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Home » Adventures » Glacier » Day 5

Tuesday, August 23 — Up and At Them

Map of this day’s hike

Route I Hiked This Day

I had an easy morning breaking camp, getting ready to shuffle down the path once again. I was extra vigilant to produce excessive noise and keep my eyes peeled along the trail. The sightings the day before and being near the bear-closed trails made me apprehensive of encountering large furry critters. Spotting a bear makes for a great story afterwards, but is not necessarily the best thing at the time.

While avoiding any menacing wildlife I additionally embarked on my first real climb in Glacier over Triple Divide Pass. The ascent from Atlantic Creek was steady and vigorous, but not exhaustively steep. As the tree cover thinned a lovely scene of the ever increasingly distant valley floor emerged. The views did not offer much forgiveness though as the trail’s narrow shelf gave way to an abrupt rocky slope which fell hundreds of feet. I struggled to the top uneventfully and was rewarded with a breathtaking scene of the valley through which I just came and the one into which the trail descended. Rivers snaked their way downward for miles until they eventually curved out of sight behind distant peaks; numerous mountaintops dotted the skyline; and large patches of snow slept nearby. Although not the highest point around, it was amazing what near the top of the world looks like.

Danger! This trail is closed because of bear danger

A cold wind, exemplified by having worked up a sweat climbing, assaulted me as I rested at the top enjoying the scenery. The overcast day was nice for hiking but not ideal for idling. With an encroaching chill prodding me on, I burned this remarkable view into my memory (and camera) and began the descent, whose downward momentum would carry me the rest of the day.

Down, Down, Down

Panoramic of Triple Divide Pass

Panoramic of Triple Divide Pass

Only a couple hundred feet down though, I spotted my first real wildlife of the trip — four mountain goats grazing at these high elevations. They enjoyed their vegetation not more than ten yards from the trail, unconcerned with the human passing through their territory. Seeing these mammals surviving in this harsh climate reminded me just how fragile people are and our visitor status in this place. I somehow passed stealthily enough to not scare the goats, or was just that nonthreatening.

I continued through the valley, whose streams had just started the longest land based journey possible to Hudson Bay. A plethora of melting glaciers fed them, forming towering waterfalls thundering hundreds of feet to the valley floor below. It is sad, but I almost became apathetic to their majestic beauty as I continually passed them, one after the other. How quickly the extraordinary can become routine. These were truly some of Glacier’s hidden jewels though, which could only be found by journeying deep into its backcountry. Of course, there were undoubtedly countless other riches in the park that I just did not have time to discover.

Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats

I never passed my hiking partner from the previous day or the trail crew she was aiming to meet. I did not hear any reports of an entire party being consumed by the wilderness however, so they must have been safe. A recently created side trail that went unexplored may have led to their gypsy camp, but they should have been working by the time I passed. They must have been abducted by aliens…or on lunch break or working off trail. I personally think the little green men were responsible.

Evening at Red Eagle Lake

The trail continued plunging and the low shrubbery transitioned into thick forest as I neared Red Eagle Lake. Far down from the pass I arrived at Red Eagle Foot Campground around 3:30. My legs were finally sore and tired after this 2000 ft climb and even greater descent over the course of eleven miles. I have to wonder though why I must go on vacation and not feel satisfied unless I push myself until my muscles burn. I probably need help, that is why.

Aside from my masochistic hiking, Red Eagle Lake was a beautiful oasis in the sky. Mighty mountains grew from its unblemished rocky shoreline, framing a great picture of Triple Divide Pass. The view of the pass slowly faded though as clouds rolled in throughout the afternoon. They unfortunately also brought some light rain, and I hid in my tent to stay dry. It rained off and on, but always seemed to pick up whenever I stuck my head outside.

Cloudy Red Eagle Lake

Cloudy Red Eagle Lake

As evening arrived the rain held back although the sky threatened mischief. I explored part of the nearby shoreline around Red Eagle Lake, but did not find anything cool. By this time the fog was so thick that I could barely see up the mountainsides. The rocky peaks exposed at my arrival now hid behind the haze.

Several interesting groups of campers stayed with me that night. Besides the couple from Seattle, a group of four men that really knew how to enjoy the wilderness shared this space. Long time friends temporarily free from their wives’ control, they packed a little extra weight to help maximize their time together. Some of their nonessentials included spicy hot sauce in a heavy glass container and a Nalgene bottle full of firewater. The best remedy for aching muscles is whiskey though. On the other end of the spectrum was another solo traveler that packed light and moved very fast. He hiked all the way from Cut Bank in one day (having passed me earlier) wearing only a t-shirt, shorts, and a pair of gaiters. For shelter he just used a lean-to. I do not think he carried much else for protection either. He seemed sane enough talking with over dinner, so I guess he was just a little more hard core than even I was.

It became cool and windy around camp, and I feared having to bundle to endure a bitter night. The weather bluffed though, as the thermometer bottomed out at about the same mark as the other nights.