Added 28 January 2011
Tuesday, 17 August 2010, Glacier National Park, Montana
We got a later start than planned this morning, and ended up not getting on the trail until eleven o’clock. Of course, with only 11.8 miles to hike over fairly level terrain on a well-maintained trail, we weren’t concerned about the relatively late start. Talking with a trio of guys in the parking lot, we discovered that they were headed for the same designated campground we were going to. Upper Kintla Lake. They left at least 15 minutes before us, but it wasn’t long before we passed them on the trail, as we were moving at a fairly brisk pace. We passed a number of other backpackers on the trail as well. Only one hiker managed to stay ahead of us, and I think he was just trying to prevent us from passing him and getting the first choice of campsites. I wondered how long he could run and if he could outlast Cheetah (Andrea), who has been known to shame antelope. I found it amusing when he stopped at the Kintla Head campground since we were camping at Upper Kintla. He was probably ticked that he raced down the trail ahead of us to beat us to a campsite that we weren’t even trying to get to.
We ate a late lunch at the patrol cabin at the eastern end of Kintla Lake at around 1:30, then moved on after about 30 minutes. On the stretch of trail between Kintla Lake and Upper Kintla Lake I spotted a black bear in a clearing ahead of us, perhaps 200 yards away. We stopped short to see what it was up to and to look for any sign of cubs. Jerry moved to the lead position and I followed behind him as we went into the clearing. I pulled my bear spray out as we advanced, keeping an eye on the bear as best we could as we emerged from the trees. The bear saw us and slowly moved down the slope, towards the trail we were about to hike across. As we reached the open area we lost sight of the bear, so after pausing for a while we moved forward cautiously yet very noisily, not to mention a bit tensely. We crossed the remainder of the clearing without seeing the bear again, and as we reentered the forest on the other side, we looked behind us for a while to see if we were being followed. We then started hiking normally, which for us meant calling out every 30 seconds or so to keep from surprising any other bears that might be in the area.
As a humorous side note, at Jerry and Andrea's property the day before while we prepared for this backpacking trip, Jerry pondered whether one of his bear spray containers was still good. I told him that the chemical itself doesn't really expire but the propellant does and that he could test it out, as I recently had, by just triggering it for a half second. He walked about 75 feet away from us and fired it off in the opposite direction.
Either the slight breeze changed or he mis-judged it, because he soon started coughing as the bear spray drifted back on him. Knowing there was no serious harm being done, we all thought it was mildly humorous and started laughing. Then the invisible drifting cloud of bear spray floated all the way to where we were sitting at the trailer and we all headed for the hills, teary-eyed, coughing and laughing our butts off. With that, Jerry spawned a running joke for the trip about him bear spraying all of us instead of any bear we might encounter. While I certainly found the whole event extremely amusing, I can definitely say that after getting just a tiny dose of bear spray, I would hate to really get hit with the stuff, and I can understand why it works even on angry bears!
Throughout the day I noticed that none of the other hikers we encountered followed the recommendation of making a lot of noise while hiking in grizzly country. While I find it annoying myself, I still participate in the noisemaking. I’d rather be mildly annoyed than be forced to hold my bloody scalp on my head after a bear attack, as other folks have had to do when they surprised a bear, presumably while not making enough noise to make their presence known.
Once we reached Upper Kintla Lake we paused for a short while to take a break. After watching a few of the numerous interesting bugs along the shoreline, I enjoyed the lakeside views while eating a little snack before continuing on up the trail.
We got to Upper Kintla Lake campground at around 4:30 and proceeded to set up camp. There were a number of folks there when we strolled in, it seemed most of them part of a group of folks from a Vanderbilt University outdoors club. After dinner, we all went to the food preparation area and made our dinners. I wouldn’t normally have eaten so early, preferring instead to make use of whatever daylight I have to wander aimlessly and see what there is to see, but since I had a lot of daylight left, I decided to get the cooking thing behind me. I then relaxed on a log along the shore of the lake, filtered some water, watched the common goldeneye ducks and a lesser scaup on the lake, and generally just enjoyed a beautiful afternoon. I also took the opportunity to wade into the lake to wash a bit of the sweat and trail grime off my body. The water wasn’t as cold as I had anticipated and it felt really nice. If I’d had swim trunks or clothes I could afford to get wet, I probably would have gone for a swim.
As the sun approached the horizon, Jerry and Andrea went to bed, leaving just Z and I at the lake. We alternately chatted or sat in silence, depending on what struck us. Z spotted a moose swimming across the eastern end of the lake, which was cool, though it didn’t remain in view for long. Soon after that Z went to bed, leaving me alone with my thoughts. As the sun set and darkness descended, the glassy lake absorbed my attention. A handful of other folks came out of the woods not far from me to enjoy the view, but no words were spoken. Only a solitary loon spoke out musically from the opposite side of the lake. Eventually, everyone returned to their camp except me. So much the pity of everyone who missed the transition to ever darkening night, made doubly beautiful by the mirror of Kintla Lake.
While wandering around camp I also saw a cool boreal toad.