Kintla/Kinnerly Peak Backpack, Glacier National Park, Montana - August 2010
Day 1

Added 28 January 2011

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Friday, 20 August 2010, Glacier National Park, Montana

It was exceptionally windy last night, and once had to re-drive a tent stake that didnít hold in the gravelly ground due to a particularly strong gust. I thought I heard everyone get up before I got out of my tent this morning, but when I went to the food preparation area no one was there. I went ahead and ate, and everyone showed up as I was nearly finished with breakfast. It turned out they had been filtering water. While they ate, I packed up, and while they packed up, I roamed the area with my binoculars and just nosed around a bit. We started hiking at around 9:00 a.m., but no one seemed to have any desire to lead the way on the bushwhack out, so I went ahead and stepped out into the lead.

At first, I was able to maintain a good course while treading on pretty easy terrain for hiking. We made pretty good time for a while, and I think we all had our hopes lifted that the bushwhack back to Boulder Pass Trail would prove far easier than the bushwhack to Agassiz Glacier. After traveling about 3/4 of a mile, the terrain got significantly steeper but it was still relatively open. We then encountered cliffs that forced us down in elevation.

The terrain got steeper still. Then it got choked with brush. And as if that werenít bad enough, we soon encountered a good deal of dead fall trees. Our travel had become not only challenging, but hazardous, and we moved very slowly and deliberately. I took a spill when some undergrowth caught my foot. I fell, folding my right leg under me and hyper-extending my knee. I was fortunately able to roll off my leg quickly, but I feared that the pain in my knee might worsen over the course of the next day or two. I hoped that it was just a minor injury, however. I had been rather sure-footed throughout the trip, and it would have been mildly ironic for one of my few spills to end up in a debilitating injury. The pain for the duration of the day was troublesome, but not physically limiting. That, at least, I was grateful for. My left achilles was still giving me grief as well, but the pain there had settled down to a dull roar by mid-day.

After spending a good deal of time to gain very little forward ground towards our goal, I asked if there were any objections from the group if I ceased trying to maintain elevation and focused instead on finding terrain it would be easier to hike through. There were no objections, so we descended and found some easier, though by no means easy, terrain. We eventually traveled far enough east to get around the band of cliffs that kept pushing us down and we started making our ascent back up to intercept the Boulder Pass trail. It was a steep, slippery ascent, but it was actually a welcome change from sidehilling, and at least now our goal was within our grasp, almost literally, as we were all grabbing whatever vegetation was at hand to help haul ourselves up the slope.

When we reached a gully with a rather lively stream flowing down it, I went to investigate a likely place to cross it. When I returned to report that it was crossable, no one was there. They had all ascended further up the slope.

I yelled up that it was crossable where I was, but they wanted to climb higher before crossing, so I caught up with them. After doing some more climbing we found a really nice spot to cross the creek, then angled up a bit. When we finally saw Boulder Pass Trail through the trees, a mere 100 yards or so away, we all let out a big cheer. It was noon by the time we stepped out onto Boulder Pass Trail. It took us 3 hours to bushwhack the 1.5 miles from camp to the trail, a pace more appropriately quantified in hours per mile than miles per hour. By this time, Andrea was feeling like she deserved a "Wilderness Girl" patch, and I certainly couldn't disagree with her. We'd just exited some really rough country.

After lunch we breezed down the trail to Upper Kintla Campground. This time we had a better choice of campsites and picked the nice one closest to the lake (not that any of them are far from the lake). After setting up camp and filtering water, we relaxed by the lake. It was windy and the lake was far from the placid pool it had been during our first evening there, but it offered some variety and helped keep the bugs away a bit.

While sitting on the shore I struck up a conversation with a guy named Fred. When he found out I was from Arizona he wanted to know about backpacking the Grand Canyon, so I recommended the Hermit Trail loop to him. My group started towards the food area to have dinner, but I wasnít hungry and wanted to do a little exploring, so I walked the shoreline to the east end of the lake, which is shallow and marshy in some areas.

I kept trying to get a good look at a shorebird that was wandering the lake, but it always saw me before I saw it and would fly before I could get a look at it. I did see a small flock of common goldeneyes and an osprey though, and later in the evening, heard a loon call in the distance. For those moments when I sat down to relax, I enjoyed watching the bugs that kept landing on me, presumably looking for salt.

When I got back to camp Jerry told me about an altercation heíd had with Bob, one of Fredís travel companions. Having completely emptied one of their Bear Vaults and thinking that it wouldnít retain any odors, Jerry figured they would just store it at our campsite since it didnít have any food in it. Bob got in his face and said that if he took the empty Bear Vault into the sleeping area he would not only turn Jerry in, but would physically prevent him from doing so. As a result, Jerry just left the empty Bear Vault in the food storage/preparation area. Jerry also noted quietly that Bob was one of the messiest people heíd encountered, spilling hot chocolate all over himself and others. Presumably he didnít leave his pants in the food storage area. After we got back to Tucson, a park ranger called Jerry about the incident, as Bob filed a complaint that Jerry had actually taken the Bear Vault back to the sleeping area. Fortunately Jerry cleared things up with the park ranger and nothing came of the complaint. We were both astounded that Bob would have lied about the incident and turned Jerry in for something he didnít do. I would have expected better of back country enthusiasts, but I guess those types of folks are everywhere.

I had a quiet dinner alone tonight, then went and sat by the lake. It struck me how different the campground can be depending on whoís there. Quite unlike the last time, I was the only person who sat to watch the sunset over the lake tonight. Perhaps the wind drove everyone else away. I sat there enjoying the solitude until after dark and was about ready to turn in for the night when a nearly full moon rose over the mountains, reflecting off the lake. After first admiring it for a little while, I determined to try to photograph the scene, though having only my point and shoot camera was somewhat limiting, not to mention my lack of a tripod. I used logs, twigs, bark and rocks to create makeshift tripods and did the best I could with the cameras manual exposure settings in order to capture the scene. It was fun to try to coax decent images out of the camera given the less than ideal conditions.

Once again, as I was getting ready to call it a day, a bank of altocumulus clouds appeared over Kinnerly Peak and moved towards the moon. I stuck around to see what photo opportunities might be had from the new arrival. After a while, I finally, actually, went to bed.

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