Location- Two Medicine Campground
Elevation- 5,174 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 15.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 83.7 miles
Weather/Temp- Rain, high winds, 50, 60, 70
Pain level- none
Wildlife encounters- 2 bull moose, funny marmot
Days without shower- 4
Days without Laundry- 8
A pretty intense storm struck up last night around 12:20 am, causing me to scramble out of my hammock and set up my rain fly. Luckily I got it up before the worst of it ensued. Heavy downpour with infrequent but very close and intense lightning. At one point, while trying to close my eyes, a flash shown so bright through my rain fly, it registered a blinding red through my eyelids. A split second later the deafening crack and subsequent roll of thunder rang so loud, and for so long in the valley, I thought the surrounding mountains were toppling. I can’t recall the last time I heard thunder roll for so long…even in Florida. I’ve heard much louder, but not longer; I suspect the wall of mountains on either side of me would have something to do with it.
When the rain finally let up around 2am I was still awake, noting the flashes of lightning through my eye lids, then counting the seconds until the thunder; listening to the storm move further away…3 miles… 5 miles…8 miles… Gone.
It was so windy the next morning, we couldn’t stand sleeping in and listening to our tarps ruffle in the high winds. We were hiking by 7:30 am, making our way slowly up towards Pitamakan Pass. Within the first three miles we ran across a large Bull Moose walking on the trail. The second he saw us, he froze, looked down the mountain, looked up the mountain, back to us, then galloped away up the mountain; disappearing into the alpine forest. It was actually really comical. You could see the look of panic, confusion, and indecision on its face and in its body language. Moose are known as the simpletons of the forest. They aren’t known for being too bright, but instead brutish and unpredictable; more dangerous even than bears. You saw that goofy description plain as day in this moose.
About a quarter mile later we ran into a second Bull Moose about 15 yards off the trail in the pine trees. He was standing stock still staring at us, flaring his nostrils and grunting. I got a cruddy pic of him as we tried to quickly keep moving.
Pitamakan Pass ended up being the toughest pass to climb out of the four we’ve done. Starting about 4 miles from the top of the pass, we began to run into patchy snowpack sections. Two and a half miles from the top of the pass it turned to complete snowpack within the dense alpine forest. Guessing where the trail went became a pain, and the forward progress slowed as we postholed 6 to 8 inches with nearly every step. It’s a hassle while you’re doing it, but the feeling of accomplishment after you’ve worked your way through it all is worth every strained step. Throughout the entire snow packed forest, moose prints were everywhere going in every which direction. It was like the moose had been lost or playing a game of tag. It was funny seeing all the funny path choices they’d taken.
When I finally broke the tree line and hit the open snow pack, it was time to slip into Nirvana once again for a few minutes. I turned on “Sign of the Times” by Harry Stiles and just about felt my spirit leave my body.
After rounding over the top of the pass, we had another 8 miles of mostly gradual downhill into Two Medicine Campground. It was completely uneventful other than an aloof marmot we found in the middle of the trail maniacally licking a wet spot where I can only assume something or someone peed earlier. He paid us almost zero attention as we walked within inches of him (or her).
When we reached the campground around 2 pm, we posted up in the camp store for about 6 hours; recharging battery packs, snacking, and watching the endless flow of tourists come and go. With nothing left to do that day, sitting around somewhere with everything we needed (food, drinks, shelter) was about all we could/wanted to do.
Now we’re isolated in our own little back country campsite listening to the car campers and RV’ers glam it up. Tonight will be our last night in the park. We have ten miles to hike out of the park boundary and into the little hub of East Glacier (where we stayed the night before we started). From there I will arrange Katana joining us with Hannah and Tyler. We’ll have to cut back into the park briefly before heading on to new pastures; so I’ll need to decide if I want to be an outlaw for a few miles, or figure out some tougher logistics to have Katana dropped off to me at a road just outside the park. We’ll see how things unfold…