On July 16th, I joined Jeff, Jim, and Steven (three other employees of the Aerospace Corporation) and left city life behind for a week of backpacking in Glacier National Park, Montana. Meanwhile, our fellow employees waited in eager anticipation of the inevitable promotions that would surely come as soon as we were all eaten by bears. Yes, Montana is known for its "wild" life, and our pre-trip preparation included countless tales of terror and timely survival advice, such as the words of wisdom provided in "Bearman's Suggested Bear Deterrents and Safety Tips." The Bearman writes that upon encountering an aggressive bear or mountain lion, you should "pick up the biggest stick you can find and fight for your life" because "bears and mountain lions are predatory and will stalk you and eat you if given the chance." With these encouraging words, we set out on our wilderness adventure.
Jim, Jeff, Dave, and Steven at Red Gap Pass.
Our trip began with a flight to Kalispell, MT where we rented a car and drove to the park. After spending the first night in Many Glacier Hotel, we left civilization behind and made our way into the magnificent backcountry. As I was quick to discover on this journey, one of the keys to backpacking is ... minimization. Extra baggage translates to excess weight, so only the essentials are packed away. By essentials I am referring to a tent, a sleeping bag, and hefty supply of Snickers bars. Unessentials that should be left behind include a change of clothes, deodorant, and other perks of city life. Needless to say, by the end of our trip, our "natural" odor left even the resident wildlife pleading with us to go home and take a shower.
Our journey into the backcountry of Glacier lasted six days as we hiked approximately 55 miles along some of the most incredible trails. Over beautiful mountains, around quiet pristine lakes ... the scenery was magnificent. The many lakes we camped at gave us all the chance to occasionally take a little refreshing plunge ... or at least watch polar bear Jim swimming in the crystal clear waters. Any park with the name Glacier in it is bound to have painfully cold water. There were also ample opportunities to relax and enjoy the peaceful wilderness, miles from the countless tourists who crowd the automobile accessible regions of the park. You've gotta go to the remote areas to truly experience Glacier.
Don't slip, Jim. It's a long way down to Elizabeth Lake.
No place to hide from the grizzlies here.
As for the wild beasts of prey, I am sad but grateful to say that there were no bear encounters during our journey. Perhaps, it was because the insects drove them away. Each campsite had its own variety of tiny, vicious predators ... sort of like the ten plagues of Egypt. But the one constant was the swarms of malnourished mosquitoes desperate to send helpless campers running for blood transfusions. One morning, after we covered our bodies in every form of garment imaginable and flailed about in an attempt to ward of these menacing creatures, two other campers sauntered up in nothing but shorts and tee shirts. No mosquitoes bothered them as they enjoyed their breakfast. When asked what they were using as a repellent, they told us their secret ... Jungle Juice. I'm not one to promote products, but my advice to future Glacier backpackers ... buy the Jungle Juice. BUY IT!!!
Relaxing on the beach.
Morning at Cosley Lake.
Well, inspite of the insects and odors, the backpacking trip was a blast. Montana is truly an incredible state. Pictures just don't do it justice. If you have the chance, I strongly recommend a visit to Glacier. Go out and enjoy the great land that our forefathers commendered so long ago. Just watch out. I hear the grizzlies are still a little bitter.
Top of Bear Mountain.
Taking a break on the hike out.
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