Date- June 25, 2019
Location- East Glacier
Distance Traveled Today- 22 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 93.1 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 60s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- marmots, mountain goats, bighorn sheep
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 12
Last night got cold, very cold. Cold enough to wake me up three times to adjust my position on my sleeping pads and away from any drafts. I didn’t have all my layers on, but I had most of them on. The silver lining was that today was a gorgeous day. In fact, it was the most gorgeous day so far, as well as the only day it didn’t rain.
We were technically camped on part of the climb up to Pitamakan Pass, so the rest of the climb began as soon as we broke camp. I’m almost always the last person out of camp. I’m also the only person using a hammock out here, so my higher level of comfort might have something to do with my sleeping in later than everyone else.
Of all the passes in Glacier, Pitamakan has the most snow on the north side- out of all of them. It was the same case back in 2017 – it just holds snow longer than the others. Less sunlight reaches that side, so the vast majority of the 3 to 4-mile climb is snow-pack through June.
The gorgeous weather made the traverse over the snow-pack nothing less than a pleasure. Nothing too technical or too steep, requiring spikes or an ice axe. Just good ole fashion fun while slipping and sliding over the sun cups in the hard ice.
I sprinted the last 100 yards to the top of the pass and caught up with the rest of my Glacier family. As we began the long descent we encountered an extra friendly marmot – or should I say it went out of its way to encounter us…
First, it tried to go for Dale’s shoes and he jumped clear of it. I pulled out my camera and began to film. Then the little fella came towards me and tried to grab my camera out of my hands, swiping it a couple of times. After unsuccessfully trying to bat my camera away, it jumped off the rock and went for my shoes. I quickly shuffled backwards and the fuzzy creature instantly turned its attention on our Aussie, Nom. Being from Australia, Nom didn’t flinch when our oversized American rodent came for her feet. She’s used to much worse. Before we knew it, the marmot was hugging her leg below the knee like some sort of living teddy bear and licking her shins and calves all over. It was after the sweaty salt on her legs.
Truth be told, it was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. I was jealous and annoyed with myself for flinching away, when all it wanted to do was give me a little hug and a leg bath. After a few minutes, Nom tried to step away… but the little creature was holding onto her with its little clawed hands, letting itself be dragged along as it continued to lick frantically. My melting heart!
We cruised another 7 miles into Two Medicine Campground, which had been taken over by mountain goats. Here we enjoyed a big lunch before deciding to go off our itineraries and hike another 11 miles over one more pass into East Glacier. Once there, we’d be home free from preordained miles and campsites.
During the 2,000 ft climb over the pass (known as Scenic Point), we came across more mountain goats, as well as over 30 bighorn sheep. They were right in the trail on the far side of the pass, where no tourists go. It was a very fortuitous day for animal sightings.
So, Glacier National Park is for the most part finished. All in all, I saw more bears, more moose, more goats, and more sheep back in 2017. However… the quality of my moose, goat, and sheep encounters this year is way better – and quality trumps quantity! I am a little disappointed that I didn’t see any bears though. Only 3,000 more miles to remedy that…
When we hiked into East Glacier around 8 pm, we met quite a few other thru-hikers. Dale ended up in a Hostel with Smiles and Nom. Brian ended up stealth camping back up the trail, and I ended up splitting a room with a hiker I knew from my 2016 PCT thru-hike named “Jet Pack.”
I plan to zero tomorrow and dial in my resupply for the 190 mile carry through the Bob Marshall Wilderness – the longest continuous stretch of trail between trafficked roads in the Continental United States. I’ve been very much looking forward to this section, as it’s one hell of a wild place. Probably the most wild and remote stretch of wilderness outside of Alaska.