Glacier – Part 3

Day 4

On the way to Upper Two Medicine Lake
On the way to Upper Two Medicine Lake

I refused to go near my hiking boots today.  The tops of both feet and most of my toes felt like they should be black and blue, but for some reason they were not.  But we were not deterred by foot pain or by discovering muscles that we did not use while biking.  With the help of Tevas and ibuprofen, we were back on the trail for another 12 miler.  We saw two great waterfalls today: Aster Falls and Twin Falls.  I don’t know what I was expecting to see in Glacier, but I was not expecting waterfalls, for whatever reason, so that was a fun surprise.

Matt at waterfall -- other hikers admired his big stick wherever we hiked
Matt at waterfall -- everywhere we went, other hikers admired his big stick

It was crazy windy during the day and throughout the night — the wind just howled constantly.  And in the midst of all that wind, not to mention the steep, curvy roads, the guy at the campsite next to us biked in!  On a bike loaded with camping gear!

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Day 5

Woke to continued high winds, so we scrapped the hiking the Dawson-Pitimakan Pass Loop (high elevations where a woman had been blown off the trail the day before) plan, and packed up camp to move Many Glacier.  This plan was thwarted when we arrived at 10am only to find the large camp ground already full.

As we drove back, hoping we would find an open site at one of the close campsites on the Going to the Sun road, it started raining to mock our misfortune.  We claimed a campsite at the Rising Sun campground, but opted to wait on setting up the tent since it was still raining.

Hidden Lake was extra hidden today
Hidden Lake was extra hidden today

We rode the free park shuttle up to Logan Pass and did a short hike to Hidden Lake, which was extra hidden due to the rain and fog.  On the upside, we saw lots of temporary small waterfalls and little streams that were running because of the rain.  We thought these would usually only be visible during spring snow melt.

Temporary stream flanked by wildflowers
Temporary stream flanked by wildflowers

Earlier in the trip, we discovered a friend of a friend of a friend connection with two Glacier park rangers.  When we arrived back at camp, we succeeded in finally getting one of them on the phone.  While filling him in on our trip so far, Matthew mentioned our unsuccessful attempt to secure a campsite at Many Glacier.  Our new ranger friend immediately offered to secure us a campsite there.  Score!

We made camp and ate dinner during a break in the rain.  Unfortunately, it was not a long enough break to dry our wet rain clothes and packs, so after dinner we walked over to the restaurant and shared a hot chocolate and a breaded mushroom appetizer so we could sit somewhere warm and dry while we made plans for our ridiculous hike the next day.

Glacier – Part 2

Day 3

Looking down at Lower Two Medicine Lake
Looking down at Lower Two Medicine Lake

After setting up camp at Two Medicine and eating lunch, we set out for our first hike. I insisted that we walk to the trail head, about a mile away from our campsite, instead of driving. This would come back to haunt me later. We hiked to Cobalt Lake, a gorgeous blue glacial lake, through meadows of incredible wildflowers and forested areas with waterfalls. The hike was 12 miles to the lake and back from the trail head, with notable elevation climb thrown in the mix.

Brief interlude: I planned on buying hiking boots for this trip, and a few weeks prior to our departure, I got around to purchasing my first pair of hiking boots ever. Matthew discovered an employee at an outdoor outfitter in town who seemed to really know his stuff about fitting boots. He literally spent HOURS, over two separate visits, measuring our feet in different ways, trying our feet in boots he thought would be appropriate based on the measurements, and making adjustments to the boots we purchased. After investing that much time, and a good bit of money, on my hiking boots, and after wearing them without incident for a four mile hike on a local mushroom foray, I brilliantly decided that they were great, and all the things that people say about breaking in boots? It did not apply to me and my boots. (In my defense, my husband, who has owned hiking boots before, and should have known better, made the same mistake this time with his new boots.)

When we got to the lake (i.e., halfway through the hike), my feet hurt a good bit. I took off my boots and walked into the glacial lake. Soon, my feet did not hurt anymore. Sadly, this was not due to a miraculous healing, but rather to the fact that I could not feel my feet anymore due to the numbing effects of the frigid water.

In Cobalt Lake - If you can't feel your feet, they can't hurt
In Cobalt Lake - If you can't feel your feet, they can't hurt

All too soon, I had to stuff my feet back into the boots so we could hike back before it got dark. By the time we were within 1-2 miles of the trail head, I could barely walk, my feet hurt so badly. My husband, in a good deal of pain himself, gave me a piggyback ride for the last bit of the trail. We arrived at the trail head parking lot, still a mile from our campsite, where there was not a vehicle waiting for us, because SOMEBODY had insisted on walking to the trail head instead of driving.

Like a true knight-in-shining-armor, my husband made the solo trek back to the campsite and drove back in the Guzzler. To justify the use of the vehicle, we bought some fire wood and ice at the camp store.

Back at the campsite, with boots off and feet attempting to recover, we enjoyed a delicious meal. I had thrown some leftover breaded, fried eggplant into the cooler, so we reheated the eggplant over the campfire and had wraps filled with eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and goat cheese. Yum! Before we went to bed, we saw a rather amazing shooting star.

During the night, I had to overcome my fear of getting eaten by a bear or mountain lion when I set foot outside the tent to walk to the bathroom in the dark. I probably annoyed lots of other campers throughout the trip by singing or talking to myself to ward off the bears during my nightly bathroom venture.

Glacier – Part 1

Let’s start at the very beginning.  On Saturday, August 8th, we hit the road driving a rather large, very not green vehicle, headed to Glacier National Park (Glacier is in Montana for those of you who, like me, were not aware).  To help some friends with a vehicle swap and get a Jeep Grand Cherokee converted from a daily use vehicle to a more seldom use vacation home vehicle, we drove said Jeep over two thousand miles.  Two thousand VERY UNCOMFORTABLE miles.  The deal was that, thanks to a certain government stimulus program, we would be driving our friends’ brand new, much more fuel efficient vehicle on our return trip.

The one redeeming feature of our otherwise unimpressive first night campground
The one redeeming feature of our otherwise unimpressive first night campground

The theme of the first day driving was “Guzzling,” as in, what the Jeep did to gas.  If you ever see the word V-8 used to describe a vehicle, it is probably not referring to tomato juice, and you would be wise to get away quickly, lest your bank account be drained by its insatiable appetite for gasoline.  In case the 15 MPG (at best) mileage were not painful enough, this particular Jeep had some other special features.

Fifteen minutes into our trip, we heard, “Beep beep beep.  Beep beep beep,” and saw that the panel that normally displayed the date and time was flashing a message: “Rear liftgate open.”  I immediately pictured the liftgate door flying open and scattering our belongings all over the interstate.  Not a good way to start a trip.  I exited at the next available opportunity, and Matthew jumped out, ran to the back, opened the [completely closed] liftgate door, and shut it again.  False alarm.  The vehicle repeated this little trick several more times throughout the day, and after checking it for a second time, we ignored the warning.

Fast forward to the second day.  We did not even make it back onto the interstate before the beeping started.  And instead of doing it a few times, the guzzler “Beep beep beeped.  Beep beep beeped,” ALL DAY LONG.  Stopping to reclose it did not help.  We looked for wires to disconnect or some kind of switch to cover up.  Finding neither, and becoming desperate as the minutes turned to hours, we started looking for a cliff off which we could drive.  The flat terrain foiled Plan B, so we moved on to Plan C: put in ear plugs so that we can turn the music up loud enough to almost drown out the sound of the beeping.  Almost, as in, nothing could completely cover up the sound.

We endured and made it to our campsite for the 2nd night, near Great Falls, Montana.  It looked better than our previous night’s campsite, meaning we were not crammed in right between two other groups of tents, one with small children and adults who were loud until very late in the night.  No sooner had we pitched our tent at this new site than we very nearly went into cardiac arrest due to the blaring whistle of a freight train going through the campground.  Well, not exactly through the campground, but close enough that it may as well have.  We gave each other an, “Are you serious?” look and braced for another sleepless night, but luckily there was only one other train.

Day three brought a short driving day, only four hours and then we were in Glacier!  Matthew finally discovered a way to distract the Jeep so that it could not make the incessant beeping, so we drove those hours in peace and quiet.  PTL!