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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Epic Journey Day 5

Start: Stoney Indian Lake Campsite
Camp: Elizabeth Lake (Foot) Campsite
Mileage: ~14.4 miles and ~1 mile with spurs to Cosley Lake and Dawn Mist Falls
Elevation Up: ~1200 feet
Elevation Down: ~2708 feet

Kari was all too happy to be leaving Stoney Indian. Goodbye cold mountain shadows! Goodbye memories of heat exhaustion and chemical burn! And goodbye awful pit toilet! After breaking down camp and a tasty kiwi berry smoothie for breakfast, we were on our way before our campmates even left their tent.

We began up the steep climb - a series of switchbacks that lead out of the basin, up and over the side of the mountain. Upon reaching the top, we noticed a distinct change in the frequency of useful trail signs indicating which paths were overlooks/scenic/game trails and which was the true path. Fortunately, we chose the correct paths and were able to navigate the basin and valleys on the other side successfully.

The trail leading down the mountain was beautiful, taking us past high mountain glaciers, through tall pines overlooking lakes, across rivers that lead down to waterfalls, cascading into the valley below.

As we descended into the valley we passed through many berry bushes and Ben got to snack on thimbleberries. We did not encounter any bears amongst the bushes; the mountainside shaded us from the sun; and the sight of rivers, waterfalls and lakes below kept our spirits high.

As we descended into the valley, the trees grew thicker and continued to shade us. It became apparent just how far Mokowanis Lake would have been and we were grateful for the permit change, especially given the circumstances of yesterday. Upon the recommendation of several hikers we'd passed by, we made a mental note to stop by Cosley Lake before fording the river and continued onto Elizabeth Lake.

In the valley, we were warned by several hikers that a black bear sow and her cub had been seen hanging out by the Glenn's Lake (Head) Campsite. And, sure enough, despite our loud conversation, bear bell, and boisterous versions of "Call Me Maybe" and 'guess that song', there they were on the trail. Ben saw them first and stopped Kari. This time they did not run. We did our, now practiced, bear encounter procedure - Ben took the bear spray out of Kari's pack and Kari took Ben's as he moved between her and the bears, both of us careful to leave the safety firmly in place. Mama bear moved slowly toward us and baby bear stood up on tip-toes, trying to see around her. We packed up slowly, talking calmly to the bear. After briefly considering us, Mama bear took her cub and ran off into woods. Grateful that we knew roughly where they were, we moved slowly and noisily down the trail before putting our bear sprays away.

We stopped for 1st lunch in the food prep at Glenn's Lake (Head) Campsite before continuing on. After many bungled renditions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing", "Call Me Maybe", and various Christmas carols, we arrived Cosley Lake. The mountain and lake views from camp were beautiful and we noted that this would be a good place to stay in the future.

We were tauntingly close to the ford site but, looking back at the trail behind us, the view of the mountains lakes and rivers we had traversed in just this one day was incredible.

Two rangers sauntered up behind us on horses and we shared our bear encounter stories while they examined our permits and then mosied on.

Finally, we reached the river ford site. Now, we had come "Boy Scout Prepared" for just about anything, but fording the river was our one major unknown. We had no idea how deep the water was, how fast, how sharp the rocks would be, etc. But we were pleased to find that the river was mellow and only came up to Kari's upper calves in the deep spots. We crossed, one at a time - 1 hand on the cable that ran above the water, the other clutching one of Kari's trekking poles for extra balance. Ben was very happy to find the river-bottom rocks were worn and smooth against his bare feet (Kari was in flip-flops).

After our successful river crossing, we rewarded ourselves with 2nd lunch, sitting on the riverbank and gazing at the majestic mountain view.

Following lunch, we dried our feet and trekked on through the forest. We discovered "Dawn Mist Falls" - one spur to a waterfall that actually WAS worth the extra effort, a short way off the trail. Then we continued on to finish up the final couple miles to Elizabeth Lake (Foot) Campsite.

We were very happy to reach the food prep area and have a quick snack. Our feet had really hurt during that last mile and Kari was grumpy. When "the gorgeous" is grumpy, nobody is happy.

After putting our food in the bear box, we set out our tent to dry from last night's dew and endured mass assault from horrible little green bugs while we filtered water by the lake (careful to get water FAR from where one of our campmates decided to pee on the beach - you could tell we were getting nearer to the exit point).

We had a good, long evening eating dinner and socializing with our fellow campmates. We met Dustin, who was a wildlife biologist and field workers traveling from job-to-job and backpacking in between for the last several years. The pair we had met as we arrived at Stoney Indian Lake joined us here - they appeared to be siblings who loved to sleep in, eat full-fat southern dishes and carried a portable shower. Matt and Ellen were Montana natives and friends of Dustin just out for a night before going back to college for the Fall. The eclectic group had an interesting dynamic, with one main commonality - a love of time in nature. We stayed up, swapping stories until long after the stars came out.

When we did retire for the night, we laid half-out of our tent, balanced the camera in a hiking boot "tripod" and took some awesome star photos before going to sleep.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

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