Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Solo in the Jewel

What the heck am I doing up here solo?
View from Crater Notch into the Jewel Basin and Hungry Horse Reservoir, Montana.
This is the point in the hike where I’d normally turn around.  The pass is steep and snow-covered.  I’ve already done my 3000 feet elevation climb workout to get here.  But this is not terrain I traverse on my own.  Turning around when I could easily fall down the slope and break a bone is what I do, right?  I’m at peace with being a scaredy-cat.

But something flips in my brain.  Possibly it’s the endorphins talking.  Or perhaps I’m just getting used to doing things that scare me.  My experience of Montana is in being in a state outside my comfort zone. 

Today I decide that snowy slopes are within my skillset.  Slowly I start down the snowfield.  Cross-step, kick-step.  The rhythm is familiar.  I remember I’m not always the turn-around type.  Sometimes I’m the keep-moving-forward-through-the fear type.  Cross-step, don’t look down, cross-step.  A flood of memories come back of last year on the PCT over the High Sierra passes.  This is baby stuff compared to Glen Pass.  I can do this.

I zone out/ concentrate on being in the moment.  Reading the terrain, microspikes firm against snow.  On a long clear incline, I sit and glassade down, gaining speed.  Snow friction against bare legs (when my skirt rides up) hurts but the rush is worth it.  So I climb the hill again and try it a second time, this time with sitpad sled.  Now if only I had an ice ax for steering (and safety) I could go even faster.  Haha.  Don’t get too carried away.
The trail is buried under several feet of snow and there are no blazes to mark the way.  Again, I relax and I can “see” where the trail goes just by asking, “If I were building a trail here, where would I put it?”  Map and compass skills and reading the landscape get me to the signed trail junction.  (Marking my route using my iphone’s Gaia GPS app, just to be on the safe side.) 
Trail junction sign above the snow.
Less than a mile of skirting-treewells, and the lake is exactly where I’d expect it to be too.  Years spent developing my route-finding skills are paying off.  (Don’t ever let anyone telling you that you have a bad sense of direction make you think that you can’t learn to navigate.  You CAN.)
Squaw Lake.
The sound of a waterfall in the distance beckons.  I pick my way over the snow, see the snowmelt rushing over the cliff. 
How many people get to see this waterfall flowing so strong? 
I circle back cross country to the pass, then up the pass, look back to see how far I’d come.   Somehow, I have not been swallowed by tree wells, fallen to my death, or ambush by grizzly bears.  Not this time.
Not such a scaredy-cat after all.
For more information: 
Jewel Basin Map

The route: 
Parked at the Echo Broken Leg Trail #544 trailhead, and took it to the Crater Notch Trail #187 to the Alpine Trail #7 to Squaw Lake.

Spotted coral root along the Crater Notch Trail.  Cause no blog post is complete without flowers.


  1. Yay! Success! :) Beautiful trail.

  2. Replies
    1. One of my future goals is that I'll be re-united with my sewing machine on a long-term basis, and get to making more skirts to share.

  3. Joan,
    Thanks for continuing to sharing your journeys, both mental and physical. You've got pluck!

    1. Thanks, SlowBro! Been harder writing my blog since I've moved to Montana, but having an incredible time here and finding new challenges. Hope all is going well with you!