Hiking the Highline 😃

Yes, that’s an emoji in my blog post title, because this trail was awesome. I first hiked this trail in 2015 with my dad and sister, Olivia. It’s kind of the reason I started dreaming about Glacier and wanted to come back. It’s pretty gorgeous.

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The view near the Granite Park Chalet. Heaven’s Peak on the right, Mount Oberlin on the left.

It also takes a while for the snow on it to melt, so it wasn’t open until early July. Then, the day before i planned to hike it, there was a grizzly bear hanging out on the trail, so they closed it for a few weeks. I finally got to hike it a week and a half ago, on a glorious sunny day in which I remembered both my sunscreen and my hat. #rare

The trail starts at Logan Pass, and quickly goes out on a ledge in the middle of a cliff. There’s a steel cable along this length, to which a family of 5 desperately clung. However, the trail is pretty wide even here, so I was able to pass them without feeling like I would die.

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Not great for people who are afraid of heights.

One of my favorite moments happened a few hundred feet after that section, on what’s called the Garden Wall. Steep fields of flowers stretch above and below you, the trail the only interruption in its descent. The vastness of the valley masks the true height of the mountains around you, making them seem somehow huge but also not that far away. As I came around a corner, there was a little boy kneeling in the dirt, his grandpa walking a few steps ahead of him. His grandpa turned when he heard me coming and looked down at the 4 year old.

“What are you doing?” he asked, confused.

“Drawing,” the little boy replied.

Because, ya know, what better place to draw than in the dirt of the most gorgeous trail around?

Grandpa sighed. “Move aside so she can pass.”

The boy stood up, the seat of his sweatpants as dusty as his cuffs, and scampered out of the way. He was adorable.

The rest of the trail was also nice. I saw another goat, marveled at the flowers, and took a billion pictures. At the Granite Park Chalet, I stopped to make a sandwich on the porch. A squirrel tried to steal it from my hand. Some Canadians laughed at that. I ate faster.

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The Granite Park Chalet with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

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Me at the Granite Park Chalet.

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I wonder why they call it the Garden Wall?

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Name that flower! (Refer to my previous post from Iceberg Lake for a hint 😉 )

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McDonald Creek flowing towards the Lake.

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Looking up!

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Towards the beginning of the trail. The Going to the Sun Road is on the right side of the picture.

The last four miles are pretty lame, but they’re made worth it by the 7 or so that you’ve already done. The trail ends at The Loop, a hairpin turn in the Going to the Sun Road. From there, I caught one of the last shuttles back to my car at the Apgar Campground, got some ice cream at the Cedar Tree, and finished the day cooling my feet in Lake McDonald. Not bad for a Friday 🙂

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Indian Paintbrush on the trail back to the Loop.

Iceberg Lake

About a week and a half ago, I picked up my friend from work, Cindy, and we headed over the Going to the Sun Road with two possible destinations in mind: Grinell Glacier or Cracker Lake.

We did neither of them.

Instead, we decided to go to Iceberg Lake, which was in the same area but has actual icebergs in it. I figured seeing icebergs floating in the lake would be pretty cool.

It was, but that wasn’t even the highlight of the trip. The highlight was the walk there. The trail makes a quick ascent right at the start, then levels out to a more gradual incline so that the last few miles let the gorgeous views take your breath away, instead of the hills. As I approached Iceberg Lake, I had the distinct feeling that I was about to happen upon Rivenedell, with the river flowing over small waterfalls and wildflowers everywhere. Bear grass covered steep hillsides above me. The trail looked forward to the mountains and back at the valley we’d just climbed through, so both the walk in and out were beautiful. This is my favorite hike I’ve gotten to do this year.

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Iceberg Lake

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Bear grass and the cliffs of insanity!!

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Bear grass along the trail leaving the lake

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More bear grass

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Also bear grass

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The Rivendell-esque approach to the lake, feat. Bear Grass

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Cindy dipping her feet in some super warm water. There was bear grass behind us.

Cobalt Lake

Today I had the day off, and since I was pretty sure I didn’t work until 2 tomorrow, I thought, “Hey, I’ll go for a hike on the east side of the park, camp there, and then take the Going to the Sun Road back tomorrow.”

Luckily I checked my schedule before I left and discovered that I actually work at 11. So, instead of a camping retreat, I just drove an hour and a half to the Two Medicine area and hiked to Cobalt Lake.

Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite hike ever. It’s pretty, but not spectacular like so many of the hikes in Glacier are. Still, I think it was exactly the hike I needed to be on today. Just being outside, on a trail that wasn’t crowded and was full of my favorite wildflower (Indian Paintbrush) and shallow water crossings was perfect.

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The whole hike was full of meadows like these.

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Like a trampoline, but sketchier.

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Rockwell Falls.

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I also met another solo female hiker, which is always fun. She was probably a few years younger than me and starts work in the park on Monday. She’s headed to New Zealand in October for a year, so we chatted about that for a while. After she left, I ate my dinner and watched the lake for a while. A marmot crossed the creek and walked within 10 feet of me to nibble some bear grass.

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Hello, friend!

It started raining just as it was time to leave. Luckily, I’d packed my warm jacket and leggings, and the rain was intermittent anyways so I didn’t get even a little uncomfortable. It did make the mountains look really cool with the shadows from the evening sun. It also gave me a great excuse to stop for hot chocolate on my way back home. Oh, darn 🙂

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Scenic Point at Two Medicine

I had yesterday off, so I decided to go to East Glacier. I decided to leave no later than 8 am, so naturally, I rolled out of West Glacier at around 10:30.

Because of my late start, I figured I’d just make it a scouting trip and see what the area looked like, maybe visit an information center, but definitely no hiking.

DSC02073.JPGMy first stop was at Running Eagle Falls. Pretty neat, and only .3 miles up the trail, so, like, it’s not even a hike.

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Running Eagle Falls, near the Two Medicine entrance to Glacier National Park. It’s a super easy walk.

I proceeded to Two Medicine Lake and ate my lunch at a super windy picnic bench, drove to the end of the road, and turned around to go home.

And then I saw a sign that said “Scenic Point.” Which usually is a pullover spot, maybe a short walk, right? I decided to stop and investigate.

By the time I saw the sign that said it was a 3.1 mile hike to the scenic point, I already had my backpack and boots on. I didn’t want to insult them by turning back, and I still had a few hours before I really needed to turn around, so I went up.

It was awesome. The trail followed a creek through and canyon for a bit before taking switchbacks up above the treeline. There was a section of bleached trees that reminded me of Gondor, and views of Two Medicine Lake and the mountains beyond. You could also look east to see the views beyond the Continental Divide.

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The view east from the top. Someone was quoting the Lion King here. It was me.

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“They guard it because they have hope.”

One of the most fun parts was when I came across a mountain goat. He was eating pine needles near the top of the trail, and continued doing so as I stood a few feet from him for about 5 minutes watching. His neck looked like he’s had a rough spring, but it was still really fun. Here’s a link to a video of him eating if you’re wanting something cute/have kids and want them to sit still for 1.5 minutes:

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Majestic.

I really wanted to make it to the advertised scenic point and figured I was within a few minutes of it, but then I came to a snow patch on a steep scree slope. There were other hikers who had crossed the first portion of it and were clearly trying to decide if they could make the second half without plummeting a half-mile to their doom. I looked at it and thought, “Nah, I like being alive.” Nevertheless, this hike was beautiful much the whole way up, and I completely recommend it to anyone looking to kill a few hours in the Two Medicine area.

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Not a lot of snow, but enough that I didn’t want to risk it.

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My high point for the day. #RiskAssessmentIsStillFun!!

Two trips to Avalanche Lake

One of the things I love about working the day shift in Glacier is that you almost get two days in a 24-hour period. You get the day that you work and get paid for, and then, if you don’t spend too long on dinner, you get a second day to go for a 5-6 mile hike.

Monday, my ACMNP team (almost–sorry you had to work, Claire!), one of their roommates, and a few other friends who work for our company decided to use our second half of the day to hike to Avalanche Lake. It’s one of the more popular hikes in Glacier, in part because the beauty-to-difficulty ratio is astounding.

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Logjam and the Lake

This is from my first trip to the lake.

I had hiked it about a week ago. It was the perfect way to spend my day off. I got to the top and, attempting to escape the 5th-grade field trip on the near side of the lake, circled around it and found quiet refuge on a gravelly beach on the opposite side. It was close enough that you could practically whisper to the mountain above us. There was just me and a few other adults seeking quiet, including a man watching mountain goats with binoculars and two guys fishing. I sat for half an hour listening to the waterfalls ringing down the mountain and the birds calling in the wind.

This time, we found a really peaceful beach at the near edge of the lake. Still, I liked how the other beach was so close to the foot of the mountain and suggested we go to it. Everyone agreed. I fell a bit behind on the way, until I got to the spot where the trail ends and you have to cross a little creek to get to the beach.

Except it wasn’t a little creek. The snow melt from the mountain has increased significantly in the last week, and there was no way we could pass.

But, we were undeterred. A small path ran just past the “End of Trail” sign along the edge of the creek, so we followed it through the woods until we found an opening. It was perfection. At least six waterfalls tumbled off the mountainside, splitting up as they hit what looked like a staircase for giants. There was a rainbow caught in one waterfall, and I sat on a log with my friend, Faye, and watched it inch higher and higher as the sun started its descent. It was the perfect way to spend my last night as a 26-year-old.

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Team photo!

Me and three members of my ACMNP team. Camden to the left, Jackie to the right, and Ethan floating on the log in the middle of the lake.

Avalanche of waterfalls

I really couldn’t decide if I liked watching the rainbow or the stairstep waterfalls more.

Photo cred: Faye Rogers 🙂

On the way down the trail we passed within a few feet of a doe and her baby. Also a bunch of the girls jumped into the lake. I was tempted, but I also love not being cold, so I stayed dry and lame, but man, I’m proud of them 🙂

Three Days on Mount Jefferson

Around 11 years ago, in the summer before my 8th grade year, my dad looked at his map of the Jefferson Wilderness Area and pointed thoughtfully at one of the trails. “I think,” he said, “I want to try out this Breitenbrush trail this weekend. You wanna come?” he asked.

Of course I wanted to go. So we packed some snacks and sunscreen and, knowing my dad, left well before the crack of dawn. The hike was lovely and became one of our favorites, but perhaps the most life-changing thing that happened on that trip was me seeing a sign for the Pacific Crest Trail.

“That goes from Mexico to  Canada,” Dad explained when I asked what it was. That was the day that I decided I wanted to attempt a thru-hike.

The sign for the trail we took that day

Even though my thru-hike was thwarted by a lame knee, I still approached Jeff on my section hike with a sense of excitement and returning to where it all began. We arrived in the Jefferson Wilderness Area the day that we left Big Lake Youth Camp.

On day 1 in the Jefferson Wilderness Area, the PCT climbed up through bleached burnt forests and the baby firs that are trying to take their place. Purple wildflowers and red Indian Paintbrush were in bloom, even though by the end of the day we would camp among viny maple that are already turning red. Huckleberry bushes provided snacks for us at every break. It was warm, but a stiff breeze cooled my neck and played harmonica with the trees.

Hiking the South side of Three Fingered Jack

We passed on the South side of Three Fingered Jack, just above the treeline. A couple of hunters were glassing the screw field for mountain goats, and I might have felt bad for scaring away their quarry if they’d bothered putting a leash on their two dogs. For about a mile we could look up and see the changing shape of the boulder. Despite nearly circumventing it, we never figured out how it got its name. 

Suddenly the trail in front of us turned a corner. “Cue the Lord of the Rings music,” I said, so Braids and I broke out in winded orchestral impersonations. We broke over the hilltop to find our first close-up of Mount Jefferson. Perhaps just because this is my favorite mountain, I felt like I was home. Jeff was a king surveying his cloudless domain, bleached acres of burnt trees nothing more than his white robes to match his snowy crown.

Me and Mr. Jefferson!

After a few requisite pictures, we continued on to where we could see a few other hikers resting across the canyon. The trail led us to a spur just a few hundred yards from the boulder atop Three Fingered Jack. There, we had a snack and listened to a couple of weekend hikers tell us what badasses we are. I didn’t feel like one at the time, but it was a nice encouragement. We also meet Hot Tamale and Moon Train, who camped with us and the weekend hikers that night at a pond a few miles later.

Snack breaks are the best breaks.

Three Fingered Jack in the evening.

Day 2 in the Jefferson Wilderness Area was also a long uphill climb, though there weren’t as many burnt areas. At one point we stopped for a rest after only a mile–well, my hiking partners did. I stopped twice in that mile. My Poptarts called to me.

Just before that I was zoning out, listening to music, on a grueling shale hillside, trying to remember why I’d thought this would be fun. I heard a noise behind me. Apparently, when startled, I have the capacity to react in much the same way as a pirate being challenged to a duel. I spun around, trekking pole raised against the threat, shouting an unintelligible warning–only to find a rather attractive hiker standing frozen and alarmed on the path behind me. I gasped an apology as I let him pass. Safe to say we can probably scratch him off my list of potential soulmates. As it turns out, Braids fell down when he tried to pass her, so he was probably thinking PCT girls are really weird during that mile, anyways.

We camped that night by Milk Creek. We got there when it was almost dark, and all the campsites were full for a few miles around. Too tired to walk the three miles to the next marked campsite, we threw our sleeping bags down 2×2 on a side trail and hoped not to regret our tentless state.

Milk Creek. Also in the evening.

The final day we climbed 6 miles, passed the spot where I first learned of the PCT, ate lunch in Jefferson Park, and then climbed another 2 miles up Jefferson Ridge. There, I could look back at Mount Jefferson, then turn 180° and see Mount Hood, Adams, and St. Helens ahead. We ate more huckleberries here.

Captain Hook! Oh, wait…it’s Hood. Nevermind.

Our goal for the evening was Ollalie Lake Campground. I was craving a burger and needed to call my mom. Unfortunately they had neither burgers nor cell phone reception. However, I invested in a bag of Doritos for dinner. Basically the same thing.

Just before reaching Ollalie, I had one of the most peaceful moments on trail. I paused by Upper Lake to lay down and rest a few minutes. The sunshine glimmered off the water. As I looked up, I saw a strand of spider web caught in the breeze. It reflected the sunlight as it floated above the lake and into the open air.

Mount Jefferson and Jefferson Park from the north.

A Vacation State

As Fire Ant, Braids, Miguel, and I make our way through Oregon, we tend to have the same conversation with fellow hikers at every spring and shady lunch spot we find.

Us: We’re really loving Oregon.

Them: Oh yeah. It’s great. I can’t believe it’s gonna be over so soon.

Us: Yeah, crazy how time flies.

Them: I know! I’ve got four days of food in my pack and then I’ll be in Cascade Locks.

Us: Yes…four…

Them: I mean, you can do 30, 35 miles a day here, easy.

Us: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Them: Well, see you up trail.

Us: Yeah, see ya.

Them: *walks away*

Us: We’re definitely never seeing them again.

Going roughly half the speed of many hikers, though, we’ve come to accept the mantra, “Last one to Canada wins.” The trail angel Legend gave us this saying a few days ago: “When I hiked in 2013, I set two records: I took the longest to get to Canada, and I had the most fun.”

We met Legend and another trail angel, Coppertone, just after crossing highway 242, North of the Three Sisters. We had had a late start to the day, so we hiked 2 miles across lava fields in the gathering darkness, my headlamp and high-top boots sparing my ankles some nasty turns.

As we reached the first available campsite, we noticed a group of other hikers sitting in lawn chairs. “Welcome!” Coppertone said. “Would you like a root beer float?”

The correct answer to that is always yes, so we stayed up a few more minutes to drink our floats before finding a spot to throw down our stuff. I cowboy camped for the first time, not so much because I wanted to, but because I was too lazy at that point to set up my tent. I slept well, though.

The next day we woke up to Legend cooking pancakes, and we had a delicious breakfast before setting off again. Backpacking is no picnic. But, in this case it actually was.

Bad at math, too

I used to be decent at math. However, in the first week on trail, I managed to mess up some fairly simple equations, resulting in us all arriving at Shelter Cove with practically enough food to make it to Cascade Locks.

The miscalculation began at Fish Lake Resort. Just as Miguel, Fire Ant and I were about to leave, some Australian people eating breakfast informed us that they’d heard we would probably be turned back from Crater Lake due to the spread of the Bybee Creek Fire. That sucked. None of us wanted to miss Crater, and we really didn’t want to be turned back and have to walk two days with only half a day of food left.

A call to the ranger station didn’t help. All I learned was that fires are unpredictable by nature, and they could neither confirm nor deny the possibility that somebody might be turned around in the next few days. I hung up slightly discouraged.

We rapidly formed a new plan, though: the three of us, along with another hiker we’d met named Shakespeare, would go into Klamath Falls, stay the night at my dear friend’s house, and catch the 9am shuttle to Crater Lake on Saturday.

Best trail Angel ever!

On the shuttle, we met Mike, Mike, Michelle, and Joe. They had just flown in from across the country and were heading out for their first section hike. “Do you guys need some food? We packed way too much.” It so happened that their food was really great, so even though we had 3 days of food in our packs and another 5 waiting for us at Crater Lake, we took it.

The shuttle dropped us off at the Rim Village. We really wanted to go to Cleetwood Cove on the opposite side of the lake, but there was no bus service to get us there. All day long, as we ate a fancy meal in the lodge restaurant and filmed a lip sync video near all the other tourists, we would casual-loudly say, “Man, I wish I could get to Cleetwood Cove. If only we had a ride there so we could fulfill our lifelong dreams of taking a boat ride and jumping in the lake. Ah, to have a ride there.”

Me, Fire Ant, Shakespeare, and Airlift

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Around 3, though, someone did offer to take us to Mazama Village, where we were to camp and pick up our food. He was a former thru-hiker, having done the trail in ’86 and again in ’01. His first time, they only had 9 resupply points, and had one stretch with 21 days of food. I’m real glad I live now and not then.

The moment we arrived at Mazama, we heard some astounding news: far from planning to turn people back, the forest rangers had come into camp and told the backlog of 28 hikers that they planned to open the Rim Trail at 8am the next morning.

This was fantastic news, except that we had spent most of our lunch trying to figure out exactly how much food we would need to go from Highway 138 to Shelter Cove–4 days, we guessed. We hastily redid the calculations, adding in about 45 miles and concluding that we were now 6 days from Shelter Cove and our next resupply. 

No matter; we had the food. I even gave away a few Snickers bars and tuna packets because I had so many. The next day we took the trolley back to the Rim, so as to skip a 4-mile uphill hike. We arrived at the Rim at the same time as the purists, who were loudly praising themselves for not being like those cheating trolley-riders. Considering I already skipped 3 months of the trail, I don’t think hiking up Mazama would have won me cool points with them, anyways. We left the Rim with 5 liters of water each, for a 16-mile dry stretch. 

The view of Crater Lake

“Anything from the trolley, dear?” Fire Ant, me, and Steven, who was in the greyhound to Ashland with me.

The hike was gorgeous. We unfortunately lost Shakespeare to a bum knee a couple miles in, but apart from that it went well. A cold breeze kept us cool as we hiked and forced us into our puffies when we stopped to eat. We circled the lake for about 5 miles before the trail dropped into a long flat stretch, on which we did 3 miles in 49 minutes. Yes, I did feel like a bit of a badass after that.

Mount Thielsen

It was only when we reached Highway 138 that evening, as opposed to the next, that we realized how bad my calculations had been. When I had said we needed 6 days of food, I was going off the mileage for the official PCT. However, the Rim Trail is about 9 miles shorter than the PCT section it bypasses. Furthermore, the 4 miles we cut with the trolley, plus another 8 later in the hike as we took the Oregon Skyline Trail instead of the official PCT, meant we rolled into Shelter Cove after only 4 days, with approximately enough food in our packs to get us to Canada.

Standing at the highest point on the PCT (in Oregon and Washington…we don’t count those darn Sierras.)

Ah well. We met Mike, Joe, and Michelle again, who had lost 4 toenails and the other Mike, and were battling shin splints. They had decided to cut out early. They offered us the rest of their food, which we gladly picked through despite our plenty. Swedish fish and beef jerky–I guess there’s always room for more.

Diamond View Lake. Beautiful campsites 🙂

The Nicest Smelling Pit Toilets I’ve Ever Been In: Glacier National Park

I’m a big-picture planner. By this I mean I like to focus on the overall arc of an idea, and let someone else figure out the details. Sometimes, though, both of the other people I’m planning things with are also big-picture planners. The result? Two days in Glacier National Park with less than twenty minutes of planning, total, from our group. And most of that was me booking us a campsite. Which we didn’t even use one of the nights.

That one time my dad used the word “Selfie” correctly!

Months ago, my sister and I decided that, since our cousin’s wedding was about 5 hours on the road towards Glacier anyways, we would meander on from Oregon through whatever Google said was the fastest route and camp in Glacier for, who knows? Three days? A Week? Summer break, people! But then my dad got a few days of vacation time freed up, so he was able to join us. The catch? We had to be back in time for his knee surgery, which meant leaving the park after only 2 full days. 

No big deal. Being an efficient Googler, I would have a plan. I would mark out exactly which trails we could hike, and what to do, and–what? We leave tomorrow morning? I reserved the last available campsite in the entire park and trusted the rest to luck.

Three people. Three people’s camping gear. A very large cooler that in hindsight we could have skipped, because how many bologna sandwiches can three people stomach in two and a half days? (Answer: Not as many as that cooler can hold.). All of this in one Camry, filling the trunk and half the back seat. Not the ideal camping scenario, but since we grew up taking vacations with one child crouching on the floor of our turquoise Aerostar, ducking whenever a police car came into view, we weren’t concerned.

My sister and I!

Like family vacations of olde, we got started two hours later than we had intended. And between not wanting to stop for food in case we might miss our campsite, and thinking I might want to start eating healthier now that I’m almost done with college, I hadn’t eaten a lot on the very long drive. (How to reconcile that with bologna sandwiches? Just let it be, folks.) And I had also just done another 1,000 mile road trip a few days before. I was tired! So tired, that by the time we got to Kalispell and decided we were not going to make it to the stressfully-booked campsite in time to pitch our tent, I was running on empty. There may have been tears in the pizza parlor parking lot. Old ladies were giving me sidelong looks as if they weren’t sure if they should call a women’s shelter or an insane asylum.

The pizza place was out of original crust, so we had overpriced thin crust pizza. After throwing my nutritional goals to the wind and eating half the pizza, I felt great. Embarrassed, but great. Lesson learned: if I ever try to become anorexic, someone will probably shoot me before I see any weight loss.

After a short night at the Super 8, we finished our trip to Glacier. At first it felt like a theme park, mainly because of the themeparks and rafting companies gathered around the entrance. Inside, though, we accidentally ended up on the Going to the Sun Road.

I had learned 3 things in my research:

  1. You have to do the Going to the Sun Road. It’s on some list of awesome Civil Engineering things.
  2. The Northwest corner of the park is the most remote part of the park, and supposedly has some of the top 100 most scenic backpacking trails in any national park (Per this list compiled by Backpacker Magazine).
  3. The Glaciers are dying.

The bottom of the Going to the Sun Road.

What they never told me was that there really is no other option besides the Going to the Sun Road. If you want to cross that park, that’s it. It’s the main road. And though the beginning part is flat and doesn’t make sense as to why it would be a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, after a few miles we completely understood the hype.

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It’s steep and beautiful and scary as Hell and I was grateful my Dad came, if only so that my sister and I didn’t have to risk driving.

A view from the Going to the Sun Road. Very High. Very Steep. Very Gorgeous.

So we marveled at the road. At the top, we saw a sign for Logan Pass. “Why don’t we get out here and hike a bit?” we thought.

“Because the parking lot is full, and as soon as one car leaves, twelve more swoop in to take their place,” the visitor center answered.

“Let’s not do that,” we decided. Instead, we meandered onto a waterfall just on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. We finished driving the road, found a gas station that charged more for a bag of ice than for a gallon of gas, and returned to the western side to pitch our tent in Fish Creek Campground.

What to do with the remaining four hours of daylight?

“Let’s head over to Bowman Lake,” my dad suggested.

Bowman Lake–in the remote northeast corner! We could finally escape the crowds… that we honestly hadn’t encountered much of the entire trip. But we decided to go, and two hours down a mostly gravel road (again: we were in a Camry) we finally said, “If we haven’t found it within the next ten minutes, we’re turning around.”

Nine minutes later, we arrived. It was a pretty lake, until you stepped out of the car. The only mosquito bites I received the entire trip were bestowed during the hour we spent there. After such a long trip, I found the pit toilets mentioned in the title of this post. We then walked around the lake about a mile, past the sign warning us of Grizzly attacks and absolving the state of any fault if we happened to run into one. The trail was surrounded by dog hair (thick forest and brush that makes it impossible to see more than a few feet).

We played “Would You Rather” so our noise would scare away the bears, and turned around well before leaving the lake shore. We got back to camp, ate quickly, and went to bed with a plan to hit Logan Pass early the next morning.

Beaten by the Bearvault

Question: Which bear is best?

Is that a ridiculous question? Are there basically two schools of thought? If that’s your answer:

  1. Let’s be friends. I always need people to finish my quotes from The Office, otherwise things get kind of awkward.
  2. False. The best bear, at least when backpacking, is the one that doesn’t come into your camp and eat your food, and/or you.

With this in mind, and in preparation for a future PCT thru-hike and a more imminent trip to Glacier, I set out last week to buy a bear canister.

A what?

  • Bear Canister. n. An often bulky container designed to keep bears out and your delicious snacks in.

Okay, I don’t work for Merriam-Webster. But you get the idea. 

Bear canisters are important for several reasons:

  1. No one wants to get two days into a four-day hike and have all their food disappear down Bongo’s gullet.
  2. Bears who get used to eating people-food can become so aggressive that the parks service has to kill them in order to keep people safe.
  3. They’re required in Glacier National Park and several areas on the Pacific Crest Trail. 

As Linus said in A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Those are good reasons.”

Because I am mildly indecisive and never make a gear decision without consulting a trillion online sources, I compared four different models and eventually settled on one that looked coolest was lightweight and came highly recommended.

That is how I settled on the Bearvault.

Feel free to click that link. Look at that Bearvault. It’s beautiful. The clear blue plastic evokes visions of icicles and intergalactic travel at the same time. It has a black lid that practically screams, “Turn this for Nutella.” It has ridges that help the Bearvault stay secure on your pack. At least, that’s what the super helpful REI saleswoman from my previous blog entry said.

She also said I could take it out of the box and test it out. 

But really, what sort of person needs to test out a container for food? It’s not like it could be, say, mildly confusing to open! It’s not like anyone could be so weak that even when they figured out how to open it, they couldn’t push the tabs in far enough to actually accomplish the task!

Or maybe both those things could happen. 

Did happen. 

To me. 

To my surprise, I discovered the directions are really important on things like this. After five minutes of frustration at not being able to get that stupid black lid off that beautiful blue cylinder, I pulled out the instruction pamphlet that I had thrown across the room earlier. Turns out my fingers were about a centimeter above where they needed to be. Two seconds later, my two-year-old nephew, who had been trying to help but was now crying from frustration (or maybe because auntie kept taking this really cool looking thing away from him), started clapping as the lid spun off easily.

I felt so accomplished at being able to unscrew that lid, I tried it a few more times with nary a hitch. Two main takeaways from this experience:

  1. Since I did manage to open the container, I must not be a bear.
  2. If I see a bear with reading glasses on the trail, I must hide the Bearvault directions. The state of my snacking depends in it.