Tuesday, July 12, 2016

CDT in Glacier: Pitamakin and Triple Divide Passes

For Day 1 between Two Medicine and Oldman Lake, click here.

The second and third days of our Continental Divide Trail trip in Glacier, Renee and I went walking through a gorgeous painting.  How can the peaks jut up at these incomprehensible angles? How can this possibly be real?
Above Medicine Grizzly Lake.
Glacier feels so alive and vibrant.  Almost like I shouldn't be here. What is our impact having?  Rather than feeling at home like I do on other trails, here I am constantly aware that I am just passing through.  This place belongs to the wildlife, not us humans.  It is wild.
Carved by glaciers
This area is known for a high concentration of grizzlies.  We make lots of noise, and I scan the trail and hillsides, ever vigilant. My voice penetrates the quiet, cutting through the birdsong.  Does Renee think I'm excessively paranoid with all my shouting and reminders to be alert?  I think of all the quiet mornings we've spent hiking together on other trails across the country, sharing peaceful sunrises.  Being with her reminds me of how different my mental state is out here where I'm not at the top of the food chain.  A deep awareness of what I give up to be here.
Taking a break, we finally sit quietly and watch the lake ice melting before our eyes as wildflowers dance in the breeze.
Sitting for an hour doing mountain goat or loon surveys provides a quiet counterbalance, stillness, and a way to cope with being in Glacier.  It makes me feel like I can help out the wildlife, in the small way that scientific research does, by raising awareness and deepening human understanding- I still believe this can make the difference, can't it?  Surveys also focus our observations, and makes us look deeper.  So if there is no tangible broader impact, at least the surveys change us in small ways.  Sometimes that is enough.
Renee spots goats and sheep at Pitamakin Pass
Sitting still, tracing the binoculars and spotting scope across the landscape.  Otherwise the landscape, and these problems, are just too big for my tiny brain. 
Marveling at how fast the mountain goats run across snowfields at Triple Divide Pass.
A tiny newborn goat follows behind its mama.  How they can be so agile on impossibly angled slopes?  How can they survive the winters here?  How quickly they disappear around the corners, out of sight. 
Distant waterfalls
Further on down the trail, two CDT hikers greet me, "Hello Joan!"  I'm surprised they recognize me-- we just hiked together for part of one day on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 near Sonora Pass (read about meeting them on here).  I remember being so inspired by them- how they were going off to hike the High Sierra Route, and how we had that sort of intense and real conversations that can happen out while backpacking.  But still, they must have had a good memory to remember my name!  I asked and they said, "Well you're wearing the same outfit too!"
Despite the new bear spray and binocular accessories, I've still got pretty much the same look.
We catch up on two year's worth of hiking and life.  (The Sierra High Route was incredible, they said.) It's old trail friend moments like this that make me want to do another long distance hike.  Oh how I've missed this feeling of instant connection, of being part of a community. 
The afternoon heats up as we descend into the burn area.  There is water all around, but there are times where it seems so far away.  Whenever we cross a stream, I soak my clothes and head and feet.  Not being adapted to these temperature extremes.
Water and green amid the burn
Whenever we pause, the mosquitoes descend upon us. At least one critter is glad we are here. I keep up my racket of announcing our presence into the wilderness.  We see no bears.
Even the burn has a beauty I wasn't expecting.  How life has recovered.
Bear grass and regrowth
A way across
At camp, we spend the evening talking to a couple who is finishing up their last section of the CDT.  Ah what stories they share.  A group of college buddies arrive later- obviously on their first camping trip.  They leave food out unattended while they go get water, so we all try to educate them about proper food safety and etiquette without being preachy.  It seems to come across well and they ask question after question about long distance hiking and how our packs can be so small.  This type of exchange is one reason I really like these shared food areas-- how wonderful to share and listen and educate, to inspire and learn from one another.
Evening at Red Eagle Lake Campsite
We hiked on the CDT in Glacier National Park on the Pitamakin Pass Trail from Oldman Lake to Altlantic Creek Campground.  Then, over Triple Divide Pass to Red Eagle Lake Campground.
Date hike: June 28-29, 2016


  1. I had an interesting conversation recently with a gal who spent significant time in Alaska, was it Mary? Anyway she said something that made me take pause. She's out there to enjoy wildlife and if she spend all her time shouting at the invisible grizzlies, she'd never see or hear anything. Yes, it's a risk to come around a corner and surprise a grizzly, something I wouldn't want to do, but it did make me think about the balance. I feel pretty aware in black bear area of when to make noise and when it's not necessary, but that very beary grizzly area could be another story. UGH! I guess I'll find out soon enough. I want to not be scared!

    1. Totally agree about making the choice *sometimes* not to shout. On one of my last trips, I spent more time in quietness, especially in certain areas with longer visibility. I decided to accept whatever happened, and was constantly scanning with my eyes. It is about balance and being aware, and making choices.

      And also, I can HARDLY WAIT to relax when I head out to non-grizzly territory! WOOhoo bring on the less-wild places, the false sense of security, the pre-dawn hiking!!! Can't wait to see you!