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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

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