Happy Tuesday! I’m sure everyone is settled back into the swing of things today, and, I hope, fully immersed in the Christmas season. I finally got the ornaments out of storage yesterday, and the trees are starting to look great. A few members of my family are coming up this weekend to celebrate my birthday, and my mom and sister have promised to help me pick out some new ribbon to finish decking my halls! You know I can’t pick out clothes without those two, and the same principle applies to any kind of decorating .
I decided to give you guys a break from Christmas hoopla today, and finish my series on our Glacier Vacation. When last we left off, I had finished the segment about our day hikes in the park with my mom and step-dad. Now it’s time to talk about the truly amazing part of our journey-our backpacking trip.
John is always the one in charge of planning our actual routes when we go backpacking, and he had studied a dozen different possibilities over the course of the two years we were researching our trip. When he had settled on the best route possible, we sent in our information and waited. At Glacier, you have to enter a lottery for a backcountry permit. Sometimes you get the route you want, sometimes you get a variation, and sometimes you don’t get permits at all. I believe it’s like this at all national parks, but this was my first experience backpacking in one so I don’t know for sure.
The lottery happens in April, and soon thereafter we learned that we had gotten the trip we wanted-only in reverse! Our starting point was now in Waterton Lakes, Canada. From there, we could access Goat Haunt, which is the American border station, and be on our way. There are two different ways to get around the lake to the Goat Haunt station. You can take an 8 mile trail around the lake or you can take a ferry across it. Because we started a little later than expected and the border crossing closed early, we opted for the ferry. My mom and step-dad drops us and our packs off at the dock and we were off!
The ferry ride was relatively short, and it was really neat to take some time to enjoy the scenery. We were also able to see the divide in the trees between the two countries as well as the official marker. If I ever go back, I definitely want to take the trail around so that I can get pictures! We crossed the border without incident and started our trek. Our first campsite was a just a three-mile hike in, and, as we strolled into camp that afternoon, we quickly realized we weren’t alone.
We saw three different moose in that campsite, and it was a highlight of the trip. They stayed around the entire evening, but they were always several hundred yards away so we never felt like we were in any danger.
That first night in camp was a new experience for both of us. It was our first time hiking in both bear country and a national park, and there were definite differences from our usual trip. Glacier has designated back country campsites that you are assigned to when you receive your itinerary. Each of those campsites has a food prep area that’s at least a hundred yards away from the camping areas. You do all of your cooking there, and anything that has the slightest smell must be tied up in this area before bedtime. Bear safety is definitely not something to take lightly.
Our second day was difficult. We crossed Stoney Indian pass, and the hike was strenuous to say the least. The views that we discovered that day were more than worth it. We stopped for lunch at Stoney Lake, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Day 3 was a wonderful day mostly because we came across the back country Ranger station, and we had the opportunity to talk to one of the Rangers posted there. She was part of a husband and wife team that man the station from May to October. Her and her husband live and work in the back country, checking on trails, talking to hikers, and generally overseeing that part of the park. We were floored that a job like this exists, and we have since taken to calling it our retirement plan!
That night we camped in what could possibly be our favorite campsite anywhere. It was on the shores of Elizabeth Lake. The lake itself has a nice wide beach littered with smooth stones. The stones spend all day being warmed by the sun so it’s quite pleasant to lie there and relax. With a crystal blue lake in front of you and a mountain panorama, it’s hard to leave! Now that’s my kind of beach !
The fourth and final day was the scariest and most exhilarating I’ve ever spent on the trail. John had been trying to prep me for what it was going to be like, but I chose not to think about it too much since I didn’t want to psych myself out. We headed out that morning with ten miles to conquer. Five miles of going straight up and five miles of going down. The first five miles was the scary part as the trail wound up and up on the side of a mountain with nothing below you but an almost sheer drop. At points, the trail is so narrow that there’s not room for two people to stand side by side. When you add in how windy it was that day, it becomes a very scary prospect indeed!
The midpoint of those ten miles is the Ptarmigan Tunnel. It is a 240 foot tunnel that literally goes through the mountain. It was originally built in the ’30s by the CCC, and it is one of the coolest features of the park. The most amazing part about the tunnel is how spectacularly different the views are from either side. It’s almost as though you talk through it into a whole new world.
The last five miles of the trip were fairly uneventful. By that point, a shower and real food were calling our names! We met my mom and step-dad on the porch of the Swiftcurrent Inn, and spent the next several house eating everything in sight .
Glacier National Park truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. It’s still isolated and remote which gives you the feeling of being completely away from real life. I’m only sorry that the pictures don’t do it justice. I guess that means you all will have to go see it for yourselves!
What’s your scariest outdoor experience?