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Friday, September 27, 2013

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

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