CDT Day 117 (MT – E. Glacier to Canada)

GNP: Piegan, Lakes, & Few Glaciers

  • CDT Miles: 2,926.1-2,936 (9.9) & 2,941-2,941.4 (0.4)
  • G, J, & S Lakes Alt.: 4.5 miles
  • Total Hiked: 1,970.8 miles
  • Elevation Range: 4,945-7,600

Knowing we were kicking off our day with a 3,000 feet climb today, we sadly switched up our leisurely start routine. We’d agreed on 6:30am, but we must have been all pumped to go because it was 6:17am when Snickers took his first step on the suspension bridge to cross Reynolds Creek.

The haze from yesterday seemed to have worsened some overnight and when we set out we were all using our headlights at first. It was up right away. No warm up. Another mile to go before reaching the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road where I was pretty pumped to get rid of some trash. It’s quite silly how excited we can get just for a trash can. All about the weight folks and I was pretty sure I could feel the difference before and after my garbage disposal.

Once across the road our hike was onward via an overgrown trail through the forest. Took a bit before we got a view out, but the world around us started to open us and it was wonderful…

Right when things really opened up, like no more trees sort of opening up, we came across a group of 7 day hikers going together. They were trying to set up a tripod for a self timed photo of themselves and Piegan Gacier behind, but when I asked if they wanted me to take it they said yep. The glacier, albeit high up and far off, was pretty awesome…

Still smoky looking out, but I was still loving the approach to the pass. We felt we’d put in the work early on during our climb and towards the top it was much more gentle. It also became cold and windy, so we all dunned our fleece hoodies for the final stretch to the top.

At 9:00am, our new hiker friend, Mummy, caught us and after chatting some bysped on by…

See. There he goes…

The three of us followed the group of 7 all the way to the top of Piegan Pass and then found a little makeshift rock shelter to have second breakfast. It ended up that Wick It, Gables, Mummy, and Puss N’ Boots joined too and we had fun taking our break there. I took a little jaunt up the pass to get some views of ahead where we were going…

Not to shabby, eh? Here’s on the start going down…

This was definitely a moment. Taking breaks just to stare up in awe. One of my PCT posts in Washington that always sticks out to me I talked about profound awe. That’s what I was experiencing here as well…

photo credit @carollcoyne

We each spread out during this downhill today for some reason. I think maybe we all were in our own zones a bit. So, during a section of switchbacks through a pretty thick forest section, I was hiking solo. I had just put on some tunes to listen to and did so without my headphones, mainly out of laziness not wanting to take my pack off, but also because it adds noise in bear country. So, on song number two, I heard a braking branch up the trail maybe 20-25 feet. Sure enough a bear was there moving around. A little one. A cub I believe. Got my bear spray at the ready, turned off my music, and called out some “hey bear’s,” and “I see you Bear’s.” Nothing really happened so I moved further down the trail past it and then waited for Cheer to give her a heads up, then we waited for Snickers. In the end we just cruised by and all was well, mama bear never showed up!

After all that excitement, we made it down to the waterfall!

Then cruising down the valley more…

Around noon we came to a junction where we opted to go for an alternate trail. It seemed to us that the CDT route stayed above a series of lakes and this trail we planned to take went right down along the shores more or less. After a mile, first up on our lake tour was Grinnell Lake, and wow!

I mean that color, right? We meandered our way through the day hikers and ended up finding our fellow thru-hikers sitting on the beach. Wick It was the one that told us about this route and we were quite thankful he did. It was very windy here, so lunch was somewhat short. Before leaving, had fun playing around getting different pics and vids…

Then, some creeks en route to our next lake…

We dead ended at Lake Josephine and decided to take the Northwestern shore trail. It ended up being full of people. There were boats bringing hikers back and forth across the lake too. This one was bigger and had the glacial valley, long and narrow shape to it…

Then it was Swiftcurrent Lake, which had Many Glacier Lodge on the far other side.

We were taking a trail that instead of going around the lake, cut through and went right to our campground. We planned to stay in the Many Glacier area at the Many Glacier Campground where there’s a site for CDT Hikers. Our first stop was a visit to the ranger. Lots of cars in this area…

When Snickers and I got our permit there was one big day on there, like 27+ miles and nearing 6,000 feet elevation gain throughout the day. We’ve really been liking our easier days so thought we’d see if anything opened up where we could change things around. Well, first go around with the ranger didn’t seem promising, so Cheer and I went to talk over our options with Snickers who had gone ahead to pick out/reserve our tent spots at the campsite.

After talking it through, Snickers and Cheer’s priority was getting to the border and out and if possible keeping days around 20 miles or less. Staying on the CDT red line wasn’t of prime concern. We had some work around ideas forming and after a quick trip back to the ranger, I had a new plan figured out. The new plan took us off the CDT some and added another night camping (oh darn) and it certainly evened out our mileage, even if adding total mileage.

So , after all that. We got our tents set up and checked out our food inventory. We were in an actual campground now and there was a little store where we could get more food. And that’s where we headed after figuring out how much more each of us needed. Cheer and I ended up eating dinner at the restaurant and getting soft serve ice cream too while charging up our devices. Snickers attended a ranger talk that we’d later learn involved some guitar singing and historical story telling related to the Blackfeet Nation and the land here. Afterwards, we reunited as more hikers showed up. There were maybe 12-15 CDT ‘ers in the site.

I kinda got in a mood in the evening, though impossible you’d think in such a spectacular setting, but mainly I think it was just tiredness. It wasn’t a particularly tough day, but I think the permit stuff mentally drained me. It was strange too with everyone around me talking of finishing and their plans afterwards, whereas I’m still planning to keep hiking the section I missed after all this. The ice cream helped, but even so, when Cheer and Snickers went for a late evening walk around the campground I passed and opted for an early entry to my tent. Tomorrow, we’re right back at it!

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