Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 46: Two Medicine to Cut Bank Creek Camp

Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier is a 100 year old lodge with beautiful wood beams, high ceilings, and tall glass windows providing views of the mountains. We took a seat next to a wall of floor to ceiling windows, and enjoyed fresh squeezed orange juice, hot coffee, and delicious eggs, potatoes, and huckleberry pancakes. 

Gloomy, gray clouds draped over the mountains as we made our way back to the trail at Two Medicine. Our dream of endless views of sunlit mountains set against a deep blue sky dappled with friendly, white, fluffy clouds was not to be. Instead of luxuriating in the beauty that surrounded us, we would dash over the pass, trying to get to lower elevation before the thunderstorms began. 

Occasionally, small shafts of sunlight would illuminate a portion of the mountains, transforming drab reddish, gray rock into rich  shades of reddish golds. And when we reached Pitamaken Pass, the clouds briefly opened, providing an incredible view below to sapphire lakes ringed with emerald trees set against ruby-encrusted mountains dusted with golden sunlight. Sierra laid on the rocky cliffs and stared over the edge to "soak it all in."  A silverback marmot waddled toward us, probably hoping to nibble on some salty hiking gear.  

The hillsides were blanketed with brightly colored wildflowers, including red paintbrush, purple lupine, magenta monkey flowers, yellow aster, lavender daisies, fluffy pasqueflower seed pods, and many more. 

We lounged next to Pitamaken Lake, then followed the outlet creek, which carved deep channels through the rich red rock.  Farther down, a beautiful waterfall tumbled over dark red rock into a large pool. Next to the pool, three small birds bobbed up and down at the knees, dancing to their own internal rhythms. 

At Triple Divide Pass, waters divide three ways into the Columbia (heading to the Pacific), the Mississippi (heading to the Gulf of Mexico), and the Saskatchewan (heading to the Hudson Bay). Continental Divide Trail hikers usually cross this pass, which is reminiscent of the Parting of the Waters. 

But Glacier National Park has closed a 40-mile stretch of the CDT due to wildfire, starting at the junction of the Triple Divide Pass Trail and the Cut Bank Creek Trail all the way to Many Glacier. The rangers suggested a reroute down the Cut Bank Creek Trail to Highway 89, then road walking to Many Glacier, where we can pick up the trail again. Although we are happy to have a continuous path to Canada, we have been looking forward to Glacier National Park for a long time and we know the road walk will not be as scenic.

The Cut BankCreek Trail was beautiful, with excellent views of the mountains and the creek. We stopped for the night at the Cut Bank Creek Campground, a car campground full of cars and tent campers. We listened to a nearby camper practicing his violin as we ate dinner, the haunting melodies of Phantom of the Opera and Amazing Grace, the formal march of Pomp and Circumstance, and many other familiar tunes. 

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