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...

Lena Lake – Desanto Pass Magic

Growing up in Cincinnati we don’t tell Ole and Lena jokes, we probably had something a bit more Germanic. But, Glacier National Park has always been visited by the more Norwegian folks that dug into the Upper Midwest. I have a theory that people in the Midwest who need to get their mountain fix move directly west from where they are.

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My people in Ohio end up in Colorado. Everyone’s older brother did a three year stint working in Colorado. So, based on the theory of Longitudinal Migration, I have met countless Michiganders, Minnesotans and my beloved Wisconsinites in the park.

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Sorry, that was a geography tangent. Let’s get back to the point of this blog.  Lakes and random mountain endeavor.

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Lena Lake lives just over the continental divide from her comedic boyfriend Ole.  His namesake lake exists on the western side of the mountains. Lena is a lovely little gem down in the seldom visited southeast corner of the park.

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The Lubec Trailhead leads you across the train tracks and up through the wildlife choked Marias Pass aspen groves and grassy fields. Eventually after taking a left onto the Firebrand Pass trail, you pop out into an open, rocky upper basin filled with yellow boulders and whitewashed old burnt trees upended like old whale skeletons.

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Well before you start to take the last push towards Firebrand Pass the route takes us off trail and headed north. Tucked into a pocket between Red Crow Mountain and Bear Head Mountain is Lena Lake.

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Any day is great for a dip, or so I have told myself time and again. Today was warm like summer but windy like fall.  One gust actually removed me from my feet. I’m a big guy, so I felt for Jess and Jenny who went with me since they are both quite dainty in comparison. But, a job is a job and I hopped in.

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But, not before realizing that I had taken two right hand flip flops with me. More or less a mute point, but it made for a good laugh.

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The shore was made up of tiny little rocks. So tiny that when I got out and started looking around, I found a clump of them that was actually floating.  Ever seen floating rocks?

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Me either. Its magic!!  I’m telling you. It’s the magic of Lena Lake.

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Or, maybe it’s the magic of Desanto Pass.

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Jerry Desanto was a famous Ranger who worked in the park in the 80’s.

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He had many first ascents of mountains in the park.  Any eager new employee who reads the J.Gordon Edwards climbers guide revels in the lore attributed to these old rangers.

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The pass looks out at Grizzly Peak, Mt. Ellsworth and much of the southern portion of the park.

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Looking west the Ole Creek drainage opens up the western landscape of mountain range after mountain range.

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Neil Wedum and other famous older generation rangers made a sign and placed it at atop the pass giving it a name even if the USGS didn’t make it official.

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It’s now gone, but the lore lives on.

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The stories of past endeavor are the magic of Glacier Park.

A magic that we all are secretly hoping to have a brush with when were out roaming the hills.

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We took in the views before calling it a day and working our way back to the trailhead.

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The moon started to rise above Calf Robe Peak letting us know that evening was settling in.

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Working downhill was such a calming process knowing that that your body can start going on auto pilot.

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The Firebrand valley looks directly out at the plains surrounding East Glacier, MT.  I am in love with how the moutains break and create the rest of the country.  This is the point in which the whole country changes and highway 2 leads directly back to those Ole and Lena joke tellers in the upper midwest.

Then you turn around and survey your efforts, looking back at the days accomplishments.

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Jessi led the way out, back through the trails she has grown to know like a good friend.

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The light softens.

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The aspens rattle.

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The grass blows.

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The train tracks welcome you home.

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To Life

Jackstraw and Swiftcurrent Ridge, Poia Lakes – Wisdom and Booby-Junk Leeches

So, has anyone ever heard of booby-junk leeches? This is more a goofy entry sentence than legitimate question. Everyone knows that right?

Allow me to expand….

My friends Josh and Laura went a swimmin’ with me the other day. Laura who is daughter of one of my most devout readers Chris Kloeck, by the way. Hi, Chris…Thanks for the 70’s TV show insights…

We went to a far flung reach of the park. In the southeastern corner of the park there is a place called Firebrand Pass. People run around here for years before they ever go there. Not because it’s particularly hard, nor cause it’s not wonderful. I think it just gets overshadowed by some of the other, simply jaw dropping parts of the park. Which ends up making this a very peaceful and more wild portion of the park.

Quite nice, really…

So, near Firebrand Pass is Lena lake, and behind it is a saddle. It’s a nice red scree covered saddle between Redcrow Mountain and Bearhead Mountain.

On the other side of that saddle is Jackstraw Lake. And, Jackstraw Lake will be the focus of our adventure today.

This lake is dedicated to Mountain Goats and their wonderful ability to go where no one else goes and leave “a path”….So, about four miles in towards Firebrand pass, we embarked off trail towards Lena lake and the saddle. We had to fight through some thick sub-alpine firs to get there, like normal.

Once at Lena lake though, we found what would prove to be a straight shot mountain goat path up the saddle, and all the way back down to Jackstraw lake.
Ah, you gotta love these mountain goats. I envisioned this to be a well more difficult endeavor.The views from the saddle were as great as any pass in the park and we had it all to ourselves. The tiny rewards in life, right?

We ended up down at what was a wonderful beach that must be the home of thousands of butterflies. They were all over our packs and hiking poles. Pretty great!!

But in come those dreaded booby-junk leeches!!!!!… My girlfriend would say “dun,dun,dun!!!

Like you were listening to a mystery show on the radio in the 50’s and we just learned who the killer was. Very dramatic…

We were swimming in this lake and all was wonderful. Hot days ended in a moment with cold clear water.

Then we noticed one goofy thing about it…As beautiful and blue as it was, there was no outlet, and not much feeding it. So, Jackstraw Lake had already dropped maybe about 15 feet for the season. That may be a major environmental factor that booby-junk leeches thrive on. Their niche, if you will.

I’ll come clean; they were nothing even resembling leeches….Cats outta the bag. But they were tiny little red bugs they were all over the place in the water. They got their menacing name because since they were red it looked like they were filled with blood. And, because Josh found them in his swimming trunks and well “around”…and Laura found them in her sports bra and again, well…”around”…As for me, no booby junk leeches…It’s because I’m bald like a dolphin and booby-junk leeches don’t attack marine animals. Boy, did I luck out, huh? I’d say…jeez…So, we rambled on about our dreaded nemesis the booby-junk leeches as we trudged back up hill and over the saddle…Back to our view at the top..

Bound for a wonderful dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant in East Glacier, Serrano’s…All ends well, despite our harrowing encounter…

As for the next day, I met up with another one of my other most avid readers, Dave. He is out here staying for a few weeks with his wife and hiking it up. He is a monster; the guy can hike over mountains in a single bound while filling you with gobs of wisdom and insight. So, I took him up on a very nice hike to one of the only areas in Many Glacier valley that was not closed for Grizzly bears. Poia Lake was our destination.

We stopped by Poia and Swiftcurrent Ridge lakes for a swim and he dropped knowledge about all the righteous things of the world. Great hike Dave. All in all, what a wonderful weekend.

I hope this finds every one well. I’m wishing you all the best and I certainly thank you for your time. I know these stories personally. So this stuff is for all of you. I would love to hear how every one is doing and what you’re all up to.

As for me, about 6’4” 240lbs…
Drum roll!!!!! Anybody? Hello….

Jeez, this is a tough crowd


To life,