Home Services Portfolio Proofs Blog

Monday, September 30, 2013

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Epic Journey Day 4

Start: Goat Haunt Shelters
Camp: Stoney Indian Lake Campsite
Mileage: ~7.5 miles with ~1 mile spur to Kootenai Lake
Elevation Up: ~2125 feet
Elevation Down: ~0 feet

Our morning began, as the other mornings had, with an early wake up (~6:30am courtesy of the built-in Benjamin alarm clock) and tear down of camp. After bidding Terry and Christy an uneventful day and a more successful boat ride to Canada and eating a quick breakfast bar, we were back on the trail. Today was going to be our short day and Kari was a little cranky about not being allowed to sleep in or soak in the beauty of the lake more, but Ben wanted to get to the lake at our next camp early so he could wash his clothes and take a bath/swim in the lake.

The first 5 miles of our hike were flat and went by quickly. We discovered some meadow clearings that Ben was enamored with and hiked under the shade of fully grown trees. Although it was still early, the air was heating up fast and it looked to be a beautiful, sunny day.

On the recommendation of a friendly Swede we met on-trail, hoping surely (in vain) to find cell service to message his mother, we took a .5 mile spur to see Kootenai Lake. As promised, it was well worth the extra walk. The water was serene and glass-like, perfectly reflecting the mountains around it. We made a mental note of the campsite for future visits.

With about 2.5 miles to go, we began going up the rapid ascent in elevation we had known was coming. Kari had enjoyed the hike and elevation changes on Day 2 so much that she was looking forward to crushing this climb too and reaching the beautiful vistas above.

The sun beat down on us and we continued our climb, soon finding ourselves on a mountainside, completely surrounded by berry bushes that crowded the path, trapping the humid heat of the day against our bodies and blocking our view of the rest of the mountainside and what lay around the next corner. Though in the endless series of steep/sharp switchbacks, the answer was pretty easy - another overgrown switchback. In the midst of trudge through the bushes, Kari could not see much of the scenery around and began to look at her feet and the path directly in front of them. While the bushes around her did not seem to change, at least she knew her feet were moving.

"Bear!" Ben yelled after we turned a quick corner and grabbed Kari's pack to stop her. Meanwhile, Kari only heard the crash and saw leaves moving in the bushes ahead.

We were about halfway up the mountain, completely surrounded by berry bushes and we could not see anything but the path on our current switchback. As soon as Ben had yelled "Bear", the small black bear dove into the bushes.

"Should we go backward?" Kari asked as Ben took the bear pepper spray out of Kari's bag and she took the can of bear pepper spray out of his.
"We do not know where it is. We cannot see. It could be behind us by now." he responded.

He had a point.

We each removed the safety from our bear pepper spray. In the process, some discharged onto Ben's hands and face. Imagine rubbing oil from several habaneros all over your hands and face. At first, there is only a slight tingling followed by extremely intense burning. Burning so intense that it feels like your skin is peeling off. Typically, you would flush the oil from your skin for 15-20 minutes with cold water; however, we were on the side of the mountain without water. Despite the burning, we decided to continue forward along the trail slowly and loudly. Kari's adrenaline was pumping. We had perfected the lyrics to "Call Me Maybe" (courtesy of Canadian Alex who had hummed it repeatedly at Hole-in-the-Wall) earlier the previous morning. Ben requested that Kari sing it and clack her trekking poles together as we wound our way through the never-ending bush-encased switchbacks.

Kari worried.
What if the capsaicin from the bear pepper spray got in Ben's eyes?
Would it blind him?

It was already on his forehead and lips, spreading as sweat carried it dripping down the flushed splotches of his skin. We tried wet wipes to no avail. Ben grunted as his face grew redder and told Kari to hurry and that he needed water soon to flush it. Kari hurried on, pushing through berry bushes that scratched her exposed legs and arms and tugged at her pack, clacking her poles and singing that darn song over and over again, as loudly as she could while Ben tried to stifle his pained grunts. Gasping for breath, Kari eventually had to stop a moment in the shade of two solitary pines. Kari was hot, she realized. Kari was terrified that she'd turn the next corner and be nose-to-nose with a bear. She hated that she could not do anything to help Ben or to stop the burning that had begun on her septum. While we stopped, Ben had Kari spit water from her bladder onto his face to stop the burning. Kari was terrified that she would get it in his eyes and blind him. Kari realized, with the water in her mouth, that she had not drunk any water since encountering the bear. Ben could not take the pain any longer. After about 30-45 minutes of burning, we finally found a creek - he laid down on the rocks and stuck his face in the rushing water over and over again. The cold water on his skin, cooling it and flushing the chemicals off provided the relief he needed. We sat there for a brief lunch so Ben could stick his face in the water intermittently.

After a lot of flushing, Ben seemed to be feeling better. His arm now burned too, but his face felt a lot better. We had finally made our way out of the giant mountainside of berry bushes, but wound up on another exposed mountainside, surrounded by overgrown foliage and, later, more #@$!#$& berry bushes. As we continued up the steep switchbacks, Kari's body began to fail her and her skin grew cold. Of course, this only made her more frustrated and her will power plummeted. Kari was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. Ben got behind me and cheered me on, then led the way through the brush as she trudge up the mountain.

By the time Kari stumbled into camp (around 1:45pm), it was apparent that Kari had been suffering from heat exhaustion. We went to food prep, sat in the shade, and made sure we drank water and ate a little food to recover. That may have been the shortest hike, but it sure kicked our butts!

After some recovery, we put our smellies in the bear box (way more convenient than hanging) and split up to do the camp chores. Kari assembled the tent and set up camp while Ben filtered water. But first, Ben set about doing his laundry - soon he was in his boxers, sitting on a rock, rubbing his clothes in the sand and letting them dry in the grass. The pair who had left camp soon after we got there was gone and no one was there to see until a couple came passing through. When we were alone, Kari joined Ben in washing her clothes and even got in the freezing cold water with him and dunked up to her shoulders. Ben swam around a bit to "bath" himself.

While the clothes dried, we did our respective chores. Kari squatted down, still wearing her Frogg Toggs to keep warm while she was wet, and busted open the seam along the whole crotch of the pants. Note to self: avoid doing camp set-up tasks and squatting in Frogg Toggs. Thank goodness for duct tape. We also discovered the pit toilet, which was no more than a mostly-full hole w/ a box seat placed on top of it - no walls whatsoever. It had a great view, as Ben pointed out. He thought it was hilarious but Kari was freaked and, thinking that ANYTHING could crawl or fly in and then come out when she sat down. Kari was also not a fan that the only privacy source was the toilet's distance from camp. Kari made Ben go with her whenever she needed to "use the facility" there. Kari would later be vindicated when another woman admitted similar fears with the toilet and, with no hubby to accompany her, she ran the whole way back, terrified.

After setting up the tent in the freezing shade of the mountain (our site was in a basin), Kari joined Ben by the clothes over on the sunny side of the camp.

Still trying to alleviate the burning on his arm, Ben tried applying neosporin, thinking it might numb the skin. Kari used some on her nose, but found that instead of numbing her skin, it caused the burning sensation to intensify. She ran to the lake and flushed her nose and lips with lake water for 15-20 minutes. Ben, being the wonderful man he is, put the smellies back in the bear box and sat by her side, scratching her back as she flushed her face. We rinsed off the outside of the bear spray can as a precaution to avoid further incidents. The oils from the can formed a swirly pattern that coated the surface in the corner of the lake.

Crisis averted, we sat by our clothes drying in the sun and journaled until it was time for dinner. It was an experimental, trial 1 recipe: Chili Mac (bland with a weird texture from the blended up beef). It was hard to get through. Only the promise of a tasty dessert spurned Ben on. After teeth brushing and a quick meet-and-greet with the late-arriving man and woman in camp, we were off to bed for an early night. Also, Ben used up the last of the TP. He thought it was funny. Not "haha" funny, but "uhoh" funny. Kari was not amused.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

Friday, September 27, 2013

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Epic Journey Day 3

Start: Hole-in-the-Wall Campsite
Camp: Goat Haunt Shelters
Mileage: ~10.7 miles plus ~2 miles with spurs to Lake Francis Campsite and Rainbow Falls
Elevation Up: ~260 feet
Elevation Down: ~2440 feet

When we awoke, the morning was dreary and clouds already covered the sky. We quickly broke camp and ate our breakfast bars as raindrops began to fall. We were first out of camp as we all hustled to get into our rain gear and on the trail, as quickly as we could. By the time we had trekked the .6 mile from camp back up to the ridgeline trail, the rain had turned to sleet and was driving at us, exposed on the ledge, in the hard wind. We pulled up our hoods against the onslaught, heads bowed down, and hiked as quickly as we could down the trail, hoping the curve of the mountain and the pines further down would provide some cover.

After ~1 hour of hiking, Alex and Liam caught up to us, impressed at our speed. They asked if we had seen the grizzly and her 2 cubs and told of how they had walked up next to her, heard her growl and saw her just off the trail as they quickly continued past her. We had heard from the ranger that a sow and her cubs liked to hang out and play at the Hole-in-the-Wall campsite. We must have walked right past them. We found out later that night that the bears were on the trail by the time Terry and Christy reached them. The two women had to backtrack all the way to Hole-in-the-Wall as the bears followed and were stuck there until 2pm before they were able to leave and restart their hike.

After Alex and Liam caught us, Ben asked if we were willing to go their speed. We hung with them at their 3+ MPH pace for the next hour. Kari's little legs struggled to keep up at times but with 1.5x the cadence, her trekking poles and road-runner-like speed ups plus some running, she managed. When we reached Lake Francis, we bade our would-be tour guides farewell and headed down the trail to see the lake. There was a fallen tree on the trail (our list of things to discuss with the next ranger was getting longer). Ben smashed through the branches so that Kari could climb over. When we did reach the campsite, we found that the lake was gorgeous.

The sun had come out during our "power hour" with the Canadians, but our shoes were soaked through from the water on the vegetation - we even came up with a song:

There's a puddle in my shoe, in my shoe.
There's a puddle in my shoe, in my shoe.
There's a puddle in my shoe. And I don't know what do to.
There's a puddle in my shoe, in my shoe.

Do not worry, there are more verses coming to what will be an instant classic!

After a quick pit toilet stop, we were on our way again, soggy shoes squishing. The rest of our hike was much more scenic as the sun shone on the mountains and berry bushes around us.

By the time we reached the sign for Goat Haunt (.3 miles), our shoes had stopped squishing and we felt good enough to go on another spur so we continued on the supposed ".7 miles" up to Rainbow Falls. This is when we learned not to trust the mileage on signs to be completely accurate. When we did reach the "falls", we found a writhing river cascade, but neither a waterfall nor a rainbow. It did, however, make a nice spot to take out our lunch. Perhaps in late spring, during heavy snow melt, there might be enough spray to produce a rainbow, but in late summer, "Rainbow Falls" was unremarkable.

After lunch, we backtracked and finished the short remainder of our hike to the Goat Haunt Ranger Station. Upon arrival (~3pm), the border patrolman gruffly asked whether we came from Canada. Satisfied that we had not, he then directed us to check-in with the ranger who would be back shortly. As we waited, we got our first good look at Waterton Lake - it was stunning!

The most beautiful scene we had seen since setting foot in Glacier. We can only hope that every backpacking visitor gets the opportunity to have that view with calm waters, fluffy clouds and blue sky.

After checking in with the ranger and learning about the campsites (cement-floored, covered shelters) and amenities (flush toiles with hand sanitizer, filtered water spigots, and trash cans!), Ben always thinking about food, asked what berries were edible. He was "stoked" to learn that all berries are edible and that he was allowed to eat a quart/day.

We hung our smellies and picked a shelter site with a great view of the lake, where Kari began laying out the tent parts to dry them from the last evening's rain. Ben filled the bottles with provided clean water from the spigot and took over drying and assembling the tent, while Kari took her still-soaked laundry from Hole-in-the-Wall and rewashed it with Dr. B's soap in the tiny bathroom sink (think tiny airplane bathroom). Kari also managed to take a moderately successful sponge bath (using her laundry) in the sink with Dr. B's! Woohoo!

With camp ready early, we went down to the end of the beach to soak our feet in the cold water and watched as the ferry from Canada arrived.

Tourists spilled off the boats and flooded the beach, running, shouting, laughing, and skipping rocks that splashed us, still sitting on our little log. When the tourists left, we laid back and let the moisture dry out of our feet. Ben had some pretty hugh pieces of skin detaching and Kari's were translucent white (early stages of "trench foot").On the walk back to the campsites, Ben wore Kari's flip-flops to protect his sore feet and picked up the tourist's trash from the asphalt walkway. The tourists had used up all the TP in the bathroom and Ben had to sanitize the way he had been instructed by the Hole-in-the-Wall reading material, by using our own limited TP supply and the hand sanitizer to wipe off the pee that was splattered all over the seat. Disgusting! Darn tourists!

For those unwilling to do a multi-day backpacking trip, we learned that Goat Haunt can also be accessed by taking a boat from the Canadian side. It is absolutely worth the trip out.

Just please do NOT leave pee on the seat!

A note on that:
Ladies: Don't hover! If no one hovered, there would never be pee on the seat!
Guys: Be realistic with your aim! It's only as long as it is! Keep the pee in the pot!

As we were finishing up our tasty, though slightly crunchy dinner of penne with chicken in spaghetti sauce, Terry and Christy straggled in, looking ragged. We had expected to see them get on the 5:30pm ferry with the tourists; however, plans had changed thanks to mama grizzly and the ladies regaled us with their story.

We concluded our evening by starting a fire in the fancy, schmancy fireplace in the pavilion, relaxing together on the benches in its warmth, and journalling before retiring for bed. While it was a little cloudy when we went to bed, we did get a peek at some beauitul stars over the lake when the sky cleared up and Kari stirred late that night.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Epic Journey Day 2

Start: Upper Kintla Lake Campsite
Camp: Hole-in-the-Wall Campsite
Mileage: ~10.1 miles
Elevation Up: ~3070 feet
Elevation Down: ~1090 feet

After a moderately restful night, we got up, broke down camp, ate breakfast (Berry Berry Smoothie) and bid farewell to the other campers as we all went on our separate ways.

After one last potty break, we set out on our hike. The trail went immediately uphill and off we went at a respectable pace. We trekked through the trees and soon wound our way up a bunch of switchbacks, somewhat shaded by the larger trees. Vegetation along the trail started off short and grew higher as we made our way up the mountainsides. The trees opened up to show us beautiful mountain vistas.

After ~30 minutes, we caught up to John, who was hiking up to Boulder Pass campsite (doing the whole Northern Traverse a few days behind us). We eventually split off again and picked up the pace. The vegetation on the trail grew taller than Kari's modest 5'4" and crowded the path so we had to fight and squeeze through at times. The views were beautiful all day.

At one point, we were hiking along, turned a corner around some high vegetation, and found ourselves face-to-face with a 12-pt white-tail deer buck. Kari might have run into him had Ben not stopped her. (With Kari primarily face down to the trail and leading to set the pace, Ben's primary role was critter patrol. Thanks to his height, he is able to see right over her and scan the surroundings.) The deer seemed more curious than alarmed by the bell on her pack and the sound of another group clanging pots, causing Kari to question the effectiveness of metallic noises as a way of preventing bear confrontation. Previously at the Apgar Backcountry Permit Office, we were told that bear bells were effectively useless; however, we had one so might as well use it. After grabbing some pictures with the wide angle and warning the approaching group of pot-musicians about the buck, we were on our way again through the clearing and into the shade of the pines.

As the hike continued, we found ourselves winding up the switchbacks of a beautiful mountainside with mountain and glacier views, wildflowers, and eventually creeks and waterfalls. It was a little warm but stunningly beautiful hike.

As we reached the top of the mountainside, the grasses gave way to rock and we found ourselves in Boulder Pass: a perfect place to stop for lunch. It was here that I learned that pee tends to puddle when you go on rock surfaces, so you really want to be sure you're far enough off trail. :-P

Following lunch, some dark clouds began rolling in. Exposed on the stone ridgeline as we were, we wanted to get moving as quickly as possible. We hustled out of there but stopped to put on the DriDucks Jackets and pack covers. By the time they were on, the rain had pretty much stopped. At least the camera was safe.

We continued our hike through the pass and saw our first glacier close-up. It was incredible how much water the Boulder Pass Glacier produced! A small river flowed out of it constantly! We grew to appreciate the cairns as we followed the "trail" past the scree field, through the glacial run-off creek, and across the giant boulders and rock slabs. Around the corner, we found a basin and way down in it, a small building that looked like it could be a patrol cabin. We continued along the side of the mountain, over scree fields and waterfalls, snaking our way along the ridge above the basin. The brush was dry and the ground dusty as well rounded off the basin edge and spotted a sign indicating the .6 miles leading to Hole-in-the-Wall. On our way in, two guys were leaving the camp to explore Boulder Pass, and we wished them well.

When we arrived in camp around 2:30pm, we hung the food and picked out a site back beside the creek that ran through camp. After some exploration, we discovered that what we had thought was a ranger's patrol cabin was actually a palatial pit toilet, complete with solar decomposition, hand sanitizer, reading material to educate about the solar decomposition process, ~50 sq ft of leg room, and a distinct lack of fowl odors.

We set up camp and began filtering water and washing some clothes at the creek by our tent, when dark clouds rolled in and the wind picked up, carrying droplets of water. No sooner had we rain-proofed our packs and ducked inside the tent, the rain began to pour from the sky, quickly transitioning into pea-sized hail that pelted the tent while we were penned up inside. We felt badly for Alex and Liam who were surely stuck out in the storm on the exposed ridgeline (we later learned that they had found and hidden under the only ledge on the trail) and for John who was in the very exposed Boulder Pass campsite. The storm raged for about 1.5 hours, which gave us a chance to journal and snooze a bit. Finally, we were able to re-emerge and start working on dinner.

In food prep, we met Alex and Liam again and heard their storm story, ate some Mexican and Sesame Chicken, socialized with the Canadian college boys and middle-aged AT&T women Terry and Christy until dark, then hit the sack.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Epic Journey Day 1

Start: Boulder Pass Trailhead
Camp: Upper Kintla Lake Campsite
Mileage: ~11.6 miles
Elevation Up: ~400 feet
Elevation Down: ~0 feet

Morning came early, but we were ready to go when the alarm sounded. We hopped in the car and began the long drive to Kintla Lake and the trailhead. As we drove along the Outer North Fork Road, we saw the sun coming up over beautiful mountain scenes. Naturally, Ben broke out his camera to capture some of the moments.

Before too long, the pavement vanished and we found ourselves on a dirt road driving through deserted fields and past a couple of isolated shops - a restaurant/merchantile with 10s of signs on trees advertising internet, pizza, ESPN, etc, and a merchantile/town called Polebridge. We were glad for our having chosed to drive ourselves rather than hitchhike when we did not see any other cars on the road at all.

As we drove the final 15 miles of dirt road toward Kintla, the road became more and more potholed. It made dirt roads seem like newly paved in comparison. It became a game of dodge-the-hole, but at times the hole was the whole road and there was no way to win, but to hold on and hope the struts of the car held.

We snuck to the pit toilet at the Kintla Lake campground for a sneak peak of the lake and one last "civilized" rest stop. Then we put on our packs, locked up the car, and headed out on the trail.

On the trail, conversation flowed freely and Kari's bear bell tinkled as she walked. We saw bear tracks in the mud and bear scat on the trail (as well as other animal's). Kari started to figure out how to pee in the woods using mostly fallen trees to hold herself up and prop up her feet.

We passed several hikers going the other way and everyone was friendly - no bear sightings to communicate. We stopped for lunch just short of Lower Kintla Lake campsite and met a ranger on the trail - an older woman who could really move fast if she was keep up with and catching us! After checking our permit, she commented on how we had a great trip planned.

We stopped again by the ranger patrol cabin at the head of Lower Kintla Lake to admire the view. We heard what sounded like a wolf howl (the ranger said it was a loon) and saw a bald eagle glide over the lake to land in a tree.

We continued on hiking. Ben was very impressed by the pace Kari was setting. :-) We were not stopping often at all and were averaging an estimated 2 MPH.

Most of our hike was relatively flat and through the trees. At times, we were walking along the Lower Kintla Lake. We then walked through more trees and a burn zone while loosely following a river and waterfalls we could hear but not see well. We crossed a river finally and bumped into a group of 6 people who told us about a friendly guy named John who would be at our camp. We continued on and hit the scenic part of our hike along the Upper Kintla lakeside.

As we neared camp, Ben spotted a red food bag hanging across the water and our fervor was restored.

When we got into camp (around 2:30pm), we hung our food bags, somewhat successfully given that it was a first try for both of us, and went to the last camp site left to begin our "chores". Ben showed Kari how to pitch our tent, how to fill the dirty bottle by trailing it back and forth in the water and then how to filter it. It quickly became evident that filtering water was Kari's LEAST favorite camp chore. (Note: future blog post with pictures and how-to for camp chores to help those unfamiliar with the process). Then we sat in the food area to escape the biting flies while we made the firsts of our dehydrated dinners - Mexican Chicken & Rice for Kari and Sesame Chicken & Rice for Ben followed with a nasty apple crisp freeze-dried dessert (HUGE THUMBS DOWN!). Raisins, stay the heck out of our apple crisp!

Our fellow Upper Kintlans joined us in the food prep and riveted us with their stories of past trips. We met John from Helena (a self-employed, primarily light-commercial architect) who was out for the first of 4 backpacking trips in Glacier for that month. Tim and Laura from Indianapolis had been backpacking Glacier annually for the last 15-20 years. The three other guys were about our age, 2 from Atlanta and the third from Oregon (very proud of Mountain House). The Oregonian told us that the mountain on the package is Mount Hood and he also recognized the lake.

After some discussion about John's need for a -40 degree bag in the summer and watching Mars glide along the horizon over the beach, we went to bed.

Our first night in the tent and on the trail. Success!

When Kari laid down in her sleeping bag, she could smell the scent of her conditioner, strong in her hair and spent the early part of the night worried that every animal in the forest would smell her and that Tim's freak marmot would eat through our tent and chew off her hair. The rest of the night Kari struggle with an over-full bladder, refusing to go out to the pit toilet and brave the dark and the critters by herself.

Ben slept soundly.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Glacier Exploration Pre-Trip

On our last day before our big backpacking trip, we wanted to take things easy and get our bodies well-rested for the trials ahead.

We had a delicious breakfast at Eddie's Cafe. Ben had chicken fried steak with country gravy, 2 scrambled eggs, country potatoes, and an english muffin washed down with Huckleberry Lemonade, of course. Kari had french toast, aka "The Backpacker", with huckleberry syrup, a fruit cup and bacon.


After breakfast, we went to the Rangers Station to pick up our backcountry permit. The weather forecast was for mostly clear weather, but here, we were warned that the forecasts do not mean a lot and the weather can change in an instant. While speaking with the ranger, we made a couple adjustments to our original itinerary - exchanging Mokowanis Junction for Stony Indian campsite and adding Many Glacier campground to our final day. We then watched an enthralling backcountry safety video created by Glacier's most skilled actors, demonstrating how to avoid and handle bear encounters. (Imagine 70s still Chemistry Laboratory Safety Videos). Kari left more amused than concerned about our safety.

With our tummies full and our permit finalized, we headed back to the cabin and organized our supplies for the next day. When we left, we were completely prepared and packing prep never had to cross our minds again.

We walked to the Apgar Transit Center to catch a shuttle up to Logan Pass. Upon arrival, we made a quick pit stop (granted Kari took too long dinking around in the bathroom, so we missed the shuttle). After missing the shuttle, we were informed that it would be another 30 minutes before the next would arrive. We decided to head back to Apgar to grab some ice cream and wait for the next shuttle. Before we knew it, the shuttle arrive and we were on our way up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The giant shuttle that picked us up in Apgar was too large for the road, so we switched shuttles in Avalanche Creek to get on one of the smaller ones to continue our journey up to Logan Pass.

Once we arrived at Logan Pass, we set out for our day hike to Hidden Lake Overlook to have lunch. It was only about a 1.5 mile hike to the overlook, but boy, the view was stunning. That one overlook was the most beautiful we had seen yet. To any venturing out to Glacier, this is one lower-effort hike we consider well-worth the time spent to get there.

We jumped on the shuttles back to Apgar and stopped by Eddie's for dinner (for anyone counting, yes that is 3 times in 3 days). We ended the evening with one last pre-trip shower and relaxed on the bed with a movie.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Glacier Day Hike Pre-Trip

What's life without a little misadventure?

Our plan for the day was to drive over to Lake McDonald Lodge to hike the Gunsight Pass Trail 6.4 miles to the Sperry Chalet and back. If we felt really good, we would continue on the extra 3.5 miles one-way to reach Sperry Glacier itself.

Kari was all dressed up in her Cascadia trail runners and the top of Ben's backpack fashioned to be a "stylish European hipbelt organizer" aka a huge fanny pack. Ben was prepped with water and food in his day pack.

We set off on the trail cold, but with high expectations and hopes of getting to see a glacier up close. Kari led the way, setting a blistering pace from the start. It was on this hike that we really began to understand just how poorly Kari multitasks.

With her head bowed forward and eyes on the trail, she was able to "crush it" up the mountain and make great time - estimated 3+ MPH going uphill. The catch with this is that her body followed her head when she turned to look at any of her surroundings as well. Consequently, if she looked around to enjoy the sight of, say, a beautiful ravine or mountain overlook, her body would abruptly veer in the direction of said ravine. See the problem? As a consequence, we have since implemented the "stop and look" philosophy.

But on this particular day, hoofing it up the mountain and trying to stay in front of the mule train, her head stayed down and not much looking was done. As we trekked on, we were passed by a couple of rangers, we overtook a 50+ year old couple with a goal to reach the chalet and found a few scenic overlooks. As we climbed higher, the path became overgrown and spiderwebs caught in her mouth and eyelashes with every few steps. Water from the encroaching bushes soaked her legs and made puddles in her shoes.

We should have known something was wrong when the mule train never caught us.

On we went until we reached a campsite sign. "Snyder Lake Campsite", it read. Well that's not the chalet. But, we noted, at least there was a pit toilet.

Upon opening the door, Kari fell backward and vomited a little in her mouth. Ben asked her to hold the door open so he could breathe and she reluctantly did so. When her turn came, she took several deep breaths away from the stench to open up her lungs, inhaled, held it, and charged in and out with supersonic speed. As soon as Kari was out, we latched the door and dashed down the trail. Kari decided that digging a hole to poop in and carrying out the dirty toilet paper was not so bad after all.

After a quick scan of the camp and map, we realized that we had to have taken a wrong turn and wound up on Snyder Trail, rather than at the chalet. The nasty pit toilet was a poor substitute for a warm lunch from the chalet, but we stopped by Snyder Lake, ate a quick snack, and made the best of it before making an "about face" and head back along the trail from whence we came.

The plants were drier the second time through since most of the dew already resided in Kari's shoes and there were no more spiderwebs strung across the path, but morale was low.

It would be one thing to decide that the glacier was too far and that we did not WANT to add the mileage on right before our big backpacking trip. It was something else to have to miss out on seeing the glacier because we made a stupid wrong turn.

While back-tracking, we encountered 2 other couples on their way out to Snyder Lake. Kari asked where they were going, prepared to warn them they were going the wrong way (because who would actually INTEND to go to the smelly Snyder site?!).

But no, we truly were the only geniuses who had made the mistake and managed to get lost on the wrong trail for 1.5 hours without realizing it.

After a speedy, if frustration-fueled retreat, we arrived at the scene of our error. We approached the sign, hoping it was confusing or misleading in some way. But the sign was unforgivably correct. If clearly pointed down our trail - "Snyder".


No redemption to be found, we sat on a log, pulled out our lunch, and ate in near silence. We startled a family with two tired pre-teen girls, led by an assumed father-figure in repeated rounds of I've Been Working on the Railroad. Our moods instantly improved - misery does love company.

After lunch, we started heading back to the trailhead. Along the way, we saw a mule deer. Another couple walked right by. It was literally about 5ft off the side of the trail! At Kari's request, we skipped a second day hike and spent the rest of the day driving along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and taking pictures.

Fifty plus miles and many photo stops later, we had great shots of the sweeping vistas, trickling waterfalls, and mountain overlooks. What we did not have was enough gas to make it to East Glacier Park, where we knew there was a gas station. To make things more suspenseful, we were stuck waiting 2nd in line while a construction crew worked on the road and overlooks by Saint Mary Lake.

After 20+ minutes of waiting, we were on our way and searching desperately for a gas station. Kari calculated gas mileage and distance to East Glacier based on our map. If we made it, our gas tank was going to be running on prayers. We stopped at St. Mary Visitor Center to ask for directions to the nearest gas station, but they were closed. Fortunately, as we exited the park and rounded the bend, a gas station sign appeared and Ben speed-racered in and filled up the tank!

We continued toward East Glacier through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.It was a good thing we did not hold off until the reservation to get better gas prices because there were no indications of civilization on our route.

As we wound along MT 2, we encountered free range cattle sauntering down the road and came headlights-to-face with a moose who ran off before we could snap a picture.

Animal sightings for the day now came to: free-range cattle, varied birds, mule deer and a moose.

We finished our drive to East Glacier and stopped for dinner at a restaurant called Whistle Stop Cafe, just inside the reservation. We saw a family who looked like they had adopted a spirited Blackfeet Indian girl (she reminded us of Kailee) and Ben added Huckleberry Pie to his list of sampled Huckleberry products.

After dinner, we finished the drive over to West Glacier and then back to our cabin at Apgar for the night.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Final Stretch to Glacier National Park

After an overnight stop in Gillette, WY, we were on our way again. Though we browsed Roadside America for unique attractions on the way, there was really nothing exciting to interrupt our drive. In the face of our 10-hour drive and fear of another hot day, "The World's Biggest Shoe" and "Evel Knievel's Final Resting Place" just were not enticing enough for us to prolong our day.

We blasted through the drive. Ben let Kari drive the second half of the day while he relaxed and watched The Dark Knight and Dodgeball. Boy, we sure went on a "stupid movie" streak this trip! We also watched Up because Kari insisted that it set up the theme for our trip "Adventure Awaits".

Who does not love Russell?
The only hangups on our drive were some quick transitions from 80 ...er "70" MPH to 25 MPH construction zones, Kari having to learn how to pass other cars while on a 2-lane hilly highway, and eventually the curvy and unpredictable downhills leading into Glacier National Park.

Once in the park, we found our cute little cabin home for the next two days and used our mysteriously good phone service to contact our families and inform them of our safe arrival, while we strolled the Apgar Village trails.

We also had our first of many experiences with Eddie's Cafe - the only restaurant in Apgar Village. Huckleberry is a big deal around here, we have found. It is in jams, syrups, muffin and scone mixes, candles ... you name it! It is everywhere! And, at Eddie's it was in the Huckleberry lemonade and cobbler!


Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Devils Tower National Monument

Part of the rationale for driving through the furnace of South Dakota was so that Kari could lay witness to Devils Tower National Monument. Rising from the plains just west of the Black Hills, this giant monolith towers over the landscape. Many Native American groups view this landmark as a scared place; one story describes it as a great tree that a giant bear climbed to heaven.

It's pretty epic!

To top it off, it is also a mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts, seeking to scale this mighty tower. We just strolled around its base, gazing at this majestic tower in awe, before venturing on to our next over night rest stop in Gillette, WY.

Kari also reminded us of our rock scrambling the boulder field, gazing romantically over the plains and viewing Native American Prayer Clothes.

Click here for more photos from Devils Tower!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Drive Through South Dakota

Our drive through South Dakota can be summed up with one word: HOT. Ben's Honda's air conditioning has not been operating at full capacity for several months. "A clog in the line", he says. "It kind of works", he says. The thing is, in Milwaukee it does not really get that hot enough, often enough, to warrant it receiving priority attention. He chose to deal with the heat and humidity over the cost to fix the AC.

Little did we know, South Dakota transforms into a "boiling lava hot" desert of despair in the summer months. And when you are driving through that, AC that "kind of works" (but does not actually work) just does not cut it. At the peak of the day, we were suffering from heat exhaustion and searching desperately for an exit with cold drinks and AC available.

We were about to enter Buffalo Gap National Grassland (which feeds directly into the Badlands National Park and involves miles of no gas, food, water or civilization of any kind) when, at the last exit, we were saved by a little miracle diner call Jiggers.

Literally in the middle of nowhere (surely the inspiration for Courage the Cowardly Dog), Jiggers was a diner like any other found in extremely small communities - the waitresses knew all locals who came in to eat, new folks stood out and were asked to share their stories, hand-made but unremarkable food, and very personal service. We were mostly interested in their salty fries, tasty milkshakes, and sitting for as long as we could in their AC. To us, it was heaven sent sustenance plunked down in the middle of Hell.

South Dakota was not all bad. We made our traditional stop at the Corn Palace to explore, take pictures, and buy an obscene number of popcorn balls (2 regular, 2 cookies & cream, 1 caramel, and 1 white chocolate raspberry). During our pit-stop at the Corn Palace, we also found ourselves in the midst of what looked like a State Fair. Turns out, it was the Corn Palace Festival, a really big deal for Mitchell, SD. Food carts and shops filled the streets, a carousel resided in the middle of a "highly-trafficked" (by Mitchell standards) intersection. They even had a midway! It's a big deal! Who knew?!

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Drive to Sioux Falls

After work on Friday, we did our final preparations, loaded the car, and after a quick tiff about whether to unpack clothes and repack a "daypack" to bring into hotels en-route to Glacier (Kari thought it was a waste of time but Ben thought it would be more efficient and worth the short-term effort ... Ben won), we were out the door and on the road by 6:15pm.

Next stop was REI. Nothing like a last-minute stop for the REQUISITE essentials for a big backcountry trip. :-p

The night before, Ben had been testing out the food bag when the pull string ripped off the bag, dumping the entire culinary content all over the living room floor. Consequently, we were in need of a new, STURDIER food bag. And Kari was somewhat indecisive (no? really?) about whether she was happy with the hiking shoes we had just purchased and wanted to try on the alternative pair "one last time". Fortunately, it really was just that one last time and after a short trip through REI, we were on the road for real. (Go Gorgeous Go!)

While calling to let family know we were on our way, Ben remembered that he forgot the park maps for Glacier National Park and Theordore Roosevelt National Park, but he did not want to backtrack the 15 minutes each way to get them from the house. So, aside from almost hitting a possum outside Albert Lea, MN, we had a fairly uneventful drive highlighted by phone calls to the families and marred by an unfortunate and regrettable exposure (says Kari) to the movie Borat.

We successfully arrived in Sioux Falls and circumnavigated the local construction to reach the hotel at 2am.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


For those neurotic grammar nerds like Kari, yes I (Ben) am well aware of my use of third person singular and first person plural in my storytelling. Frankly, I do not care. Please enjoy the stories and photos without worrying about my grammar skills.