Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

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

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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Sue Z » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:51 am

Day 7: Running Eagle Falls and Aster Falls.

And on the seventh day they rested - almost. Some of my peeps were tired and so was I, so we decided to take it easy and noodle around in Two Medicine for the day.

The first stop was Running Eagle Falls, located along the way into Two Med. It’s a short, level hike to bizarre, roaring falls that gush out of a gaping maw in the side of a cliff. We sat for a bit to watch and listen to the thundering water, but couldn’t resist the urge to clamber up to the top of the falls. It was a ridiculously steep climb. Turns out, we suck at resting.

We thought we might get a glimpse of the spot where Two Medicine Creek goes underground to the falls, but it was dry up on top as far as we could see. Steve and Katie continued on for a bit, but turned back before finding it.

Steve and Katie above the falls.
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From there, it was on to Aster Falls. We parked near Two Med Lake, dashed into the store for a quick snack and a caffeine boost, then set off on the mile-and-a-quarter hike to the delicate falls of Aster Creek. They were a lot more interesting than I thought they would be, as again, the desire to “see what’s up there” took hold. As we scrambled up the narrow defile of the creek, each little pool and fall was interesting in its own right, and we followed the cascading stream for quite a way before turning back. Some day, I’ve got to follow that stream all the way to Aster Park.

This poor tree is in a downward spiral.
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Beaver abode.
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Intro to Aster Falls.
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Pretty pour-over.
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Continuing upstream.
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Crystal pool.
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Spider-Steve, Spider-Steve...
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We drove down to East Glacier to have dinner at Serrano’s, where we ran into Tibber and Wendy. Nice surprise! The food at Serrano’s was great, just as it was the last time we were there. There’s no comparable Mexican food in my area of PA, and I bemoaned the fact that it’s not practical to fly to Montana to satisfy that yen. Margaritas helped ease the pain. So did dogs.

Fidos Unchained: City folk are lovin' it.
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Bucket list took a rest day, too.
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby PeteE » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:56 pm

Sue!
I really like your trip report.
Wonderful style, pics and a great sense of humor 8)
Tell Dave and the kids HI for me.

pete :wink:
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby TnTammy » Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:06 am

Until your post, didn't know about Aster Falls. Looks like a pretty place too!

I Love Chat!

Thanks, Sue. Really enjoying your trip!
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Sue Z » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:58 am

Day 8: Johns Lake Loop and Trail of the Cedars.

If you give a mouse a cookie…

The day of rest had been so nice that we decided to do it again. Although I had some lulus lined up on the bucket list, there was a clear lack of motivation to set out early and go on an ass-kicking hike.

All winter, my fevered Glacier brain had been dreaming of doing either the Lee Ridge hike or an off-trail lollipop featuring Lena Lake, Red Crow Mountain and Firebrand Pass on this day. Unfortunately, my lazy summer brain was only too willing to say yes to the less.

Katie hadn’t yet seen the west side of the park, and that was all the rationale we needed to set off on another day of touristy rambling. We drove the GTTSR all the way from St. Mary to N. McDonald Rd., parked near the bridge, crossed the creek, and headed north on the Upper McD Creek Trail.

We enjoyed following the creek upstream and exploring down by the riverside. We crossed the creek on the bridge near Sacred Dancing Cascade and continued to follow the Johns Lake Loop on the other side of the GTTSR. The rest of the hike was a pleasant stroll through a dense forest, accented with a small lake that had a marshy shoreline.

From there, we drove back to Trail of the Cedars, which had been slammed with traffic earlier. The crowds had thinned, and we pulled in to take an easy amble around Avalanche gorge.

Up next: Lake McDonald Lodge. Katie was buying the drinks at Lucke’s Lounge – an offer too good to refuse. Throw in a couple of snacks, a quick tour of the lodge, and some rock-hopping along the lake shore – and we had iced the cake of our second tourist outing.

No buckets were kicked in the making of this day. Again.

The rarely-glimpsed Western Hemisdeer.
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Riparian Tai Chi or skimming stones?
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Sacred Dancing Cascades on McDonald Creek.
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Roiling eddies on Avalanche Creek.
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Last edited by Sue Z on Thu Mar 07, 2019 7:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Sue Z » Thu Feb 21, 2019 6:31 pm

Day 9: Beaver Pond Loop.

Time to say buh-bye to Steve and Katie – they were flying out of Great Falls in the afternoon. They had just enough time for one last long drink of scenery. We headed over to the 1913 Ranger Cabin, on the southeast side of St. Mary Lake, to have a look-see. We enjoyed the new perspective of the view across the meadows to the mountains on the other side of the lake.

View to the northwest.
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Regarding the cabin area: If you're afraid of cows, skip it. The free-range cattle owned the place. Luckily, they didn’t seem too upset at our presence. The cabin didn’t allow visitors inside, which was disappointing, but next door is a very cool historic barn that had been relocated there from the Lubec Ranger Station.

Historic barn with a bevy of bovines.
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Lovely old logs.
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The kids took off and Dave and I wasted no time in commencing our hike: The Red Eagle Trail to the Beaver Pond Trail, which circles back to the cabin. It’s a short excursion at 3.6 miles, but pleasant. There’s a nice lakeshore access along the way, then a gentle climb through flowering meadows and aspen groves to a beaver pond. The pond is a birder’s delight.

Aspen grove with floral carpet.
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Beaver Duplex.
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Cedar Waxwing - the coolest-looking bird, in my book.
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After the hike, we had to move into new digs at Johnson’s, then do the laundry and load our backpacks for the next two days’ adventure. We ate dinner at two Sisters, where I snarfled my first Red Burger. It was love at first bite. I hadn’t hiked nearly enough that day to burn off all the calories; perhaps I’d make up for it later.

Bucket list? What bucket list?
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Sue Z » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:43 am

TnTammy wrote:We got up nearly to the trail under the cliffs but in a weak moment, i got whigged out by the steepness. Not quite the mountain goat i'd like to be.

I feel your pain. Over the years, I've skipped a couple of things because of acrophobia. Once I was lucky enough to get a do-over. I had nixed Angel's Landing, in Zion NP, the first time I was there, but I managed to calm the fear and do it the second time. While I wasn't too scared for myself, my young kids were scrambling up there with wild abandon - I thought my heart would stop. - S

Jealous of your vista at Ahern Pass. We didn't make it up there on our hike out to Fifty but thoroughly enjoyed the wildflowers and mini-oasis there at Ahern Creek. Would love to do the Pass as you did from Granite sometime and see that view onto Helen and beyond.

No way I would add Ahern Pass onto that loooong hike to Fifty. Good decision. -S

Tam
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby tibber » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:56 am

I've been enjoying your update and pictures.
I like that Beaver Pond Loop. It's a good little hike I think.
I did the ranger-guided version a few years back as I didn't have bear spray. In fact that summer I did all ranger-guided as I didn't have bear spray and didn't really want to buy any. I was only there for a few days.
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Sue Z » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:20 pm

Days 10 and 11: The Dawson – Pitamakan Loop.

Return of the Bucket list! I was excited to tackle a hike I’d longed to do for years, and to redeem my hiking mojo after three days as a slacker. We hefted our backpacks and followed the North Shore Trailhead out of Two Med to the Pitamakan Pass Trail. It would be all uphill today, but only six miles, so no worries.

I’d been afraid to try this loop as a day hike, because 18 miles! So I had snagged a night at Oldman Lake to break it up into two days. I decided to do the loop counterclockwise, because the uphill was less steep in that direction. I struggled with the heat, as usual, but we pulled into camp at 4 pm, so I had time to cool off on the lake shore while reading a couple more chapters of Night of the Grizzlies.

It was totally predictable when that came back to bite me in the middle of the night. I started yelling that I couldn’t breathe because there was a grizzly sitting on my chest. It took me a while to wake up and accept Dave’s assurances that there was, in fact, no bear there.

Old lady hikes to Oldman.
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Comfy camp.
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Gentian.
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St. John's Wort.
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It was great to be fresh as a daisy when we ascended the headwall up to Pitamakan Pass the next morning. Piece of cake! You’re rewarded at the top with views of lakes on both sides of the pass: Pitamakan Lake and Lake of the Seven Winds ahead, and Oldman Lake behind. To add to the heady goodness of the moment, we knew that we'd continue to have top-shelf views for the the next five miles.

We had to hike a total of 10 – 12 miles to get back to the car: Ten if we got to the boat dock in time (4 pm?) to catch a ride across Two Med Lake, or 12 if we missed the boat. I didn’t want to rush the heavenly hike, but I must admit that floating the final two miles sounded better.

The sun rises on Oldman Lake and the notably triangular Flinsch Peak.
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Halfway up the zigzags.
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Mt. Morgan and Dave. Dave is the one on the right. :D
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Lake of the Seven Winds and Pitamakan Lake, at the top of the Cut Bank Valley.
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Mt. McClintock in the background.
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We continued upward from Pitamakan Pass onto the north shoulder of Mt. Morgan, where the Dawson Pass Trail bends to the left and goes around the back side of the mountain. The view expands to include Cut Bank Pass and Tinkham Mountain, as well as the massive Mt. Stimson, Mt. Pinchot with its cool cirque, and the long, lovely valley of the Nyack Creek.

Approaching Mt. Morgan.
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Going around the back of Morgan.
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The trail is narrow, with a steep, rocky drop-off to the valley far below. It’s also windy. A narrow spur to the right provides a thrilling perch above the valley for those who dare to scramble out there. I'm not one of those people. I managed to go half way before acrophobia prevailed. !@#$%&*! I hate when that happens.

Right to Left: Stimson, Pinchot, Susan.
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There were surprisingly few hikers on the trail - a couple of guys with folding lawn chairs strapped to the backs of their packs, and a family with two young kids and two dogs who were hiking the CDT. People are amazing.

The trail gave us one more view of Oldman Lake, this time from the south shoulder of Mt. Morgan, before it continued onto the back side of Flinsch Peak. We got a closer look at Mt. Phillips with its little Lupfer Glacier across the valley, and the pointy peak of Mt. Saint Nicholas to the south.

As we descended toward Dawson Pass, I checked out the long approach to the summit of Mt. Helen to the south. It was so inviting, but not possible this day, with miles to go and a full backpack.

Oldman Lake from the other side of Mt. Morgan.
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Q*Bert Rocks.
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Mt. Phillips with Lupfer Glacier hanging from its side.
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I call her Bigfoot.
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The walk up Mt. Helen beckons.
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The trail descends from the Dawson Pass through the aptly named Bighorn Basin - there are sheep everywhere!

"Who-ee those bipeds look tired!"
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This lamb stood still as a stat-ewe.
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No problem. We'll just wait.
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We skipped the side hike to No Name Lake and decided to sprint for the boat. We pushed pretty hard, taking no breaks, all the way to the dock. We didn’t catch the first boat, but they sent another, so we did get to ride and give my throbbing feet a rest.

In hindsight, I could have walked the extra two miles if we had slowed down and taken a couple of good rests along the way. Also, I think I could have done the Daw-Pit loop in one day (with only a day pack). So now I know. Thank goodness Dave is willing to cater to the weak link on our hiking team.

Daw-Pit: You’re off the bucket list!

It was a grand finale to Glacier 2018. Overall, our merry brigade finished off 5 ½ hikes from my bucket list, as well as 6 random rambles.

Our reward was dinner with a brew at the Snow Goose.
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Sue Z » Tue Mar 05, 2019 7:28 am

tibber wrote:I like that Beaver Pond Loop. It's a good little hike I think.


I agree. It was a good reminder to me that a modest hike can turn out to be profoundly enjoyable, even amidst the grandeur of Glacier - especially if you add a little solitude.

Now I'm wondering what I missed by not having a ranger guide. :D
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby teapot57 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:06 pm

Love your photo captions, Sue! Sounds like the end of your trip is nearing. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

I realize you were only out on an overnight to OLD, but I want a pack that looks as small and light as Dave’s. #lifegoals
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Sue Z » Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:03 am

teapot57 wrote:Love your photo captions, Sue! Sounds like the end of your trip is nearing. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

I realize you were only out on an overnight to OLD, but I want a pack that looks as small and light as Dave’s. #lifegoals


Thanks for reading! While Dave's pack is light, it's actually not that small. I think it looks small because Dave is large! And maybe because the pack wasn't full. (The pack is a 4400 cu. in. HMG. I think he can fit a small sports car in there.)

About 10 or 15 years ago, I realized that I had to lighten the load or quit backpacking, so I've been replacing our gear bit by bit ever since. Luckily, Dave hasn't minded that I shopped for him as well. Sometimes I buy used equipment just to try it out. It's good to have a hobby.
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Re: Kicking the Bucket List (July 28 - Aug 8 2018)

Postby Jay w » Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:30 pm

Sue,

Great writing style. I'm enjoying the report.

First comment. The hike from Ahern Pass to the Notch is long and tedious. It's a boulder field, so you have to pick each step. If you have poles it's much easier, but it's surprisingly time consuming.

Dawson Pitamakin with packs is quite a hike. A tip of the hat to that. I think you'd find it easier without the pack as a one day hike, but it requires time and water. You need both.

So, keep the report coming. Maybe some spring rain will give you some time.

Jay

Btw, that climb up to Snow Moon requires some skill or a 6 ft height.
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