Its officially the first day of summer! The only thing better than that is the fact Going To the Sun Road is open in Glacier National Park. What a great week! Spring Fever for this gal can only be cured in three ways: hiking in Glacier, planning a hike in Glacier, and talking about planning a hike in Glacier.
At this point in my 25+ year love affair with Glacier National Park, I’ve hiked most of the “on-trail” hikes that I’ve had a hankering to do. And some of those trails, like the dusty, well-worn path to Iceberg Lake, I’ve hiked numerous times. But no two hikes are alike, and there is no trail I’ve grown tired of yet – oh, certain portions of certain trails, to be fair – does anyone really harbor deep affection for that very last mile down from the Loop/Highline Trail/Granite Park Chalet trail, when it’s buggy and thronged with tourists and the sun beating down on your head intensifies the ache in your twelve-miles-in-shins? Not me.
One of my very favorite trails is the Dawson-Pitamakan Loop, out of the southern Two Medicine area of Glacier. It’s a little over 3,000 feet in elevation gain over 18.8 total miles, but don’t let that intimidate you. Much of that 18 is a walk-in-the-park ridge walk, and nearly every moment of the hike is breathtaking, as you circumnavigate Rising Wolf, Flinsch, and Morgan peaks, walking a narrow scree trail between Dawson and Pitamakan passes. If 18 miles makes you nervous (and I’m not trying to suggest that you should go from your couch to doing an 18-miler!), know your limits – you can shave about two miles off the trip by catching the early boat across Two Medicine Lake, and tackling Dawson Pass first, or by doing Pitamakin first and keeping a close eye on your watch to make the last boat back across Two Medicine. To me, the elevation gain to Dawson is more challenging than that of Pitamakin, but it is certainly doable.
Also, if peak bagging is your thing, Dawson-Pitamakan allows for fairly easy summits of Flinsch and Helen – at least, those are two that I’ve tackled from this loop. It adds a little extra mileage to an already challenging day, but the views of Mt. St. Nicholas, to the south, are completely worth it.
Anyway, I’ve done Dawson-Pitamakan a number of times, but am posting a few pictures from a weekend trip in August 2015. This particular trip was especially memorable because in our rush to get to the dock and catch that last boat across the lake, saving ourselves the last few grueling miles, we picked up the pace a little too much, as we hiked quickly through the deep forest ringing the lake, and had ourselves a little incident.
And I wish I could say that is exactly what we did, because that is exactly what we should have done, as we assessed the approaching bear Issue.
But hiking in Glacier has taught me a lot about myself, and hiking with random groups of people has taught me more about the human condition than perhaps any other experience I’ve had outside of tending bar. And I’ve learned that sometimes the human condition, properly conditioned about proper bear behavior though it may be, reacts in the most basic and instinctual of ways, and there is nothing to be done. In this instance, the fight or flight instinct flooded our bodies and some of us, who shall not be named, took off running hell-for-leather down the trail, bear spray in hand, leaving the bravest of the group in the dust.
And as the yet unseen beast came around the corner, snorting mightily and stomping its feet, we collapsed in near tears and collective relief that the beast in question was an equine. And we tried mightily to wink back at the solo cowboy clearly having a fun afternoon at our expense. I laughed until I cried nervous tears of relief, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that from that day forward, whenever I hike with Layla, I make sure she’s in the back.
Because I now know that I can outrun her.
Make sure to tag your photos: #mtadventure #stakeyourclaim