My third day in Glacier National Park and still no wildlife sightings bigger than a bread box. I awake to sun peeping through the clouds in Apgar Campground with the promise of another beautiful day. I have decided to take the shuttle back up to the top of Logan Pass, the Continental Divide. I am feeling ambitious today, so I plan to do two hikes from Logan Pass because I can’t decide which one sounds more appealing; the wildflowers of Hidden Lake, or the vistas of the Highline. So I pack a lunch and plan on both.
I arrive at the shuttle stop at the Apgar Visitor’s Center where there is an older Park Service gentleman directing people to the front of the line. He glances down at my bare legs disparagingly and says “You do know it his 38 degrees and foggy at the top of Logan Pass, right?” “No problem!” I reply, “I have enough clothes in my pack to spend the weekend!” After the rain on the Avalanche Trail, I have arrived at the conclusion that one must pack three seasons of clothing for hiking in Glacier. I have everything from shorts to fleece pants.
The minute the shuttle pulls into Logan Pass, I realize maybe I needed four seasons of clothing, not three. Everyone is bundled up in heavy coats, wool hats and gloves. I feel as unprepared as I did during the fight for the last pair of snow boots in Macy’s shoe department during my first winter in Manhattan. I head straight to the restroom to add more clothes. In fact, I empty the backpack and put on every layer I have brought!
Hidden Lake Trail is only 3 miles, so I decide I will do it first, since I will only hike a portion of the Highline. It begins from the back door of the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center along a long wooden boardwalk through a wildflower meadow. It’s quite a slog up the steps, as the headwind is so strong now that my hood keeps blowing off, along with the rainfly on my pack. The rain is horizontal with wind gusts that occasionally blow my hiking pole off course before it can touch the ground.
I am surprised at how many people are still on this trail, in spite of the weather. I encounter two families carrying very small, red-faced children who appear to be even more miserable than I am. I can’t imagine parents needing to see a hidden lake so badly, they would carry their children through this weather.
Finally, I reach the overlook of Hidden Lake, with a cloud-capped Bearhat Mountain as a back drop. While I am standing on the overlook, a man tells me, “There is a goat on the trail about a mile further down, just before you reach the switchbacks down to the lake.” Having long been a follower of the Box Canyon Blog from Lovely Ouray,I always wonder, what’s the big deal about a goat? Whenever a sheep or goat is encountered on the trail, the dingy looking, smelly animal becomes the focus of photography, often earning multiple closeups, or even top billing above his beautiful postcards. I don’t get the excitement over a farm animal. So I am surprised to find myself barreling down the additional mile of the trail as fast as I can in hot pursuit of a goat!
(I later see the sign that says it is unlawful to come within 75 feet of wildlife. Sorry to invade your space, goat!)
Once back up to the Hidden Lake Overlook, the wind is brutal. I encounter two men from India on the overlook wearing only shorts and light windbreakers, fluttering like flags. They are staring at Bearhat Mountain, watching the clouds swirl around, flirting with a glimpse of the 8,684 mountain top. We discuss whether it’s going to clear long enough for a photo. They enthusiastically proclaim, “Ve’ll Vait!!” Okay, if they can wait, I can wait. So I find myself an opening in the thicket as shelter from the wind. I think about the sandwich in my backpack, as I am now starving, but it is just too cold to take the pack off. By now, it is sleeting. My fleece gloves are soaking wet, and my fingertips feel like I am holding a cholla cactus instead of a hiking pole. Finally, I tell my Indian friends I have had enough. I can’t wait any longer. I’m heading down. They insist, “VAIT! You MUST have a photo, so people vill know you did this!!” as if we were standing at the Lhotse Face, waiting for our final summit bid. So here is the photo. “I did this!”
Back at the Visitor’s Center, my hands and feet are numb. I think about my once ambitious plan for two hikes at the top, and I scoff as I fly down the steps to grab one of the last seats in the warm, dry shuttle. I ask the driver, “Am I allowed to eat on the bus? It was too cold up there to eat my sandwich.” He pauses for a minute, then replies, “That all depends…What kind of sandwich?” As we speed off down the foggy, winding Going to the Sun road, I answer, “Crumbs!”
Wildlife sightings bigger than a breadbox = 1