Part 3 - Adventuring with Don 2018


Proceeding to West Glacier town and Glacier National Park, I drove along the Eastern shore of Flathead Lake, a route that offered beauty and serenity along the roadway. Almost continuously along this drive were roadside stands offering cherries and huckleberries for sale. Apparently the crops of cherries and huckleberries here is extremely bountiful. I only wish I could have purchased a few quarts of either or both, but with my backpacking trip beginning the next day, the berries would have perished before I could savor them. Another little phenomenon up this way is the marketing of anything huckleberry inspired: jams, jellies, ice cream, beer (yes, I saw it in a restaurant), pancakes, and PIE.  The pie I did have, and it was delicious!

Turning east on Rt. 2, I continued on to the Timber Wolf Resort where I had rented a cabin for before and after my backpacking and rafting trips. While I knew in advance the cabin had no electricity, the lack of that utility proved to be more of an inconvenience than I anticipated. By now my cell phone needed to be recharged as well as a camera battery. A common area on the property provided power, but that was not convenient at all. After the backpacking I asked for a cabin with electricity, and they were able to accommodate me for the last few days I spent near West Glacier.


The nights this far north are quite cold even in August. I slept quite nicely throughout the night as I bundled up in blankets and a pillow that I brought with me. Thankfully I did not have the necessity of waking in the middle of night to use the facilities. You see the restrooms were in a separate building a short walk from the cabin and that would have meant, getting nearly fully dressed (since it was cold outside), and then going out in the woods hoping I did not encounter any bears (everyone is warned that this is bear country when arriving and to be prepared). So, being cold outside and with no bear spray, I certainly did not want to have the urge and to go out in the dark to relieve myself.  


Early the next morning I was up and had the backpacking items set aside to then put in the backpack I was renting from Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Company. Still several hours before the beginning of the hike into the wilderness, I found a restaurant that opened early and had a leisurely breakfast while chatting with the waitresses finding one had lived in Tempe, AZ and the other was originally from Ohio, my home state.


Arriving well before departure time, I hung out at Glacier Guides until the rest of our backpacking troupe arrived. Once they arrived we introduced ourselves and I packed my belongings in my backpack. All meals for the next 6 days in the backcountry were separated into smaller bags and these were then divided amongst the hikers to help even the load. Our guide, Ryan, was energetic, enthusiastic and helped bring a sense of excitement to our trek into the wilderness of Glacier.



Ryan showed us an efficient way to don our backpacks; bend into your right knee, setting the backpack upon that knee. Then slip the right shoulder harness strap over your right shoulder, while then using momentum to swing the pack around behind you and slip into the left shoulder harness strap. Bending at the waist, with the pack on your back, hoist up the pack above your hips and, while still leaning forward, snap the waist straps together and then pulling both straps, tighten them snuggly. Next, while hoisting the pack upward, pull on the shoulder tightening straps to snug them up and have the pack rest close to your back., Finally, snap together the upper chest straps, helping draw the two shoulder harness straps snuggly upon the shoulders which helps keep the shoulder harness from slipping outward and away from your shoulders. The idea is to keep the bulk of the pack’s weight over the hips, not across the shoulders, which, in turn helps alleviate strain and undue weight un the upper back and shoulders.


Or, you could have someone hoist the pack up to you and then proceed with the rest of the procedure.


We all were required to watch a short video that, among other things, explained the cautions to take hiking in bear country and park ethics, primarily leaving no trace of having been there, “leave only tracks” to minimize adverse impacts on the land and to the habitat. In bear habitats, bear spray is a necessity. Carried in its’ own little holster, the small canister is easily accessible and easy to deploy if needed.


Completing our “training film” we packed the gear and ourselves into a van and entered into Glacier National Park at the West Glacier entrance. Driving on a long, unpaved road, we headed north to the starting point of our adventure. Along the way we stopped at a remote spot, Poleridge, which Ryan raved about along the way for their homemade huckleberry bear claws and other sweet treats. From that brief stopover we drove on to the starting point at Kintla Lake where we unloaded our gear, donned our backpacks and headed out on our first day’s hike, 6 miles to the lower Kintla Lake campground.

The first day was a moderate workout, not hard, not easy.  Getting used to the backpack (mine weighed in at 40 lbs. - a good weight to carry according to the experts) was fitting well. As we had been paralleling Kintla Lake, we eventually came to an opening that allowed us direct access to the lake. Nearly every one of us took the plunge into the icy cold waters. It was BRISK! After the initial shock, heart stopping, breath robbing dip, we soon adapted and enjoyed the cool down. Soaking up the sun after the dive into the glacial waters allowed us to dry off a bit and savor the warmth again. 



While Kate, Bob and Gyorgyi soak in the refreshingly COOL waters of Lower Kintla Lake.

Soon enough we were back on the trail and completed our 6-mile hike for that day.

In the backcountry, the park allows a very limited number of people and with 8 in our group we occupied 2 of the designated campsites. A few brave souls once again dove right in for yet another (refreshing) swim.  Here we began learning more about each other, where we lived, worked, other hikes, family and so on. An existing camaraderie between a few of our group was established in former hikes that they had shared over the years. We were from Virginia (Gyorgyi), Portland, Oregon (Tiffany), Florida (Tim and Brandon), new Jersey (Kate and Bob),  Georgia (originally), now Montana, Ryan, our guide, and Arizona, me. As the days would pass, we revealed and shared more about our lives. I think we all were very compatible and could rely on each other over the course of our 6 days together.


In addition to our group, other backpackers were also using the same general campsite setting up their tents in other designated spots.

Backcountry backpacking requires an established food preparation area that is far away from the tents. All who are in that campsite use the same limited space for their food prep. Most carry a very small single burner gas stove upon which pots can be set to boil water and prepare the meals that they have packed in. Ryan prepared delicious meals, including a pasta dinner, burritos, coffee or tea amongst other creations. Much of what we ate he had pre-made, sealed in plastic bags and then heated up for a hot meal. Breakfast was typically granola to which we could add nuts, dried cherries and raisins. Powdered milk could be added with hot water also. Glacier Guides provided each of us with an insulated coffee mug that was extremely good in keeping hot drinks HOT for a long time.


Also in the food prep area is typical bear bag hangs. This could be a high tree branch, or in these prepared camping spots iron poles with a cross member at least 12 feet off the ground. All food items, cooking apparatus, and personal toiletries (toothpaste, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.) are put in bags that are then hoisted by rope up off the ground and out of reach of any marauding bears or other curious critters looking for an easy meal. In short time, all these maneuvers are easily learned and put into play each evening or while away from camp.


One last item – the toilet. That too is situated quite a distance from tents and the food prep area. In most cases it was a typical old fashion outhouse, but at Boulder Pass we experienced and “open air” toilet – merely a commode sitting out in the open, whereupon one could look out at the magnificent mountains setting. For privacy, we might have a hiking pole lay across the throne room path indicating the door was closed and was in use and if the hiking pole were set aside that meant the door was open and not being used. Most times a typical old-fashioned outhouse was our toilet. A door latch on the outside was to deter any nosy bears from gaining entry. When in use (not by the bears), if the outside latch were off, then it was being used (and latched from inside).

Are you grossed out already? Hey, it’s all a part of nature.



The exception to the typical outhouse, we could enjoy magnificent               views whilst sitting on the throne.

Nights were cold. Snuggled up in a comfy sleeping bag, resting on an inflatable sleeping pad offered enough comfort to provide a good night’s sleep. I brought an inflatable pillow from REI that made sleeping even more comfortable. I swear by it.

If, in the middle of the night, one had the urge to go, dressing for the cold and carrying bear spray along with a flashlight would mean a lonely, scary trek to the distant toilet, hoping that you would have no encounters with any wild things lurking in the night.

That, primarily is the nuts and bolts of the daily essentials when backpacking and hiking in the wilderness.

The next several days were at times trying and tiring, but continually rewarding for all our strenuous efforts.

                                                       Brandon, Bob & Kate

                     Tiffany, Ryan, Tim and Brandon study the map, while Gyorgyi enjoys the scenery.

                                                           Preparing dinner

u © Donald E. Kline 2012