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| day 3 |
There are two little words that are music to the ears of backpackers everywhere. Two little words that relieve aching shoulders, soothe tired feet, and trigger shared smiles over early morning mugs of camp coffee and granola.
Ahhhhh. The day hike. No breaking camp and no heavy pack — just a quick breakfast and we were on the trail. Our permits had us staying at Glenns Lake Campground two nights so we tucked everything out of the way of curious critters, threw water bottles and an extra layer in our day packs, and we headed out on Stoney Indian Pass Trail toward Stoney Indian Pass.
That morning, Jill recommended long pants — though it was certainly warm enough for shorts — as we’d be hiking in thick brush most of the day. Being from Arkansas, Jeff and I had to remind ourselves that the threat of snakes, ticks, and other undesirables was much different in Glacier than it would be at home. It took a while until I could hike without being a little nervous about what I couldn’t see around my ankles.
Hiking without packs let us move much more quickly and we had plans to really cover some ground that day. As we hiked toward Stoney Indian Pass, gaining elevation most of the morning, the view changed every minute. Higher and higher until this beautiful waterfall came into view. I didn’t write down the name of it and I can’t seem to find it now, but the waterfall just lasted forever — these photos don’t capture how deep into the valley it went, flowing into Mokowanis River and ultimately into Glenns Lake.
The trail followed alongside the water, hugging the rock wall of the valley, and we climbed higher and higher. The falls looked like giant, deep stairs cut into the earth. It was amazing.
After climbing in elevation for two hours, we took a break to enjoy the view. After we rested we climbed a bit higher, but much further and we’d be at the pass and into the next valley so we headed back down, enjoying the view from a different angle as we hiked down the trail.
Jeff and his longer, faster legs were out front – as usual. It had started to rain a bit so we stopped to pull on an extra layer and some rain gear, and we were moving at a pretty good pace — mostly downhill. All of a sudden, Jeff blurted out, “wait – is that a moose?”
We all looked around. And he pointed into the lake.
We had been following Glenns Lake for a mile or two — beautiful views with every break in the trees. But a MOOSE!
He was standing in the lake, periodically sticking his head under the water to feed on the vegetation under the surface. Every time he lifted his head, the water just poured off his antlers like a waterfall. We were mesmerized and probably stood and watched him for over twenty minutes — taking photos like the moose paparazzi.
That moose couldn’t have cared less about the paparazzi that day, he just kept sticking his big face back in the water and eating away. Eventually, we said goodbye and got back to the trail. It stopped raining and we had a beautiful hike on the way back to camp.
Back at camp we confirmed nothing had been carried away by salt/sweat-thirsty critters and we snoozed a little in our tents before heading into the water for a dip. There’s no way the photos convey the temperature of that freezing cold, snowmelt lake but trust me – COLD. And it was heavenly for our feet and legs — like an ice bath after a marathon training run. I waded out and just let the cold water soothe my muscles — startlingly cold at first, then numb and wonderful.
Y’all. That view.
Quinoa for dinner, brownie batter pudding for dessert and we were ready for an early bedtime.
Around 2:30am, I got a poke in the shoulder and heard an urgent whisper in the dark.
“Sarah! Do you hear that?!”
He sounded serious and it didn’t take me long to hear what he meant.
Chomping. Something BIG was chomping on grass about twenty feet from our tent. Every minute or so we could hear it rip grass out of the ground. The vegetation around our tent was pretty tall, but it wasn’t slowing down this thing.
“I heard it come outta the lake. I think it’s the moose!”
RRRRRIIIIIIIP! Chomp chomp chomp. RRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIP! Chomp chomp.
So… We know to make enough noise so as not to sneak up on a bear, and if we DO happen to sneak up on a bear – make noise so it gets annoyed and goes away. The only thing we’d ever really learned about moose is that they are “unpredictable.”
Awesome. An unpredictable moose was chomping away right outside our tent and we couldn’t decide if we should make noise and scare it away, or stay put and hope it went away… Hooray for wilderness!
At this point, Jeff had been awake long enough he needed to use the bathroom, and Brad’s tent was so close to ours we managed to wake him up with all our semi-panicking. Brad had heard it, too, and we all agreed that if we hadn’t JUST seen that moose we wouldn’t know WHAT to think about whatever critter was chomping away at the midnight buffet.
Everything was quiet. We waited until we didn’t hear anything for about five minutes, and we convinced ourselves that the moose had moved on. So we ventured out to the toilet.
We got almost halfway to the toilet, headlamps lighting the way and desperately listening for any sign of critters, when we ran INTO THE MOOSE, startling it! It jumped up headed one way so we freaked out and ran the other way — toward the food prep area of the campsite. Poor moose. It had been laying down and we jolted it awake.#whatnottodo
I took a photo of the campground layout: our campsite is along the lake, the green area is where the moose was originally eating when we heard him, the X is about where we ran into him on our way to the bathroom, and the pit toilet and food prep area are at opposite ends of the camp.
So at this point, it was about 3:00am and we were standing in the food prep area. It was starting to get pretty cold, Jeff still needed to pee, there was a MOOSE on the LOOSE in our campsite — and it started to rain. We used our headlamps to scan the area, hoping to get a location on the moose so we could avoid freaking him out even further.
Ahh! There he was! NOT between us and the toilet! So we scrambled to the toilet and quickly got back in our tent, pretty confident we’d thoroughly startled the poor moose and he’d probably given up on getting any rest in our campsite for the night. The last time we had eyes on him he was headed for the lake. G’night, Moose!
Day 3 – 9.5 miles and 981 feet of elevation.
| day 4 |
Naturally, Jeff couldn’t wait to get to breakfast and regale the group with our midnight moose story, and – knowing him – he’d have us in hand-to-hand combat with the moose by the third retelling. Surprisingly, Jill, Barbara and Natalie hadn’t heard anything the night before and completely missed out on the great moose adventure — but we filled them in on all the details.
Day hiking the day before was wonderful, but it was time to break camp and move on.
Day 4 in Glacier had a new adventure to offer us — a stream crossing. No bridge, no stepping stones — just two feet in the water. A group in our camp the night before had hiked that way and warned us the water was pretty deep — “up to our butts”. So we were bracing ourselves for a cold and tricky crossing.
Jill went across first, in an attempt to find the most shallow path from one side to the other. The cold water would be refreshing and we all had our camp shoes — KEENs for me — to wear so our hikers would stay dry. And after worrying about the water depth all morning, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was less than knee-deep in most places!
There was certainly a current and we had to step carefully, but it was simple enough to maneuver and we easily took a few trips across with our shoes and packs. You can see the GoPro in my right hand in the above photo and the below shot is a still I took from the video of us crossing. We’re still learning when it comes to the GoPro and the video itself just wasn’t close enough — no zoom, but I kinda love this wide shot of us in the stream surrounded by the beautiful landscape.
That last photo shows us in one of the deeper spots — water above our knees and lapping at our shorts. Depending on the season and the water level, Jill said there are plenty of times that hikers cross holding their packs above their heads!
As we changed our shoes, geared back up and onto the trail we had a great view looking up at Bear Mountain Overlook from earlier in the week, stopped for a group photo at a bridge we did NOT have to cross, and it wasn’t long before we had the opportunity to take a short side-hike to Dawn Mist Falls.
Back on the trail, we got a second view of Dawn Mist Falls – from above.
A relatively short day of hiking, we were at camp for lunch and had plenty of time to make camp and take a nice, long nap. Camp that night was at Elizabeth Lake and it was absolutely incredible — the campsite just opened up to a wide, beautiful view of the lake. THIS is why it’s Big Sky Country, friends.
Everywhere else we camped in Glacier had places to hang food and toiletries — safe from bears and other curious critters — but not Elizabeth Lake Campground. Evidently, the squirrels had become smart enough to scale the bear-hang, chew through ropes/packs and drop food to the ground, negating the purpose of the bear-hang in the first place. So bear lockers it was!
The sun was shining, we’d had a great day of hiking, we were there early enough for a hearty nap — we were very happy campers. After a pesto pasta dinner, we thought we spotted something across the lake and decided to take an evening stroll to get a better look.
By the time we got close enough, this moose had moved on and we never really did get a great look, but I did get this dusk view of our campground from the other side of the lake.
Another early bedtime as rain started to fall. We knew we’d need the rest and energy for Day 5 — our most challenging day of the week — but sleep didn’t come easy as a storm blew in and we listened to the wind howl at 50-70mph all night. Goodnight, Elizabeth Lake.
Day 4 – 6.5 miles and 662 feet of elevation.
This post is part of a series, click here for the full story.