The morning after crossing Swiftcurrent Pass, we parked the White Rascal at our exit trailhead near St. Mary, and with hitching sign in hand, walked back to the same intersection as yesterday to catch a ride South. But before we even made it to our post, this young guy walks out of the coffee shop and approches us.
“You guys going to Two Med?”
“Yup, that’s what the sign says”, I say glancing down at my classy Sharpie marker sign.
“You see those red tour buses over there? I drive one of those. I have to take it to Two Med at 8 to get an oil change. If you can get down the road a bit, cuz I am not really supposed to do this, but Ill give you guys a free ride in it if you’d like”
You bet we nearly ran down the road. Both Barbara and I had been eyeing these very cool tour buses since we arrived in Glacier. 10 minutes later, Parker, pulled over in his 1936 White Motor Company tour bus and let us hop in. We got a private 30 minute ride down to Two Medicine! For Free! Parker is an awesome guy who has done a fair amount of traveling himself (we hope to catch up with him in Milford Sound in New Zealand this winter). He filled us in on some places to go, and then filled us in about Glacier and the awesome bus he was driving:
-Glacier purchased 35 of the 500 of these original vehicles.
-34 of them are still in operation today
-each one is worth an estimated $200,000
We are quickly coming to enjoy the people we meet, and the experiences that we are having at least as much as the places we are getting to see.
After an incredible start to the morning (THANKS PARKER!), we set out on our hike. We went the long way around Two Medicine Lake and up to Dawson Pass surprising a couple of moose along the way. Up to Dawson was a tough climb but both of us seemed to be walking ourselves into hiking shape. At the top we were blown away by the impressive mountains that make up this range. They always seem to get bigger, the deeper you get into the park. At the pass we met a teacher who was in the park to do a backpack that he had done 20 years ago. This is the third time we have met someone doing something like this. We can only hope that we are so lucky some day.
Across the backside of Dawson to Pitimakin Pass was one of the sketchiest, most exhilarating bit of trail we have done in a while. Basically for 2 or 3 miles, the trail cuts across a decaying 45 degree slope of talus and scree. The trail is barely visable in many areas. We lost it once, and had to climb 50 feet of the slip-slidey rocks while trying not to notice the 300 foot drops below. Sketchy. Funny thing is, this trail doesn’t even make Glacier’s warning label. Sure they warned us about the deep snow up North, and the grizzly bears that we might come across, but the decaying trail that you could fairly easily slip away on- no, no need to mention them.
Back on solid ground, Barbara and I descended to Pitimakin Pass, past 4 mountain goats, and down to the crystal clear, rich blue waters of Pitimakin Lake for dinner. With the threat of grizzly bears roaming through camp looking for food, we decided it would be best to eat far away (as in 6 miles) from our camp. That and Barbara was fiercely hungry. With a belly full of food, and our engines stoked, we beelined it to our campsite at Atlantic Creek. We arrived to an entire air force squadron of mosquitoes. I have never slapped my own face so many times before. We quickly hung our food on the bear pole, erected the tent, and climbed into safety. Hands down THE worst mosquitoes I have ever experienced.
It rained overnight hopefully drowning out all of the blood-sucking pests. The air was cool, and clouds lingered in the valley. Straight up we went, nearly 2700 feet of climbing in just 3 miles. The top of the Triple Divide Pass was cover with rolling clouds. We have had nothing but sunshine for most of the trip, so it was actually a nice change of pace to have a veil of clouds to block out the hot sun for awhile.
We had done 17 miles the day before, and we had 19 to cover on this day. After the initial climb to the pass, it was almost all downhill to the trailhead. At first I thought this would be great. My feet on the other hand took a beating after 16 miles of down, down, down. However, the hike was still quite nice. We descended all the way from a high mountain pass to St. Mary Lake. Along the way we cut through high alpine scrub brush, into alpine forest, and then through high, vast meadows of wildflowers.
In the middle of the day we came to a river crossing. Wide, thigh deep, and COLD. After prepping ourselves, we dashed across, letting out little school girl shrieks all along the way. After we finished I snapped this blurry photo- we had to get moving to warm back up- remember these streams are glacier fed!
After stumbling to the car, the only thing that could take my mind off my aching feet (I think I am getting soft, 20 miles used to be an easy day for me), was ice cream. We did not stop after inhaling our ice cream cones- we followed it up with bags of chips and anything else we could get our hands on.
After eating our way back to life, we ran into the Nathan and the other fellow who gave us a ride to Many Glacier. They had just completed the Swiftcurrent hike we had done a few days ago, and were looking to get a ride back to Many Glacier. We had talked about going up to Many Glacier for the night anyway, so we figured it was the least we could do to drive them back.
And at long last, Glacier proved that there are in fact bears roaming the premises. As excited as we were to finally lay our eyes on this mighty black bear…we were still happy that we did not surprise one on the trail. They sure are massive animals!
What goes around comes around, including hitches I guess.
Gallery from the hike: