Glacier – Part 4

Day 6

We woke up early and paid for a shuttle van that took us from St. Mary’s to Many Glacier to begin the 16 mile, 2400 foot elevation climb, hike from the Swiftcurrent Trailhead to the Logan Pass.  In preparing for this hike, we had talked to several park rangers and other park staff, who unfailingly encouraged us to complete the hike in the other direction, starting from Logan, so that we would be hiking down, and not up, the Swiftcurrent Pass.  After a few times of trying to explain, that, yes, we knew it would be more work, but we really preferred going up to doing down since it would put less stress on the knees and other joints, we gave up explaining and just decided to go with our plan.  Also, after two days of hiking in Tevas, and many ibuprofen, and feeling rather certain that I would never wear those horrible, awful, no good, very bad hiking boots EVER AGAIN, I coaxed my feet back into them for the day’s adventure.  Since I could lace them without whimpering in pain, I decided it just might work.

Lakes in valley visible through fog from Swiftcurrent Trail
Lakes in valley visible through fog from Swiftcurrent Trail

It started out overcast, but not too bad.  On the first leg of the hike, we saw lots of huckle-bear-y scat right on the trail, but no bears.  Before too long, the fog and drizzle rolled back into the picture.  We did experience some brief and very welcome clearings in the fog as we climbed ever higher, affording nice views of the lake in the valley below.  Later we encountered a herd of ten bighorn sheep on the trail.  We came around a bend, and there they were, very close!

Bighorn sheep on trail
Bighorn sheep on trail

We felt good hiking up the Swiftcurrent Pass, and arrived at the chalet, the halfway point, to eat our lunch.  We assumed that we had done the hard part, the part with all of the climbing, and would now enjoy a nice stroll along the popular Highline Trail before arriving at the Logan Visitor’s Center to catch the shuttle back to our campsite.  Do I need to tell you what happens when you assume?

Instead of the Highline Trail, known for it’s sweeping views and gorgeous scenery, the trail we hiked that afternoon should have been called the Never Ending Trail with Lots of Fog that Never Ends.  Having never hiked the trail before, and unable to see more than 30-50 feet in front of us for most of the hike, I seriously wondered if it would ever end.  Maybe we would just keep hiking through the fog FOREVER.  And despite it not being the long, sustained climb of Swiftcurrent, there was still plenty of up and down and rough terrain.

To make things extra fun, we came across a pair of hikers, one of whom wore a bear bell on his hiking boot.  The incessant jingle jangling was getting on our nerves (and, by the way, studies have shown that the noise is NOT effective in warning off bears).  We tried to slow down to let them get far enough ahead of us that we couldn’t hear it, but they kept pausing which allowed us to catch up to them.  We passed them and tried to hike quickly so they would be far behind us, but that didn’t work either.  We considered pushing the man off of a cliff, but decided to try the more socially acceptable option of asking him to please remove that bell because we are about to go crazy here.  He looked surprised, like, “How could this constant jingling noise, repeated with each step I take, possibly annoy anyone?”

Obviously, we did make it back to Logan, just in time to catch the 6PM shuttle.  On the ride back to the campsite, a black bear crossed the road right in front of the shuttle!  It quickly moved into the brush on the other side of the road, so we did not get any pictures, but we did see our first bear!

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