CDT Day 114 (MT – E. Glacier to Canada)

GNP: Setting Forth – Scenic & Pitamakan

  • CDT Miles: 2,876.8-2,898.2 (21.4)
  • Total Hiked: 1,928.1 miles
  • Elevation Range: 4,845-7,630 feet

“So let’s go take a walk downtown
And act like we’re the heroes that
We dreamed we’d be when we were young…”

– Judah and The Lion

The original plan was for us to pack up and leave Luna’s Place at 6:30am. It almost happened that way. The three of us were pretty stealthy and brought our stuff to the front of the building to complete our packing process. We were on track. I realized the night before, however, that I’d left a bag inside the truck with a few trail items and so told the group I was going to wait for my pops to show up to retrieve it. You see, he was headed this way to pick up Fix It at 7am and give him a ride to the ranger station so he could arrange his permit.

Well, Snickers was pumped to get going and so he went on ahead. Dave H rolled up even a little earlier than anticipated and once again had coffee for me and for Fix It too. This time it was a gas station brew. I got my stuff, gave him some more stuff I didn’t need, then he and Fix It took off back towards Two Medicine. Cheer and I got our last bits packed up and then set out to tackle our last Montana stretch!

It was a bit of road walk getting going and I enjoyed supping on my coffee with my trekking poles still condensed and tucked along the sides of my pack. We had a little bit of trail navigating, but Cheer kept us on the right track and not far ahead we found a Snickers taking in the views…

We set out united as a trio again and were actually pretty chatty this morning. Seems we haven’t been for a while, which isn’t a bad thing, just the way it is some days after being together so long day after day. This morning, there was excitement in the air. We were doing it! Our last Montana stretch and the last hundred-ish miles of the CDT for Snickers and Cheer.

A few miles in… we made it to the Glacier National Park boundary (we might have already gone through some of the park to get to E. Glacier, but it was confusing and this time it seemed real)!

It was pretty much a walk from our low point up to a spot that would almost be our high point for the day, labeled appropriately, “Scenic Point.” Things started gradual but gained some steepness as we got higher.

We stopped for second breakfast at a nice high point with a view. While hanging, two hikers we’d met at Luna’s, Wick It and Gables, showed up and chatted. We were in the process of packing up and so got going again with them just ahead. I was caboosing it and got some shots of the crew…

Less than a mile further from breakfast, we all stopped at Fortymile Creek to get water. That’s when I noticed that the coffee cup that held my treat from Dave H this morning was no longer attached to my pack. I felt crummy about the idea of it being left on trail, so told the others I was going back on a rescue mission to try and retrieve my trail trash.

I ended up going all the way back to our breakfast spot and then even further. After a 0.8 mile backtrack, I turned around crestfallen. It may not seem like a big deal, but something about how beautiful and pristine this area is, left me feeling disgusted with myself. And maybe just how stupid I’d been not to break the cup down and put in my trash bag, especially on such a windy day. On the walk back to Fortymile Creek, I convinced myself that another hiker would grab it. And I internally vowed to get at least 5 items of trail trash on this section! So, I guess 1.6 bonus miles today was all for naught.

After putting that behind me… I was on the up and up to catch the others and try to still get to Two Medicine by lunch. Things got even steeper and in general this uphill to the Scenic Point was way more than I’d anticipated. Very awesome stuff though…

At the top, I found Cheer and Snickers sitting taking a break. It was super windy. I was surprised to find out there was a side trail leading to an overlook. The team said I had to check it out. Dropped my pack, took my trekking poles and camera, and went to see what I could see. Worth it I’d say!

On the way back down, something looked different about Cheer and Snickers’ appearance. In fact, as I got closer, it seemed they’d transformed into two different people entirely. I didn’t remember any of them brewing any poly juice potion, so you can imagine my confusion. Alas, it seemed that they moved on while I was up there viewing the scenic point and two day hikers just happened to take their spots at the junction. A bit kerfuffled, I briefly chatted with these folks, telling about the trail and my journey and such, and then took off in hot pursuit of my comrades.

Just some amazing high elevation stuff!

As I hiked down, I passed many a day hiking group on the way up to see the Scenic Point, and a few going down too. We’re typically a bit faster than most folks having hiked for three or four months now, so I was utilizing the classic bob and weave strategy to maneuver around them (as much as you can bob and weave on a single track trail at least).

I eventually got behind the others and we cruised down down down, popped out on a road, then spotted a gray pickup truck. A lady got out and started taking pictures of us πŸ™‚ It wasn’t the paparazzi, but rather it appeared our trail crew/coaches, Dave H and Sheryl found us!

I had some communication with them, although we were much later coming through than I originally told them. Even so, they found us a picnic table in the shade and brought a cooler of some fresh fruit, snacks, bread and cheese, and a few cold drinks. We each had our own lunches to eat of course, and felt compelled to eat them so as to lessen our pack weight, but I think each of us partook in some extra trail magic vigitales (pretty sure this is a made up word my father used) as well. Another fun rendezvous with the team!

Even had some gate crashers to the party…

Afterwards, we made a quick plan that involved mom and dad starting the hike out with us going north on the CDT together. So, after they dropped off the truck at their campsite (they’ve been camping at Two Medicine, which is basically right on the trail since the trail is a short road walk through here), we all started around the lake together…

Dad and mom ended up walking 2 miles with us through some forest to a nice little stream. It was nice getting to chat. There’s something about walking a trail that makes for good conversation, except I suppose the out of breath part of things. After some goodbyes and encouragement from our coaches, they turned back and Cheer, Snickers, and I ventured forth towards our goal. We were in for a climb and had been mentally preparing to knock it out, knowing it was likely to be a late day.

I felt bad that if only my parents had gone a little bit further, they would’ve gotten to see things open up some. I think they’ll find quite a healthy amount of views and waterfalls and wildlife during their week exploring Glacier though.

I found some scary looking bugs…

And we kept going up and the views were spectacular! The lighting was interesting too, with visual beams shining down. Not sure what it did for the pictures, but in real life, it was striking to watch. I particularly liked what appeared to be a pyramid mountain in front of a much bigger pyramid mountain…

Looking back…

Around 5:30pm, we came across a thru-hiker hiker going south that I recognized from Instagram with the trail name of Quadzilla. Briefly chatted and he mentioned that there’s supposed to be a bear up ahead for us maybe 15 minutes. Well, we were on the lookout and were doing some “Hey Bears” and singing and talking to one another. But even so… as I was going up a steep bend (I was in the lead), I looked to my left and there was a Grizzly Bear!

It was maybe 20 feet away when I first saw it and after my expletive shout, it scooted away another ten and continued eating huckleberries. Sandy brown colored, it wasn’t enormous, maybe a juvenile, but definitely a large animal in my opinion. The good thing was it was so preoccupied with its berries that it didn’t seem to care about us. I got my bear spray armed (you just pull off a plastic guard that acts as the safety) and placed my finger near the trigger. We talked to it for a bit, but then sort of moved up the trail to keep going.

Just before getting out of view behind trees I felt safe enough and sure enough it didn’t care about us that I took out my phone. Only got a picture of it’s back and top of head and ears…

So that got the heart a pounding. Right afterwards, I noticed that the huckleberries were the best ones yet on trail by far. Big and juicy and perfectly ripe. This bear knew what was up…

Fortunately, things started to open up a bit as we started going up above Oldman Lake, so I wasn’t as scared the bears were going to ambush us…

Unfortunately, we had to get up this wall!

It was pretty nice switch-backing, the views were stellar, and it was some interesting rock layers. All that being said, still a tough climb getting up what I’d learn is called Pitamakan Pass.

There was a bit of a false summit where I set my pack down and gaped in awe for some time. Just an amazing view looking over the pass to the other side. Glacier National Park wasn’t letting my years and years of hopes and expectations down…

photo credit @carollcoyne

The bigger lake above is Pitamakan Lake and the more distant, smaller one to the left is called Seven Winds of the Lake. We could even see the lake our campsite was near, Morning Star Lake, but in the picture it’s tough to see (the far central snow patch is right above it). There was still something like 3.5 miles to go and it was already nearing 7pm. Onward…

When Snickers and I had gotten the permit, the ranger had us read through a list of backcountry regulations. Afterwards, he asked,

“What’s the first thing you’re gonna do when you get to camp?”

“Hang our food,” we both replied.

Well, that’s sort of what we did. These sites are quite luxurious and have designated tenting areas, a food preparation area, a metal bar to hang food bags from, and even a pit toilet. Very advanced. Technically, we aren’t supposed to ever bring any smelly stuff into the tenting areas, so, upon arriving at camp I went straight to the food prep. area and started organizing while also making dinner.

There were two other thru-hikers at our camp, The Brain and Band-Aid. They were finishing dinner when we rolled up. As I started boiling water for my fancy Backpacker Pantry Lasagna meal (thanks to DH/Sheryl), Cheer and Band-Aid alerted the rest of us that there was a large Bull Moose in camp. Yowzers. This guy was awesome! And, similar to the bear, just munching away on leaves and such and didn’t care about us. Check out those antlers swaying (video isn’t great). How does he even keep his head up, I wondered.

It had gotten late and dark by the time we finished dinner, so we were hanging our food and setting up our tents in the dark (Cheer was smart and set here up prior to dinner)…

It was 9:30-10pm-ish I think by the time I got into my tent. The great thing was though tomorrow is a low mileage day, so we decided to sleep in a bit. What an amazing day on trail and what a way to get us pumped for the team’s last stretch together (for this round at least)!

I haven’t given out any gold stars lately, and this was a long one, so if you made it to the bottom of this, congrats! 18.5 gold stars for you!

Album of the Day

“Book of Dreams” – Steve Miller Band (1977)

2 thoughts on “CDT Day 114 (MT – E. Glacier to Canada)

  1. jimnewheights

    Views, Grizz and Bull all feeding on the bounty. How awesome to
    receive such a reward on the last stretch if the CDT. Sounds like
    the trio is talking another thru hike, am I right?

    Liked by 1 person

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