Marc Ankenbauer's 10+ year quest to jump in every named lake in Glacier and Waterton National Parks for charity.
168 lakes. Only 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
-- Marc jumped into Fisher Cap Lake on Sunday September 8th, 2013 to complete his goal! --
Read about Marc and how this project started...

Carthew Pond : The Last Canadian Lake #162

One of the greatest aspects to the seasonal world of Glacier National Park is the people you call your peers.

It’s not about who you were in the past or even who you are in winter.

Right now, maybe just for this summer… you are the lucky few.

Right now you are here, no matter what demographic life would normally put you in.

No matter your age, gender, color, sexual preference, nationality, hometown or future path, when you’re here…

None of that matters.


What matters is that you bled your time in this park for all its was worth.

It matters that you got out and explored the park in your own particular way this past weekend.

It matters that you were overwhelmed by the power of this place and your moments in it.

Carthew 1



Some of my best friends in Glacier were not born in my same generation much less the same decade.

I often find myself sitting around a fire or planning hikes with people 15 years younger and 30 years older than me.

I feel lucky to call some of the parks greatest personalities, my friends.


With that said, I have two wonderful guys named Ed Bouffard and Dave Birkhead as hiking partners.

Their lovely wives Diane and Kathy are even more amazing than them… but this story is about Ed and Dave.


Carthew 2


Heading into this season, I was pondering the ideal hiking partners for the last 10 lakes.

Virtually everything I had was a brutal, multiday, off trail outing.

But, there was one last amazing day hike to be had and my ideal partners were these two guys.

They have been good friends to me and unendingly supportive of the lake project.

I’ve gone on countless outings with these two and I always have a terrific time.

Both of them more than hold their own, they’re impressive hikers.


Carthew 3


So, when Ed called me to ask what I was doing on a random Monday in mid-July, I knew exactly what was on the agenda.

Luckily it was Dave’s day off also and we were going to knock off Carthew Pond.

This shallow pond below the Carthew Lakes in Waterton National Park also represented THE LAST LAKE IN CANADA.

There are 38 in Canada, and this was number 38.


Carthew 26

Carthew Pond that is…


In 2004 I hiked through this area along the famous Carthew-Alderson trail.

I knocked off six lakes that day, but not this one.

Carthew Pond wasn’t even on my radar as I hadn’t looked at the official Waterton Lake list yet.

I was simply knocking off the obvious lakes anywhere I found myself on a pretty day.

It’s been almost ten years since I passed by this tiny, somewhat overshadowed pond.


Carthew 4


Unfortunately, the June floods that wreaked havoc in Calgary also took out the Akamina road which accesses Cameron Lake trailhead.

The hike normally runs from Cameron Lake over Carthew Peak and down to Waterton Townsite.


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Carthew Alderson Route Map


Instead, now it’s a seven mile, 3000’ push one way from town to the pond and then back down again.

Not exactly the ideal route, but it was time to go swimming and that’s what we were going to do.


Carthew 5


The day hedged on perfect as I drove north rocking out to the new Macklemore CD.

I pulled up next to Dave’s apartment with music blaring, windows rolled down and my car looking like I live in there.

Dave hopped in and we continued towards Babb to meet Ed, and grabbed a hitch hiker along highway 89.

He told us that he was starting the Continental Divide Trail.

He was hitching north to the Canadian border so he could start heading South towards Mexico.


Interesting story; I was the 3rd person to pick him up already this morning and the first person was one of my coworkers.

Ah, the small world that is the east side of Glacier NP.

We wished him safe travels as he headed in for a last meal at the diner in Babb.

We quickly switched into Ed’s car and headed for the border.


Carthew 19

Chief Mountain Customs with Cartoon Filter


It always goes better if a nice car driven by a distinguished gentleman pulls up, instead of a bald, crackpot with a dirty dorm room for a vehicle.

Everything went seamlessly and an hour later we were putting together backpacks and tightening trekking poles in the Cameron Falls parking lot.


Carthew 6

Cameron Falls, Wateton National Park


The shady, forested trail meandered uphill and felt like it would never end.


Carthew 7


An hour or so later we found ourselves popping out of the trees finally.

The massive headwall of Mt. Alderson dominated the scene.


Carthew 8


Alderson Lake’s deep blue contrasted against the meadows of vibrant bear grass.


Carthew 9


I have a different experience hiking with these fella’s than I do others.

We talk about life, philosophy, politics and just the prospective differences that 30 more years can provide.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the time that I get to bounce my life off of these two wise, pleasant men.


Carthew 10


When Carthew Pond came into view we struck off through marsh ponds and stunted sub alpine trees.

The mosquitoes were enjoying the area as much as we were.

Thanks to our bug friends, like so often, we sped through the actual lake dip portion of the day.


Carthew 11


It’s funny; this whole thing is not about jumping in lakes.

It’s about the journey and experiences along the way.

The last decade for me was about the friends, the miles, the bushwhacks and the epic experiences in such a profoundly wild place.

Not, swimming.

That is just a medium.


Carthew 27


Ed waded into the lake with me to get some video as Dave photographed from shore.

Tiny little stunted fish swam around my torso as I floated in three feet of tepid water.


Carthew 12



I waded out to dry off as Ed took his own refreshing dip.

We were surrounded by amazing alpine scenery at this point and were not in any hurry to drop back into the woods or end the day.

The trail continued uphill along the two Carthew Lakes.


Carthew 13


It would be foolish to not investigate.

Heck, for me it had been ten years, I was going to hang out for a bit.

A flower choked waterfall area drained the Upper Carthew Lake which provided a stellar stopping point.

Water was filtered, sandwiches were eaten, jokes were told, and scenery was soaked in.


Carthew 14


We stared down valley from a rocky outcropping.

Carthew Lake dwarfed Carthew Pond as the valley opened up like a mouth into the Eastern Alberta Plains.




As we descended the trail we dropped through a snowfield which passed a strange little cavernous hole.

A baby marmot popped out to investigate the racket outside his tiny snowy home.

We only stayed a moment, so the marmots could have their peace and quiet.


We headed back into the forest and downward towards town.

Waterton townsite is a colorful bugger from above, nestled in between the Waterton Lakes.


Carthew 16


We got a great view south beyond the border and back into the U.S.

Glacier National Park’s largest peak, Mt. Cleveland dominates the landscape above Waterton Lake.


Carthew 18


Tired, stinky but in good company we packed back in for our trip south across the border.

Thanks, Canada, for all of your lovely lakes, friendly folks and Toonie Coins.

But I’m heading back home for dinner, a cold beer and more good company.


Carthew 20


Great Day!

Thank, Ed and Dave.

For being so cool, loving this place and always being my friends.

To Life,

Marc Ankenbauer

Katoya,Morning Star, Pitamakin, Seven Winds, Upper Two Medicine Lakes : Wub comes to Visit…

In 2004 I had finally solidified a good job in Glacier National Park and was excited for it to begin.

When you start a summer seasonal job in a place like this you day dream of extending it to your friends and family back home.

Back home for me is Cincinnati, Ohio and so are some of my best friends.

My buddy Jerry decided to throw down the unfortunately large coin to get from Cincinnati to Kalispell.

He was here!

He did it.

Its so easy to say you are going to come visit, but it’s entirely different to actually pull it off.

DCF 1.0

Growing up my friends and I were really into camping and backpacking in Kentucky.

Jerry was by far the biggest player in getting us out each weekend.

He was instrumental in the fact that I am who I am and do what I do.

He was the first person to ever introduce me to the idea of actually leaving the trail.

And what would life be like, if we always stayed on the trail, you know?


We were hiking in the Red River Gorge with a couple friends when he suggested we navigate from the top of the wooded ridge to the junction at the bottom.. but why not explore?

Why not see what is down there instead of hiking that same trail we had hiked before?


This story is pertinent because in 2004 I had also recently decided to attempt to be the first person to ever jump in every named lake in Glacier.

Heard about that?

It’s kind of a big deal in my life.


So, the two worlds were about to collide.

DCF 1.0


Jerry and I got a backcountry permit to hike from the Cutbank Valley to Two Medicine.

Our permit was to stay at Morning Star and Upper Two Medicine Campgrounds.

I worked all day so we had to pound out the miles to Morning Star starting at about 6pm.

The light was already starting to get low in the sky which lit the mountains up with dark reds.

DCF 1.0

The Cutbank valley was posted for grizzly bear activity at the time.

Posting means that while Glacier National Park has lots and lots of bears, they had actually been sighted lately and often in this valley.

Jerry and I were on hyper alert but we saw nothing but prints and diggings.

I’m sure the frantic hoots and hollers helped keep the bears at bay also.

DCF 1.0

The next morning we continued our history of off trail travel.

We wandered up a beautiful little side valley to Katoya Lake.

Many years ago there was a backcountry site on the lake shore, but Grizzly activity through the years forced it to be removed.

DCF 1.0

Again there were no bears, but the pucker factor of roaming around off trail kept us vigilant.

We enjoyed a quick morning dip with Red Mountain and pristine meadows all around us.

Unfortunately we had to “keep it brief” because there were lots of miles to cover in one day.

The rocks on the lake floor must have hurt too, forcing me to make an odd airplane motion.

DCF 1.0

This was early enough in the project that I was able to hit five new lakes on this trip.

That doesn’t happen anymore these days.

After Katoya we doubled back to Morning Star to gather our things and take another swim.

DCF 1.0


The trail to Pitamakin Lake was filled with Indian Paintbrush and countless other shades of wildflowers.

DCF 1.0

The lake is tucked into the base of Pitamakin Pass.

At this moment I had achieved a whopping 20 lakes!

It felt monumental at the time.

DCF 1.0

There is a second and almost mirror image lake next door called Lake of the Seven Winds.

We climbed over the small wooded ridge that separates the two and enjoyed a nice snack and swim.

Luckily, it was a warm and pleasant day for swimming.

I was very thankful for that.

Four lakes in a day would be tough if the weather was nasty.

DCF 1.0

Finally we pushed up trail towards Pitamakin Pass and its huge views.

DCF 1.0

From high above it’s pretty wild to see two lakes separated by such a small amount of land.

DCF 1.0

Near the top we bumped into a large group of Bighorn Sheep.

They stood their ground, so we had to slowly push past them to finally get to the top.

kat 14

The trail leads further uphill from Pitamakin Pass to Cutbank Pass which opens up to the western slope of the Continental Divide.

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From Cutbank pass you can see how Pitamakin Pass separates the Oldman and Cutbank Valleys.

DCF 1.0

The next five miles could very possibly be the most spectacular in the park.

The trail is essentially a goat path skirting along Mt. Morgan and Mt. Flinch with gargantuan views!

We stopped countless times to take in the grand expanses of the Nyack Valley.

kat 17

The trail hit a saddle on the continental divide and stared down at the Old Man Lake drainage.

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It was a perfect place to take a lunch break and enjoy the afternoon.

If I only knew then how many times I would find myself in the Old Man Lake valley in the coming years.

At the time it was new terrain for two old friends from the flatland, and a nearly perfect perch to enjoy a bagel.

kat 19

As we took in the whole scene we noticed a rock with ripple marks in it.

Long before the area became mountainous it was covered by an ancient inland sea.

Wild to find a rock with ripples in it thousands of feet above the valley bottom.

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As we hiked along, we stopped periodically on the cliff edge to celebrate that we were given the chance to be alive on a day this great.

DCF 1.0

Before we dropped off Dawson Pass we looked back once more on the thin trail that led us there.

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As we hiked downhill we looked for wildlife, but all we found was a snowfield that looked like a woman in a white dress breathing fire.

Years later I would start calling this snowfield Millie’s Wedding Day for a friend of mine’s grandma.


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After dropping all the way to the valley bottom we still had to limp our way back to Upper Two Medicine Lake Campground.

Shortly after getting to the campsite, night fell.

Stars filled the sky like cheese cloth while we ate everything we had in our food bags.


We took our leisurely time in the morning and enjoyed the sights.

Over breakfast we scanned the enormous walls of Mt. Sinopah and Mt. Helen for wildlife.

kat 24

I took an early morning dip before breaking down camp.

Rounding out my new lake number to 22.

That feels like forever ago now.

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Not excited for the trip to end we lingered by the lake.

Taking just one more picture and soaking it up for all it was worth.

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We arrived at the Two Medicine Lake boat dock with some time to kill.

While we waited for Sinopah, the Glacier Park Boat Company tour boat to come and pick us up we took one last dip.

We launched off the dock repeatedly till our chariot arrived.

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We kicked back and let the boat cut out the last few miles in style.

It dropped us off at the dock near the Two Medicine Camp Store

I believe I remember there being excessive amounts of Huckleberry ice cream involved at this point.

kat 28

It was spectacular having my friend visit me in one of my proudest moments;  I had secured a job I was truly proud of in what might very well be the most amazing place on earth.

I had one of my best buds accompany me on my first off trail outing in this new lake jumping project I had started.

It was great to have a familiar face along as I began what would prove to be the most difficult, time consuming and bizarre endeavor of my life.

Thank you my friend for the walk.

To Life!

kat 29


The Floral Park Saga – Part 1

top pic The Floral Park Saga - Glacier Explorer

Gem Lake sits high atop Comeau Pass.

Comeau Pass is equally high atop the single most amazing day “endeavor” I have ever been on in my life. I say “day endeavor” because it is no “day hike”.

To call it that implies that it is a straight forward walk that takes nothing more than legs, time and nice day.

Floral Park has grown to have a dubious reputation in the park. It unfortunately has been featured in magazines next to things that are just “day hikes”. This has allowed for first time visitors, newbie concession kids and weekend warriors to address it like it’s just another outing.

It has claimed lives. Please don’t ever attempt this trip solo.


My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives over the last few years.

*On to the Story*

Jump Stats

The Floral Park Saga 12 - Glacier Explorer
Lake Jump: #157 of 168
Hiking distance: 20 miles
  -On-trail: 12 miles
  -Off-trail: 8 miles


In 2006 I went with a bunch of friends and had an amazing time. It took forever and we hiked out the last couple hours in the dark, but it blew my mind.

I took a dip in four lakes, Hidden Lake, Mary Baker Lake, Feather Woman and Akaiyan Lakes…

So it seems there are five named lakes on the route

I didn’t know about Gem Lake.

It’s not labeled on the map and at the time I hadn’t looked at the USGS list of “Named Lakes in Glacier”.

Although surprised, I’ve been looking forward to doing this route again.

Thanks Map Labelers!

The Floral Park Saga 1 - Glacier Explorer

Often when people accompany me to an off trail lake, I feel guilty for putting people through the often brutal endeavor.

This is a once in a lifetime, bucket list trip for anyone involved.

The evening before we left, a wildfire was reported in the Avalanche Lake Valley.

The Floral Park Saga 3 - Glacier Explorer

It kind of spooked us, as the route goes directly through the Sperry Glacier Basin which is the head of the Avalanche Lake valley.

A High Wind Advisory found Logan pass more than brisk, but we were able to make early morning miles fueled by some of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had. THANKS PAT!

The light was amazing as we hiked up to Hidden Lake Overlook.

The Floral Park Saga 2 - Glacier Explorer

Millions of people have looked down upon Hidden Lake, but comparatively few ever drop down to it.

The Floral Park Saga 4 - Glacier Explorer

Twice I’ve been to this amazing lake, and both times were to begin Floral Park.

The Floral Park Saga 5 - Glacier Explorer

Once you leave the foot of Hidden Lake there’s no trail at all.

Once you begin wrapping around Bearhat Mountain you have to be able to read a map and know the route.

The Floral Park Saga 6 - Glacier Explorer

A lot of people expect a path, but for hours and hours you are simply on your own.

The first main objective is to gain a huge ridge that separates Hidden Lake from “everything else”.

From the top it was obvious that the fire was not going to be an issue for us as it was far away from the route.

The Floral Park Saga 7 - Glacier Explorer

It made for a historically memorable day though. I will always remember that I did Gem Lake on the day of the Avalanche fire.

From the top of the ridge we stared down a chasm that dropped 4000’ feet directly down to Avalanche Lake.

The Floral Park Saga 8 - Glacier Explorer

It made my stomach flip and flop. But, at least there were enormous gusts of wind kicking us back and forth…At least we had that, huh?

The Floral Park Saga 9 - Glacier Explorer

As we looked back on our last views of Hidden Lake you can understand why people linger down there.

The Floral Park Saga 10 - Glacier Explorer

It’s amazing! But it truly is the “beginning”.

The Floral Park Saga 11 - Glacier Explorer

The first time doing Floral Park, you don’t really grasp how much more is beyond this Dragons Tail ridge.

There is countless hours of ridges to drop, bear grass to side hill up and down, bedrock ribs to climb over, scree to battle, streams to cross. It is profound!

The Floral Park Saga 12 - Glacier Explorer

Comeau Pass looks like forever from the top of the ridge.

Then when you finally get to Comeau Pass, there is still 10 miles of trail and 5000 feet of elevation drop before you get to your car that’s parked at Lake McDonald Lodge.

There is one way down from this huge ridge and its a really steep hill of bear grass all the way down to Mary Baker Lake and the rest of the route.

The Floral Park Saga 13 - Glacier Explorer

It is fondly referred to as B#!ch Hill for its obviously enjoyable nature. This is the point of no return.

Once you drop this huge hill, you will never want or hardly be able to turn back.

I think this is one of the biggest issues with the route. There is a total commitment that many novice hikers are not used to.

The Floral Park Saga 14 - Glacier Explorer

At the bottom is lovely little Mary Baker Lake.

We quickly pulled water, shoved Gatorade and food in our faces. We had accomplished something here but there is SO much more.

The Floral Park Saga 15 - Glacier Explorer

The next step is side hilling up more bear grass and scree towards the Sperry Glacier Basin.

The Floral Park Saga 16 - Glacier Explorer

The fire burnt on the side of Mt. Brown and from our timely perch we had a great view.

The Floral Park Saga 17 - Glacier Explorer

Helicopters were flying around and surveying the situation.

The Floral Park Saga 18 - Glacier Explorer

At the top of the slope we started hitting snow and rock. We could see our entire route from the top of the ridge down that ill named hill and back up the latest slope of vegetation.

The Floral Park Saga 19 - Glacier Explorer

This is where the real payoff begins.

All those moments when you feel like you are not giving the route the time it deserves.

You have stored up all your borrowed time so you can spend it in this paradise of half moonscape/half heaven.

A route this long forces you to keep moving.

The Floral Park Saga 20 - Glacier Explorer

It’s ironic though, you want to constantly linger and take pictures.

You are in the depths of one of the longest hardest days you have ever undertaken, but you are simultaneously having your mind blown.

The Floral Park Saga 21 - Glacier Explorer

We could hardly even take time for a legitimate lunch, but we did so at an amazing little melt pond of glacier water shortly after having gained the glacier basin.

The Floral Park Saga 22 - Glacier Explorer

Pat and I have entertained making a website called “where I ate lunch today”. This would be a good entry.

But, we absolutely HAD TO KEEP MOVING.

The sun has only so long to light our way and we had to get out of the Glacier Basin and back to normal trail before it stopped.

The Floral Park Saga 23 - Glacier Explorer

As Robert Frost said,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The Floral Park Saga 24 - Glacier Explorer

To Be Continued…

Tune in next week….

Same lake jumping time….

Same lake jumping channel….

For the startling conclusion of…

Bear grass meets Bedrock! The Floral Park Saga!!

Update: Part 2 is available here

Nyack Lakes – Into the Abyss – Lakes #155 & #156

Anyone who has hiked the Dawson Pitamakin loop in Glacier knows where the Nyack Lakes are, they just might not know it.

They are these two little lakes at the bottom of what looks like an impossible drop 3000’ feet below the goat trail path that is the actual trail.  The only part of the Nyack Lakes that I’ve been excited about is simply to have them off “the list”.

Nyach Lakes 01 - Glacier Explorer

My trusty partner Pat and I have been debating the best way to address these lakes for years now.

No option is a “good” option.

Either climb 3000’ up to Dawson Pass then drop in on them 3000’ down a constant steep slope, then climb back up that 3000’ back to the Dawson Pass trail and drop back 3000’ back to Two Medicine Lake…OR

You get down there and bushwhack out two miles of 15’ high vegetation till you meet up with the upper Nyack trail and five more miles to a camp, then another 15 miles out the Nyack Valley to the Middle Fork of the Flathead, OR

Up 3000’ to Cutbank Pass which would have been 17 miles out to Two Medicine.

I know that read like a car stereo manual but it’s as straight forward a description that I could give.

Pat came to my apartment to stay and debate out methods, set on picking one or the other.

We sat looking at each other and not wanting to pick from the quiver of awful options.

We actually still had no plans set when we woke up at 6am.

“What are doing”? I asked?

Dunno…what do you want to do?


Wanna flip a coin?


Nyach Lakes 02 - Glacier Explorer

So, Pat flipped a two Pence piece that oddly enough was sitting on my table in which I haven’t a clue where it came from but at 6am, you just flip the coin.  You don’t ask questions.

Three flips, landed on the “squiggly thing” twice.   This meant we camp and make it a two day endeavor…

So, obviously at the last moment we decided we were going to hike in and out in the same day.

Uh…6000’ feet elevation gain, 6000’ elevation loss.

14 hours later, we were done.  Never to go back again.

If you ever ponder this, Stop It.

Go somewhere else.  Fast.

Nyach Lakes 03 - Glacier Explorer

We caught a boat ride from a friend across Two Medicine lake covered in fog but calm as glass.

Nyach Lakes 04 - Glacier Explorer

It was truly an amazing sight.

Nyach Lakes 05 - Glacier Explorer

It was a great way to start a terrible death march.

Nyach Lakes 06 - Glacier Explorer

A hard frost had settled on the valley the night before leaving frozen leaves and visible breathe.

Two moose hung out a mile above the north shore of Two Medicine Lake.

Nyach Lakes 09 - Glacier Explorer

They were not too happy to have us push past.  One started to follow me.

When in doubt, NEVER mess with Moose.

They kill way more people a year then Grizzly Bears.  They just freak out and stomp on you till you are mush.

The north shore trail was posted for Grizzly activity, so we made a whole lot of noise at this early hour.

Nyach Lakes 09 - Glacier Explorer

The walk up towards the Dawson Pass was great, cool and the lighting was amazing.

Nyach Lakes 10 - Glacier Explorer

When we arrived at pass, we also saw about 10 bighorn sheep.

Nyach Lakes 11 - Glacier Explorer

Two even butted heads silhouetted by a sea of mountains.

Pretty beer commercial of them.

Above Dawson Pass is a shoulder of Flinch Peak and from there extends a flat almost goat trail that leads four miles along the continental divide.

Most hikers enjoy the views as they stroll effortlessly along the spine of the continent.

Nyach Lakes 12 - Glacier Explorer

We, instead surveyed for a good route down to two arbitrary bodies of water at the bottom of a truly enormous valley.

As we sat enjoying a snack and making decisions, two CDT hikers passed by.

A French Canadian guy was hiking with an older fella with a ZZ TOP beard and a Mountain Hardwear kilt.

Off course he did, why wouldn’t he?

We exchanged plans.  They told us that they would watch as we descended the slope.

If they saw anything catastrophic, they would hit the emergency button their SPOT locator.  We hoped they would not have to do it, but always nice to have people watching out for you.

Nyach Lakes 13 - Glacier Explorer

The whole time I planned this trip, I figured that I would have two nasty marshes to jump into if I waited too long into the season.

In hind sight I think we stumbled into the best possible scenario.

Nyach Lakes 14 - Glacier Explorer

There is a series of cliffs that a month earlier would still have been running water and making everything slick along with steep.

Instead we found a perfect set of cliffs.

Nyach Lakes 15 - Glacier Explorer

Every time we looked further down slope it seemed they we would cliff out and when we got to there, it was a manageable way to continue.

Thus we dubbed them the illusion cliffs.

Nyach Lakes 16 - Glacier Explorer

The brush on the other hand was horrendous.

Fifteen foot high alder bushes interspersed with prickly whatnot.

Pat forgot to wear convertible pants.  So, when it got nasty, I tossed on my pant legs then threw the gaiters over them.

He is an animal, but his knees were on fire throughout the whole bushwhack and what he said was way into the night.

We plodded though a thick curtain of brush for about an hour.

We tripped a few times over invisible downed trees and Pat even bent one of his trekking poles.

Nyach Lakes 17 - Glacier Explorer

After a while you pretty much lose your mind.

It’s impossible for me to explain the weirdness that ensues when you have been being ripping through mile after mile of plant material.

You have to constantly be yelling so you don’t surprise a bear…

Bushwhacking is a part of this project that never ceases to seem odd.

Why on earth are we doing this?

We are so far beyond the middle of nowhere, screaming and hollering and somewhere , somehow…

We find this fun.  We are happy.

Happy screaming at the top of our lungs such inane things as “Bob Saget” and my uncle’s friend Joe Buckles name.

Or, how about Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes like “get on the choppa”!!


Nyach Lakes 18 - Glacier Explorer

Well, eventually we popped out of the brush into a huge marsh.

But, like I said, it was perfect.  It was all dry.

It would have been awful, almost impossible earlier in the season.

Nyach Lakes 19 - Glacier Explorer

So, I put on my water shoes and Pat his Croc’s and we started plodded through foot deep mud enroute to the lakes.

Nasty as it may have been, it worked.

Nyach Lakes 20 - Glacier Explorer

I hopped in the upper lake which was so much nicer than I had ever expected.

Nyach Lakes 21 - Glacier Explorer

I stayed in my swimming trucks and we just pushed down the creek to the lower lake, and hopped in.

Nyach Lakes 22 - Glacier Explorer

Pat has the luxury to pick the lake he wants to swim, since he is just along to make sure I don’t kill myself.

Nyach Lakes 23 - Glacier Explorer

He picked the pleasant lower one with a great view of Mt. Tinkham in the distance.

We enjoyed a short 30 minute lunch, swim, water pumping, video filming and pixie sticking….


Pixie Sticking?

Well, no matter how much water you drink to rehydrate, you are also losing salts.

So, we bring Gatorade mix with us.

There is simply too much time involved in mixing it, so we just pour the powder in our mouths and wash it down with a swig of water.

Nyach Lakes 24 - Glacier Explorer

Like eating pixies sticks.

More or less, it works.

I kinda like it, really.

I can’t express how disheartening it was to sit by these lovely little lakes looking up at the ridge we had to regain.

We just did it.  Why did we have to walk back?

I mean, REALLY?


I actually see trips like this as being a good analogy for life.

I can’t just build a house.

I can’t not do it.

You just, pick yourself up and keep going.

Hard as it may be, you gotta just do it.

So, we headed out towards the task at hand.

Nyach Lakes 25 - Glacier Explorer

We kept trying to figure out where the trail was…

Somewhere above that grey strip of rock.  A few hundred feet above it.

Did I mention…Uh…

Also, I can’t find my bear spray.


I couldn’t find it.

Nyach Lakes 26 - Glacier Explorer

I hopped the creek and went back looking for it, but no luck.

So, off to the thickest of the thick and now… also defenseless.

Nyach Lakes 27 - Glacier Explorer

So, I stayed that much closer to Pat who had the sole bear spray.

Nyach Lakes 28 - Glacier Explorer


The brush seemed a bit better headed up hill for some reason, but I think it was that we were just over it.

Climb over a down tree, Check.

Walk directly into Alder bushes and brush seven feet above our heads…Check.

Just, HOME!

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The rock and cliffs though seemed well worse headed up hill.

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Loose scree, talus slopes, the illusion cliffs…

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All a race with time as we just simply didn’t have that much daylight left.

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At one point, when I was just beat and staring uphill at Pat whose young legs carry him faster up the steep slopes, he yelled out.


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Pixie Sticks or not, I had started getting cramps in my hamstrings.  His shouts of joy pushed me uphill and on to the trail though.

We had an hour and half before complete darkness.  We had to drop 3000 feet in 4 ½ miles…And we had to haul it.

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Dig for that extra energy that really doesn’t exist.  Just the thought of missing our friend’s boat pick up spurred us on.  We didn’t want to do even more miles and in the dark.


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As in hurry as we may have been, we had to stop for a couple pictures on Dawson Pass.

Not often are you sitting on top of a huge pass at sunset.

Normally you make sure you aren’t stuck in that situation.

So, you have to click a few.  Thanks Pat, for making me stop a minute.

Amazing View!

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So, we ripped it out.  Somewhere along the way we decided that we were going to scream like the guys selling beer at a baseball game.

Instead of beer and peanuts, we were selling Tepid Huckleberries…

Don’t ask.  I don’t know.

So, as we bombed down the pass towards Two Medicine Lake, we were selling “TEPID HUCKS” in our best Brooklyn accent.  I bet the poor people staying at No Name Campground hadn’t a clue of what these two Looney’s we yelling about…

But we liked it.

Got to the boat dock at dark, picked up and by our friend and whisked away to a grilled cheese sandwich and cold lemonade….  Well, and a beer.

But, oh the Lemonade!!!

To Life!

So how about you? Have you ever had to do something that you knew you were gonna hate, but then it ended up being pretty good? If so, tell me about it in the comments. (Did I mention I’ve got a new commenting system *hint *hint.)

Aurice Lake Grizzlies – The Passing of a Legend

Photo by Chris Lombardi

Aurice Lake and Two Medicine Pass will be etched in my brain for the rest of my days.

Where were you when the last tragedy of your life struck?  At home, at work, stuck in traffic?

Poetically when my Uncle Marty and outdoor mentor passed away, I was high atop Two Medicine Pass.

I’ve been wondered lately…Where exactly I was at the moment he died.

Photo by Chris Lombardi

Was I sleeping in my tent at Cobalt Lake?

Photo by Chris Lombardi

Was I trudging up the pass with my heart pounding in my chest?

Photo by Chelsea McCann

Was I sitting on the continental divide looking off at a sea of peaks?

Photo by Chris Lombardi

Or, was it the exact moment when we surprised a grizzly bear sow and cub above Aurice Lake?
Personally, I like that one.

Behind Mt. Rockwell is a sidestep route to Aurice Lake.

It was a perfect day if not a tad hot.

Pat, Chelsea, Jess, Chris and I ambled along high above the Park Creek valley.

We pushed along the route of wild flowers, bear grass and burnt trees; waiting to boot ski down a scree slope to the lake edge.

Photo by Chelsea McCann

As we rounded the bend, it sounded like someone slipped down the steep slope of vegetation.

Instead, it was the two bears churning soil and huffing as they tore up the hillside towards the vertical rock walls.

Photo by Chelsea McCann

We could see the Aurice Lake below, but couldn’t see where the mother grizzly had secured her cub.

We knew there wasn’t more than 200 feet of vegetation above us before it became sheer cliffs.

So, they couldn’t be any more than that short distance from us.

Photo by Chelsea McCann

Never a comforting feeling and certainly not a situation you need to continue pursuing.

She deserved her peace.

This is one thing I’ve learned through the years.

Just because we feel it logical to traipse around in the complete middle of nowhere doesn’t mean the wildlife should have to suffer.

Photo by Chris Lombardi

Sometimes you let a good mother alone.

She did exactly what she was supposed to do.

At that point, what makes it ok to continue pushing her even further from her comfort zone.

She had found a perfect little niche far away from the main human traffic.

She’s teaching her cub to eat natural foods instead of going the easy route of human garbage and opportunism.

She deserves that peace that she sought.

Photo by Chris Lombardi

This is the moment that I hope signifies when my uncle left this world.

He began all of my travels, my love affair with far away, wild places.

He taught me to camp in bear country.

How to appreciate being a moment in time in a place in which humans are only a temporary visitor.

He taught me that I’m a part of this world, not the only or most important thing in it.

That when you are extended the opportunity to exist in such amazing places, you are then responsible for taking care of them.

Humility in the face of something well larger than us.

Photo by Chelsea McCann

He may have never known that this is what he taught me.

He knew that he was the spark that sent me exploring the amazing pockets of the world that we have left.

I told him that, often.

He was the person that introduced me to the greatest exercise program in the world.


He knew that he had totally transformed a heavyset city boy who was struggling with direction and identity.

He knew, but it’s always nice to tell someone again.

What they mean to you.

What they taught you.

What you do that makes you think of them.

Photo by Chris Lombardi

So, Uncle Marty.  You changed my life and helped me live so much bigger than I ever thought possible.

By just being you.

You were a genuine man, an adventurous traveler and an absolute character.

I never made it to Aurice Lake that day, but I will be back…

Today was for the bears and something bigger than me.
To Life

Low Light/Night Photography – Olympus OMD EM5

low light 4

Its obvious why Glacier National Park is an amazing place to take photos during the day. 

From sunrise to sunset the vivid mountains, lakes and streams are constantly evolving with the changes in light. 

Night photography is widely overlooked in the park, since most peole are either indoors or asleep. 

The park is kind of a scary place to just roam in the darkness.   

The dark clear nights in Glacier National Park give the Olympus OMD EM5 a perfect test piece for low light and  night photography.

low light 1

Later summer the skies get smokey from fires west of the park. 

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But, early summer skies are one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed. 

low light 2

The high resolution screen is amazing to see the photos on, you can see more detail than on my laptop.

low light 3

My friends came to visit and camped in the park giving me a perfect fire, low light backdrop to work on.

   low light 5

Many Glacier Hotel is one the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen.  Its also very busy and because of that you never really get good pictures.  Its impossible to not have some random couple in your photographs. 

I got the chance to stay the night in Many Glacier Hotel when my sister in law and her friend came to visit.

I waited till all the visitors went to bed and I roamed the halls with my Slik tripod.  I set it up in every hallway and lobby. 

It was an amazing opportunity.

Thanks Mary and Laura!!

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The Hotel has so much character to capture.

The Lucerne Room was lit up but vacant. 

I got some photos that even the famous Glacier National Park singer/story teller David Walburn might be interested in.

David, I’ll get these shots off to you soon.

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This was the first night photograph that I tried to capture.

Its just the St. Mary Grocery Store sign but focusing on it allowed me to pull night stars all around.

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This is Abigale.

She finally stood still for long enough to allow herself to silhouetted against Waterton Lake.

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The moon was setting one night right behind the continental divide in Two Medicine.

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I don’t understand why the moon moves so fast in Montana but you can literally watch it move.  This was 30 seconds later.

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And, 30 seconds later…

Gosh, Montana…How do you do it?

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Lets ponder it over two of Brian Roys and Matt Wibbenmeyer’s homebrew porters.

This is my bid for the new “Car Port Brewery” bottle lable.

low light 15

What do you think?  Tell me in the comments.

To Life,



Ipasha and Margaret Lakes – Good Livin’

Margaret and Ipasha Lakes delivered beyond our expectation which is a tall order.

I’ve been here and working on this project for a decade now and that gives you a long time to create expectations.  This area truly awed us.

My trusty off trail companion Pat and I saw a three day weekend of hot, sunny days and decided to pounce.  We hauled it in through 85 degree weather to Glenns Lake Foot Campground and posted up for two nights.

We even ended up with a little grotto to rinse off just by our campsite.
In the morning over oatmeal we decided a little whisky in our coffee couldn’t hurt anything.

Aside from ruining our already lousy coffee we felt no ill effects.

We were the first people heading up trail in the morning which brought us face to face with many a spider web, some still being staffed.  Be sure to keep your mouth closed.

There was a great patch of grizzly bear hair on one of the DNA traps.  That’s one of the best samples I’ve seen through the years.
Above Mokowanis Lake we had to leave trail and continue up valley.

The heat was filling the waterfalls to capacity.  Above those falls was the hidden treasure we had waited eons for.

On the way we did some filming using my new Olympus OMD EM5.  I’m so happy with how small but powerful it is.  I hope you enjoy what it’s been producing too.

Margaret Lake simply put, punched us directly in the mouth.

There was grizzly bear digs everywhere, so we were far from alone.

The only animals we really saw though were a group of Bighorn Sheep up on the side of Mount Merrit.

Bighorn Sheep

We decided it would be better to push up to Ipasha Lake so we could take our time back at Margaret.


Nothing but an hour of alder bushes and crazy thick ground cover in-between us and # 153 or # 16..

11 mi

Depends on if you are counting up or down, the math gets confusing now a days.

Ipasha was a beautiful body of water.

Ipasha Lake

Cold and blue with chunks of ice still hanging on the walls of Ipasha Peak.

Cold and blue with chunks of ice

Clouds were collecting around Mt. Cleveland and seemed to be coming from the north.  We decided that it might be a better idea to scoot back to Margaret Lake so we didn’t get stuck any further from camp if the sky opened up.

Comparing the terribly thick alder we just pushed through to the cold water of Margaret Lake, we decided it was worth trying to walk the lake.

Getting cold feet

There was a small shelf of rock that we walked which kept us out of the schwack, but it was SO COLD!!  We couldn’t stay in the lake any longer than it took to find even the smallest little beach of rocks.  We stopped and freaked out letting our ice cube toes melt back to flesh.  Then repeated the process over and over.

It was better than the alder.  Virtually anything is better than the alder…Trust me.


Pat pointed out while we were walking the lake that technically I had now been in Margaret Lake.

While that was true, there is no way that could suffice.  I wanted to go swimming.

There’s an amazing point of rock that juts out into Margaret Lake but to get to it you have to ford the outlet of the lake.

Cold water

The creek was moving way to quick so we actually had to wade across the lake portion so we didn’t get swept away.

It was well worth it.

Water's edge

The weather had calmed down, the sun came back out and we had a perfect spot all to ourselves to take in the majesty of this seldom visited area.  So many remote peaks that I’ve had to imagine this whole time.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

Mt. Merrit one of the six 10,000’ peaks to our left and way off to the north was Mt. Cleveland the highest point in the park.  Ipasha Peak, Mt. Kipp, Pyramid Peak and the Lithoid Cusp ringed us while we jumped in water like we were in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Safety first for lake jumps

Note to those reading, you have to be careful jumping off cliffs in life in general much less in this remote a place.  Normally I just get a shore to walk into, but we had this perfect little point so we had to take advantage.  Just be careful out there folks.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

Sick shots though, huh?  Thanks OMD EM5!

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

We had to eventually head out, but it was hard.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

This was GOOD LIVIN’.  I had tried to get to this spot for years.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

I’ve even been snowed out trying to get here with my brother about five years ago.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

The weather could literally been anything and it was calm, warm and inviting.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

We must have been really good to a puppy or picked up the right amount of litter or something.  We did not deserve how good the living was at this moment.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

Can’t stay here though.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

So we pushed on towards camp, undoing all of our efforts.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

We headed back down the headwall towards those amazing waterfalls and a cup of red wine in camp.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

The next day we more hot, sunny weather and time to kill.  We did some filming at Cosley Lake.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

We ate jelly beans and floated around like porpoises.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

Eventually you always have to do the push out to the trailhead.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

Hot is great when you have lakes everywhere, but open meadows and uphill is less pleasant.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

Luckily through the years I had met the Belly River Rangers and they were able to scrounge up two cold glasses of lemonade before we headed uphill to the car.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

It was a hot slog up the last few miles to the Chief Mountain Trailhead

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes

Spectacular trip.  One of the epic ones.

In moments like this trip you just wish you could snap your fingers and extend it to all your loved ones and everyone who can’t make it to places like these.  I felt like this trip was a gift and its always more fun to give a gift then receive one.

Alas we have to just enjoy the moments we are given, and be thankful for them.

Ipasha and Margaret Lakes


P.S. – I’d love to hear what you guys think about this post and Glacier Explorer so far. Please let me know in the comments below.

Cutbank Bear Grass – Olympus OMD EM5

Bear Grass 1

On the eastern front of Glacier National Park is a remote valley known for Grizzly bears, flowers and the mountain that splits the continent.

Cutbank is a beautiful, mostly flat creek valley draining the first trickles of the Atlantic Ocean.  From deep in the Cutbank valley is Triple Divide Peak which you can pour water on top of and it runs to the Pacific, the Atlantic and Hudson Bay.  The exact spot in which the continent gives way in all directions towards the ocean.

Bear Grass 2

What I found as I walked in this amazing place was Bear Grass.

Bear grass is a beautiful white bulb on top of a hollow but stiff stalk.  They only bloom every 5 or 7 years approximately.

So sometimes the summer really doesn’t have much bear grass.

Bear Grass 3

Other Summers its AMAZING!!

This seems like one of those summers.

Bear Grass 4

The Olympus OMD EM5 and a light weight Slik tripod allowed me to get the best pictures of bear grass I have ever taken in my life!!

Bear Grass 5

Currently I only have the 12-50 kit lens, but the Macro function on this thing is ridiculous!


Bear Grass 6

I can’t believe I’m getting shots like these.


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I’m very happy with the cameras ability to focus on exactly what you want to pop with detail.

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I was also able to get this great blur shot of the creek.

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The dramatic effect has allowed for a dream like, stylized photo.  I’m completely enamored by this art setting.

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But with a camera this good, you need to be capturing reality in its finest moments

Bear Grass 10

Have any of you photographers out there experienced any times when nature offered you some unexpected great shots? If so, tell me about it in the comments below…

To Life,


Kessler Lake – Right on the Edge – CAN

Kessler Lake Fence PicHi there every body!
I’m here to tell you about Kessler Lake, Ed, Diane, Jenny and a galloping  black bear.
Now, you see.
 Purple Flower
Ed went with me to Crypt Pond in Waterton last year.  However, this was the first lake outting for his wife Diane and our friend Jenny.
Actually I had never hiked with Diane before now, and she’s  a rock star.
Mt. Dungarven

June has been cold, rainy and even snow off and on.

So, this was a great day by just being alright… Clouds were threatening but luckily that just added cool clouds.

Kessler Lake is at the base of the Eastern Front which is literally where the plains hit the mountains.

Plant and Clouds

To the west of the Rocky Mountains are hundreds of miles of rolling mountains all the way to the coast.  For the most part…

However when you go east of the park its open plains till you hit Chicago.

The plains get better weather and since Kessler is right on the edge we got a pretty fair shake on weather.

Cows Running

We drove up to Canada in the morning and found a road just north of the park.

The Easment Pathway

It lead in to private property but there is a right of way through the cow fields to the boundary of the park.

Cows and Mountain

There we met up with the barbed wire fence that marks the boundary and had to climb under it.

Fence Line Waterton Border


From here there was basically a trail leading along the fence line which we followed directly towards the Mt. Dungarven and Mt. Galway.

Ed and Mt. Dungarven


Along the way we had to schwack around marshy impoundments and over little grassy rises.

Kessler 10


Kessler 11

The lake was well larger than I envisioned.

Kessler 12

It was very shallow through.

Kessler 13

When I did finally get in I had to basically just lay down out in the lake.

Kessler 14

Not much swimming going on.


When we first got to the lake, I had to sift through camera gear and we all ate lunch.

There is fencing that goes all the way to the edges of the lake as its half in the the park and half out.  I planned to make my way inside the park boundary.  So, I would be official, you know…

Kessler 15

We were about to head to the fence and out comes a black bear right where we were going to jump in.

He walked to the lake, swam in and right back out.  He shook off his coat like a dog and started bounding back up the little rise and out of sight.

The clouds all day were crazy.  The dramatic filter on my camera was able to get some pretty great shots.

Kessler 16

Kessler Lake


It was nice to have a so many people along.

I haven’t gone to a lake with four people in a while.

Kessler 17

Aside from great company, I had a mini film crew.

Ed took my GO PRO HERO 2 and walked out in the lake to film.

Diane took photos with their camera for evidence.

Kessler 19

Jenny staffed my new Olympus OMD EM5 and got video.

You three are awesome!   I really appreciate it.

Kessler 20

We eventually headed our way back to our car and drove back into the states.

Kessler 21

Chief Mountain Customs Station

Great day!

Even enjoyed a great dinner with friends and a good Ranger IPA.

 Kessler 22

Goat Lake – The right around the corner adventure

Some days during the Waterton Glacier Lake Jumping Project have been really, really tough.  More difficult physically than anything I’ve ever done in my entire life.  These endeavors normally end in a mind blowing paradise, though.
Some are aweful.  Bogs filled with stagnant, stinky water with leeches swimming around.  These tend to be pretty close though.  In life you pay one way or the other.
Sometimes, like in Goldie Locks…They are just right.
An off trail trip to a destination that you know is hardly ever visited.  It’s also a pleasant adventure.  A logical route that is neither the world’s worst bushwhack nor a simple on trail hike.
Enter, Goat Lake.
Goat Lake is a spectacular spot tucked into a pocket in Goat Mountain.  It has always been intriguing to me. Its so close to the main day use areas around St. Mary and Rising Sun, but no one ever goes there.
I got the chance to enjoy this trip with two good friends.
Pat who has been on more of the top end, ridiculous, off trail endeavors than anyone else.
Chelsea who has been a huge supporter of the Waterton Glacier Lake Project through the years. I was very proud to have her along.
She was really excited too, and in the end she did spectacular.  I was glad to be able to provide such an appropriate adventure to someone that cares so much.
This was one of the only day endeavors that I had left.
It was a perfect late August day.  Sun was high in the sky but not oppressively hot.  Late enough in the season that the heavy late season snows were gone and the waterfall chute was dry enough to be safe.
We branched off of the Otakomi Lake trail and headed up an avalanche slope towards Goat Mountain.
We had to cross Rose creek to get to the avalanche slope that started the off trail portion of the hike.
We followed the open slope and pushed up towards the mountains above.
I’m in there somewhere.  It was pretty thick but nothing we have not dealt with before.
Looking into the Goat Lake hanging basin
We had to side step for a while through loose scree, chunky talus and off angle bear grass clumps.
Talus slopes filled with wildflowers
We fed into the falls that drain the lake and found a nice game trail through a few shelves.  Once we gained the hanging valley with the lake in it the views were remarkable.
It’s a mountain that I’ve looked at a thousand times, but once you are up in the bowls of the mountain you never know what things will look like.  Everything was very windswept with nothing but very low lying sub alpine firs.
Luckily there was a route around the trees though, since sub alpine firs will tear your clothes to shreds.  I guess evolution of a three foot tree that lives in 80 mph winds is to become stiff as a rock.  Avoid them as much as possible.
So, we kept to the left of the stand and pushed further into the basin.  We gained a few rises and eventually dropped into a paradise like lake bowl.
Two thousand foot cliffs on all sides but one, the only way in or out.  We all dropped pack and hopped in.  Lake 148 for me, about 40 for Pat and one great first for Chelsea.  Great day.
Lunch was enjoyed and the sun kept us warm.
Often the most unfortunate part of these lake excursions is that we tend to be there for 15 minutes.  Hours and days to get places you will never be again and in the end you spend 10 minutes calculatedly hopping in an obscure body of water.  Often in very unpleasant weather conditions.
This day was for enjoying.  Joking, laughing and simply making the most of the gift we earned.
Eventually we meandered our way back out in reverse.
We took a bit more wooded exit instead of the original avalanche slope.
Chelsea and I waded across Rose Creek to get back on trail.
Pat chose a bit more adventurous route.  He chose to cross a huge downed tree, 15 feet above the creek.
Looking back up valley it all made sense.  The lake is up in that hanging valley on the left.  If you ever go, I hope you get as amazing a day as we did.
When we got back we enjoyed burritos from Bad Frog Cantina and played some bean bag tossing game(corn hole) back in St. Mary.
Great trip.  Thanks Pat, Chelsea and great weather.  Onward to the next lake.
And if you enjoyed this, there are plenty more stories.  Also if you are interested in what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and how to help out  Camp Mak A Dream, check out my website