Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trip Summary

Well, I'm here in Manhattan, KS. Art has an apartment here while he is attending veterinary school at Kansas State. For those that know him, he seems to be adjusting well after having been here a month or so. From here, it is another 25 hours of driving to be divided up over 2 or 3 days. I don't expect that I'll be making any other stops along the way. At this point, I am excited to get home and thus this shall be my final post.

I figured I would summarize the trip from several different perspectives. By the time that I arrive home, I will have driven nearly 7000 miles over 30 days. I will have passed through 14 states (Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Connecticut) and two provinces (Alberta and British Columbia - where I arrived on foot!).

I visited the following national and state parks and national monuments:

Waterton National Park (Canada)
Glacier National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Tetons National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Mt. Rushmore National Monument
Devil's Tower National Monument
Custer State Park (South Dakota)

I made 10 different hikes that travelled a total distance of 103 miles and had a total uphill (elevation gain) of approximately 17,000 feet.

My favorite experiences were the incredible hikes and scenery at Glacier, Waterton and the Tetons.

I took over 700 images and my favorite is posted here.

It has been a largely fulfilling, restorative and rewarding experience. I won't say it was the trip of a lifetime because that presumes I will not have similar experiences in the future. I will simply say that I feel that I have grown immeasurably because I took the time to quietly be largely with myself in all of nature's grand beauty and be inspired.

Top Ten List

I have been asked by so many people about taking this journey alone that I wanted to share the Top Ten Pros and Cons of doing such an adventure on your own. They are listed in no particular order.


You can take the time to jot down scenes that inspire poetry.

You can drink right from the container.

Plenty of room in the Element.

Plenty of time for relection, contemplation and inspiration.

Easier to meet people.

You can make simple meals.

Minimal time in gift shops!

No complaints about driving skills, navigation skills, the weather or how badly you smell with three-day stink!

You don't have to wait for someone else to get ready.

You only have to consider your own needs when making choices.


You don't get the chance to see nature's beauty through someone else's eyes.

No one to split washing the dishes with.

A woman would make the nights warmer in the Element (no, another man is out of the question).

Eventually, you talk to yourself driving across the prairie.

You do get lonely, particularly while driving.

It is harder to get pictures with you included! You need to enlist the cooperation of passers-by or carefully stage the camera with the timer.

Nobody else prepares any of your meals.

No one to split the driving with.

Making and breaking camp takes longer.

You aren't challenged to consider other options that might be more rewarding in the end.

Bonus Post... Poem

Awaiting Release

Nestled within bare canyon walls

An inviting golden meadow

Breezes tossing the strands to and fro

As waving an invitation

Strolling through the grasses

Tassles tickling and pricking my ankles

Crunch is heard as I sit

And then I lay

Looking skyward the shafts tussle

Some with their seed released

Others awaiting a stronger wind

Coming later in the season

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sadly Saying Goodbye to the Rockies

I had a wonderful final day in the Rockies. I hiked several different trails in the Bear Lake area that gave me access to five different alpine and sub-alpine lakes. The elevations ranged from 9,500 to 10,000 feet. Overall, I probably hiked about 10 miles and gained only a thousand feet. Although the wildfires in the Boulder area had settled some smoke into my campsite, there was no presence of smoke at Bear Lake.

Interestingly, the National Park Service runs free shuttle buses in the entire area to transport hikers around. It is needed because of limited parking and the park is VERY popular since it is only 2 hours from Denver. It worked out well as I started at a higher elevation and got picked up at a lower one.

After leaving the park and finding a local shower in Estes Park, I travelled down the long and beautiful Big Thompson Canyon to Loveland where the Rockies and I parted ways. Tomorrow I plan on meeting Art at KSU, then progress east where I hope to arrive at home on Saturday.

It has been a fabulous trip of discovery. The sights and my encounters have been awe-inspiring, breathtaking and heart-warming. I understand more about my inner self, my limitations, my strengths, my weaknesses and my passions. And I know how I want to travel life's path.

Taking it to New Heights!

Monday I started out from Steamboat Springs and arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a clear, but VERY windy and cold day. I considered taking a hike, but after learning that the temperature at the top of the pass was 30 degrees and the winds were blowing at 40 mph, I quickly realized that the wind chill was probably in the low single numbers. Not a good hiking day. It worked out well though as I leisurely drove from the west side of the park to the more popular east side where I could set up camp for the night and be prepared for Tuesday morning to hike around Bear Lake.

The Aspenglen Campground was awesome. At the end of the campground was a meadow nestled in a canyon.

The roadway at the top of the pass is over 12,000 feet, just above the treeline of 11,400 feet. At the top there was a herd of elk. Usually they start moving down the mountainside by now to begin the fall rut. But the rangers are bewildered. Perhaps another sign of global warming?

The guy camping at the campsite next to me is the President of a company that provides parking ticket billing services for the City of Somerville. Yes, I am sad to say, I used his online service when I had to pay my last ticket in Davis Square!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Three Day Stink

Well, after having been at Jenny Lake without showers for the past few days, the first order of business after getting into Jackson, WY was to get a shower! There are few things in life more enjoyable than showering off three day stink (or was it four)! Don't worry Linda, I did clean up every day!

I had a great breakfast at a place called Eleheaven in Jackson. Afterwards, I decided to ride up the road a piece and check out the world famous Jackson Hole Ski Area. I took the 4,000 foot ride up to the top. The terrain looks fab with above treeline bowls and a headwall. I think this might be where I go skiing in a few years. I met a woman who had done a 4 day "steep and deep" program with instructors at the area last winter. She said it was wonderful!

The rest of the day was consumed by driving through mountains south of Jackson into the familar prarie landscape that changed back to forested hills and mountains when I arrived at Steamboat Springs, CO. I was hoping to make Rocky Mountain National Park, but that will wait until tomorrow morning. I've got another two hours to go to get there. Hey, but I found a campground with a wi-fi signal so that I could post!

By the way, I found lots of small oil and gas operations along my ride in Wyoming along with dead deer and antelope on the side of the road. I narrowly missed a deer on my ride into Steamboat Springs!

Hike of the Canyons...

Saturday I spent the day hiking the Cascade Canyon which is on the opposite shore of Jenny Lake. Since the hike was 15 miles roundtrip and a gain of elevation of 2300 feet up to over 9000 feet, there was no question I was taking the boat as I would have added another 4 miles of hiking!

It was another beautiful day with a few puffy cumulus clouds and just a little breezy. The hike began easy enough with a very gradual climb of the canyon with lots of thimbleberries and raspberries for snacking on the way up the first canyon. Then the canyons split north and south. I travelled north up to Lake Solitude. The last two miles must have gained over 1200 feet and at that altitude, my breathing was noticeably more labored. But I made it! Lake Solitude is another crystal clear alpine lake. But what I enjoyed most were the spending views down the north canyon! When I arrived at the lake there were a few sprits of rain that didn't amount to much.

I met an awesome couple from Pennsylvania on the way up and an awesome French man who has lived in Michigan the past five years. All had interesting stories. On the way back down, we spotted a black bear about three hundred yards away on the opposite slope. Probably snacking on the delicious berries!

After arriving back at camp, my neighbors were a family from Ohio who were enjoyable to share a Moose Drool Ale with... I was exhausted!

Whitewater Canoeing on the Snake

I awoke Friday morning to another bright, beautiful day. It was cold to start but warmed up nicely. On my way to arrange for my canoe rental, I was stopped by a Park Ranger for going 60 in a 45 mph zone. My first speeding ticket, ever! Oh well, it doesn't get reported to Mass (whew!) and it didn't turn out to be a bad omen. I had a great day on the river.

After getting the canoe, I took the picture that has been made famous by Ansel Adams with the reflection of the Tetons in the Snake River.
After meeting Bill and Julie and their family from Oregon, we spotted my car downtream at Deadman's Bar and put the canoes in a the junction of Pacific Creek on the Snake River.

While I've done a few whitewater canoe trips with Art up in Maine that actually involved Class III waters, it turned out that this experience was quite different! First of all, it was a very strong current 3 mph for most of the trip and the rips were all Class I and quickwater, except for a Class II just before the takeout. But what made it particularly difficult was that I was soloing in the canoe which can be difficult. At times, I was struggling to keep the craft going downstream due to some wind. Therefore, I was unable to get many pictures. But I did see a bald eagle fly overhead.

But what turned out to be the real challenge is that this river is REALLY a snake. It is a braided river meaning that the gravel in the river shifts constantly revealing as many as five different paths at times and you need to choose wisely! If you choose the wrong channel, you run out of water and may have to drag back upstream. I did well. Of the 20 decision points, only twice did I end up dragging a bit, but had enough water to keep going! The old strategy of choosing the outside channel which almost always works in Maine, doesn't seem to matter much out here!

After returning the canoe, I found an awesome restaurant with a bar that had a panoramic view out a glass wall of the entire front range of the Tetons! What a great place for a well-deserved pint!

Jenny Lake & The Tetons

Well, I awoke very early on Thursday morning so that I could arrive at Jenny Lake campground at 7:30. When I got there, I found a space that someone was vacating. I was in. I made it my home for three nights and even set up the tent as I expected good weather and a change of pace was nice. On the way to Jenny Lake I stopped and took some pictures of first light on the Tetons... stunning! It was a picture perfect day with not a cloud!

I headed out for an 8 mile circumferential hike of the lake, including a side trip to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The water was so amazingly clear. On the hike, part of the mountainside is regenerating forest after a fire 10 years ago. Spotted a couple of deer and an osprey that I took a picture of. Also, check out the cool interference pattern on the lake made by the boats that go back and forth across the lake. These boats would be important for my plans on Saturday!
Following the hike, I met a family at the visitor's center that was looking for someone to coordinate a canoe trip of the Snake River with. Good fortune was smiling!

Old Faithful and onto the Tetons

I awoke to rain and cold again on Wednesday morning, mixed in with a bit more sleet. I was so grateful for the window of good weather on Tuesday that allowed an awesome communion with the Canyon! I focused on doing some laundry, then head off for Old Faithful. By the time that I got on the road, the weather improved significantly. I stopped at many different geothermal featurs, including the paint pots, which have bubbling rhylite mud in them!

Old Faithful was pretty cool. They had opened a new visitor's center only the week earlier. It had some really good exhibits.

After watching Old Faithful blow its top, I headed for Colter Bay Campground in the northern end of Grand Tetons N.P. It was nice, but it was just a stopover because my real goal was landing a spot in the most difficult campground to get into in the entire Rockies... Jenny Lake!

Bonus Post... Poem

The Yellowstone Man

Moving powerfully over the lip, falling water brings quenching mist

Steadfast and sure protection as the boulder provides stability for the pebbles in its wake

Patience of the cougar awating the attack of an elk

Expressive as the roar of the mighty Yellowstone Falls

Uplifting as the torrent of air on which the osprey glides

Fun-loving as the pebbles of sleet that bounce off the trail

Intense as the colors of the sun-blessed rainbow over the canyon

Enchanted by the mistress called nature

Back to Yellowstone... Harder than it seemed!

I began the morning in Cody, WY and the sun was shining! As I drove westward, the sky darkened and it began raining as I approached the East Entrance to the park. When I arrived, there was a line of cars stopped at the entrance. The ranger advised us that it would be another hour or two before the entrance was opened because of snow in an 8000 foot pass! So, I backtracked a bit to a scenic overlook, got out a good book and read in my Element for a couple hours. When I returned, the gate was open once again. I've added a picture of August snow (perhaps and early pretense for a great ski season?).

I got into the Canyon campground near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone park and had lunch, then it began sleeting! Back to the book! But magically around 2 it stopped preciptating. I figured I had the time necessary before dark to do the magical circumference trail around the canyon and their awesome waterfalls. The trails were at 8000 feet elevation and about 11 miles in both directions in a "U" shape. I took several descents to lookouts that were much lower. I figure the total uphill was around 1500 feet or so. The falls and the colors of the canyon walls were amazing! The Lower Falls is higher than Niagara! On the hike, I saw an osprey, an osprey chick, a couple of whitetail bucks and an enormous elk on my journey. I thought that this day was the most special at Yellowstone.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Driven Away By Rain and Snow

I awoke this morning to the clouds moving in, the winds picking up, and rain starting to fall. I broke camp and checked the forecast. Mixed snow and rain all day! Not terribly good weather for much of what I wanted to do. So I took another suggestion from the ladies of Conrad, MT and went to Cody for the day.
It was a good decision because on leaving the park I ran into 3 different buffalo herds, one of which was straddling the roadway. The first group of five was "hiding" behind the Soda Butte, but eventually they moved out from behind. I got some great pictures!

The trip to Cody was wild! The roadway climbed up to 8000 feet with lots of switchbacks and beautiful views of the Shoshone Mountains. One bridge going over a river was about 1000 feet high. Bungy jumping anyone?

After geting into Cody, I went to the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum. It actually has five different parts, but the most interesting one was the Museum of the American Indian of the Plains. It had actual clothing, ceremonial garb, weapons and tools from the various indian tribes dating from the mid-to-late 1800's. It has been described as the Smithsonian of the Plains Indians. The picture is of Sitting Bull's tomahawk, given to the Army when he surrendered.

Tonight, I am staying at the Buffalo Bill State Park which overlooks the Buffalo Bill Reservoir which is created by the Buffalo Bill Dam. Do you see a pattern here?
By the way, the local Walmart here in Cody is filled with RV's!

Geothermal Day

Well after a great sleep I decided to head off for the Norris area and Mammoth Hot Springs on Sunday. The Norris area has two large areas of geysers, hot water springs, etc. A varied pallette of colors, sounds and smells. Certainly sulfur was the prevalent odor! But the noises ranged from a washing machine to a jet engine to air being let out of a balloon. Green was algae. Orange was iron. Bluish-green was minerals. It stimulated all the senses!

I've include a picture of Mammoth Hot Springs as well. It is a large geothermal feature with water running on the surface! I ended up camping near the Northeast entrance at Pebble Creek. A pretty typical mountain stream passes beside it.

Lastly, the campers next to me last night were a mother and son from Nebraska, Kathy and Jim. So many interesting coincidences. Art, she is a veterinarian, but believe it or not she graduated from Kansas State University! Her husband passed away 3 1/2 years ago, but when he was alive, he too was a Big Brother to a 9-year-old at one time. Her older son (who chose not to go on this trip) had a bout with cancer but is now fine. She had brought her son who is going into 6th grade to camp by herself being more comfortable in the city. She knows that he needs ways to embrace his masculinity because his father is no longer alive, but she admits that it is challenging for her. I offered help with building a fire and showing Jim how to chop wood.

How tested she has been by life, yet she gives so lovingly what she can to her son, trying to learn as she goes. I know that this encounter reaffirms for me that the focus of my volunteer work will remain with boys who lack a positive masculine influence in their life and suffer with self-esteem. Kathy and Jim, thank you for that gift of clarity!

Arrival At Yellowstone

Late afternoon on Saturday I arrived at the Madison Campground, just east of West Yellowstone. On my entrance into the park, I was greeted by a welcoming committee... a group of elk!

On my way to the park, I stopped at Big Sky, which is one of the premier ski areas out west. I got a good idea about the area and the terrain and where I might rent an on-mountain condo that had an ideal location. Any takers for the year after next?
Met a great guy from Maine in the campground. He is a retired middle-school science teacher. Hey, Frank, that could be you in a few short years!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Butte, Montana

Well, you will find a lot new posts with pictures. I have caught up today with my blog entries. I had little availability of a wi-fi signal in Waterton NP or in Glacier NP. Have fun reading!

With the middle of my trip having arrived and facing a really long day of driving to Yellowstone after three days of hiking, I decided to give myself a bit of a break from the camping routine. Some ladies that I had met in Glacier had suggested that I overnight in Butte on my travels and suggested that I stay in the historic Hotel Finlen ( I have done so. I also got a great steak dinner here in Butte where it is not far from the cattle to the plate!

Tomorrow I will be finishing up a few details here and get resupplied with food for my trip to Yellowstone. It looks as though I am facing a big change in weather. Perhaps some rain, but low temperatures in the next few nights will be in the 30's. Time to switch out of the summer apparel!

By the way, the drive here was very scenic, following the western edge of the Continental Divide.

Bonus Post... Poem

This image and a dry thunderstorm last night inspired this poem:

The Tall Cedar

In the midst of cedars fed by melting snow and glaciers
Stands a remnant
A hollowed out corpse of a once great tree

As like a fossil, it charred remains
Signal that it was a target
It had grown and developed higher than others

Some men stand taller
In the expression of themselves and their gift
And in the practice of their love

The masculine speaks his truth,
faces problems, leads and
Gives protection to those around him

Perhaps this tree was the victim
A victim of a dry thunderstorm
With nature's tears withheld

Men who stand tall and strong
Risk the strike of criticism
Yet know thunderstorms
Are ususally another's misplaced fear

Going To The Sun Highway... and the Cedars

Thursday was the day that I was moving from the east side of Glacier NP to the west side and driving over the "Going To The Sun Highway". At one of the narrowest points of the Rockies, this roadway takes you in 50 miles from the east side of the Continental Divide to the other. The pass over the divide is over 6,000 feet high! I know that the pictures don't give it justice.

The good news was that it was sunny and record warmth! The only problem was that the views were obscured a bit by smoke from western wildfires, taking the "wow" factor down a bit. Much of the roadway is under construction, so the trip over was a bit slower than normal. The best way to describe the trip is the Kancamangus Highway on steroids! The roadway is extremely narrow and in places, the ledge is over your car!

My plan was to hike along the "Garden Wall" just above part of the highway, but since the smoke was considerable and the view would be similar to that of the roadway, I laid another plan.

But before I leave this subject, I want to tell you how much respect I have for the determination of Beth climbing this roadway as part of her cross-country bicycle ride some 20 years or so ago. It is a gruelling 12 mile stretch of 6% grade! I'd be lucky to get a few miles in granny gear!

I created an alternative plan of hiking the Trail of the Cedars and up to Avalanche Lake before settling into my campsite just inside the east gate of the park. The hike was beautiful. Cedars don't usually grow in Montana, but because of a cascading waterfall leaving Avalanche Lake, there is enough moisture to allow a small forest to grow. The cascade had several "pots" much like the "Great Basin" in the White Mountains, but much smaller in size. Once I arrived at the lake, I went to the distant shore and had an amazing time watching 6" brook trout actually leaping completely out of the water trying to catch moths that were flying over the lake. Now I know why they say the "fish are jumping!"

I ended up in Apgar Campground and spent some time at the shore of Lake McDonald speaking with a few of you, benefitting from my restored cell phone reception!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Iceberg Lake

Following up the climb to Grinnell on Tuesday, I decided on Wednesday to climb up to Iceberg Lake, up one of the other canyons that empty into Many Glacier. It was another sunny and warm day!. The trail started steeply for about a 1/2 mile, then shallowed out nicely. This hike went up onto the same mountainside that I had seen the bears through the telescope two days earlier. However, we were further west and had no encounters. On the trail up, I encountered a funny looking bird - a ptarmagin, sitting in the middle of the trail with its young. It kind of looks a bit like a quail. Check out the picture. Apparently, the bird has white feathers during the winter. A chamelion of sorts, providing good camouflage in varying seasons.

On the way up, I met a nice group of people from Wisconsin. The guy in the group was a saleman of .... you guessed it... cheeese! It was good to have some company on the climb up.

Once we arrived, I found a mother and baby moose swimming through the lake to some bushes on which they fed. I got some great pictures and share them here. The lake was less spectacular than Grinnell, but beautiful just the same. The hike was 10 miles roundtrip and gained about 1600 feet in elevation.

On the way down I was feeling hot, tired, grumpy and a bit lonely. I think because I was beginning to look forward to the next part of the trip (Yellowstone and the Tetons) for which I had planned to share with someone else, but will be by myself. I decided to pull over to the side of the trail on a grassy slope and take a bit of a nap (why not?). After a brief nap interrupted by people coming along now and then, I composed this poem. The picture is of the spot on which I laid. A perfect pillow and grassy mounds on either side of my body.

Cradled By Nature

Lying in the shade
Amongst the tufts of mountain grass
Filtered sun by firs
Provides ample warmth
With gentle breezees blowing
Rushing through the branches
Stone guardians loom
On the mountain
Keeping watch over the canyon
I feel cradled by nature

I felt refreshed. When I reached the bottom, I got some huckleberry ice cream. Very similar to my favorite at home - black raspberry. Enjoy the pics!

Bonus Post... Poem

The Ripple Effect
A gust of wind rushes
Down the steep graveled slope
Unable to fall further
Blocked by the surface of the lake

A spreading arc of ripples
Build swiftly into propogating waves
Breaking on the distant shoreline
Releasing onto the beach pebbles

Envery energetic result in life
Begins with a breath - perhaps a thought or an emotion
That before long ripples through us
Moving us and moving the world

Grinnell Glacier

One of the reasons that I wanted to camp at Many Glacier is that it is immediately adjacent to the trailhead to Grinnell Glacier. Because I couldn't get the boat ticket for the ranger-led hike up to the glacier, I decided to hike alongside the two lakes that the boar traverses. The weather was warm and sunny once again! As it turned out, I got there quicker than the boats with all the loading and unloading! The boat saves you about 2 mile hike each way.

On the lakeside trail adjacent to the second lake (Josephine Lake), I found some fresh grizzly bear scat! Fortunate for me, no encounter!

The Ranger who led the hike was a geologist. He was very informative about how Glacier is one of the best examples of upward thrusting sedimentary and metamorphic rock. What is now the Rocky Mountains is an old ocean sea bed that was lifted due to the collision of plates. And the rock is SO old that there are hardly any fossils, just some fossilized algae pools!

On the way up to the summit, we had a gorgeous overlook of Grinnell Lake and I composed a poem largely on the spot while I was waiting for the rest of the group. The group moved rather slowly as there were a number of older, unfit people trying to make the climb.

The terminus for the hike was a viewpoint of the glacier. So I decided to separate from the group, fjord a stream and make my way onto the glacier surface (the sign said that it wasn't recommended so you know what that means... you can do it!). The glacier surface had lots of cracks (crevasses) and the surface that was not covered with snow had rock on its surface. Did yoiu know that the turquoise color of these glacial lacks is from the dust created by the glacier pushing rocks agains other rocks and creating a dust known as glacial flour? Sadly there are only 25 glaciers left in Glacier NP. There once was 150. Due to global warming, experts do not believe that there will be any alpine glaciers left here by 2030.

I headed down mid-afternoon and was quite tired at the end of the Day. I climbed only 1700 feet but covered about 14 miles roundtrip.

Final Day at Waterton, Driving to Glacier NP

Sunday was my final day at Waterton. Similarly to the day prior, the weather was strange, but it showered three times and the sun came out in between three times! I decided that it would be a good down day after two successive intense hiking days. I did find some time to watch a moose ducking his head under water in a creek in order to reach the vegetation on the bottom of the streambed. I also had a chance to sit in my folding chair in the sunshine next to this same creek a bit downstream. I also checked out the village, the magnificent hotel set upon the lake, get on the internet for a bit to complete a couple posts, and listen to a guitarist in a coffee shop!

Monday was an awesome drive to Glacier National park, down Chief Mountain Highway and through Customs. The roadway followed the east side of the Continental Divide. I've included a picture of Chief Mountain. It was a gorgeous day and very strange that cattle are allowed unrestricted crossing of the roadway so you have to be on constant alert! I rolled into the Many Glacier campground, which was awesome because I would hike in this area in the next two days. When I arrived at the parking lot of the campground, there was a group of people huddled around high-powered binoculars and telescopes all trained on the slope of the mountain behind. I was fortunate to have them share the view with me for I saw a mother and three cubs playing on a mountain meadow! I checked out the trails and sure enough a few of the more popular trails in close proximity to this meadow were closed due to the presence of grizzlies!
I tried to purchase a boat ticket for the climb to Grinnell Glacier, but it was sold out. Behind the hotel where the concession was located, I grabbed this photo of a mountain goat.

Bonus Post... Poem

Based on my encounters with others along my trail and the brilliant stars above at night...

Twinkle of the Soul

Stories shared excitedly around campfire
Adventures and passions a glow
Youthful companions on the trail
Moved in awe of nature's majesty

These souls shine brightly
Their twinkle is infectious
Living in abundance, joy and love
Shining and reflective of one's own brilliance

Some shine dimly
Radiating a false self
Absent of passion or presence
Seeking others to shine on them

Others are black holes
Attempting to snuff out the light of any proximate star
Absorbing what they can from others
Stuck in fear, desperation and bitterness

I want to commune with the souls that twinkle brightly

Sadly there are also black holes

The Amazing Crypt Lake... And Trail

On Saturday morning I was a bit unsure about what to do. There had been off and on showers in the early morning. I had planned on hiking Crypt Lake, but was uncertain because you can only access the trail by a 10:00 boat and a 5:30 return ride. If it started pouring, I would be stuck in the rain for hours with no shelter. With the weather being so fickle, I decided to go for it and wow am I glad that I did.

After taking boat across the lake, I set out. Not after long, I met these two couples from Calgary in their late 20's/early 30's. They provided good company up the trail. The trail had a lot of switchbacks, both at the beginning and at the end.

There were four different waterfalls, including one that was at least 300 feet high!! As we hiked, the skies cleared allowing for some great vistas and picures.

Once breaking the treeline, another set of switchbacks appeared, ending with a creek crossing setting us up for some pretty dramatic climbing! Beyond the creek was a cliff walk (2-3 feet wide) that led to a steel ladder up 10 feet or so. Then you had to pass through a natural tunnel that was 60 feet long, began at 7 feet high and ended at 4 feet so you had to get on all fours! After exiting the tunnel, there was another 100 foot long cliff walk where the edge was only a foot or two wide. In this case, there was a steel cable to hold onto. Beyond that, a piece of cake to the lake.

It is seemingly called Crypt Lake because surrounding mountains loom over you in about 300 degrees of enclosure. The walls of these mountains are almost cliffs, so you do feel enclosed. When I yelled "Yes" upon reaching the lake's shore, my echo could be heard for 6 or 7 seconds! Very eerie..

This lake was extremely cold (about 40 degrees). I waded in to cool off, but one guy on the opposite shore jumped in off a cliff! On the way down, we took a detour to see Hell Roaring Falls, a cascade within a gorge. That trail was extremely steep but had some of the most delicous wild raspberries (thimbleberries?) that I have ever tasted.

Once I returned, I found everyone waiting for the return boat, looking quite exhausted and spent. Dropping the feet in the lake was great for the feet! On return, I grabbed an awesome burger (Kootenai Burger from the Bay Shore) and had a local brew - a Big Rock Grasshopper to finish off a wonderful day! My new friends from Calgary - Michael and Bari invited me over for a campfire at the campground.

The total hike was 11 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2,100 feet reaching 6,300 feet.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fun With Bear Spray and My Pet Whitetail

After a very restful night Thursday night, I headed out on a gorgeous day to hke to Mt. Carthew at Waterton National Park. The trail began at Cameron Lake in the shadow of Mt. Custer. It had snow melting off its slopes. The beginning of the trail was a group of steep switchbacks. After the close encounter with the grizzly the night prior, my first stop in the morning had been to get a can of bear spray. When they sell it to you they tell you to try it out in the woods so you are familiar with its use.

Well, I got in about 100 yards on the trail, made sure that I was upwind of the spray and gave it a short squirt. Well, the side of my middle finger got covered with the pepper spray. No harm, no foul, it worked great and I just poured a bit of water out of my water bottle onto my finger, trying to rinse it off. Well about ten minutes later, I took a drink from my water bottle. Apparently some of the residue rubbed off onto the bottle lip because about 30 seconds later, my lips are burning a bit. Nothing serious, just a bit annoying. I use some more water to rinse off the outlet.

Well about 45 minutes later, nature calls. Not even giving it any thought (who does?), I use my right hand to relieve myself. Let's just say that the skin down there is quite a bit more sensitive and it gave a whole new meaning to throbbing! In desperation, I sucked some water out of my Camelback into my mouth and used the waterfall method to try and bring some relief! After about 30 minutes or so, the burning sensation was gone! At this point, I'm thinking this bear spray is more of a danger to myself than to the bears!

Halfway up the trail, I got to Summit Lake for a short break, then continued up the slope of Mt. Carthew towards the summit. It was a sustained moderate grade through the evergreens until it broke into alpine meadow with lots of flowers. But what was most beautiful was beargrass. It is a baseball sized bunch of white flowers on a long stem that blooms only every 7 years!

Following the meadow, the trail crossed a 45 degree scree slope. You had to be careful as the trail was only a foot or two wide and if you fell, you would go a great distance on sharp gravelly scree. Approaching the ridge, the wind picked up to about 40 mph. At this point you got a view of the twin Crandell Lakes, one with a small glacier on its edge!

The ridge reminded me a bit of the Knife Edge on Katahdin, but more like a butter knife with steep scree on either side with 60 degree slopes on either sides of a 4-5 foot wide trail. The top was very craggy. On the way down, I did a short detour to make a snowball with some September or October snow from last year.

Descending the same route that I came, I was quite hot when I reached Summit Lake. I thought about taking a dip even though I knew it would be bracing. But in these situations, I frequently ask myself "What would Maury do?". Yes, since I had seen only one family on the hike, I decided to strip down and take a plunge. It was no warmer than 50 degrees, possibly as cold as 45. It was extremely refreshing.

On the trail down from Summit Lake, when I reached the switchbacks, I encountered a rather large doe whitetail deer. Since the side of the mountain was very steep, neither I nor her could get off the trail and since she was in front of me feeding as she went down the mountain, I would only be able to go at her pace at a distance of about 30 feet. It was a memorable moment. We shared the trail together for about 3/4 of a mile or about a half hour.

When I reached the bottom near 5:00 PM, I noticed that kayaks were rented at the lake. I decided to take one out for a paddle and circumnavigated the lake beneath huge mountain cliffs and a bridal veil waterfall at the far end of the lake, which interestingly enough was back in the U.S.

Brilliant starry skies and warm temperatures blessed me in the evening. Quite simply it was my best outdoor day in my life!