered, and our surroundings looked a bit like evening but just a little. That sliver of sun could still light up the sky plenty and without further adieu, we had someplace special to be.

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Btw, we saw two familiar backpacks up on the bear pole at the food prep area...that's right, today our climber guys were making their attempt on Merritt. Looking up at the peak on this beautiful morning we wished them Godspeed and felt sure 'they got this!'

Excited to travel past the camp, thru ghostly trees like in Wizard of Oz, thru a meadow of golden crisp grasses to that splendid tiered waterfall.

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Following alongside the lower Falls then up a gravel drainage to left of the upper Falls, one sees a clear dirt path leading to the cliffs. A few cairns mark the slight scramble here and there til you reach the upper pools above the falls. Just continue up the shelves and now bushwhacking through some high foliage and we find ourselves at a Masterpiece named Margaret.

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Too bad for the haze in the sky from smoke but still that water color, that unreal water color shone as if a cell from a Disney movie on a vague watercolor background. It seems the obvious color one would call it is Turquoise...but I struggle with that b/c it's so much more than just that. I ask Mike if he can think of a better term...still it's Turquoise to him. But instead of a dynamic pigment on a palette, it's a jewel...then it comes to me, like the pendant Mike gave me for my November birthday...it's Blue Topaz. Satisfied, I can rest now.

Here's how two people feel when they are at Margaret on a sunny day.

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This is one of those places that's terribly difficult to leave, craning your neck back for one last look until no more.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Glenn's gives us a beautiful warm evening. What a fine day it's been.

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Tue, Aug 22nd
Glenn's Head to Cosley Lake Campground
Day 9, 6th day of Backpacking Permit
4.6 miles, 0 ascent, 20 ft descent


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"Cosley in the Sun"

Arose leisurely at 8:00 to find that a group of 4 twenty-somethings had gotten off on the trail already. These kids, 3 guys and a gal, had come from Many all the way to Cosley, stopping by to see Iceberg Lake in one day. Some 18 miles! They only had to walk from Cosley to Glenn's Head yesterday but the gal was hobbling terribly. Apparently their long day had torn her feet up. I offered that I had a blister kit with anything they needed and they mentioned having 'ointments and band-aids' and were 'fine, but thanks'. So, hard not to worry about that gal b/c today they are going all the way from Glenn's Head to FIFTY!! What is that...14 miles with 2500 ft up, 2000 ft. Down, then another 2800 ft up....OUCH!!! Glad they are young and invincible but it doesn't sound like fun.

The two fathers and sons had just mounted up their packs and were off to Kootenai in great spirits. They too have a bit of a haul but look fresh and up for it. We told them the general vicinity of where the Hucks were awesome...and they didn't know what to look for. So Mike took one of the Dads down the trail to show him a good example. Happy with that info, they marched.

Another Glassy, silent morning at Glenn's with the sun easing its way onto Pyramid, ?Cathedral, and Stoney. God how I love this place.

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So hard to rip yourself away. At what point is it time to go break camp...never?!?! Long sigh, I say to myself, 'there have been some pretty great pics & descriptions of Cosley...' 'OK, let's do it.' Break camp, breakfast at food prep (today, cheerios, very exciting), sip my coffee without rush, get all the food in the packs, surprised at the size of the trash now becoming greater in volume than the food left.

I happily don my Teva's, tying magic boots to the outside of my pack...no hurting feet today. Start down the trail with a lift in our step and very few cares in the world...cause we got Cosley tonight!

Within first mile we hear a rustle in the woods, downed limbs crunching. Yep, Bullwinkle...this time too deep in there to make him out.

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Fun to glimpse him again and have the awareness that this is truly his territory. Easy walking between Glenn's & Cosley, little stream crossing with a bridge.

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I hear people close by and pick up my pace to near jogging b/c I'm wanting to have my pick of the campsites. And we do make it there before anyone else...and those voices behind us must have gone on down the trail. There's something special about being first at camp and having your pick of the litter. I liked them all, tucked in nice shade, easy access to the beach. #2 is probably the largest, a perfect square, and flat, looks ideal for groups. We took the last, it's a little sloped, smaller and nestled back; nice private feel.

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Here's 'our' little beach at Cosley looking back at Pyramid.

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Looking East with a glimpse of Chief.

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From here we coulda ventured on to Gros Ventre Falls or prolly shoulda hiked up Bear Mountain Observation Point, but instead took the whole sun drenched afternoon on Cosley beach. I waded out to thigh depth, the water temp very amenable and the sun so pleasing. As a nod to my dear cyberfriend Selkie, I seriously did consider a swim. Walked out quite a ways. Stared into the waters where the shallows fell off annnnnd....couldn't. But next time!! :) :) We rinsed out some more clothing. Had our game of skipping stones, he always wins and it never fails to get us a laugh at how pathetically my rocks will plud into the drink after such an exaggerated throw. Mike found a shady spot for his tripod chair, taking time to reexamine all the subtlest details of our map and review his gps info. He, like others, found that the mileages and elevation gain/losses on our Permit differed quite a bit from his gps. I didn't bring a chair (that was 1 lb of weight I wish I'd kept in the pack). Instead used my little gardening knee pad for my bum and sat where my feet were cool in the water. Got all caught up in my journal, having Mike help me remember what animals we had seen along the way and where, also together, we named off all the wildflowers we'd seen thus far. His memory of flower names always astonishes me.

Keeping us company is Cosley Point.

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Have to pinch myself, can't believe how good. Thanks Cosley!

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Took a nice siesta. Mike rarely naps but when he does, it's a deep, dense sleep...so good for him. These 3 days have relieved a lot of stress off a fella with rheumatoid arthritis. He's doing so good this trip and with characteristically few complaints. Think we were smart to build in these rest days in the middle. And my complaints (knee and feet) also seem to have faded away; very welcome.

Guess we were earlier to dinner than everyone else. All the sites filled but at 6-ish, we were the only ones in the food prep. Weird that we're not bored with Mtn House, the beef stroganoff was just fine, dare I say good? :) A little buck that wandered through the very few aspens close by. Never gets old seeing aspen leaves fluttering in the breeze, though not golden yet, their green is just lovely. Our main entertainment is provided by two Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels scurrying here and there, first perched precariously in the tip of stiff grasses that it looks impossible to hold them alternating with the mad dash in and out of holes to get near us if we drop a noodle. So cute.

The night was uneventful calm & quiet, mindful of possible bears only when having to go pee. If I could do it again, I'd go out to visit the stars but we slept like babes instead.
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby JustMike » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:53 pm

Part 5

Wed, Aug 23rd
Cosley Lake to Helen Lake Campground
Day 10, 7th day of Backpacking Trip
8.5 miles, 475 ft ascent (>1000 on gps but who's counting), 240 ft descent


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"Next Girlfriend"

Yup, there's been Sue, Margaret, Elizabeth and now what must have been one of Cosley's favorites-Helen.
Pretty morning, didn't miss this sunrise.

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Smoke blurs the sun's edges, but still lovely and moving. Windless, so the lake provides a near flawless reflection. Too bad for the smoke on an otherwise perfect vista.

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Big day ahead, we get Camp packed up by 7:00. Off to the food prep area where the Glacier Guide is busying away gathering the water for a group of 7, laying out their food bags in a neat row, cooking their oatmeal & coffee...with a genuine smile on her face a friendly hello to us. She's energetic and super nice and clearly feels lucky to have this job. She's guiding this group of 1st timers on a six-nighter and all are doing very well. I asked her about the various diets and she addresses Gluten-free, Vegan, Paleo, on and on without a hitch. I talked to her about the great things I saw the Guides, Vince & Jen, making at GP Chalet and how jealy I was. Each guide we've met has been kind of 'awesome'....what a great group and I have no hesitancy in recommending them for friends back home.

Visited with a really nice couple from Atlanta over breakfast who were on their first extended backpacking trip. They'd met in college, shared the same church, and had a love of hiking. Recently had been to Kauai, so we talked of the Kalalau Trail, and Kokee SP. They seem to be totally enjoying Glacier and asked about our many trips and which were our favorite parks. Aside from Glacier being the favorite in summertime, Mike went into GCNP and how great it is but I heard several times from him that 'you could die there' at the wrong time of year or inadequate preparation or 'on & on'....think they were very interested in possibly backpacking there which was why he went out of his way to share some of its concerns. He did a good job, imo! ;) The fella mentioned having blisters on his feet, so I mentioned being a nurse and having a blister kit. Poor guy had like 5 blisters brewing mainly between his toes. I applied 2nd Skin to do its magic and that followed with smiles and the look of relief from the fella. :)

Mike points to his watch, our early morning start obliterated in favor of enjoyable company. Pretty morning for hiking and I'm in confident spirits in my Teva's, strapping my precious boots to the back of my pack.

Excited when we reach the Ford and seeing the cable again, time for a brisk dip. I took a great picture of the sign and no still of the ford...nice job Tam!

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But I did get a trail view back.

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In my defense, Mike filmed it with the GoPro:
https://youtu.be/uRK-KN96lhc

My first impression was that it would only be ankle deep, but in fact the Mokowanis River even with no rain for almost two months, still reached knee depth near the opposing shore. As Mike was putting on his boots he found a Wolf Pin in the dirt, a pretty one which he attached on my shoulder strap. Now finding a resting place here at home.

Back to business, the 3.7 to ELF is easy ambling through varying heights of vegetation. Last time was shoulder high and wet, raining dew in our boots, this time drydry.

We see an interesting Burl like a globe.
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Pass the bridge leading to the Belly River Ranger Station and Chief Mtn TH.
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Dawn Mist Falls, pitiful selfie :)
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Better
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Arrive ELF, Mike relaxed and in good spirits. Note: belt is cinched way down as shorts are now too big and carry an unbelievable array of necessities. Railriders would be proud if they saw the list of all that is stuffed in their multitude of pockets.

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A must visit to a previous beloved campsite where Mike had gotten out at Midnight in the middle of pouring rain to dig trenches away from the tent as water was creeping up the sides. Fun times!

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March on. Barely looking at the beach at ELF as we'll have time to enjoy that later, we enter rolling landscape toward Elizabeth Lake Head. Was wrong to think this was a flat walk on the beach, you in fact make repeated gains and losses. This is new terrain for us and I welcome the unknown with some enthusiasm. Two spruce grouse captivate us. we would see them in return and hear of others who enjoyed them. One guy freezes for a sec.

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Elizabeth Lake Head Campground provided a perfect lunch spot. Feet up. Still not tired of a packet of Tuna Creations with Pretzel Crisp crumbled into it and dried mango. Mike still happy with his jerky, cashews and dried pineapple. Before leaving, I'm able to provide a very good report that the facilities in the pit toilet are nice and clean, and that the campsites are quite suitable though glaringly minus a view. No pics again! :(

Traversing a swampy section, then through thick woods, we break out every so often where an avalanche has cleared a chute, Mike noting the destruction it caused with trees in a jumble. Getting nearer to Helen the skies open up again to our view with some stream crossings.

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Then, within a half mile of our objective, Huck Central!! Pack off and commence chowing down. This is a goood patch so we find ourselves calling out Hey Bear in between mouthfuls. Now to collect some for our morning cereal. We took a whole luxurious hour with the berries...could hardly stop. I kept trying to get Mike back on the trail and he would find a new batch of plumpies. "Okkkk, that's plenty!!" I say and we reluctantly leave.

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Well, I'm happy to report that the whole way in to Helen from there was Loaded with terrific berries! So we talk of the best berry bonanzas we had experienced in the park and Mike maintains it was last year above Ellen Wilson, but this year near Stoney Indian Pass and here near Helen make fine rivals. "Hey Bearbear!!" And arriving at Helen lake, you can believe we were on a constant lookout for big furry eating machines.

Arrive to find no one else, we hang our food and peruse our 2 campsite options. One is closest to the food prep area and open air potty, nice, flat and big but surrounded with downed trees. The other is off to itself and behind a huge fir tree which is providing optimal shade. Winner!

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What a perfectly pretty place is this Miss Helen.

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It's windy so the waters choppy but the temp is super pleasant. There's a bit of smoke returned from the Northerly direction and we don't think too much of it.

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Then we Really start thinking a lot of it...

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As the brown cloud grows in size and depth of color in mere minutes, so does our concern about our safety. We had just come 9 miles after all on a hot afternoon, hung our food, made camp...are we gonna have to abandon?? Smoke continues to the point where we think it's coming from the Mokowanis Valley where we just were

Hmmm, ok, we start to talk through our situation. So we have a PLB, if we had to use it there's plenty of flat space for a helicopter to land. We both indicate that there's probably no helicopter available, of course due to dealing with so many fires.

We remark on how one ember could set this tinder box off in a second. Hmmm, looking above the lake to Ahern Pass, I comment on how Heff & Laura had gone up the cliffs in search of a goat path that leads to Ahern Pass...we quickly dispel that as an option based on level of fitness and sheer guts. Plan, continue appraisal of situation and be prepared to break camp and get on down to Elizabeth Lake & presumed safety. Mike set his watch alarm for Midnight to reassess.

The brown cloud consumed the valley. And we watched. Eating dinner provided us the diversion of avoiding clouds of mosquitoes. Whistling clouds of the little buggers but our permethrin treated clothes protected us from even a single bite. We did have mosquito head nets to wear but didn't need them as they kept a certain distance from us.

Headed back to our tent something sizeable moved in the woods moved about, fortunately it was hooved friends not pawed. Mama Muley and two young deer. Mama made this loud and strange huffing sound that I'd never heard before as if to warn the youngsters.

It was unusually warm and uncomfortable this evening. We both tossed and turned a lot. The Midnight observation revealed no glowing red of any imminent danger. Toss and turn some more. At one point I heard the noise of hoof prints or was it paws shifting gravel close to our tent, about 2 a.m. Awoke Mike to investigate but nothing seen. Truth be told, being up here at Helen alone with no one taking the other camp, made me nervous, especially about a bear encounter. Kept thinking of all those ripe berries and worried myself awake most all night. Similar for Mike but he was in fire alert for us. One of our roughest nights backpacking in memory.


Thurs, Aug 24th
Helen Lake to Elizabeth Lake Foot
Day 11, 8th day of Backpacking Trip
4.7 miles, 390 ft ascent, 559 ft descent


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"Moody Blues"

Awoke to blowing wind, dark gray clouds low over the lake-like we were in the wet cloud.

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I don't need to tell you that the gorgeous pictures I'd seen of Helen looked a lot different than this! Yesterday, arriving in the afternoon, the sun glares back from Ahern Peak so it's not really the time to capture her beauty. Definitely gonna need a redo on Helen...as Mike often says in such situations, "we were robbed!"
The rain is now blowing sideways and I Hate to pack up in the rain. Makes perfect sense to both of us, after such a sleepless night, to catch a few nice hours of shuteye staying warm & dry in the tent. Approaching 11:00, it looked like we might have a brief window to pack up dry and make a run for it. But first, an extra coat of Nikwax to the boots. That Michael (she shakes head laughing).

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Truly, twern't nuthin' to see as we hoofed it down from Helen. Passed our Glacier Guide friend that we met at Cosley taking 5 of her 7 up to Helen and into the rain. Kudos to the undaunted, but I'm doubtful there's much to see today. We laud the Huckleberries they have ahead and said we'd see them tonight at ELF. Because of the wet conditions I'm back in my boots (the not-so-magic shoes). And I am so sadddd. It seems the toe box on both boots shrunk significantly after a rainy hike back home. Again, left little toe is smashed and despite tying the boots so tight trying to keep the foot from sliding forward, my right great toe is bruised to where I think now for sure I'll lose that toenail. Add that I'd completely removed the insole in attempt to make more room, so I'm walking with no padding. I was able to get it done but definitely in somber sad spirits! Arriving ELF, we look back toward quite stormy skies and feel lucky to be dry and able to setup camp dry.

White caps and whipping constant wind at Elizabeth Lake Foot. Much like our last visit here in 2012.
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We visit with a very nice couple from NC in camp, the two from the Glacier Guides group who opted out of dayhiking Helen.

A group horsepacking arrive confused; 'was this the way to Mokowanis?' Two cute kids were with them and several very pretty Raines. They'd turned the wrong direction after fording at the Belly River. Horses were sweat soaked and tired. Mike got the map and helped reorient them. I got in a few nice nose pats before they headed back from whence they came. Glacier guides group came in and made camp. Nice visiting with them, many were solo females on a first backpack and had really enjoyed their 6 nighter so far.

Last in camp was a rowdy group of 10 men, who consumed every spare bit of space in the bearboxes, even though there was an extra cable to hang from in the event the boxes were too full. They scoped out the campsites and obnoxiously asked Mike if there were 'only you two' in our campsite as if to suggest poaching into our camp. Rrrrr. So they crammed 4 single tents into one campsite, removing sticks that were clearly placed in there to revegetate part of it. Rrrrrrr. They spoke to no one but in their own group. Generally wafting machismo and left us to wonder how 10 people got to occupy two sites that were meant for no greater than 4 at each. Rrrrrrrrr. Yuck!

Dinner was enjoyed in the company of the Glacier Guides group. We watched fat Columbian ground squirrels scurrying to ground near all of us for a crumb then taking their treasures up to the same perch on a broken branch up the tree; back & forth.

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Also while at dinner, I see the flash of Indigo blue land on a tree branch in one of the huge ? Douglas firs. I clinch Mike's knee b/c it is a Stellar's Jay. Probably nuisances and camp robbers to Western folks, I think they're just gorgeous and was pleased to see one.

A brief visit to the lakeshore after dinner yielded some blue sky and sunset tipped clouds.
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Attempts to skip rocks were feudal with the waves but seemed like the thing to do anyway. One couldn't help but notice how perfectly smooth and almost soft feeling the rocks were.
Back at camp I came upon the cutest bunny with big tall ears and jackrabbitty feet which dashed before I could capture him. Mike gazed intently upon the upper cliffs and did indeed spot two Mtn Goats. I could barely make them out but was most satisfied to know they were in our midst.

Last campsite, and a nice one, at ELF, on a slight slope boosting confidence that Mike would not have trench duty tonight.
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We retire for our last night in the tent. Comfortable, warm, and a happy two peas in a pod looking forward to a very big final day tomorrow.

Fri, Aug 25th
Elizabeth Lake Foot to Swiftcurrent (hike out)
Day 12, 9th day of Backpacking Trip
10.1 miles, 2518 ft ascent, 2480 ft descent


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"Tunnel of Love"

The alarm goes off at 5:00 AM. Our last day. And we need a serious good start. Open the tent to no wind and blue skies. Like a gift, it’s kinda unbelievable after yesterday. We break camp in short order and are on to breakfast. Our special Three Berry Crumble turned out only to be a few bites, so we had cereal too, our last of 11 identical breakfasts. The food prep area is busy in no time. Clearly others have the same idea about an early start. We enjoy our visit with the Glacier Guides group of eight. One couple and the rest are solo females with a very upbeat guide. Turns out the couple are medical from NC and we have a friend in common. I do get coffee this morning, but I didn’t linger long on it – we’ve got some climbing to do. After a few nice shots of the Elizabeth Lake, finally we load up.

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Its Very cool in the 40’s and I start in a tee shirt and skort, so I’m wanting to get those muscles working. Cross the swinging cable bridge and are now going up.

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And yes, I'm in Teva’s rather than my boots. Willing to sacrifice arch support over blisters and toe-pinching. Little concerned about that but I’ve set my mind to it.
Terrain is solid footing and perfect grade. I make good time early and manage to keep this pace up. My new hiking legs since Fifty Mountain and Stoney Indian are proving better. We’re in tree cover with no wind and proceed unhindered. Finally breaking out in open at 1,100 feet of ascent, start to see Elizabeth Lake as a whole.

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Next we have a prominent obstacle to skirt around. Lots of ripe huckleberries again at this elevation. Mmmmm. Mike doesn’t think there is good as those at Helen, but I’m happy to eat them. Big plump berries.More and more up. A nice fella from the Glacier Guides group passes us and is kind enough to capture us.

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More and more up. Now we're exposed, and while the view is grand and expansive, it is full-on cold wind. My head and back are sweaty, and the rest of me wants to shiver. Up, up, and more up. Still even more up, though we start to see the Ptarmigan Tunnel.

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The phrase "so close, but yet so far" was made for this instance. Go 20 steps and stop. Twenty more and so on. Finally we get to the well known rock wall lining the entrance and began to see people who congratulate us.

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I wanted jump up and down, but unlike finishes at the Grand Canyon when you top out here you’re only halfway done. We take a moment for a few last looks at the fine Belly River Valley and celebrate our last climb of the journey. Say to each other with quiet zeal, “We did it!”

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Passing through the dark tunnel emphasizes how bright and beautiful the sun is on the other side. There's Ptarmigan Lake and the zigzags down that I've always seen in pictures.

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Descending we see a family of five bighorn ewes and lambs on the rock shelves above posing in silhouette against the blue sky.

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We progressed toward the lake with the intent to eat lunch there when I hear “Tammy?”. Lo and Behold: It’s Joyce and Randy!! They’ve come to meet us AND bear gifts of chocolate hazelnut butter. I give out a huge squeal that anyone in that cirque could hear and give her a huge hug and a kiss on his cheek. She cutely turns to Randy and says, “I told ya she would do that!” :) :)

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How sweet of them to pick this trail to meet up with us on our last day. Such enjoyable time catching up at lunch and hearing about how the fires had changed Joyce’s plans. With Sperry Chalet’s closure rated to the Sprague fire, she had creatively detoured them to the Cutback Valley which I thought was yet another stroke of her genius. Joyce and Randy are simply wonderful to spend time with and left me wishing I had hours more of their goodness! Missing Selkie, we have kept up as Cyberfriends through the years and supported each other in the Off-Season. Great friends that I cherish!

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Reluctantly, I let Joyce and Randy go to reach the Ptarmigan Tunnel and that magical view that awaits them of The Belly. For us, literally ‘Its all Downhill from here’. :)
We noticed many people passing us on the zigzags down from the tunnel (it’s about 11 a.m.) and this is a big change from our last 9 days since leaving Granite Park Chalet. Well, that was Nuthin’. Coming down, the volume of people seemed like a shock, both up to the Tunnel and to Iceberg Lake. I know, I know, it’s to be expected on a beautiful blue sky day on two of the most popular trails in the park…it just reminded us how much solitude we’d been able to enjoy the many previous days. Kids came running past, then running back to their parents and passing us again. Had a Disney feel about it. We would look at each other knowingly about how lucky we were to have had so much of the park all by our lonesomes, implied winks. It’s both familiar ground coming back from the Tunnel but just as beautiful as ever. Mt. Wilbur and Iceberg standing proud.

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The more we descend the happier i am about those old Teva’s…no pinch on the Toesies. The sun if full-on, reminding me of the last time we’d come down this section after a marvelous day with Pete. He’d taken us on Shangri-La and it was gorgeous! Thanks again Pete. But our return was full-on sun just like today. I was in a sleeveless Tee and didn’t use enough sunscreen on a lot of treeless section of trail that the sun blazes upon. Just a shout-out to folks doing Iceberg for the first time…extra sunscreen and a hat. I gaze off left to Mt. Henkel hoping to see Grizz or Mtn Goat up high but nothing without optics.

Approaching Swiftcurrent, I actually wanted to slow down, savor those last few steps of trail in cool lovely shade with towering trees. Mike was charging on to that car as if we had an appointment, all business. We did stop at the Finish Line for a shot….looking 12 days worse for wear?? But certainly feeling great.

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Leaving Many Glacier is usually one of those affairs where I’m cranking my head back for every last look but today the crowds have changed that aura for us. Cars line the drive almost from Swiftcurrent to the Many Glacier Hotel. Definitely a new era here. Looking forward down the road, time to go. Priority One: Two Sisters Cafe for our first real meal in a lonnnnng time. Oh Yessss, that is a cheeseburger smothered in chili! Sooo GOOD!!

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After his traditional post trip cheeseburger, Mike had his Huck Pie a la mode with Huckleberry Ice Cream and it was as delicious as we’d remembered.
We have a 3 hour drive back to Great Falls through Browning and there is another incredible fire down south in what I suspect is the Bob Marshall Wilderness or maybe the eastern boundary of the Great Bear. With the heat and the winds, this fire looks to be blowing up as we drive. What a summer for Montana and its firefighters. They must be exhausted by now.

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Moving on through Cut Bank, Mike reminisces about the summer he spent doing environmental cleanup work in 1998 and how they housed him in Cut Bank at the old Flying J Refinery site - right next to the railroad tracks. As the BNSF goes by, we laugh at hearing how loud the horn blow is and Mike’s summer of hearing that in stereo every night.

Thank you for following along and listening to a lot of prattle. People say ‘trip of a lifetime’ way too much, but 12 days in Glacier’s backcountry is right up there! Til next time…..
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby MarxMN » Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:14 pm

Good storytelling and a great report.

Bill
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby TnTammy » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:26 pm

MarxMN wrote:Good storytelling and a great report.

Bill


Thanks Bill! :mrgreen:
We were really fortunate to get a permit like that and definitely wanted to share the trip with fellow Chatters. :arrow: :arrow:
Happy Trails!! Tam
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby NDjason » Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:11 pm

Loved your report! And great trip! Hope to meet you on the trail one day!
~ jason
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby Jay w » Fri Nov 17, 2017 8:05 am

Glenn's head and Margaret, eh? Wow. Those look great and you had some fantastic weather. Belly River has been on the to-do list for a while. The other one is the second floor of Granite Park Chalet. What a great view.

Thanks for the report.

Jay
Last edited by Jay w on Sat Nov 18, 2017 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Birthday Present 2017

Postby TnTammy » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:34 pm

NDjason wrote:Loved your report! And great trip! Hope to meet you on the trail one day!


Thanks Jason!

Suspect we were at Fifty 2-3 days before you and your Dad. Your sunset pics from there were BEAUTIFUL!! Would have enjoyed meeting the Potters (think that is the name of the Ranger couple you encountered) and gobbled up any of their stories on bears, fires and the Park. Incredible times out there in the backcountry and just some GREAT folks!

Likewise, would welcome crossing paths out there someday (and hope Dad is along)!! Wishing you more sunsets like that at Fifty.... :arrow: :arrow:
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