Backpacking Trip Report: Woodswoman’s Glacier Gang Trip report

Area: Glacier National Park

State: Montana

Days: 5

Type: Loop

This is going to be a long trip report. What a trip it was! The Glacier Gang finally met up for the HOC, one that was planned for months and was much anticipated by all. We divided up into two groups – the Two Medicine Group and the Belly River Group. In the Two Medicine Group were The Fogduo, Burntfoot, Justdropin’, Coloradodcs, LiRM35, and Woodswoman. In the Belly River Group were Squilax, Eduk8er, Mtbackpacker, PJSaeli, MsKatieBear, Ardwick, and Hollowayb. The Two Medicine Group had one no-show; I won’t tell you who it was, but he gets the Grizzly Bear Poop Award for not letting anyone know he wasn’t coming.

Before I start my story, I will say this was the trip of a lifetime for me. Not only was GNP a spectacular place, but the Two Medicine Group was a great group of people to be with. We worked well as a team, and we got along famously. Friendships were made and bonds were formed. I want to thank the Two Medicine Group for the wonderful laughs, the sharing, and the memories we made while on our trip. As for the Belly River Group, even though we didn’t hike together, I enjoyed meeting all of you and hanging out together at the motel.

No s**t…there we were in Glacier National Park…
The Glacier Gang made their way to East Glacier Park by way of planes, trains, and automobiles. We met at the Circle R Motel in East Glacier, most of us getting there by Thursday, July 15. Squilax had some flight issues and then his backpack was temporarily lost. Eduk8er waited in Kalispell for him. They finally made their way to East Glacier in the wee hours of the morning of July 16. Justdropin’ was due to arrive on Friday morning via Amtrak. The evening of July 15 the rest of the Glacier Gang hung out at the motel, visited and got to know one another. We made our way to Blondie’s, a local bar near the motel, where we ate and drank an assortment of drinks (beers and sodas). Our excursion to Blondie’s is a trip report all to itself. There were 11 of us, and it was our waitress’s first night. We befuddled her and she in turn befuddled us. Food orders got confused, some food didn’t arrive for a long time, sour cream got spilled on Burntfoot’s lap, and Mr. Foggy was bonked in the head by the waitress. We survived the excursion, but we don’t know about the waitress. She probably quit after we left.

On Friday morning, we gathered and sorted out our groups and got headed on the way to our trailheads. Burntfoot was gracious enough to wait behind for Justdropin’, so the rest of the Two Medicine Group went on to the trailhead and began our trip. I think it was around 11:30 when we started out, and it was a hot day. The first day was an easy 4.1 mile hike in to Atlantic Creek. Burntfoot and Justdropin’ showed up not long after the rest of us arrived in camp. We selected our campsites and set up tents, hung food, and rested. After we ate our dinners, LiRM35, Coloradodcs, Burntfoot, and I decided to take a hike up to Medicine Grizzly Lake, just over a mile up the trail. It was well worth the short hike – was very pretty, and Coloradodcs did some fishing (he caught a few trout). I showed my clumsiness when I tripped and fell on the way up to the lake. I was impressed – none of the guys laughed at me, at least not then. That came later. At the lake, Burntfoot spotted a bull moose with antlers in velvet in the water really close to us. We all took pictures and oohed and awed at our good fortune to see it. After the moose left, the Fogduo and Justdropin’ showed up. Mr. Foggy joined Coloradodcs in fishing, and LiRM35, Burntfoot, Justdropin’, and I headed back to camp. The night was uneventful, other than it was hot and muggy and the mosquitoes were in fine form. The Fogduo shared a tent, Burntfoot and Justdropin’ shared a tent, LiRM35 and I shared his wonderful tarptent, and poor Coloradodcs was left all alone in his tent.

Saturday morning most of the folks were up early for a 3.1 mile hike to Morning Star Lake. “What’s wrong with those people?!” was my voiced thought (insert smiley face here). After breakfast, we headed out and made good time to Morning Star. Again, it was very hot. At Morning Star, we were treated to a beautiful lake that also just happened to be ice cold. Some of us had the notion that taking a dip in the lake would be a welcome relief from the heat, but we never made it past our ankles. Justdropin’ showed us who the real man of the group was. He jumped in the lake not once but at least three times! At this lake we had our first sighting of………THE HAT LADY! Yikes! What a sight to behold! This lady had a huge white, wide-brimmed hat, and was covered from head to foot in a mosquito net shroud. When we first saw her, we all wondered “What the heck is that?!” Her outfit was a pale yellow suit of some sort. All you could see was her face. I must admit, after a few days of fighting mosquitoes, any of us would have gladly offered The Hat Lady money for her outfit. On with the story….in the morning we woke up to the sound of Foggy’s flipflops flipping and flopping. She had been making her way to the food prep area and spooked up a moose. She came running back to camp to get her camera. Let me tell you, those flip flops were going to town! Poor Foggy didn’t get a picture of the moose, though. While at Morning Star Lake, LiRM35 gave knot-tying lessons to Foggy and me. I don’t think I passed.

Sunday morning we all got up early so we could get started on the Death March – a 8.6 mile hike that included a 3-mile traverse along the sides of some mountains. We had a 1800′ elevation gain ahead of us, and a 2100′ elevation loss. We got lucky that day – it was overcast and cooler than it had been the previous two days. When we left Morning Star Lake, the climb began immediately. We climbed and climbed; the views got better and better. We stopped at Pitamakin Lake and took a nice long break, and looked UP at where we had to go. Burntfoot and Coloradodcs took the lead here and made it to the first pass before the rest of us. FYI: Coloradodcs was a great “Hey Bear!” person. He led us most of the time and made sure no hungry bruins picked off any of us. After reaching this first pass (I can’t remember the name) we again rested and enjoyed the views. Then we started our final ascent up to Pitamakin Pass. This involved crossing a small snowfield, and I for one HATE crossing snowfields. It was a first for Justdropin’ and LiRM35. I nervously watched as everyone came across, and nearly had a heart attack when LiRM35 stepped on an icy patch at the end of the snowfield. I’m not sure which scared him most – slipping a little on the ice or me screaming, “DON’T STEP THERE!” Everyone made it across without mishap. Burntfoot and Coloradodcs were already the the top of the pass waiting for us slow pokes. As each of us reached the pass, we exclaimed “Oh My God!” at the views. All except LiRM35, that is. What he said can’t be written in the trip report for fear of getting banned. I’m telling you, the views were the most outstanding I have ever seen. It was like being on top of the world! We stayed there for a long time taking it all in. Justdropin’ took a nap up there while the rest of us took his picture. And then we saw it, a sight that struck fear in our hearts (well, in the hearts of some of us). It was scary, it was nasty. It was…..THE TRAIL. The trail we had to take. The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Death (we hoped not). The Trail of Heights. The Narrow Trail. And it went on for 3 miles! This trail was narrow and on a ledge. A couple of us knew we had a problem with heights before doing this trip. A few others developed a fear of heights while doing this trail. As we did this traverse across the sides of mountains, Foggy and I cursed hollowayb. He told us it wasn’t a big deal; it wouldn’t be a problem. Ha! We wanted to kick his butt. He is lucky he was with the Belly River Group or Foggy and I would’ve….well, we would’ve done something. As it was, everyone made it across this traverse, again without mishap. We were proud of ourselves when it was done – WE HAD DONE IT!! Finally we made our way down to camp at No Name Lake. We were a tired bunch of stinky backpackers. And what did we see at the lake? The Hat Lady! Some of the guys saw her after she had taken a swim. There she was, standing on the lakeshore, a siren wearing nothing but a mosquito net shroud. Later on she made her way to LiRM35’s tarptent to ask about the tent (she was dressed by then). She was very nice and explained her outfit to us and made us all drool with envy. During this time I again impressed everyone with my clumsiness when I knocked down the tarptent (insert blushing emoticon here). The tarptent is great, and I was very impressed with it, even though it was knocked down easily (it was a test, okay?). We all crashed pretty early that night ’cause we were tired physically and mentally from the Death March. Somtime in the night, though, something got into LiRM35’s hair. He didn’t scream or anything, and kept his wits about him. We were, after all, in Grizz Country. Then I woke up. It was ME in his hair. I was dreaming about my two cats at home (I really missed them) and reached over to pet one of them. Only it wasn’t one of my kitties, it was LiRM35’s head. I’m lucky I didn’t get a face full of bear pepper spray (again, insert the blushing emoticon here).

Monday morning we made our way to Upper Two Medicine Lake, 3 miles away. We arrived there to find day hikers eating their lunches in the campsites. Not a good idea in bear country! Foggy told them they couldn’t do that, so they moved out by the lake. We set up camp, then enjoyed looking at the lake. It was a pretty spot, even with all the day hikers. Clouds started moving in, so we decided to try and have dinner before the storm hit. We didn’t make it. We all were eating halfway rehydrated food, scarfing it down as quickly as we could while getting pelted with HUGE raindrops. We finally gave up, tossed food into the food bags, hung stuff up and made a run for the tents. It rained hard and there were gale force winds. Let me tell you, LiRM35’s tarptent held up like a champ. We stayed dry. Again, I am very impressed with this tent. While it was storming, LiRM35 regaled the Fogduo and me with stories and songs. He is a good story teller, and has a nice singing voice. Coloradodcs, Burntfoot, and Justdropin’ were too far away to have the pleasure of this entertainment. After the storm passed, we all made our way out of the tents and back to the food prep area. It was now a lake! You could’ve floated in it with a thermarest pad! At the real Upper Two Medicine Lake, we saw bald eagles, a treat.

Tuesday morning we got up, ate breakfast, then headed down the trail for the last leg of our hike. We hiked a couple of miles to the boat landing on Two Medicine Lake, and waited around for the boat. We all had decided to catch the boat back to the trailhead instead of hiking the last 4 miles. When the boat did arrive, the boat captain, a petite lady named Dabney, told us the engine was over heating but not to worry, she had worked on it a lot. She proceeded to take a bucket, dip it in the lake, and pour cold water over the engine. It worked because we made it back to the trailhead without having to swim.

We had it all on this trip – good weather (most of the time), mosquitoes, beautiful scenery, mosquitoes, lovely wildflowers, mosquitoes, good company, mosquitoes, lots of laughs, mosquitoes, cold lakes, mosquitoes, waterfalls, mosquitoes. It was really and truly a great trip!

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