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Home » Adventures » Glacier » Day 6

Wednesday, August 24 — Rain, Rain, Go Away

Map of this day’s hike

Route I Hiked This Day

The menacing sky from the previous evening finally fulfilled its threat with a morning drizzle. I broke camp while doing my best to keep my gear dry. The rain was light though, so my effort was relatively successful. I brandished all my fancy new rain gear (after forcefully learning the perils of backpacking without in California) and started my 14+ mile leg to Reynolds Creek. It was time to see if my investment would keep me dry.

The rain clouds created a very low ceiling (at least relatively low, considering I already stood around 5000 ft) and blocked most of the numerous nearby mountaintops. The slopes disappeared into grey clouds far from their summit. The elevations visible revealed that the rain falling on me froze into snow up there. I figured (a.k.a. hoped) that it would stay warm enough along my trail to keep away any powder.

A rickety bridge across the river

After following a creek for a short distance, I turned along the south side of St. Mary’s Lake for the majority of the day’s trek. This portion of trail was not heavily accessed. A narrow single track, with low growing vegetation encroaching across much of it followed the lake. No danger existed of becoming lost, but it was more overgrown than the other trails I already traversed. The mandatory one-way ten mile to reach this section probably caused most people to put this particular trail far down on their list of hikes to complete at Glacier. The route did provide some spectacular views of St. Mary’s Lake, but a visitor could probably experience almost the same vistas from the much more accessible and user friendly Going to the Sun Road, which followed the opposite side of the lake. In fact, I could spot tourists in their large, dry, and warm RVs parked at the scenic overlooks. They should have been able to see me as well, which left me imagining how strange I appeared to them — a lone person wandering across an unseen trail through the rain. It could only have been topped if they happened to check a map to see just how far I traveled to reach that point. These thoughts somehow gave me a sick sense of accomplishment (similar to the one I get when at home I run in shorts through the blowing snow and pass people huddled in their SUVs with heat blazing full blast).

Rain Did Not Go Away

The rain continued steadily throughout my entire journey, letting up several times but never for very long. The incessant rainfall encouraged me to hurry along the trail, being apathetic to most of the sights I would have enjoyed in nicer weather. Usually when it showers on me in the wilderness I develop tunnel vision, trying to get to my next destination as quickly and dryly as possible. My Gortex aided me this time, which fortunately worked as advertised in keeping the water away from my clothes. The only exceptions were my shirt, which I forgot to tuck inside my waterproof pants, and my boots, which readily absorbed all the water they could. The rain soaked overgrown vegetation smacked against my foot gear and quickly saturated my feet. As a sort of meager consolation, they became drenched very early in the day so I was relieved from vainly trying to keep them dry after that.

St. Mary’s Lake

St. Mary’s Lake

Besides the views of St. Mary’s Lake, several pristine waterfalls accented the trail. Instead of towering ones on distant mountainsides like I passed the previous day, these were wide, high volume falls adjacent to the trail. The deafening roar and spray demonstrated the power of these beauties. The mist’s effect was slightly diminished as it competed for attention with the precipitation. It did however, make the trail slick, and I slipped on a log while climbing to an upper vantage point of Virginia Falls. Luckily, only my pride was damaged, but it reminded me how easily trouble can happen, especially alone.

Along the way I also encountered a fair amount of bear scat. Although I am no poop expert, it did not seem very old. No bears, or other animals for that matter, stumbled across me, but they stalked the area somewhere. It must have been my trusty bear bells that deterred a bear from greeting me.

My GPS did not acquire much data because the batteries were low, and the weather depleted my desire to change them. The dense tree cover may have prevented it from collecting many breadcrumbs anyway.

Another Evening in the Backcountry

Powerful waterfalls

I arrived at Reynolds Creek early in the afternoon. I had covered a long distance to get there, but it passed quickly and easily. The distracting rain and relatively flat terrain helped that though. Reynolds Creek Campground was nice, situated among dense trees next to its namesake creek. All the campgrounds in Glacier had pit toilets (basically a wooden port-a-john), including this one, but Reynolds Creek’s was a little more interesting than the rest. I will force you to venture there if you want to know what that fully entails.

Although I remained pretty dry, dampness had crept through me. After ceasing my physical exertion, a chill came over me at camp. The couple from Seattle with whom I had been hiking generously offered me a hot cup of tea which went a long way toward warming me. They also shared a snow camping technique of filling a Nalgene bottle with boiling water and placing it at the foot of your sleeping bag for heat. They again generously provided the requisite boiling water, which would also be safe to drink the next morning. We tried building a fire, but the drenched wood successfully resisted our efforts to create a conflagration. Being a little tired and without much else to do on a rainy afternoon, I took an afternoon nap with the aforementioned water nicely reviving my pruned feet. I was a little more tried than I thought because I did not wake until after dark. There was even less to do in the dark without a campfire so I remained in my sleeping bag and shortly returned to my slumber, ensuring plenty of rest for the next day.