Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Day 154: A rough day in the snow

September 21: It was a cold and windy night, which led into a cold and windy morning. Since I only needed to hike about 15 miles, a distance forced on me by my permit, I took my time getting up. I definitely wasn't in a rush with a mere 15 miles to do, which is how I didn't end up on the trail and hiking until about 8:30am.

I hiked quickly just to warm up, but didn't really thaw out until climbing upward toward Triple Divide Pass where I got above tree line. Triple Divide Pass got its name since it's next to Triple Divide Peak, on which is the continental divide of the continental divide! Well, that's how I see it. If you check Wikipedia, you'll see it's technically called a hydrological apex, but basically, the water from this peak flows into three separate oceans. At least it does if you consider Hudson Bay a tributary of the Arctic Ocean. I imagine some people might disagree with that assessment. 

On the climb up, I passed a hiker who was heading down. He hadn't come from over the pass, but rather had hiked up and was now coming back down and wasn't carrying a pack. We stopped to chat for a few minutes and he noticed the tiara I had hanging off my pack.

"I like your tiara," he told me.

"Oh, yeah... that." I laughed. I imagine it must look pretty odd to anyone I came across. =) I explained about thru-hiking the CDT and about to complete the triple crown, but alas, I couldn't get my hands on a crown and settled for the tiara instead. He seemed to find the story funny. 

Anyhow, I pushed onward, and there was still a small bit of snow along the trail near the summit of the Triple Divide Pass, but when I went down the other side, it became positively wild! The snow itself generally wasn't too problematic on its own, but the powerful wind blasts pushed me over multiple times and on the steep slope, that was problematic. Then I reached an actual snow chute--I was stunned to realize that enough snow had fallen to create an actual snow chute! If I slipped on that, I could slide a long, long way down to my potential death. I had to cross it, though, so I dug my feet deep into the snow and slowly pushed my way across, all the while hoping a particularly heavy wind gust didn't blow me down the chute. 

I had heard rumors that someone actually died on this pass early in the hiking season when strong winds blew them "off the mountain", and I wondered if this was where it might have happened. I never checked the authenticity of the story, however, and didn't know any details. And knowing how rumors on the trail change like a game of telephone, it wouldn't surprise me if someone did die in the park but the details about where and how changed into something completely unrelated to the truth.

It was, however, definitely a dangerous stretch for me--especially across the snow chute!

I made it across okay, however, and continued down the trail. I soon passed another couple heading up the pass from the other direction and we stopped to shout at each other over the wind.

"Don't worry!" I shouted. "It's a lot easier on the other side of the pass! Just be particularly careful going over the snow chute!"

They shouted back that they had seen bear prints in the snow.

In the snow? Really? What the heck was a bear doing up here? The snow had only fallen two days earlier so the prints couldn't have been very old. I made a point to keep my eyes open for the bear prints. It never even occurred to me to look for bear prints in the snow.

We continued on in our separate directions, and eventually the trail descended below the snow level and once I got among the trees again, the wind died down as well. All was peaceful once again.

The north side of Triple Divide Pass was pretty sketchy between the snow and the wind gusts!

Safe and sound on the far side of the pass, I decided to take a lunch break. I sat down next to the trail, ate some snacks and read my Kindle for a bit. I had plenty of time to reach camp and didn't want to get there too early. I'd be bored out of my mind if I arrived too early.

I'd been sitting there for about 20 minutes when I heard a loud crashing sound coming through the woods in my direction. I couldn't tell what it was, but I shouted out and jumped up to get a better view through the trees. I saw a bear pop its head above the foliage, look at me, then immediately turned around and ran away. I didn't get a very good look at it, but I think it was a black bear, and it didn't seem to realize I was right there until I shouted out at it. I thought bears could smell you a mile away? Especially since I had my snacks out eating. This fellow was probably 30 feet away and didn't have a clue I was there until I shouted out at it. Sometimes, I think people overestimate a bear's ability to smell.

Anyhow, after the bear ran off, I sat back down by the trail and continued my break.

I eventually reached my campsite at the foot of Red Eagle Lake. When I arrived, there was a party of 3 hikers who had already set up their camp. They introduced themselves as Gary (a.k.a. Lovechild), Hana and Second Breakfast. Two of them had trailnames, but they weren't thru-hiking. They were just out for a week or so, enjoying the gorgeousness known as Glacier NP. 

Food bags hanging form the bear poles at our campsite

We were seated around a fire ring, and thinking back, I couldn't remember a single campfire that I had enjoyed on the trail. Pretty much from the very beginning, campfires had not been allowed. They were either prohibited as a fire danger, or at high altitudes, the terrain was environmentally sensitive and therefore campfires weren't allowed. And in some desert areas, the risk of fire might not be very great, but there wasn't anything around to burn.

It seemed shocking to me that I'd been hiking over over 5 months now and never enjoyed a single campfire, and I happened to mention the fact.

Gary jumped up and said that that definitely had to change. I deserved at least one campfire on the trail, and that they were going to band together to create one!

Cool! =) I didn't want to leach off of all their hard work, however, so I did poke around looking for fallen wood that could be contributed to the campfire.

Shortly after arriving, a group of four women arrived hiking southbound and stopped to chat for a bit. They seemed a little starstruck at meeting a real thru-hiker and asked me all sorts of questions about it, and I answered the best I could. They also joked that they had tried to get this campsite but couldn't because the group of three had taken up all the available slots. Well, I don't think they were joking about that, but they were joking about how "angry" they were about it. 

Their campsite was on the other side of the lake, at the head of the lake. I had passed it on my way here and assured them it was a nice site and probably a little nicer than this one. This site was surrounded by a bad burn area while the other campsite had a lot more trees that survived the fire and seemed a little nicer by comparison.

This is taken from the campsite at the head of Red Eagle Lake, which actually had a few trees that survived the wildfire that had come through.

We shared each other's schedules. I told them that they would be passing Just Awesome tomorrow. I knew roughly where Just Awesome would be camping each night, and I described him in detail and told them it would be really funny if they pretended that they knew him. "Hey... wait a minute.... are you Just Awesome? Yeah? I knew it! We totally met on the PCT! Remember?"

I wasn't really sure if they'd do that or not, but it would be really funny, I thought, if they did. I'm so mean. =) The girls were also scheduled to finish their hike the same day that I finished at the Canadian border, and they said if they saw me trying hitch back to to East Glacier, they'd give me a lift! Cool! Already an offer of a ride! I wasn't too optimistic that the timing would work out, though. But theoretically, they might see me at St. Mary's or someplace trying to hitch a ride onward.

They eventually continued on to their own campsite, but about a half hour later, one of the girls returned to ask if she could get my phone number. They had been talking about me and were creating all sorts of other questions about thru-hiking that they wanted to ask. I gave her my phone number, and they said they'd try calling after they got off the trail. Maybe I'd have a signal and would still need a ride back to East Glacier. That would be great if it worked out!

My neighbors for the night eventually got a campfire started, and we chatted the rest of the evening around my first campfire of the trail. =)

This is Second Breakfast, and we're enjoying my first campfire of the CDT!

Shortly after leaving camp in the morning, I found this bear print on the trail. It looked pretty fresh! I wondered if it was wandering around the campground last night.... (If it did, I never heard or saw it.)

The views climbing up toward Triple Divide Pass were awesome!

The snow at the pass had not yet melted, however....

What was a bear doing playing in the snow?!

1 comment:

Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

Pictures you took during this day of hiking are outstanding.

I fondly remember backpacking thru Glacier NP back in 1984. We took Amtrak from Minnesota right to West Glacier and then hiked thru the park to East Glacier and picked up Amtrak to return home a week later.

I'm sorry to see you almost finished with these trail reports. What's next?