Belly River Trail - July 7th, 2019

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Belly River Trail - July 7th, 2019

Postby tibber » Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:56 pm

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Here is my next trip report for 2019 with TinaTeapot (link to my photoset/trip report on HAZ https://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=55090:
Glacier National Park Backpack, Day One of Six - after packing and re-packing food for our 5 nite backpack, alas, my huckleberry beer would not be able to make the trip for today :( . Oh that pack was heavy, what's two days more of food, ha! After having a mediocre breakfast at best at Nell's (Swiftcurrent Motor Inn) we took both our vehicles to the TH as Tina would head north to Calgary and I would head east to Chester after we got back. There were a few vehicles at the TH and another couple was just heading in. We would have around 9 1/2 miles today with a nice part of it downhill.

At around 8:45 we finally were ready to go with our heavy packs aboard. It had rained the night before so it was a humid start on a slightly muddy trail through the thimbleberry forest and the forest. And so the bear calls begin. Six days of bear calling. It seemed Tina did most of that as I don't like to yell out when I'm filming. I try to make up for it when I'm not. The good thing about this time of year is the berries aren't out yet so the bears are mostly doing ground foraging. We did see moose tracks that we seemed to follow for quite awhile.

Fortunately, the first mile or so of the trail is on a wide tread so you got a chance to get your sea legs. It was nice to be in the shade for the first part of this hike because once we got down to the meadows, the shade would be less. In amongst the thimbleberry was other flora like loads of Yellow Angelica and some Milkweed. Other flora was scattered about as well. It seems like it takes awhile to get down this two mile stretch until the views to Sentinel and Bear Mountains finally reveal themselves. Part way down Tina took a fall and while it isn't normally that big of deal she was recovering from stitches on her knee so it was already tender. Nothing broke open so she was good to go but it was a scary moment.

At around the 2 mile mark you start into the first meadow and pass by the beaver pond which is usually good for a photo or two. It didn't seem as pretty as I remembered it. You continue a little in the meadow and then thru a grove of trees, which you do off and on and into another meadow. The problem with a lot of the trail down here is it's a bit rutty and now mucky from all the water. So sometimes you had to step off the trail to avoid slipping on the mud.

We would encounter hikers from time to time now that were on their way out. Some of them had been quite ambitious so we felt a little silly about the 10 miles we were doing; altho we were doing 5 nites so had heavy backpacks. Most of the other folks were probably a couple decades less old than us. We did enjoy our quick visits with people from all over the country and the world. I should have thot to record their stories. (A couple of young girls had come over Boulder Pass from the NW side of the park. That's 57 miles in 3 days over two passes and you can't camp up there right now. Another set I think came from Red Gap Pass over nite so 26 miles in 2 days). Most hikers, at this point, were hoping they were a little closer to the TH then they were.
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A little past the 2 3/4 mile mark you get a little closer to the Belly River for about the next 3/4 of a mile. We took a break about 3 1/2 miles in just off the trail or about 1/2 way to Gable Campground where we would have our lunch. We continued in and out of the meadows and both of us remarked how we didn't recall so much of the little ups and downs. Tina had hiked it last year when they did the whole Northern Traverse. I had last hiked this trail on 7/7/2013. What are the odds that I would hike it on the same day EXACTLY 6 years later :o? At about the 3.8 mile mark you hit one of the big meadows and it was loaded with flowers, all kinds, all sizes. It made a nice foreground to Sentinel and Bear Mountains in the background across the river. It definitely had that "hills are alive" feel to it.

At the 4.4 mile mark you hike closer to the river again. There were lots of little drainages coming off the side of the Lee Ridge and they were all running pretty full and fast which would be the case for most of our trip. And by now, those tall looming mountains were coming into view all around you. It is just awe-inspiring. I guess it would be equivalent to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. We've seen it before but every time it's just breathtaking.
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At exactly 6 miles we made the short detour into the permitted Gable Campground for our bathroom and lunch break at a little after 12:30. Gable is a big campground altho it's totally in the trees. After a pretty nice break we were off not knowing what was ahead of us as neither of us had been in the Belly River drainage. The clouds had rolled in again as we made our way around the cross-fenced Ranger Cabin area. In 2013 the flags were at half-mast in honor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who had lost their lives. Today the flag was flying high and free.

As we rounded the corner a bunch of tall yellow flowers lined each side of the trail. I'm guessing they were Groundsel. I should have studied the flora before I arrived but I had a lot going on before the trip and just didn't even think to do that. Fortunately I would remember some of them though not necessarily correctly. I was glad Tina seemed to like learning about the flora as well. But now, it was back into the forest for most of the rest of our hike. Once again you are surrounded by thimbleberry but a new surprise was beautiful stalks of fluffy Beargrass on each side of the trail for very long stretches. It was incredible. Little did we know we would be hiking with this for many miles up and down the Belly River and Mokowanis Drainages. So very cool 8) . So, if you don't like Beargrass with nice poofy heads, don't be watchin' my videos :lol: .

The trail was a bit mucky here and there again as well and your views were pretty much limited. About the 7 3/4 mile mark you reach the single hiker planked bridge across the Belly River. It is still a little nerve-wracking to cross those bridges over such long expanses. Tina knocked it out in fine style. I tried to film while crossing; what was I thinking. Anyway, once you're across you are at a major intersection as if you go right, N you will be going to the Mokowanis area but if you go left, S you will be going to the Belly River area (Elizabeth and Helen) and on the Ptarmigan Trail. We would be coming back this way but today, we were headed to visit Joe Cosley's Elizabeth Lake (named after one of his girlfriends).

You hike above the Belly River with occasional views to Gable Mountain. It's a pretty mountain because even though a good part of it is bare, it is very colorful. You can hear the river below you as you continue toward Dawn Mist Falls. We had discussed not taking the detour to the Falls because of our heavy pack but by the time we got there, we opted to do it at the 8.35 mile mark. Well that was a good decision as it's easy trail and a little over a tenth off of the main trail. And needless to say, it was really gushing. We could actually hear it long before we got there. So we admired the Falls as they came in and out of the sunlight.
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You head back up the trail and are soon back at them again at eye level. Here is the only place we a couple hikers got ahead of us. I think they ended up at Helen Lake. Well we were almost to Elizabeth now as this is the half-way point between the bridge and Elizabeth Lake Foot. A couple more times you get close to the river. It was running pretty high and fast from all the storms that keep passing through this past spring and now summer. We had a short sideways rain storm at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn the previous evening. Less than a mile and 1/2 later we finally arrived at Elizabeth Lake. We placed our food in the storage box and then found a nice camp spot in the trees but with a slight view of the lake. Pics are at 4 and 8 PM:
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We headed back to the Food Prep area as it was Happy Hour time :) . Sadly the mosquitoes thought so too so they showed up in earnest. We had to get our bug nets and thank goodness we had them. I felt bad for those people who didn't as they apparently didn't do their Rx. One of the rangers at St Mary where we confirmed our permit said it was terrible and she wasn't kidding. You had to make sure your whole body was covered with something and also spray the bug spray heavily!!!

One of the Glacier Guides was there with a couple he had been guiding; it's his summer job and he's from Indiana. I'd say he was one of the older guides. Mind you, the guides carry all of the food and the stuff to make the food in. It was quite the operation he had. If it hadn't been so mosquitoey I would have filmed it.

Next up was the ranger who had come to post signs that the Poia Campground was being closed due to bear activity. He let us know to pass along for folks that had reservations there that they could stay at the Ranger Station, a little over 3 miles away. There were a couple gals that came thru that ended up doing just that and fortunately they had a car at Chief TH. Earlier we would hear a dog when we were setting up camp but didn't know what quite to make of it as dogs are not allowed in the backcountry. The ranger had spoken to them and didn't seem happy about it at all.


Just a quick note, my camera gets knocked for shooting poorly in low light and sadly it didn't let me down in that regard. So some of the low light pics were a little out of focus. I need to remember that in the future.

from Chief TH toward Gable Campground: https://youtu.be/tLXuiPnv59E
last few miles toward Gable Campground thru the meadows: https://youtu.be/DOeZCy2dLPY
from Gable toward Elizabeth Lake: https://youtu.be/UwqaW9kqKsQ
from almost the Belly River to Dawn Mist Falls: https://youtu.be/y5keagMWbUE
Dawn Mist Falls to Elizabeth Lake: https://youtu.be/VF5ytmfwaWw

By the way, Tina made a 6:30 video of our whole trip if you want a sneak preview of the whole backpacking trip in a nicely condensed version: https://youtu.be/gSFi3RbHjFE
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Re: Belly River Trail - July 7th, 2019

Postby davidwayne » Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:58 am

Really enjoying your trip report! I will probably never get the chance to backpack GNP, so this is a way to "experience" it. Thank you! :D
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Re: Belly River Trail - July 7th, 2019

Postby teapot57 » Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:54 pm

Thanks for starting a trip report, Angela! I no longer have a good way to post photos on this board, unfortunately, so I may just chime in with comments on this thread if that's ok.

Less than 3 weeks prior to this trip, I took a bad fall and ended up with stitches just below my knee and a bone bruise. I had difficulty with stairs and getting up from a squat position, but could walk without issue, so felt bound and determined to go forward with this trip. If it was one that involved significant elevation, I would have had to back out, but I knew I could handle the ups and downs of the Belly River and Mokowanis valleys. In hindsight, I probably prolonged my recovery by putting my knee under such strain shortly after the injury, but it was worth it.

Sections of the trail that first day were extremely muddy. It was at a particularly mucky section that I slipped and fell. You may notice my difficulty with stepping high onto bridges in some of Angela's videos.

This was a great day despite the muck and mosquitos!
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Re: Belly River Trail - July 7th, 2019

Postby PeteE » Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:41 pm

Good report Angela and Tina.
Angela, I'm working my way through the videos now :)
I love the way you do them.

pete :wink:
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Re: Belly River Trail - July 7th, 2019

Postby tibber » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:11 am

davidwayne wrote:Really enjoying your trip report! I will probably never get the chance to backpack GNP, so this is a way to "experience" it. Thank you! :D
You're welcome. Glad you enjoy it.

@teapot57 You were such a trooper considering. I'm so glad you were still able to continue our trip and I'm sure you prolonged your injury so kudos for hanging in there. Probably a good thing we took a beach day and didn't finish our trek to Margaret.
Thx for finding our way too and sending reports home to my niece.

@PeteE My videos are a bit lengthy and as I tell people, they aren't about me but the trail and the surroundings. The videos are like illustrations and plus now, we can go hike it again without having to hike it :lol:
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