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[CDT-L] Montana 98 (part 2)

Thursday, July 30.  Goat Haunt to Fifty Mountain Campsite (12 miles) -
Ginny -     Last night's groups were noisy. Two groups of kids running
and yelling and three guys, old college buddies, who talked late. At
midnight Jim asked them to be quiet, but then at 6:00 someone woke us up
by chopping wood for the fire. GRRR. We had a leisurely hike today,
stopping often to look for wildlife. The flowers are shoulder high in
places. So are the weeds, which completely overwhelm the trail
sometimes. We made a side trip to Kootenai Lakes to look for moose, but
none were showing.  

        Although the miles were few today, it wasn't an easy hike. Well,
first few miles were.  We passed the ranger station and dormitory quite
early (met a woman leaving the dormitory who said she was a grizzly
researcher with USGS) and walked a few miles above the Waterton River
through deep dark spruce forests. The trees are huge and covered with
moss.  It was an easy gentle uphill hike, to start.  Then we started
climbing - never steeply, but endlessly toward a ridge that kept
receding as we approached. There were beautiful views of snowy Vulture
Peak and other mountains in the Livingston Range. Now we are spread out
at 50 Mountain campground. Glimpses of snow covered mountains to the
right, flower filled meadows behind -- beautiful!  

Jim -    It was a long day for me and I was really glad to see the
campground - and the stream that we managed to camp close to.  The trail
to Fifty Mountain was almost flat for the first five or six miles - and
then it climbed for five or six miles.  But the climb was worth it - if
you climb up the trail a couple hundred yards from the campground,
there's a 180 degree expanse of mountains that's just fantastic. This is
part of the Highline Trail - and it's one of the most beautiful sections
of trail I've ever seen.  
The trail is really beautiful and generally well marked although it can
be overgrown at lower elevations. After dinner we had our first
thunderstorm - a short one, not much rain but a lot of wind.  Sounded
like a good time and a good excuse to turn in, so we did.  

        People - there were a couple guys who were Army buddies who come
out to
hike together for a week every year.  One of them lives in Washington
(state) and the other lives in Florida now.  Then there was the group
from Goat Haunt (the ones who had taken the boat into Waterton for the
day). They had been buddies in high school - now one still lives in
Minneapolis, one in South Carolina and the third in San Francisco.  And
there was a group which was conducting a guided tour of the backcountry
for a German friend and were supposed to catch the afternoon tour boat
out of Goat Haunt the next day (they left early the next morning). 
There were also a couple of guys who'd been friends in college - both of
them were from New Jersey, although one lives in Colorado now. Then
there was our refugee - he was asleep when we got to the campground and
apparently had nothing but a bedroll and saddlebags.  Never did find his
horse - but then I don't think he had one.  

Friday, July 31.  Fifty Mountain to Granite Park Campground (11.9 miles)
Ginny -    There is a thunderstorm approaching.  We had a gully washer
yesterday right after dinner.  I slept well.  It was a beautiful hike
today, high on the side of a mountain, all side hill with a 180  view of
snowy mountains. We ran into a work crew filling in rockslides from all
the rain. (The Going to the Sun Road was closed when we drove north
because of a rock slide. There were a lot of unhappy tourists as that is
the only road across the park. They had it open the next day though.)
There were lots of flowers - yellow columbine, pink paintbrush, purple
fleabane, many others.  We had two easy snow crossings.  Saw lots of
marmots and what may have been a wolverine (or a VERY big marmot.)  We
saw a strange track in the mud just before there - all claws.  The trail
curved in and out of stream basins, Cattle Queen Creek and Ahern Creek,
with views of Longfellow and Heavens Peak and glaciers and waterfalls
far across the way. We stopped at Granite Park Chalet, rather like an
AMC hut, where you pay big money for a bunk bed and no running water. 
We bought a soda and saw lots of dayhikers hiking the Highline Trail.
One said he saw a yellow grizzly in the meadow below, but it had gone
into the trees by the time we arrived.  We've been taking our time, lots
of breaks to drink and look at the views, getting out the monocular to
look at lumps and bumps in the landscape. No animals yet. This campsite
is not as good as last night's.  The campsites are right next to each
other.  This time we're near the food prep area. Last night it was a
200' climb from the "kitchen" to our campsite.  Both campgrounds have
nice streams to clean up in though. It was a cool cloudy day with a
minute or two of sunshine. Nice hiking weather.  There was a strange man
at the campsite last night. He slept all day, had no pack, stove or
tent, just a bedroll, saddlebags (no horse) and a bag of nuts.  He
waited out the rain in the outhouse, then left in the middle of the
night. He said he was a "refugee" - from what?  The campsites have
anywhere from two to seven sites on them, and have all been filled each
night.  A whitetail deer just wandered into camp.  There is a little bit
of a view between the trees.  Last night we looked up at Cathedral Peak
or across to another snowy peak. It was beautiful. 

Jim -      Leaving Fifty Mountain Campground, the day started with a
700' climb right away.  The trail goes up to a sidehill goat track that
slabs across the mountain - narrow, but not particularly bad until you
get to the washouts, of which there were several.  It follows along the
side of the mountains all day, in and out of several drainages.  One of
the drainages is Ahern Creek, which is fed by the Ahern Drift (a small
glacier just above the trail).  That's where we saw the wolverine
although we didn't know what it was at the time - had to look it up
later in a wildlife book. I knew about wolverines, but I'd never seen
one live before.  He was really put out at us because he was hunting the
marmot we passed and we interfered with his meal.   Then we added insult
to injury by chasing him up the trail for a quarter mile before he could
find a place to get off  and hide. 

        All day on the trail and still no bears - and this is prime bear
country.  After we got to Granite Park there  were rumors that someone
had seen a bear in the meadow below the chalet (down close to the
campground) but it was gone before we could see it.  We were
disappointed again. We had a couple Pepsis at the chalet and then moved
on to the campground.  Some of the people from Fifty Mountain came into
Granite Park, too - the guys from New Jersey and the high school buddies
from Minneapolis. Another group of three guys from LA will head toward
Fifty Mountain tomorrow.  After our nightly deer visitation, another
thunderstorm sent us to bed early again.  

Saturday, August 1 - Granite Park to Many Glacier Campground (7.6 miles)
Ginny -    The rain didn't start until about 9:00 pm last night. Until
then we wandered the meadows and the rocks, looking at views of clouds
and mountains.  One of the other campers really upset the ranger, but
didn't even realize it.  He pulled out his Zip stove and cooked his
dinner.  Since it burns wood, it let off a fair amount of smoke.  The
ranger thought we were having an illegal fire, and came running from his
house up the hill.  Jim and I met him on his way and were able to stop
him before he started yelling at the guy cooking his dinner. There were
several deer, including one buck with velvet antlers, that wandered
tamely through the campsite.  They had no fear whatever.  In the middle
of the night, one guy had a nightmare and started screaming. We all
thought he had been attacked by a bear, so half the group leapt out of
their tents, bear spray at the ready. It was funny, at least in
retrospect.  He was really embarrassed. 

        We woke up to heavy fog. We stopped at the chalet to use the
(ours was decrepit and had no walls) then climbed the mile to
Swiftcurrent Pass. We had talked about adding a side trip to one of the
overlooks, but the heavy clouds and drizzle ended that thought. We saw a
ptarmigan (like a grouse) up at the pass, then wandered in the mist for
a while. Then as we were descending, the clouds opened up enough to
allow views of the many lakes below. One was a milky opalesque green.
The others were a deep blue gray. Across the cirque we saw six
waterfalls that tumbled several hundred feet.  It was really beautiful. 
It rained off and on all day.  We passed another small but rushing
waterfall, then forded a creek above our boot tops. The bridge had
washed away. There was, however, another bridge about 10 yards further
on. The bank between had washed away.  We walked near a couple of lakes
and started seeing lots of dayhikers and fishermen.  The last part was
flat easy walking except for overgrowth and sections of washed out
trail. We came to the campground about noon, checked in with the ranger,
got our hiker/biker campsite back in the weeds, set up the tent in the
rain, then went to Swiftcurrent Inn for a HOT shower, lunch at the
Italian restaurant, and laundry. It was a long wait at the laundry, so I
chatted with an English lady for a while, read for a while, and watched
the rain fall. 

        Mostly I like hiking in Glacier. The country is gorgeous and it
to be so constantly aware of the wildlife around us.  We've really
enjoyed our times just looking out at the meadows and the hills.  But it
is a National Park, crowded and highly regulated.  We eat, sleep and
cook where we are told. Many of the campsites are practically on top of
each other, so we get to know our neighbors, instantly. Our schedule is
predetermined, more or less by others. (We request a route, and they let
us know if we can have it and if so, where we can camp along the way). 
While the people have been very nice, and the rangers very friendly,
still I feel confined sometimes.  I miss the freedom of camping where
and when I want, in solitude, and sleeping on soft duff rather than rock
hard compacted campsites.  But I do understand the necessity of the
system, whether I like it or not.

Jim -    Rain, fog -- and more rain. Had a somewhat prolonged
conversation with the ranger at Granite Park about composting privies
(they only work if the temperature gets above 90 degrees - good in the
Grand Canyon, not so good in Montana). The trail today was interesting
and maybe a little scary - it was blasted out of the side of the
mountain - 4' wide with a 2000' drop on one side and sheer rock walls on
the other.  One point where the trail goes around a corner is called the
Devil's Elbow.  Around every corner there was a new -- and usually
magnificent-- view.  Again, there were a number of washouts due to the
rain the last couple days and we had to cross the scree slopes to get
over them. Then when we got to the bottom, the first bridge was out and
we had to ford the stream.  After that the trail was almost flat all the
way to Swiftcurrent.  We knew it was a tourist path because there were
lots of fishermen headed for the lakes - and a number of couples with
young children, bear bells ajingling.  

        At the Swiftcurrent campground, we got our campsite (they have
reserved for backcountry hikers that is away from the road), got a
shower, did the laundry, picked up our maildrop and the permit for the
second half of the trip, repacked the food bags, reported the trail
condition to the rangers and got lunch (pizza) - although not
necessarily in that order. The walk-in backcountry campsite comes
complete with bear boxes.  The other (real backcountry sites) had bear
poles or cables (the cables were easier to use).  Then we hung around
the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn with a lot of the other flatland touristers
watching for bears on the hillsides.  We saw two, but they were so far
away that we hardly count them.  Dinner was huckleberry pie - with ice
cream.  Gotta say that the rangers at Many Glacier/Swiftcurrent were
extremely helpful - and interested in what we were doing.  Had the
feeling that they don't get too many people who deliberately stray

Sunday, August 2 - Many Glacier to Reynolds Creek (15.2 miles) -
Ginny -    We had breakfast at the hotel. Our campsite was soaking wet
and a hot breakfast sounded good.  It was a long day today, though I'm
not sure exactly how far. The Park Service numbers don't always agree
with the guidebook. (They don't agree with themselves. At one point near
Goat Haunt, we walked 70' and the sign said we had walked 0.7 miles!
Most of the signs are in kilometers rather than miles anyway.)  Last
night we got a glimpse of two bears feeding on the hill above the hotel
- way way far off. We needed good binoculars to see them at all. That is
the evening entertainment at the hotel though, standing around the
parking lot, looking for bears on the hillsides. It rained all night,
and more is expected today, but so far it is dry. It was a good day for
hiking - cool and cloudy.  The pictures won't turn out well, but we saw
some lovely sights. Lakes and waterfalls mostly.  

        We started out walking along the west shores of Swiftcurrent
Lake Josephine. The trail runs right above the shoreline. The water is a
gorgeous aqua color. Then we went off to Grinnell Lake with its
beautiful waterfall tumbling from the glacier hidden above. Then we went
over a rise and across a ford that used to be bridged to a spectacular
double waterfall called Morning Eagle Falls. Then along and above it to
the cirque above.  There was a very long climb switchbacking up to
Piegan Pass. We passed other narrow little waterfalls and snowfields on
the way up, then looked down at a small turquoise lake flanked by two
tiny royal blue ones.  It was cold and windy at the pass, so we went a
little way down the other side to eat lunch.  We saw hordes of dayhikers
who had climbed up the other way from the road. Most were turning around
at the pass (and thus missing the beauty of the waterfalls and lakes on
the other side!) We headed down on easy sidehill along the side of a
cirque. I stopped to do my usual look up and around for wildlife, and
was amazed to see a mountain goat.  It was far away, but visible to the
naked eye. Another posed picturesquely on the skyline. That was
exciting. The only other animals we saw today were deer at the
campground this morning and again at the Reynolds Creek campsite, a
scared big rabbit, a fearless hoary marmot and several importuning
ground squirrels. (I like their orange noses and feet though.)  The
descent was through light coniferous woods interspersed with fields of
flowers. Beautiful. Across the way was a glacier and a small waterfall. 
We turned off the main path and the trail became overgrown again and
quite steep.  We descended through big trees to the highway at the
Jackson Glacier overlook (missing the tunnel under the road somehow). 
We ignored the tourists and they ignored us as Jim doctored his foot. 
Then we descended into the woods to a small two site campground near
Reynolds Creek. We passed an impressive waterfall nearby. It wasn't
tall, but the volume of water going over it was impressive. It rained
very gently for a while this afternoon, but since we were already soaked
from the dense overgrowth, it didn't matter.  The stream near the
campsite was too cold and fast to be very tempting for a swim,
especially since it appears that the waterfalls continue just beyond the
campsite. Today's high was only about 60, so I'm not desperate for a
bath. My hands, face and feet are clean, that will have to do. I'm
really tired, pleasantly so, mostly. I just feel like I'll sleep deeply.
A few late afternoon glimpses of sunshine led to an attempt to dry out
the tent and socks.  With 8 lbs apiece of food, our packs feel heavy,
but we made the 15 miles in good time. We've eaten, filtered water, hung
the food and I'm ready for bed, but the sun is still lighting the tops
of the trees. I like campsites with a view, but this one is hidden in
the trees. We are sharing our camp with a young man from California who
is doing our route in reverse, except the last three days.  He has done
about 2/3 of the AT. The rain here has not made him happy. He's ready to
stop, but still has 2-3 days to go. There are lots of flowers everywhere
- blanketflower, gentian, columbine, candytuft, etc. Lots of delicate
alpine flowers up high, and fields of flowers (mostly fleabane,
paintbrush and Queen Anne's Lace) down below. The easy smooth trail
means I can keep looking for bears and other wildlife, though we make
enough noise as we go that we don't see much. 

Jim -   Had breakfast at the restaurant - it was still pretty foggy and
wet.  Then we dropped off some excess food with the Campground Host. 
They had supplied us with stove fuel the night before (free) and we had
packed a couple pounds of extra food - and they were happy to take it
off our hands ( or rather off our backs).  

        We passed a bear on the way up to Piegan Pass during the climb
Morning Eagle Falls. We  didn't see him, but I smelled him and he was
close enough that his cloud of attendant flies spilled over into the
trail.  But I wasn't about to go poking around in the brush to find him.
Getting up near Piegan pass, we could look back and see several lakes
which weren't visible from anywhere else.  One of them was a brilliant
royal blue and one was turquoise.  The third was royal blue still
covered with ice.   

        Lunch was on the south side of Piegan Pass where we harassed the
marmot and tried to dry the tent. There were lots of day hikers coming
the other way - some of them doing the same mileage that we were doing
that day and some of them just going to Piegan Pass and then back out.
The trail from Piegan Pass to Going-to-the -Sun Road was another long
narrow slab around a cirque that finally descended into an overgrown
lower elevation trail.  On the way down we met a local (Whitefish, MT)
group who were resting (they were on the way up to the Pass).  One of
them asked if we were doing the CDT route through the Park.  He was the
only person we ran into who knew about the CDT in the Park.  That may be
partly because there are NO signs inside the Park that even obliquely
refer to the CDT.  

        The Reynolds Creek campground was a welcome sight and we were
enough to dry out the tent (it doesn't take long in this dry air). 
Again there was a deer at the campsite.  This one was a yearling buck
named Chester and he didn't want to leave without chewing on something. 
Another early-to-bed after we prayed the sun down.
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