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[CDT-L] Montana 98 (part 1)

I sent this last night, but it apparently didn't get to the list - or
else I'm no longer subscribed.  But I'll try it again. =20

Walk softly,

Adventures of the Spirit Eagle - Glacier NP=20

	Once again, Ginny and I had to decide what to do with two weeks
vacation this year. Obviously we were going to hike - but where?  After
last year's adventure in Colorado, we wanted to go to Glacier National
Park and see another part of the CDT.  But my work schedule looked like
it was going to interfere, so we procrastinated about sending in the
backcountry campsite permit request. Finally, the work situation
resolved itself and about 5 weeks before we were to leave, we wrote a
letter to Glacier NP telling them that we wanted to hike from Waterton
Lakes in Canada to East Glacier Park at the southeast edge of the park
on the CDT and requesting the permit.  We didn't really expect to get
what we wanted, since it was so late and parts of the route we wanted
are very popular, but, as someone once taught me - "If you don't ask,
you don't get". So we wrote the letter - and then started making
alternate plans. =20

	On Monday, July 6 - less than 3 weeks before we were to leave - the
Ranger at the Glacier Backcountry office called and told us we could
have the permits for what we wanted to do - if we could be flexible
about the dates, distances, etc.  And our answer was a resounding
"YES".  That meant we had to start hiking a couple days later than we'd
planned, do some longer (and shorter) mileage days than we would have
liked, and take 2 layover days at Red Eagle Lake.  Cool. =20

	So - why Glacier?  First, because Ginny's wanted to go there since she
was 8 years old.  Second, it's one of those high snow areas that catch a
lot of thruhikers.  Karen Berger and Dan Smith, for example, got caught
by early snow and had to road walk the last couple hundred miles of
their thruhike. Others have had to either finish or start their
thruhikes via the alternate Belly River/Chief Mountain route, which is a
lower altitude route, rather than the Highline (designated CDT) route.=20
Knowing that we might get caught the same way next year, we wanted to do
the Highline route this year so we'll have done it even if we can't do
it next year during our thruhike.  Third, doing the Highline/CDT route
in July/August would also give us a chance to see Glacier at it's best -
during high summer. =20

	Once again transportation was a problem.  We could drive to Montana,
but that would take 3 to 4 days and we'd start the hike exhausted - and
then have to drive back home - even more exhausted. Amtrak was a
possibility, but neither of us liked the thought of spending 2+ days
each way on a train.   Since we got the permits so late, we were also
too late to get the low-priced air fares, but I wasn't about to let that
stop us.  So the final arrangements were a combination - we flew into
Kalispell, MT, stayed overnight and then caught the eastbound Amtrak the
next morning to East Glacier Park.  Thanks to Mark Howser, we picked up
the permit, stayed at East Glacier Park overnight on Tuesday and then
caught the shuttle to Waterton Lakes Park in Canada on Wednesday.=20
Expensive - but it worked.  In fact, 80% of our expenses for the two
weeks were the transportation/lodging required to get to the trail and
get home again. =20

	When we picked up the permit, we also made arrangements to use the 2
layover days at Red Eagle Lake for some off-trail bushwhacking.  We
intended to use the old Red Eagle Pass Trail to get to Red Eagle Pass
and then do the Norris Traverse across Norris and Triple Divide
Mountains.  This is a 4 mile section directly on the Continental
Divide. =20

	Resupply was no problem. With the consent of the Rangers, we sent a
mail drop to the Ranger Station at Many Glacier, which was the
destination on our fourth day of hiking anyway. =20

	The altitude for this section of the CDT varies between 4000' and
8000', but is not such as to require extensive acclimatization.  Most of
the campgrounds are located at less than 5000' elevation, so we wouldn't
be sleeping at 12000' like we were last year.  That made it a lot
warmer, and we didn't have to worry about altitude problems.

	We used the Trails Illustrated map for Glacier/Waterton National Park
along with Jim Wolf's "Guide to the Continental Divide Trail, Volume 1:
Northern Montana"  (published by the Continental Divide Trail Society).=20
We supplemented the Trail Guide with sections from Erik Molvar's=20
"Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks" and the "A Climbers
Guide to Glacier National Park" by J. Gordon Edward.  We also carried a
couple USGS 7.5' topo maps to cover the Red Eagle Pass and Triple Divide
Mountain areas that we intended to bushwhack. The TI map has the
alternate Belly River route to Chief Mountain marked as the "CDT"
whereas the real designated route is the Highline route to Waterton
Lake. =20

	For the journals, we've included everything we wrote - including
getting to the Trail and getting home again because it's all part of the
experience.  What we're not gonna tell you is how hard it is for us to
come back - suffice to say that NO ONE talked to me at work this last
week.  No one wanted a repeat of last year when I made no secret of how
close I was to quitting that first week back from the trail.  So -=20
on to the main event ----

Journals -=20

Tuesday, 7/28/98. East Glacier, MT
Ginny -   The first two days of our vacation have been very peaceful,
but then, we've done little but wait.  It's really very restful when you
have no place you have to be, nothing you have to do but wait.  Monday
we finished re-packing our gear (we had used everything on a weekend
backpack on the AT and it needed to dry out before being re-packed), ran
some last minute errands, waited for the airport shuttle (almost an hour
late - was I in panic!), made it to the airport (a madhouse!) and waited
for the plane.  Despite the mob scene, we actually took off on time and
arrived in Kalispell, MT early.  Our airport shuttle was waiting to take
us to Whitefish about 10 miles away for the night (the town only has 4
taxis) and everything moved smoothly.  This is going too well, I
thought.  And sure enough there was one small glitch.  The hotel had the
wrong date for us and had us arriving a day earlier. They charged us for
the night that we didn't use. The hotel owner was quite adamant that he
didn't make mistakes, so the fault had to be mine. Right.  Given the
scarcity of rooms this time of year, and the fact that even doubled, it
was less than some of the few rooms that were available, we couldn't
fight it, but it was still upsetting.  Since the airline didn't feed us
dinner (I'm not sure if that was good or bad?) we went next door to
Denny's to soothe our woes with hot fudge/strawberry sundaes. Finally we
crashed into late night oblivion. Excitement woke me up early - at
5:30.  We were supposed to be shuttled to the train station at 7:00, so
we went next door for a quick breakfast, then rode the short distance to
the Amtrak station in plenty of time for the 7:30 train. It was late, of
course.  (Evidently you can count on Amtrak to be late, at least in
Montana.  It explains the weird timing of the bus schedule, which leaves
East Glacier 10 minutes before the train is due to arrive, thus making
connections impossible.  I guess they don't want to upset a lot of
people by having them miss connections, so they make it impossible to
make a connection regardless. This explains why we had 23 hours in East
Glacier to wait for our bus north.) Anyhow, we read tourist brochures,
admired the garden, wandered down to look at the "American Orient
Express" a private luxury touring train that we saw featured on PBS a
week ago and which was passing through Whitefish that morning.  Finally
the train arrived and we took off at 9:15. The train is a good
introduction to the beauty of Glacier as it follows rivers along the
Park's southern edge. The immensity of the mountains is incredible -
they are so vertical. They seem to rise straight up from the river in
many places. No foothills.  Big jagged blocks of stone.  We arrived in
East Glacier 1 =BD hours later.  It was a slow ride, often only moving at
about 30 mph, but pretty.  East Glacier is not quite what I expected. I
think I was expecting another Lake City, but East Glacier is smaller,
and even more rustic.  It sits on the edge of the Blackfeet Reservation
and aside from the immense lodge and train station (built in the 20's)
is very unpretentious. A few small motels, restaurants (good food) and
gas stations and two small groceries, plus some nice houses make up the
town. Dogs wander the streets, kids sit outside the grocery and say hi
to strangers, there are lots of lovely flowers, and it feels like a
normal small town rather than the gateway to a big National Park. We
checked in at the Brown House Pottery, a nice motel, and went over to
the Two Medicine Grill run by an AT friend of Jim's.  Mark co-owns
another motel, the Whistling Swan, which was booked the night we
arrived, a diner and a car rental agency.  He is one busy man! Despite
that, he was extremely helpful to us, taking time to make us feel
welcome.  We said hello, watched him cook for a while, were inspired to
order lunch (huckleberry milkshakes and delicious homemade chili for me,
and a buffalo burger for Jim). Mark gave us the keys to his truck and
sent us off to the ranger station in Two Medicine about 10 miles away so
that we could pick up our backcountry permits. =20

	A problem with relying on public transportation is that you have to
pick up your permit by 10:00 am, but the bus doesn't even arrive at
Waterton until 12:30, where there is a permit issuing station. If you
don't pick up your permit on time, the reservation is supposedly wiped
from the system. The only way to get the permit was to pick it up early,
which is difficult with no transportation. For some reason, the ranger
station in East Glacier doesn't issue permits. Getting use of the truck
was a life saver.  After the incredible luck in getting our permit on
short notice, I would have been very upset to lose it like that.  We
spoke with the rangers at Two Medicine for a while, but wanted to wait
for one who had done the backcountry off-trail route we were considering
doing.  He was out, so we ended up waiting for quite a while.  This gave
us time to wander to the lake, take pictures, admire the views, look at
our map and play with the compass and check out the camp store.  When we
wandered back to the Ranger Station Dan Roy was there, but couldn't help
us with the first part of our planned hike, as he hadn't done it.  He
was willing to help, but couldn't tell us what we wanted to know.  We
got intrepid again. Our permit required two layover days right in the
middle, at Red Eagle Lake.  It is a nice spot, but that's a long time to
sit in one place when you don't fish. Looking at the map, all the hiking
in that area, besides our planned itinerary, is off trail. So we had
picked up a climbers guide to Glacier which mentioned several
non-technical climbs in the area.  We got ambitious and decided to try a
two day bushwhack from the lake and back, over what is known as the
Norris Traverse. The ranger knew the traverse, but not about the
unmaintained trail up Red Eagle Creek that was to be our means of access
to Red Eagle Pass and the Divide. Supposedly Red Eagle Creek was once
the most popular trail in the park. During WWII they stopped maintaining
it.   Anyhow, the rangers were quite willing to let us attempt it, and
to give us an undesignated campsite in the backcountry. After all the
insistence on staying only in reserved designated campsites, I was
surprised. The thought of this part of the trip scares and excites me.=20

	I have been flying high off and on all day.  It hasn't really seemed
real - until we entered the park itself.  All of a sudden the excitement
and joy filled me to overflowing.  I laughed and giggled and hugged Jim.
Sitting by the lake looking at the mountains all around was also
happiness. It was gray and hazy all day so colors were muted, but I saw
flowers and sparkling waters and jumping fish and steep mountains
everywhere we looked - happiness.  Finally we drove around the
campground, checking out the walk-in sites, gave a ride to two hikers
heading there, and finally returned Mark's car to him. We visited
awhile, then went to Serranos, a Mexican restaurant, for dinner. It was
surprisingly good.  There is a grizzly bear conference in town. Jim
recognized a few faces from books and articles he's read on the
subject.  I am struck by how friendly the people we have met here have
been. Excellent service and lots of smiles. Different from DC.

Jim -    From the time the Glacier Backcountry Ranger called us on July
6, our lives turned into a zoo.  First, we didn't have the equipment to
do the trip - we had sleeping bags for winter camping and some for
summer in Eastern conditions, but we didn't have the 20 deg sleeping
bags that we thought we'd need for Glacier because those had fallen
apart in Colorado last year.  The pack I'd used last year also needed to
be replaced.  Then there were transportation arrangements, motel
reservations, Amtrak reservations, airport shuttles, cleaning and
assembling our pack equipment, breaking in new boots, assembling a mail
drop, mailing the stove, reading about the Park and the route, arranging
for someone to watch the house and collect the mail ---- all while
trying to keep our minds on work and hoping we hadn't hallucinated about
that call from the Ranger.  It was a little bit busy. ;-)

	The trip to Glacier was long, but not really bad.  With the exception
of big city subways/Metro systems, this was my first train ride since I
was about six years old - more room, more comfortable, more freedom and
cheaper than airlines, although a lot slower.  Tradeoffs.  Turns out
Amtrak only leases the line for their northern route and their schedule
is subject to change on a daily basis.  The main traffic on that line is
grain - and it's a money-maker so it gets priority.  Amtrak gets
whatever time isn't required for moving the grain and freight trains.=20
Means the Amtrak trains are ALWAYS late. =20

	The only negative note on the trip out was the owner of the Chalet
Motel in Whitefish telling us that he had us scheduled to be there
Sunday night rather than Monday night - and he was going to charge us
for it.  Claims he never makes those kind of mistakes.  But we all know
that Ginny and I were in PA hiking with Pittsburgh and Solar Bear, et
al. on Sunday -  it would have been a real trick for us to get to
Whitefish, MT to stay there Sunday night, wouldn't it?  Especially since
our airline tickets were for Monday night - and that was part of the
discussion when we made the motel reservations.  I decided to let that
one go for the moment - I wasn't about to let that kind of nonsense ruin
my attitude about what we were doing. =20

	On a positive note, Mark Howser was really a tremendous asset in
putting this thing together.  He arranged motel reservations in East
Glacier for us, helped us with transportation, storage, and a lot of
other small details. The trip would have been much more difficult
without him.  Again - thank you, Mark.  =20
	Being able to change the permit was a surprise - and I don't think we'd
have been allowed to if we hadn't talked the right talk when we were
talking to the Ranger.  His questions and objections were designed to
find out if we were really capable of that kind of activity.  I guess he
thought we qualified.  The Norris Traverse - it's exciting - and scary.=20
In part, because if anything bad happens, they won't come looking for
us.  They tell you up front that they won't look unless someone tells
them you're missing. My kids and Ginny's mother and father knew we were
in Glacier - but they knew nothing about our schedule or location.   The
only one who might have known we were missing was Mark - he knew where
we were going and when we were to have been back at East Glacier.  But
that would have been a 4 or 5 day delay - and the bears wouldn't leave
much in that time. For better or worse, we survived - and that's the way
I wanted it to be. =20

Wednesday, July 29.  Waterton to Goat Haunt Shelter  (9.5 miles) -
Ginny - I am sitting at a picnic table next to the boat dock at the
south end of Waterton Lake.  It is a big one. Hiking it from one end to
the other took about 8 =BD miles.  I look up at a dozen massive peaks,
some with small snow fields, but most are bare.  It was a mad house here
for a while, but everything seems to have calmed down for the moment. =20

	We took the park shuttle, an old 1930's red bus, from East Glacier to
Waterton, with stops along the way at Rising Sun on St. Mary's Lake and
at the Many Glacier Lodge.  It was beautiful. We saw a moose in
Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier and a coyote near Rising Sun. My only
complaint was that there were no stops for pictures.  We arrived a
little after 1:00, walked a mile or so into town from where the bus
dropped us off -- the massive fantastic Prince of Wales Hotel, perched
majestically on a hill overlooking the lake. Lunch at Zums with a
delicious piece of wildberry pie (apples, raspberries, saskatoon
berries, huckleberries and rhubarb!) got us ready for the search for the
trailhead--not easy to find since the directions in the book are a bit
vague. No mention of the Bertha Falls Trail which is the Canadian
trailhead. We were warned via a sign at the trailhead to beware of black
bears along that section as the berry season has started. Sure enough,
there were thimbleberries, strawberries and a few huckleberries. The
trail wanders up the lake with occasional views. No bears though.  The
trees are dense and covered with heavy moss, almost like Spanish moss.=20
We saw some gulls, looked for mountain goats and saw a speck that might
have been one.  We stopped at the international border for a long break.
It is a long wide cut swath that runs thousands of miles along the
US/Canadian border.  There were posts that listed all the border
treaties between the two countries.  Making noise to scare off grizzlies
means we won't see many animals, except at the high open areas, maybe.=20
It was nice walking through pretty woods. There were a couple far off
waterfalls. I enjoyed the swinging bridge across Boundary Creek. It
wouldn't be a fun crossing with the bridge pulled up for the winter
though. =20

	We arrived around 6:00 pm to find hiker shelters, and a boat dock with
a fireplace and real bathrooms. Lots of tourists take the boat tour
across the lake instead of hiking there. We were supposed to check in
with the ranger, but she was having dinner with friends so we went to
the shelter to set up. We had the place to ourselves for a while. Then
group after group came in and now the 8 shelters are full. They built
two concrete buildings, each divided into four separate shelters, each
shelter facing a different direction. It gives an illusion of privacy
anyway. We face the setting sun and the lake. They have a separate
cooking area, well away from the sleeping area, so we were hidden away
cooking dinner when the groups started to arrive. Then the last tour
boat of the day arrived, and things really got chaotic. I stayed to
guard the food and finish cleaning up while Jim went to make sure nobody
got too nosy with our gear.  The ranger said there was a black bear
right down the shore when the boat came in.  They had to destroy a mama
black bear and cubs here last week who broke into the ranger dormitory
and tore the place up.  It made me a little nervous when I was sitting
alone guarding the food.  We had odds and ends to put in the bags before
hanging them, like toothpaste and sunscreen, so I couldn't just hang the
bags and leave.  We had a good day overall, but I'm tired.  The late
start meant that we ended up feeling in a rush.  Clouds threatened all
day.  It rained most of last night from about 4 pm until 8:00 am. Today
was warm - hot when we were hiking - so rain could cool things off. Then
arriving we hurried to cook and hang our food and all the cooking gear
before dark. The tour boat left and the groups of kids are up the hill
cooking dinner.  It is peaceful at last.  The sun is setting behind a
mountain, but it will stay light here until about 9:30 or 10:00.  I saw
a beaver swim out right beside me when I wandered down to the shore.  I
think it was hiding under the dock as I heard a splash from there about
10 minutes before the beaver swam by.  He was only about ten feet away
when I saw him.=20

Jim -    As usual, there was the last minute rush to get out of town.  A
couple things to mail, make sure we've got everything, dump some things
out of the pack cause it's too heavy, leave the duffel bags with Mark,
get breakfast, catch the shuttle to Waterton Lakes and then  "Oh my God,
what did we forget?"=20
Too late ----   stops at St Mary and Many Glacier, then across the
border to Waterton Lakes.  We met another backpacker on the shuttle - he
was taking the boat to Goat Haunt and then heading west across the park
to come out at Kintla Lake.  Said this was the 13th time he'd been in
the park since 1977.=20
Also met a group from San Francisco - they were on a hiking-drinking
tour.  Hike during the day and drink wine at night.  They carried a
couple of cases of wine across the border with them knowing that they
weren't gonna be able to get them back into the States when they came
back the next day.  The intent was for the seven of them to finish all
18 bottles of wine that night. Hope they were happy with the results.

	The Prince of Wales is one of the main attractions at Waterton - it's a
magnificent old hotel that was built by the Great Northern Railroad (as
were Many Glacier, Two Medicine, East Glacier, Granite Park and the
other facilities) to attract tourists  - and provide business for the
railroad.  The shuttle let us off at the hotel in the midst of mass
confusion and we were left to our own devices to find the trailhead.  So
we made a detour into Waterton Townsite to find lunch at Zum's - where
we again met our backpacking friend from the shuttle.  Then out of town
through the campground.  Got some strange looks: we had backpacks, and
everyone else in the campground was in trailers and huge family tents. =20

	Finally found the trailhead and started south about 1445, got to the
border at 1645 and to Goat Haunt Ranger Station about 1845.  As we
passed the border, the tour boat to Goat Haunt passed us and we once
again got to wave at our backpacking friend from the shuttle.  The
border is marked by a straight-line strip that's cut right through the
forest, supposedly all the way from the Great Lakes to the Pacific
Ocean.  The cost of keeping that strip open and cleared has to be
enormous.  The walk to Goat Haunt was fairly easy although a little
overgrown in spots - especially on the US side. =20

	The crowd at Goat Haunt was a surprise - when we first got there, we
were the only ones in the shelter, but there was another food bag hung
at the food storage area.  Turned out it belonged to a group of guys
who'd been out for 2 or 3 days and had gone into Waterton on the morning
boat for food, laundry, beer, etc. They came back on the evening boat
and joined the zoo - by that time about 20 other people had gotten
there. =20

	The ranger was more than a little upset when we got there - they'd had
to destroy a family of black bears the day before because they broke
into the staff dormitory, trashed it and eaten a lot of the food that
was stored there.  There's still a lot of bad feeling among the Park
personnel about the family of grizzlies that had to be destroyed at Two
Medicine, too. Those were the ones which had eaten part of the body of a
young man who was out alone.  There wasn't enough left of the body to
determine whether the bears had killed him, but having eaten the body,
they couldn't be left alive.  The Park staff takes that kind of thing
very badly.  Seems nearly all the attacks/deaths that have happened in
the Park have involved single hikers.  Is there a lesson here? =20

	My usual aversion to shelters also kicked in - after we couldn't sleep
for a while - partly because of the noise from one of the groups and
partly because the bugs were bothering me and partly because the
concrete floor wasn't comfortable - so I crawled out and put up the tent
and we slept out there until some idiot started chopping wood at 0600.=20
Not the best start for our trip, but it could have been worse.
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