June 26th, 2019
Many Glacier campground, 1 mile from CDT mm 35 to Red Eagle Lake mm 63.4
Distance in miles: 29
I woke on my own 5 minutes before 5 am. It was the first time I had woken all night, I was so out of it. It was already light, which is great since I had no headlamp (left it with a bag in East Glacier by accident). I got up to grab my food bag from the bear box and was shocked to find the door to the box laying wide open. Someone had come overnight and placed a box of food inside, then I guess didn’t bother with the obvious step of shutting and locking the door. There was my food bag just sitting out in the open, luckily undisturbed. I was kind of angry that some idiot put my food at risk. I wanted to take some food from their stash just to teach them a lesson. Did I? Maybe just a few M&Ms.
Like the pros that we are, the 3 of us were all ready to head out at 6 am. We each gave the other a nod and started walking, like a crew turning-to at work. We gained a man, a Frenchman that was up early and looking for some hiking mates. We took an alternate trail around the lake and were shortly climbing towards Piegan Pass. This was reportedly the pass with the most snow. But first we had to walk through several miles of thick, awful mud. The horse concession rides the trail often and it was absolutely wrecked because of it. It kind of made me mad. But hey, the park’s got to make money and they don’t make enough off us hikers. As soon as we passed the end of the horse tour grounds, the trail was back to normal.
After came a fun little ford, to wash off all the mud, and then lots of snow. My wet feet warmed up pretty easily because of all the climbing. We got through a series of steep traverses well enough. The snow was still a bit hard and not the best for kicking steps. I was nervous in a few places but Salty and Relentless bounced ahead with ease.
After the snow, we entered some beautiful alpine meadows. The valley looked impossible to hike up. I always love trying to figure out how the trail winds itself up the steep cliffs. The route revealed itself piece by piece as we climbed higher.
I found my energy and charged up the many switchbacks to the top. We all had a break there, watching the squirrels and marmots frolic. Someone inquired as to where all the big mammals were hiding just as I spotted two bighorns standing on a ridge. They were contemplating a huge and steep snowfield coming down the mountain top. Then they bounded down the slope like it was nothing. We all sat gawking in amazement. The snow field would have meant death for anyone of us.
We finally started down the pass, getting word from some dayhikers that there was just a rockslide ahead. We picked up our pace. Then we crossed the “Going to the sun” road, which traverses the park and is very popular. In fact, there was a train of cars going by. More like a traffic jam. It made me so happy that I am able to travel the way that I do.
We had lunch at a popular waterfall and then hiked past a ton more waterfalls along the Saint Mary River. They were nice but the trail was busy. After the last waterfall, the trail grew quiet and overgrown. I sensed that it was good bear habitat and we saw giant piles of scat everywhere. So we sang John Denver songs loudly, making up the lyrics as we went. Even still, we suddenly came upon a moose just a stone’s throw from the trail. It was a juvenile and not menacing. But when I first spotted its brown rump, I thought it was a grizzly.
The afternoon grew long and my feet felt the effects of a 30 miler. We could have shaved off about 2 miles of trail had we forded Red Eagle Creek but opted for the full trail and bridge. We had entered a burn area that was kind of a downer and would have been tough to bushwhack through.
Then there were menacing clouds and thunder up the valley we were heading for. We picked up the pace but to no avail. We got to our campsite just in time for it to start storming.
Rather than set up in the lightning and torrent, we huddled under our umbrellas. I was frustrated having pushed all day to get into camp early and then having to sit there doing nothing. But we stayed miraculously dry and after about 40 minutes, the sun came out….for 5 minutes before it dipped behind the ridge. We were chilled and got our shelters up quickly. Bed came early, though it was hard with so much light still and the birds chirping. Still, it’s fabulous to be hiking all day in these stunning mountains.