Friday, November 1, 2019

Day 3: Nature Hates Me!

July 18: I woke up to a beautiful sunrise with brilliant red clouds lighting up the sky. I couldn't actually see the sun itself through all the trees, but the glow it radiated was beautiful!

The morning weather had a lot to be desired....

It didn't last long, however, before dark and menacing clouds rolled in. I did not linger in camp like I did yesterday--today, because of the permit system in Glacier National Park--I'd be forced to march 19.7 miles. All of the other campsites between this one and my destination were already full. Normally, when I'm at full thru-hiker strength, that distance wouldn't have been an issue. Being day 3 of my hike and not even breaking 10 miles yet, 19.7 was quite a stretch. It wouldn't be easy. In fact, the park service considered it so crazy, they actually included on my permit (in all caps and with an exclamation point) ITINERARY NOT RECOMMENDED!

As if that wasn't enough to alarm a person, I also had to go over Stony Indian Pass which the ranger believed still had some snow--which is why my permit also includes the message (again, in all caps and with an exclamation mark) SNOW HAZARD ON ROUTE!

It's amazing they would even give a permit that looked like this. Giardia...? Yeah, not treating water. But I did carry bear spray so at least I'm doing something about the bear/mountain lion warning. Hypothermia? Yeah, I was miserably cold going over Stony Indian Pass. Definite hypothermia possibilities there! NO (all caps) solo hiking? Yep, that's all I'd be doing. Itinerary not recommended? Check! Snow? Check check! =)

It was going to be a rough day, and I knew I needed to use every minute of daylight available. So no sleeping in for me today! I woke up with the glowing red clouds, packed up camp and headed to the cooking area. By the time I arrived, a light sprinkle had already begun.

I ate under the protective overhang of a tree, hoping the rain would stop soon. Rain had been in the forecast, but I didn't expect it until later in the afternoon. Instead, it started hailing! Crap!

After breakfast, I shoved the rest of my gear in my pack and headed out. The trail climbed steadily toward Stony Indian Pass. The sun would come out for a few minutes, then the rain would begin again. An hour into my hike, a heavy hail started to fall--enough that it started piling up on the trail. When the clouds lifted, it looked like a fresh dusting of snow in the mountain tops.

The trail climbed, passing a couple of waterfalls, and the trees thinned out at the higher elevations exposing me to the strong winds blowing through. I couldn't use my umbrella during the rain--the wind was far too strong for that--so I marched onward with nothing but a light raincoat for protection. I also carried waterproof socks that I didn't expect to need until later in the afternoon and I cursed myself for not putting them on in the morning.

The weather was absolutely brutal and unforgiving. Ugh!

The hail looked like a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain tops.

I took a short break at the top of Stony Indian Pass glad that the uphill challenge was done. The rest of the day would be mostly downhill or fairly level and I hoped that gravity would speed my progress.

Then I heard a rumbling in the distance and decided to go. The top of a mountain pass didn't seem like a great place to hang out in a thunderstorm!

The trail plunged steeply downward, but I couldn't go as quickly as I wanted to. Much of the trail was severely overgrown--so much so, I couldn't even see the ground I was walking through. The wet vegetation soaked the lower half of my body as lightning electrified the air and thunder echoed around the steep mountain slopes. The one nice thing now in my favor was that the howling wind seemed to disappear on the downhill slope and now I could pull out my umbrella for protection against the heavy rains.

I slipped badly several times on the muddy trail, and one of those times I caught myself with my trekking pole which got badly bent. Not so bad that I couldn't use it, but definitely so bad that I couldn't retract it and I had to be careful to hold it so the bend faced away from my body to avoid hitting my leg with it on every step.

I hiked nearly non-stop for several hours with nothing more than a couple of 5 minutes breaks here and there. It was exhausting!

And the sun continued to tease me. The rain would stop and the sun would come out. The temperatures warmed--uncomfortably so with the air heavy in humidity--but it would last for 10 or 15 minutes before the dark clouds rolled in again and dumped their load on me.

In the afternoon, I reached Goat Haunt--a wonderful name for a place and I hoped that meant it was a good place to see goats. (I didn't.) By backcountry standards, Goat Haunt is a thriving metropolis. I didn't see a single person while I was there, but several buildings covering the area to host both park rangers and border patrol. Signage warned about a "frequenting bear," but I would see no bears either.

Goat Haunt was located on Upper Waterton Lake which the US-Canadian border cuts in half so it's not uncommon for people to arrive by boat from the Canadian side of the border. A sign by the dock asks people who are entering the United States to download an app to their phone to report their arrival or call a number. Presumably, cell phones must work here, but I didn't bother to pull mine out from deep in my pack to check.

Just give the border patrol a call or download their app to report your entrance into the United States.

There was a large gazebo at the shore with picnic tables and I joyfully plopped down for a much needed break. It was covered, so I didn't have to worry about the rain. Not that it mattered. Nature hates me. I know this because it taunted me by having the sun come out and shine brightly the entire hour I stopped to rest there.

I disposed of my trash at the provided bear-proof trash cans and spread out some of my gear to dry.

About 15 minutes into my rest, I heard what sounded like human voices and I looked around for their source. It took me awhile to figure out that the voice was coming from a boat that just sailed into view far in the distance. I couldn't make out the words, but it must have been over the intercom to carry so far.

I watched the boat follow the shoreline closer toward me. It grew in size and details started to emerge. I could see both a US and Canadian flag flying above it and about 30 people standing along the sides and the upper deck enjoying the view. As it got closer, I could begin understanding the voice over the intercom giving the passengers a verbal tour of the area.

"...Chief Mountain Trailhead is 20-odd miles over Stony Indian Pass to the east," the voice announced. "The Many Ranger Station is 30 miles to the south. We're really in the middle of nowhere!"

I laughed. I thought I was in the middle of nowhere until a boat with 30 people on it just arrived.

I thought I was in the "middle of nowhere" until this boat with about 30 people scooted on by.

I thought the boat would stop at the dock and let people get off to wander around and I was a little disappointed that my gazebo was going to be overrun with tourists, but no, the boat puttered along continuing to follow the shoreline away from me and now cruising along the other side of the lake.

I would have been happy to quit for the day--I had already hiked more today than I did on my first two days combined and was sore, wet and tired, but no.... I still had several more miles to my camp at Francis Lake. I packed up my gear and continued on.

Maybe 15 minutes later, it started sprinkling again. ARGH!!!! Nature hates me! Why couldn't the weather get the rain out of its system when I was under the protective overhang of the gazebo?!

A short while later, I caught up with Mark and Sam. I first crossed paths with them maybe an hour into my hike two days earlier. We've crossed paths a few times in the last couple of days, but never spoke for more than a few minutes at a time. This time I caught up with them and we were hiking in the same direction at the same time and had more time to chat while hiking down the trail.

They had a similar problem with their permit as I did, except their long day was the day before and today was their short 5-mile day. They had spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon waiting out the bad weather! When I caught up with them, they had been on the trail today for maybe 10 minutes.

They were also heading to the same campsite as I was: Francis Lake. They seemed friendly and we hiked together for the better part of an hour.

I tried to keep up as best I could, but my energy was flagging. They were relatively fresh having not even hiked a mile when I caught up with them, but I had already completed 15 miles over some grueling terrain and was feeling its effects. I enjoyed chatting with them, though, and tried to push through the pain but finally needed a break. They passed by a beautiful overlook of Janet Lake--a stunning view that finally made me stop to rest. I was a little disappointed that Matt and Sam didn't want to take a break as well, but I knew I'd catch up with them later in camp.

I rested about 15 minutes, then picked up my pack to push onward. The last couple of miles I struggled. The rain had finally stopped--briefly, at least--but I was hurting bad. Just get it done! I thought. An hour of hard hiking and you'll be in camp and can finally relax!

My pep talk wasn't working, though, and I could feel myself moving slower and slower with each step. I shouted for joy when I finally saw Francis Lake through the trees. The campsite--ugh!--was located a quarter mile off trail down a steep hill, but the view of the lake spurred me on.

And I kept walking and walking and.... where the hell was the side trail to the campsite?! Did I somehow miss it? I lost the view of the lake through the trees and wasn't entirely sure if I had completely missed the lake or not.

I passed a small stream and dropped my pack to fill up with beautiful, cold water. I drank a whole liter of it right there, guzzling the precious liquid and taking a break. I preferred getting my water here than filling up at the lake.

Next stop... the campsite! It had to be near!

Francis Lake--my destination for the day

I arrived at the campsite and was surprised not to see Matt or Sam. There were no food bags hanging from the bear pole in the cooking area. Did they sneak into their campsite with food? *tsk tsk*

There weren't cables at this campsite--just the bear pole and there's a second pole you use to lift your food bags to hang them from the top of the bear pole. I dropped my pack--glad to be rid of the weight--and grabbed the second pole which was wedged into the base of the bear pole and... it didn't come out. I pulled and pulled and I could not get it out. How the heck was I supposed to hang my food bag if I couldn't get this out? Why did someone wedge it into the hole so far?

I finally gave up. I was too tired to get it out and I needed to set up camp before it started raining again. Screw it! I couldn't leave my food bag unattended. Well, I could leave my Ursack unattended at ground level, but not all of my food could fit in it. So I decided to break the rules. I'd take my food with me into camp. I wouldn't eat in camp, though. Just keep it with me so bears wouldn't get into it and I'd deal with hanging my food later.

I checked out the rest of the camp--which only included two campsites and both were empty. What happened to Matt and Sam? Did they somehow miss the turnoff and hike past the campsite? I couldn't imagine how that happened--it was such a well-marked turnoff, but they were ahead of me!

Well, nothing I could do about that. I picked a site for myself, set up my tarp, then changed into dry clothes. After taking off my shoes, I rubbed the bottom of my feet for about 15 minutes. It felt so wonderful!

A short while later, Matt and Sam showed up. "How did I pass you guys?!" I exclaimed.

They took a break at the Lake Janet Camp which was located a bit off trail and that's where I had passed them. Apparently, they had missed the amazing overlook of Lake Janet that I stopped at and continued on to the nearby campsite which actually had absolutely zero views of the lake--much to their disappointment.

We cooked dinner together and I really enjoyed their company! One of them (Matt, I think?) managed to get the second pole unstuck so we were finally able to hang our food bags properly.

At sunset, I finally retired for the night to my tarp and read my Kindle a bit before hitting the sack. It had been a difficult day, but I made it. Tomorrow, thank goodness, should not be so difficult!

This is the bear pole that gave me so much trouble! (The second pole that had gotten stuck is not in the photo. We set it aside on the ground after freeing it so it couldn't get stuck again.)

The only snow actually ON the trail was this tiny patch near Stony Indian Pass.

I'll believe it when I see him!
Another rickety suspension bridge! Always something to get excited about! =)


Hannah said...

We were in Waterton over the summer and yes, the boats to Goat Haunt aren’t stopping this year due to staffing problems (or something like that...if there’s an app why do they need staff? And is there really cell service there? We will never know.) You lucked out on your hike, not getting bombarded by day hikers!

Arlene (EverReady) said...

Great pictures. The area is breathtaking!