Glacier NP, part 2. North Fork, Sept 2018

McKee80

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For the first part of this trip, see https://backcountrypost.com/threads/glacier-np-multi-segment-quasi-northern-traverse.8155/

Last we spoke, out erstwhile heroes had just frontcountry camped in Apgar. I had to run out to the KOA and get a shower, due to a rapidly escalating chafing situation. I stopped in the outdoor store in West Glacier for something to help, but they didn't have anything. Out of pure desparation, I explained my situation to the woman behind the counter. She actually dug into their first aid kit and grabbed me some triple antibiotic cream. And gave me some great advice (lubricate in the morning, medicate at night, and jump in a lake in between). Also, after alternating between a pot scraper and a measuring cup as my utensil of choice for the first half of the trip, I grabbed a pack of spoons. After re-privisioning from the truck ...



we were on our way to Polebridge. It was really hazy again. We couldn't see anything to the east on our drive up there. Well, that's not true, we did see smoke from the fire. We left ourselves enough time to stop for bearclaws before the road to Bowman Lake opened. The more than lived up to their advanced billing. And the breakfast burritos were crazy good. While we were there, we grabbed some beers for the first night, it was only 7 miles to Bowman Lake campsites.



When I was struggling out of the Belly River, I swore I was going to remove stuff from my pack. So I took out the tarp, the hammock and the hammock straps. Once we started on the trail, I saw some people hanging on the beach at Bowman Lake, so I went back to the car and grabbed mine. So, not too bad of a hike, some beers, and the day we got the permit they started allowing fires again. All good. We saw a deer kill along the trail, but nothing around it. Probably had something to do with the mountain lion posting. The hike wasn't hard, but it was a reminder that the difference in elevation between start and end points does NOT equal the amount of ups and downs you'll be hiking. The Bowman Lake campsites were cool, we ended up with the one across the creek. I grabbed a beer and took a nice swim. My stuff was smelling bad, so I rinsed it out in the creek. I was really smart, so I left one day of hiking stuff dry. Within seconds of rinsing my clothes, the rain started, and continued off and on until we went to sleep. We have a reluctance to fly across the country to stay in our tents, so we made the best of it and tried to dodge the raindrops. What was really cool was seeing the snow develop on the mountains.









September 12 - Bowman Lake to Hole in the Wall

The next morning, we woke to cold and fog.



Once again, the rain had gotten rid of most of the haze. However, everything was wet. And the forecast looked bad. The guys at Bowman with us decided to bail on Hole in the Wall and headed back. We pressed on. Now, an interlude about gaiters. I had never worn them before, but I picked some up before the trip. I wore them the first day to Cosley and they were useless and made my feet sweat. I was done with them. The next day, we hiked through brush to Mokowanis and my feet got soaked. This time I was getting it right. I laced up and was ready to take on the wet hike to Brown Pass! They worked great for a while, but were eventually defeated by the insane amount of water. It was like going through a car wash. My pants were plastered to my legs. I could have used a snorkel for some of the shoulder high sections of brush. Interlude over. We met a guy coming the other way from Boulder Pass. He said it was the coldest night he has ever experienced. He had to get up to boil water a couple times during the night to keep warm. Things took a turn for the better after Brown Pass. Patches of blue sky and the beginnings of some color. And still some huckleberries to snack on.











We finally rounded the bend to the promised land. It was a great feeling coming down into Hole in the Wall.

Untitled by Sean McKee, on Flickr

Untitled by Sean McKee, on Flickr

We got our tents set up and jumped in to recover. We were wet, cold, and tired. I was rubbing hot hands on my feet in the sleeping bag and trying to figure out to do with my wet clothes (now all of them). We eventually warmed up enough to check the place out. It did not disappoint.







I had plans of following the outlet stream, but I became mesmerized watching the clouds in front of Thunderbird Mountain. It peeked out occasionally, but never showed itself again. I highly recommend this as entertainment while sipping on some whiskey.



September 13 - Boulder Peak

I ended up sleeping with socks in my pockets and other wet clothes in my bag. The ones in my pocket got kind of dry, at least. We got up and took a look at the weather. Weather interlude. When we checked the inreach for weather, every day that said 30% chance of rain, we got dumped on. 70%, we were OK. 85%, great. 30%, and we were in for it. So, we had a dilemma. Forecast was calling for high teens / low twenties at Boulder Pass. I was probably just prepared enough for that if my gear was dry. Ultimately, we decided against camping at Boulder Pass. I just wasn't comfortable with it, as much as I wanted to. We had Hole in the Wall to ourselves the night before. We decided to day hike up to Boulder Peak and get back in the early afternoon. If people came in and there wasn't room for us, we'd head down to Brown Pass (which was empty the day before). I never thought I would be "poaching" a campsite, but it seemed like the best decision (although some may disagree).

The hike up to Boulder was aweseome. The weather changed about 100 times. Sun, rain, sleet, hail, snow. We had it all. And we could see what we were walking into. Crazy.

























We saw this marmot on the trail ahead of us. My first thought was just to walk by, but then I remembered the killer rabbit from Monty Python and had second thoughts. We narrowly escaped :)



Once again, we were unable to find a pretty clear trail. This time it was the one up to Boulder Peak. I've included a GPS picture in case you would also like to slog through brush and mini-cliffs, coming tantalizingly close to the path only to veer back off into the mess.



Boulder Peak probably looks really cool when you can see stuff, but it is pretty amazing even when you can't. Oh, and two white tailed ptarmigans met us at the top.











On the way back, things got hairy. We got some hail and ice freezing to the trail back around Hole in the Wall. Not a good place for that. We were concentrating on every foot we put down.





We ended up only having one group up there with us that night, so we were able to stay put. More snow. Since I was smart enough to leave the tarp in the truck, we were able to sit in a stand of pine trees to stay out of the weather.



This pretty much sums up where I was at. Grocery bags under my duct tape repaired water shoes, rocking the one tone rainsuit. In the cup is a delightful mixture of Jameson, hail, and remnants of mountain house beef stroganoff. I roll with class.



September 14 - hike out from Hole in the Wall

Morning "views"







We figured we would head down to our spot at Bowman Lake and see what time it was and whether we felt like hiking out. Part of the problem with our revised itinerary was that we had to get from Bowman Lake to Calgary (with GTTSR closed) and we weren't anxious to leave a hike and a 7 hour drive the next day. Spoiler alert! We hiked out and stayed at Apgar again. The stretch from Hole in the Wall to Brown Pass might have been the best stretch of hiking I've ever done. The low hanging clouds, blue sky and fall colors were amazing.













Bowman Lake looked a lot different on the way back. One of the things I changed my mind about was out and backs. If you spend a couple days out there, it really isn't the same hike on the way back. We spent a lot of time re-tracing our steps on this trip. With the exception of our death march out of the Belly River, it was very much like a new hike on the way back.









One more stop for bearclaws, then we got to see what we were missing on the way up.



One last look at Lake McDonald:



I won't bore you too much with our travel days. But, I did have pulled pork poutine in Calgary, which was a highlight of my culinary life.



And our flight was delayed and we had to drink beer and watch football all day in the airport. What a kick in the pants. Also, customs took my water sandals and my boots were packed. They kept saying the xray was showing metal in the rubber sole. Many managers were consulted, many trips through the xray machine. I told them from the beginning I didn't care if they kept them. Finally, they called ahead to make sure I could board barefoot and I was on my way, shoeless. A fitting end to a go with the flow sort of adventure!



Epilogue:

I've been reading about Glacier for the past year. Lots of people asking if they should cancel their trip because of fires, etc. I'm just really glad I didn't. Our itinerary got blown up, GTTSR wasn't open, the tunnel was closed, and it was hazy for parts of the trip. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. Yeah, the tunnel opened while we were on the trail, and all the sites and the road opened within a week of us leaving. But what an amazing adventure.

The only thing I would have probably changed is our approach to Sue Lake and Boulder Peak. We were so determined to get there that we didn't take enough breaks along the way. I would have liked to have more energy once we got to the destination.

Also, permitting is a pain and it is kind of a drag to have to camp in certain places. And around other people. But I can say, in my opinion, it really keeps the park pristine and wild. Having been in the Sierras (which I love), there are signs of humans everywhere. And there are reasonable off trail things to do, where we didn't see anyone.

The other thing we realized was that besides Lake McDonald on stopovers, we didn't see anything people always talk about when they go to Glacier. On the other hand, we saw a bunch of stuff most people don't. I had a very disjointed conversation with a guy who had been to Glacier and our trips didn't have any common places :)

I know I said this before, but I was really suprised with how immersive this trip was. It was all I could do to pull out my phone to take pictures. The experience is overwhelming. I'm very grateful to be able to have done this trip, and with one of my best friends for the last 25 years.

In conclusion, I would recommend this trip to friends and family :)
 

Jackson

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Those shots from up near Brown Pass are wonderful. All the colors mixed with the clouds. And I know that pictures can't do the place justice, so I can't imagine how incredible it must have been to experience it firsthand (in spite of the soaked clothes and all)

I spent an afternoon at Bowman Lake in early July. We had the pleasure of driving up that bumpy road in a downpour, which turned into snow by the time we got to the lake. I've heard from others that the weather there is always volatile as well. It sure made for some great shots for you!

In the cup is a delightful mixture of Jameson, hail, and remnants of mountain house beef stroganoff
This made me laugh. Along with much of your narration. Thanks for sharing this write-up!
 

Ugly

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Outstanding. Pulled pork poutine to top it off is a great choice. Poutine comes in all types now because it is so darn good.

The colors and clouds, weather, and scenes are spectacular. Thanks for sharing!
I must go back to Glacier.
 

McKee80

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Those shots from up near Brown Pass are wonderful. All the colors mixed with the clouds. And I know that pictures can't do the place justice, so I can't imagine how incredible it must have been to experience it firsthand (in spite of the soaked clothes and all)

I spent an afternoon at Bowman Lake in early July. We had the pleasure of driving up that bumpy road in a downpour, which turned into snow by the time we got to the lake. I've heard from others that the weather there is always volatile as well. It sure made for some great shots for you!

Thanks! The weather was crazy. There was no way to tell what was coming next. The clouds were moving in different directions, some of them were just circling in valleys. It was really cool.
 

McKee80

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Feb 9, 2017
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Outstanding. Pulled pork poutine to top it off is a great choice. Poutine comes in all types now because it is so darn good.

The colors and clouds, weather, and scenes are spectacular. Thanks for sharing!
I must go back to Glacier.

Thanks! The poutine was so good. A step up from pb&j on tortillas
 

Kmatjhwy

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Outstanding!!! Love It! Now I visited this area in Glacier, Bowman lake and the Hole in the Wall, many years ago when I hiked all over Glacier. Loved It!
Great Photos and Thanks for Posting!
 

Titans

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Fantastic report! The pictures are incredible. What an adventure you had with a good friend. Leaving barefoot kind of fit the whole trip. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading this,
 

McKee80

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Outstanding!!! Love It! Now I visited this area in Glacier, Bowman lake and the Hole in the Wall, many years ago when I hiked all over Glacier. Loved It!
Great Photos and Thanks for Posting!

Thanks! I only get to do one trip a year (maybe), so I tend to make it a big one!
 

McKee80

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Fantastic report! The pictures are incredible. What an adventure you had with a good friend. Leaving barefoot kind of fit the whole trip. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading this,

Thanks! It was nice to go through the pictures again and write about it.
 

McKee80

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I got hypothermic reading this! Absolutely wonderful! Thanks. And @Jeffrey Chandler told me Boulder Peak was just a walk up.....ha. Just like, you take a "ramp" to Sue Lake. Isn't there a ton of nasty bushwacking to get to that ramp?

I thought Sue Lake was much harder. Boulder Peak wouldn’t have had any bushwhacking if we went the correct way. So, he’s mostly right :).
 
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