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Home » Adventures » Glacier » Day 7

Thursday, August 25 — Drying Out

Map of this day’s hike

Route I Hiked This Day

The rain that stalked me the day before subsided overnight and appeared like it would stay away (or as least I really hoped it would). My day’s hike would last only a couple of hours so I decided to remain situated and attempt to dry my gear. Sometime in the afternoon I could less damply make my way to Gunsight Lake. The best location I scouted for my evaporation plan was an overly massive bridge crossing Reynolds Creek. The span could have effortlessly supported trucks but bore only occasional foot traffic. I spent most of the morning on the behemoth reading and enjoying the babbling stream below, while my gear patiently lay spread across it. Unfortunately, clouds and a brisk morning hampered my efforts. My boots were one of the items airing out, so it was difficult to deeply venture into the surrounding area. While loitering, several groups passed and commented on the previous day’s weather, with which I was all too familiar. I guess they did not connect wet clothes drying on a bridge with first hand storm experience.

As morning matured, the sun eventually broke the chill and burned off the clouds, allowing my belongings to actually dry decently. My boots were still a little damp and one my socks was blown into the drink, but with everything else in usable shape and a growing fear of trolls emerging from underneath the bridge, I left Reynolds Creek around 1:00 p.m. to start my assent towards Gunsight Lake.

Look at all those Pretty Atoms

A high mountain field with Gunsight Pass in the distance

Gunsight Pass in the Distance

Until this point in my trip, I had constantly bumped into beautiful scenery throughout Glacier, from mountains, to waterfalls, to forests. I had been denied however, the postcard scenes of bare, glacier capped peaks with sprawling basins below. Traveling towards Gunsight Pass though, I was granted those pleasures. Snow capped crowns encircled by clouds were juxtaposed against a rich blue sky. In the foreground lay the luscious green valley which I presently occupied. My eyes lay upon the most beautiful scenery I had found so far. Marching through the canyon was magnificent as I slowly neared these breathtaking ranges. This encounter by itself would have made the trip worthwhile.

It is extremely depressing to hear that some experts predict all the glaciers may be gone from the park in less than twenty-five years as the Earth continues to warm. These massive ice sheets might totally disappear in the summer sun. I sure hope I never see the day when I would visit Glacier National Park (if that would still be its name) and say, “I remember when there used to actually be glaciers here.” Perhaps something will be done about man’s debilitating pollution before it is too late. Especially since the impact will be much greater than just the disappearance of some year round snow in Montana.

Approaching Gunsight Lake, a massive waterfall emerging below Blackfoot Glacier roared in the distance. It appeared gigantic from afar, so I could only imagine it up close. A marked trail did not head in that direction, and I did not have the opportunity to bushwhack so my enjoyment was limited to through binoculars.

Never Leave Home Without Bear Bells

I arrived at the campground and followed the standard camp arrival procedures, which were ingrained in me by now. After successfully completing the steps, I relaxed on Gunsight Lake’s rocky beach while a cool breeze swept across it whipping up the surf. From the shore I could scout the trail leading over Gunsight Pass that I would surmount the next day. It did not appear too difficult, but I had to cover about fourteen total miles to evacuate the backcountry. That would need to be follow by having to hike, hitch, or shuttle it to Apgar Campground.

Gunsight Lake

Gunsight Lake

After consuming dinner I explored the Jackson Glacier spur trail. This remote excursion was an out and back route leading into a distant valley, although I was not sure if anything special existed at the end. I was glad I did not have my pack along, as some of the initial sections were so steep I literally had to climb with both hands for stability, as if I were scaling a ladder. Without my pack though, my best friend, Mr. Bear Bells, did not accompany me. Evening is a time of heightened activity for cuddly creatures and thicket limited visibility along this trail, so for an alternate delusional sense of safety I resorted to singing and other random chants. It was fortunate only bears listened as my singing ability falls somewhere between William Hung1 and a voice only a mother could love. On top of that, I was adlibbed any random thoughts or ideas which popped into my head “Whose Line” style. If anyone had been within earshot, they would have been more inclined to commit me rather than be entertained. Ironically, my horrible singing and human voice was probably more effective in alerting animals to my presence than those annoying bells.

As for the trail, it eventually leveled and continued meandering through large boulders and vegetation. The path started to become less well defined as I pushed forward, and I saw no obvious spectacular ending. To appease my short attention span, I turned ninety degrees and started up the slope next to me. It was steep but had enough undergrowth and rocky debris to make climbing easy. I could have made it pretty high but did not want to tempt the approaching darkness. Therefore, I retreated and made my way back to base camp.

No More Lonely Nights

Shrubs growing on the side of the mountain

I spent the rest of the evening conversing with the other campers. The group from Indianapolis I met at Upper Two Medicine Lake spent the night there, so it was quite a fluke to encounter them again. The Seattle couple that had been tailing me for the past three days had retired early as usual to enjoy some slumber. As twilight encroached, a group of five young people emerged from the trail. I thought that Gunsight Pass Campground did not have any vacancy left, so they might have been in trouble. That however, would not be a problem for them. They were not staying in an advanced prefabricated backcountry site but their own custom abode back in virgin territory. These accommodations were apparently legit as long as the spot was several miles from the nearest established campground or trails and the participants observed leave no trace (as it must be in all of Glacier’s backcountry and should be anytime you camp almost anywhere). The kids were locals and seemed to know where they were headed in Jackson Basin, but it was almost dark so they would have some real fun navigating without sunlight. One guy did mention that he had been out well past midnight on a trail several days ago (not intentionally however), so this orienteering would be mere child’s play. Everyone residing at the campground thought they were nuts (myself included), although I would probably jump at a similar chance if it came up.

Some campers also mentioned a bear had attacked some hikers near Many Glacier. The sketchy details made it difficult to discern exactly what happened, but based on the rumors we pieced together that two people had been severely mauled and required a medevac to extract them. Their conditions were unknown, but I hoped everyone would be all right.

We lounged around the eating area as daylight gave way to the seclusion of a night in the wilderness surrounded by strangers met just hours earlier bonded only by a love of the outdoors. As seemingly usual, our conversations mainly drifted to previous al fresco experiences and tricks of the trade. The clouds were our friends that night as they departed and allowed their twinkling counterparts in the sky to put on a Broadway worthy show. No all night convenience stores or streetlamps could detract from their display. Several shooting stars streaked across the sky for an encore — I had forgotten how common they were when not concealed by light pollution. That night would probably be my last in the backcountry that year, and it was spectacular.

After enjoying this free display and my fellow campers’ companionship, my heavy eyes finally drove me to cocoon inside my sleeping bag. The short trip to my tent was surprisingly neat. Although not scary, the tall blowing weeds illuminated only by the eerie glow of my headlamp and who knows what animals lurking hidden beyond the beam gave a creepy Blair Witch style feeling. It would have been the perfect opportunity to completely scare someone. If they did not suffer a heart attack, they would utterly hate you for the rest of their natural lives. Similar to when I talk with women.

1 Yes, I am ashamed in alluding to that pop culture train wreck, even if I did have to look up the guy’s name.