Day 1 – 8 Glacier!
Last night in a bed for a while! Stayed in a cabin the last night in the hostel. We finished a pie that I’d gotten at a farmers market my first night in town before packing the car and headed off to the trailhead at Chief Moutain. Outburst’s father, Lee, took us to the trail which was *really* helpful. Thanks Lee! The logistics of getting permits and getting to/from the ranger station and the start of the trail is pretty stressful, so it’s nice to have the support.
It was a pretty relaxed ten mile hike into Elizabeth lake. Very windy. Lots of hiking through alpine meadows, which are my favorite wilderness feature.
We also saw a pretty impressive waterfall as we neared the lake. It was definitely worth the bit of extra hiking.
Upon getting to the campground, I realized I’d left a non-essential tent pole in the cabin. The temporary fix is replacing it with a trekking pole. It works well enough and I’ll grab the wayward tent pole once I’m back in East Glacier for the second / final time.
Longest day of the glacier itinerary at 18 ish miles and one pass. Climbing an exposed switchback was fun. Especially with a few strong gusts thrown in.
Saw a couple bears. Hottub spotted a grizzly 50′ behind us. Had bear spray out but didn’t end up needing it. We made noise and backed away from him. A bit later we saw him wander across the slope above us.
The second one was a large black bear. It nonchalantly strolled across our path toward the end of the day. Exciting encounters. And a reminder not to get complacent with bear calls. Even if you’re 100′ from a road.
After all the climbing was done for the day we went for a swim in Braveheart lake, basin or bathtub (depending who you ask).
Easy descent to Many Glacier on the (very) horse trodden path. Along the way seeing the aforementioned black bear and a large train of horses.
Today felt like we really got into glacier. After a lackadaisical start we set out to hike up Piegen pass. Like Red Gap pass it’s around 7500′. Unlike Red Gap pass it was a long winding approach with a creek fording as the bridge wasn’t in place yet. As well as a handful of snow fields where we broke out the ice axes.
The summit of the pass was surprisingly mild compared to the climb. It had a bunch of marmots running everywhere.
The descent was much more straightforward. There were a lot of groups of day hikers, which made for quite the contrast between the two sides of the pass.
Day 4 Into St Mary
Got a fairly early start out of camp today. After breakfast, I got to hike with a nearly empty food bag, which was pretty nice. Chatted a bit with Tommy Hawk who we had met in camp at Reynolds Creek last night. Among other things, apparently, we arrived at Reynolds not too long after someone doing trail magic had left. Oh well.
Reynolds Creek is an odd campground. Every ranger I’ve met was surprised that I had managed to get it on my itinerary. It only has three sites. One of which is kinda crappy and another (where we camped) is kinda meh. But with the 15ish mile itinerary limit in glaciers, it’s essentially a mandatory campground. Though some people have been going to a different campground, Gunsight, which is about five miles out of the way. I’m glad we didn’t need to do that. There was also a couple who didn’t bother with a reservation and camped by the stock hitch; I don’t especially mind that, though I wasn’t a fan of them eating in their tent in grizzly territory, though. Anyhow, Reynolds Creek itself looks really cool; it’d make a nice short day trip.
The hiking itself was fairly uneventful. No passes today. Mostly the trail followed Saint Mary Lake.
Though it did jog up onto an exposed plateau and wandered around for awhile before dropping back down to the lake shore and following it into Saint Mary.
We spent a decent chunk of the day playing an improv game, ‘the this without the that’, to pass the time. One person starts with a rhyme like ‘the cat without a tail is like the postman without the mail’. The next person takes the second sentence, flips it, and makes another rhyme. Ie, ‘the mail without the postman is like the garbage without the can’. And this continues ad infinitum.
Day 5 Mini Town Day
Town day! Sort of. Originally ended up going into Saint Mary due to a bug in the recreation.gov website. Ended up with two permits and having to go into town after three days. Anyhow, it’s a cute little town. Good milkshakes and live music. Lousy Mexican food.
It took an extra five miles or so each way to hike into, but it was a fairly easy trail. I got into a pretty good flow on the way back. To end up at Red Eagle Lake. A scenic, if somewhat stagnant, lake.
Triple Divide Pass today. It’s the point where water would drain to either the Atlantic, Pacific, or Hudson Bay, depending on which side it was dumped. Also, it turns out to have some of the best views so far.
And a convenient wind break for lunch right by the summit.
And of course more marmots.
Today, shortly after leaving camp, Outburst’s knee was hurting enough that her and Hottub decided to hike out the flat ish four miles to cut bank trailhead and hitch to two medicine campground and meet me there. It sucks not to hike with them, but having now seen the descent off Pittamakin pass, it was the right decision.
Pittamakin was the easiest of the passes to climb. With relatively gentle gradients to climb and the least prominence (height above the adjacent valley). However, the descent was pretty long and in some places steep.
Getting into Two Medicine campground, I was stopped in the middle of the road thinking about how to find them in this massive campground when, by some amazing coincidence, a car drove up with Hottub and Outburst in it.
Bittersweet day. The slackpacking hike from Two Medicine to East Glacier with Hottub was fun. Satisfying climb with some nice views. Long steep descent back into town. Something like 2600′ up and 2800′ down or so over 11 miles.
The trail out was reminiscent of the first day slacking from Moriah Pass down into East Glacier. Both lesser used trails on the edge of the park.
We ran into Outburst and her dad as soon as we got back into town and all of us promptly sat down in the shade to relax for an hour or so before they all had to head back to Missoula. In short order: hugs and goodbyes were had, unneeded gear was offloaded, and a mixup of identical food bags was resolved.
Spending the rest of the evening doing the usual town stuff. Laundry, prepping food for the next section, charging electronics, and cleaning up and posting this blog post. And of course, eating town food.
I’m planning on leaving mid day tomorrow to head into the Bob Marshall wilderness. It gives my feet 24 hours to recover a bit. It’s one of the sections that intimidates me the most, so I’m glad to be getting started on it.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.