Date- June 23, 2019
Location- Red Eagle Lake
Distance Traveled Today- 14.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 57.3 miles
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- Cow Moose!
Days without shower- 10
Days without laundry- 10
It was raining when I woke around 6:30 am. It continued to rain until a little after 8. When the patter of raindrops on shelter roofs finally ceased, you could hear everyone else getting up to break camp, eager to take advantage of a few dry minutes.
The trail was overgrown from the get go. If the bear grass and other foliage wasn’t obscuring the trail beneath your feet completely, it was close enough on either side to brush against your legs and torso almost constantly. If it wasn’t raining, then the moisture on the foliage that never got a chance to dry was soaking you on all sides as you walked through it.
Most of the day was spent walking a couple hundred feet above St. Mary Lake while occasionally taking in epic views of the mountains on the far side. I didn’t see any bears today, but I’ve never seen so much bear scat on the trail. There seemed to be half a dozen piles within every mile… but no bears. Bear tracks all over the mud… but no bears. By this point in the 2017 hike, we’d seen three. Oh well, still plenty of time to make up for it. The Bob Marshall Wilderness still lies ahead…
The rain came and went all day long, making for frustrating hiking. I have never seen such rain on a thru-hike before. It’s not heavy, but it’s very cold and comes and goes absolutely non-stop, every day – all day. You can never warm up, and never dry out. Everyone’s lives out here have been reduced to a soggy, wet, cold existence.
I caught up to “Smiles” in the last 4 miles and we hiked together in pleasant conversation to Red Eagle Lake where we met Brian – but not before I fell on my face, literally. Smiles was in front, walking through thick foliage where you couldn’t see the trail. At a point where the trail obviously shot up steeply for several feet, I watched her glide upward through the foliage without issue. Keeping in stride, I stepped high through the foliage to meet the incline. I planted my foot, felt it slide, felt it keep sliding, and the next thing I knew my entire body was headed for the foliage and muddy ground like a felled tree. “WHAM!” I hit the ground hard as I disappeared beneath the foliage. I popped back up quickly, more embarrassed than in pain, as Smiles apologized through her laughter for not warning me of the mud. It wasn’t her fault, but I have no idea how she went up that short slope without so much as a slip or wobble. I almost slipped again, even knowing what I was stepping into. Incredible.
There was a cow moose near the campsite at Red Eagle, grazing on water plants in a small tributary of the lake, just out of sight of the main campsites. I could hear her in the water and judged which direction she was headed. I went down to the edge of the lake where there would be a clear view of where I thought she would eventually appear. Well, I got more than I bargained for… and I got it all on film!
She first appeared from behind some shrubs on the edge of the lake about a hundred yards away from me. She continued to feed with her head underwater as she slowly made her way in my direction. When she was maybe 50 yards away I suspected she smelled me or noticed my still figure standing between two trees on the lake’s edge. She began to frolic and prance back and forth in the water either playfully or in warning. Then she came nearer… and nearer… and nearer still. I was beginning to feel nervous at how close she was getting. I knew she knew I was there now, but I was determined not to make any sudden moves or noises that might scare or provoke her. Suddenly, she charged through the water towards the shore to my immediate right. Surprised, I tried to smoothly step behind one of the trees I’d been leaning against, but slipped on a root. As I struggled to keep my balance, the quick movements of my body and arms startled her and she quickly turned her charge sharply to the left before abruptly stopping. Then, she turned around to stare me down. She stared for a while before beginning a slow approach back in my direction. I held my ground halfway behind the large conifer until she turned further up the bank and towards the campsite. She lingered for a minute before charging across the clearing, scaring Smiles, Brian, and another northbound hiker (whose name I can’t remember) before disappearing into the forest.
The entire experience was intense! One of the most intense animal encounters I’ve had on a trail, as well as one of the things that turns my dial up to ten. I’m still flying high off the adrenaline. I absolutely did not anticipate the entire thing playing out that way. Wow!
I went for a swim in the same spot on the lake as the moose. I even hung my hammock on one of the trees I’d been hiding behind. I joked that I was camping in the “kill zone.”
Dale, Nom, and three other hikers eventually arrived at the campsite and we built a nice fire in the rain and huddled around it for a good 3 hours – talking, telling stories, and otherwise enjoying each other’s company.
It’s been nice getting to hike through Glacier with other people on the same itinerary. I’m very curious to see what our hiking styles will be when we’re not mandated to hike the same miles every day. We only have 2 days left on the Glacier itinerary before it’s every man and woman for themselves. We’ll see what happens…
Only a 13 mile day tomorrow and a big pass to climb over. I hope the rain takes a break.