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...

The Winter Time Machine

Hello all,

Is everyone enjoying their spring?

Or, does it feel more like summer there?

Where ever there is…


Summer is slow to arrive in the mountains of the Eastern Front of Montana.

It’s a strange phenomenon, to literally drive back to winter.




No matter where my early spring has ever been spent, it’s always pretty nice by mid-May.

Spring in Missoula is absolute paradise!

There are Brew Fest’s, outdoor music, flip flops, bicycles, sun dresses and just a generally great vibe. 

May is by far my favorite month in the Garden City.




My home town of Cincinnati is essentially in summer by then.

Reds games, green lawns, driving with the windows down and road trips to Red River Gorge. 


winter 22


This winter was spent in Northern Wisconsin.

The town of Amery, to be exact.




We had just survived the harshest winter they’ve had in years. 

And, it was even starting to green up in the land of PBR and all things dairy! 



Winter in the Northwoods was more intense than any I had ever experienced in my life.

We had well over 50 days this winter below zero.

 When it dropped way below freezing, my apartment windows would grow beautiful snowflake designs all over them. 




Just up the road, Duluth Minnesota broke a record.

23 days below zero in a row!

That is obviously a dubious record that no one was excited about breaking.




The snow on the side of our driveway rose to five feet at its most ridiculous!

It’s not that I’m not used to seeing that much snow, but not in a suburban front yard!




Since working in Antarctica, I now use my phone to keep track of temperatures at the South Pole.

There was a few nights this winter, which were colder than the thermometers at the end of the globe.




Negative 30 degrees before factoring in wind-chill, is a very serious thing to deal with.

Cars hardly start, the seat is hard as a rock and the whole vehicle feels like it’s made of granite.

It’s impressive, in a “trying to kill you” kind of way. 




The great thing, is that you Northwoods folks just adapt.




You grin and bear it, and continue on with what has grown to be a normal annual process.




So, when the spring finally broke, I believed it was over for the year.

Surely, an epic winter in Northern Wisconsin ends about the same time as the eastern slope of Glacier Park.



Not so much…




After more than a month of flip flops, shorts and t-shirts, it was time to return to the park.

I had heard that the winter in Montana was robust.

But, I was not prepared to drive directly back into the thick of it.

It’s like some sort of bizarre seasonal time machine.





Facebook brought me photos of the first plowing of the Two Medicine Road.

A few friends had posted photos of them standing for scale in front of 12ft high vertical walls of snow.




There was snow literally encompassing our entire apartment building.




Conventional plows won’t make a dent in snow this deep. 

The park uses large trucks with heavy duty rotary snow blower mounted on the front.   

They eat vertical corridors through the packed white.

 But, after a while the once vertical walls slump and melt in the sun into something Dr Suess would imagine.




So, I’ve again driven back to winter in my time machine packed full of outdoor gear and groceries.

The gushing waterfalls and a watchful eye proves that it is indeed melting.

It’s tough to see the daily changes, until one day it’s obvious. 

Kind of like a watching a child grow or watching an adult age.  




Two Medicine Lake is finally starting to melt out, almost giving access to my kayak.

But, the loose chunks keep choking up the outlet giving the impression of an unending supply of sheet ice.





The bighorn sheep climbed down from Scenic Point and ran amuck through the plowed parking lots.

More and more employees and visitors are showing up every day.

Glacier Lillies pop up over night where a foot of snow stood two days previous.




Winter ends slowly here and lingers for much of the calendar.

But, that makes summer that much more spectacular and special.




May you all be primed for a good Summer Solstice party.

And, please wear those flip flops for me.

I’m excited for my second round of spring to hit.

To Life!

Grace Lake : Scat, Tracks and the Ancient Grizzly Bear Trail

Early May in the Northern Rocky Mountains is a time of reemergence.

A time when every creature big and small is going through changes and coming back to life.

The first flowers of the year, called Glacier Lilies, will cover an area that two days ago was covered in snow!

Grace 1

All the while, the upper reaches of the peaks are still in the throes of winter, still weighted down with a thick blanket of snow.

This is why the low elevation lakes of the Northwestern corner of the park are a perfect spring playground.


Grace 2


My good friend Clay called me while I was sitting on my couch in Missoula one evening, and tossed out a plan.

He was planning a trip into the Logging Lake valley and wanted to know if I felt like coming with.

He knew Grace Lake was at the head of the valley and that I was eyeing it for an early season dip.

I was seriously excited by the potential of knocking off a lake earlier than ever before.

I instantly started throwing gear in my car and driving north.

Montana had been enjoying a stretch of unseasonable 70 degree days with blue bird skies.  You don’t look a weather pattern like that, or a gift horse in the mouth.  You know…

I stared off towards the continental divide gleaming white in the distance as we cruised north on the Camas Road towards Polebridge.

We passed a group of 30 elk grazing in a tree ringed meadow.


Grace 3

Elk in a Meadow


The famous Polebridge Mercantile and Bakery had just recently opened for the season and was in full swing by the time we got there.

The always friendly girl staffing the counter handed over my breakfast of a cinnamon roll and bear claw.  It was gone by the time I got back to the truck, but thankfully I had the will power to stash my cookies in my pack.

They would prove an exciting snack later the next day.


Grace 3


Another a few miles down the Inside North Fork Road brought us to the Logging Lake Trailhead.

It had been months since I last went on a real hike, so nothing was going quickly.

Clay, ever the pal…only pointed out my disorganization a few times.

While the foot of Logging Lake was only five miles from the trailhead, our real destination Grace Lake was 13 miles.

Almost the entire trail is board flat, but 13 miles is 13 miles.  We had to get moving.


Grace 5


As I mentioned before, early May in Glacier is as wild as it gets.

On top of that, the Logging Lake valley is seldom hiked in mid-August, much less now.


Grace 6


The entire trail was one big, muddy track trap.  The only prints we didn’t see were human.

Pretty sure we were the first people up the trail since the snow melted.

We made terrible time, stopping to examine prints and scat along the way.


Grace 7


We easily saw over 300 Grizzly bear and Black Bear prints.

It is no surprise, but Logging Lake valley must have an exceptionally healthy bear population judging by what we saw.


Grace 8

Grizzly Bear Print


Mountain Lion prints were sprinkled throughout.

In all my time running around in the mountains, I’ve still never gotten to see one in the wild.

Although, I’m positive I’ve been seen by more cats than I care to ponder.

It’s a bit spooky but extremely true.


Grace 9

Mountain Lion Track


This area of the park has always been a hot bed of wolf activity since they reintroduced themselves from neighboring packs in Canada.

Their prints were very abundant, but again no sightings.


Grace 10

Wolf Track


Wild animal prints are like the seasoning to the great steak that is a good hike.

They are the suspense in a drama film.

You know that you’re surrounded on all sides by animals that remove you from the top of the food chain.

You just don’t get to see them.

It’s like when horror movies were still art, you know?

You are never more engrossed in the moment, than when you are surrounded by large carnivore prints.


Grace 11

Grizzly Bear Track


We stopped periodically along the lake shore to soak in every ounce of this perfect day.


Grace 12


Clay scanned the hillsides and kept track of everything that flew by.

We even got a serenade from the local Loon population.


Grace 13


We pounded feet to the head of Logging Lake where we were to make camp.

When we arrived, a Bald Eagle stood perched in a tall dead snag, welcoming our arrival.


Grace 14


The lake was as calm as you could ever ask for.

The reflections were surreal they were so reflective.

We stared across a huge lake of glass as the sun set into the western horizon.


Grace 15


In the morning we passed the Upper Logging Lake Cabin and saw a rare sight.

Come to find out that Grizzly Bears not only walk in the same trails year in and year out…but in the same foot prints.

Over the years the pattern of foot prints that they use over and over became 3” deep depressions into the ground.

I can’t imagine how many times a bear has to step in the same place to make a divot in the ground that deep.

There was a trail of deep prints walking from the shore of Logging Lake, directly towards the cabin, under the front porch overhang and all the way around the cabin.


Grace 16


The cabin was also covered in scratch marks from decades of visits.

I can’t even imagine staying there… The bears own that cabin!


Grace 17


The trail meandered through dense west side forest.  The sun warmed the pines up creating one of my favorite smells on earth.


Grace 18


We continued on for another mile and a half until we got to the shore of Grace Lake.

The winds had changed dramatically and were ripping up waves across the whole lake.

Grace 19


Clay was a real trooper to accompany me into the water.

Many others would have been content to simply take the pictures.

I set the camera on timer and we waded out into the frigid spring waters.

A split second before the camera clicked he was so kind as to shove me further out into the lake.

What are buddies for?


Grace 20


Any lake that has made it this far into the project, I’ve obviously obsessed over.

I’ve looked down from near Gyrfalcon Lake and wondered when I would finally bob around in these waters.

Never would I guess it would have been seven years later and on a perfect, 70 degree day in early May.

I’ll take it.


Grace 21


We had to make our way all the way back to the trailhead before dark and that was going to take some doing.

We cruised along, stopping on the side of the lake to take in the scenery and do some logistics planning.  Soon there will be a mission to Lilly Lake which is tucked into Adair Ridge, just south of Logging Lake.   That is going to be thankless schwack, making this wonderful trail hike a luxury.

In the first days of the 2004 season I jumped into Logging Lake with my good friend Anna.

I had known her then for about a week.

It was also my first purposeful “lake jump” not more than a few days after dreaming up this project.

I hadn’t been back since.

Ten years later, I wanted to new pic of me hopping in.

So, while in a rush, I plopped my being in there for good measure.

Clay rejoiced in the fact that I totally lost my balance as I floundered my way back out of the lake.


Grace 28



That kept us laughing for the last five mile stretch back towards the truck.


Grace 23

This was a spectacular way to start my last season of the project.

Good friends, good times, great weather and a whole bunch of suspenseful prints.

Can’t ask for much more than that!

To Life!

Marc Ankenbauer


Anyone have any great animal track stories.  Been followed and not known it?  Had the hair raise on the back of their neck but never seen the animals?  Let me hear about it in the comments!

Happy Summer Folks!

Grace 24


Welcome to Antarctica

Hello all,

I left the U.S. on the 18th of October and flew from Missoula to Salt Lake, Los Angeles, Sydney, Christchurch NZ and eventually to McMurdo Research Station on Ross Island off the coast of Antarctica.

It is spring in New Zealand, so the mountains were still covered in snow as we flew overhead.

Welcome to Antarctica 01 - Glacier Explorer

Christchurch is the home base of the Antarctic Program and a very lovely city.

Two years ago it was hammered by a very major earthquake so the downtown portion was fenced off and essentially ruined.

Welcome to Antarctica 02 - Glacier Explorer

The people of the city are trying their best to keep their heads up and recreate their world.

We got delayed on our flight out to McMurdo so I used my free day to roam the city in the rain and check out the botanical garden.

It was without question the most amazing garden I have ever seen in my life.

Welcome to Antarctica 03 - Glacier Explorer

Most of my time was spent being given my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather Gear) and going through orientation.

Welcome to Antarctica 04 - Glacier Explorer

When we finally left we boarded a C-17.

Welcome to Antarctica 05 - Glacier Explorer

The U.S. Airforce does most all the flying around Antarctica so these military planes are very common.

Maybe it was because it was my first time down on the ICE but it was a pretty surreal experience to be flying in a huge military plane.

Welcome to Antarctica 06 - Glacier Explorer

The pilots let us go up into the cockpit and all you could see was clouds and dials.

I’m sure glad they know what they are doing.

Once we finally got visual of the continent I took a few pictures out of the small porthole windows.

Welcome to Antarctica 07 - Glacier Explorer

As far as you could see was expansive, unending white.

Welcome to Antarctica 08 - Glacier Explorer

We landed on the sea ice just outside of the station which will eventually melt to be open water as summer progresses.

Welcome to Antarctica 09 - Glacier Explorer

When we got off the plane we boarded a bus which like every other vehicle down here is humongous.

Welcome to Antarctica 10 - Glacier Explorer

My dorm while I’m in McMurdo is called the Mammoth Mountain Inn.  It is the middle building just below the small mountain in the back that’s called Observation or OB Hill.

My dorm is right next to a pavilion that flies the flags from all the countries that fund research in Antarctica.

Welcome to Antarctica 29 - Glacier Explorer

Antarctica is a continent but its not a country.

It’s no ones.

It is all of ours, a mutually held science laboratory for the entire world.

It really is an amazing place.

Welcome to Antarctica 11 - Glacier Explorer

There are multiple surrounding buildings but the main building is painted blue.

It houses all kinds of offices but most importantly it’s the dining hall.

So no matter how turned around you get…you always know where the food is.

Just go to the blue building.

Welcome to Antarctica 12 - Glacier Explorer

There are most basic things here; there is a post office, two bars and even a non-denominational church.

Its set right up against the expansive sea ice and makes a pretty cool backdrop.

Welcome to Antarctica 13 - Glacier Explorer

My life has been basically focused on training and preparation for going out into the field next month.

While much of it has been inside learning, everyone has to go through something called Happy Camper training.

For many it is to learn how to spend a night out if something has gone terribly wrong.  For me, it’s to help me get a feel of what it will be like out at the AGO camps.

Although in all reality it wasn’t a good showing because the weather was nice and only got down to 1F while the AGO camps will be -50F.

Welcome to Antarctica 14 - Glacier Explorer

Nineteen of us gathered our supplies and hopped into another enormous vehicle.

It drove over a pass and out on to the Ross Ice Shelf which is about 500’ thick.

It is flat like sea ice but it’s really where the main continental ice comes spilling off into the ocean.

This is still nothing compared to the often 5000’ thick ice around the South Pole.

Welcome to Antarctica 15 - Glacier Explorer

We were dropped off next to a building that we used as a classroom.

In all directions was flat ice which butted up to huge mountains off in the distance dwarfing the various buildings on the ice shelf.

Welcome to Antarctica 16 - Glacier Explorer

We were camping out right below a mountain called Mt. Erebus which is the southern most active volcano on earth.

It has a lake of lava in the bottom of the summit crater.

When the clouds parted we could see smoke plumes wafting up from the interior.

We headed inside for more training, but soon it was out for the night.

We erected two Scott tents and 7 mountaineering tents.

Welcome to Antarctica 17 - Glacier Explorer

The company that makes these tents is from my beloved Missoula, Montana.

I’ve never heard of Bluestar, but they must be cool.

Welcome to Antarctica 18 - Glacier Explorer

To block the wind we created a wall out of snow blocks.

Welcome to Antarctica 19 - Glacier Explorer

Now this really was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced.

I tried to make an igloo at Lolo Pass a few years ago and making blocks stay intact is hard.

This stuff was like heavy Styrofoam.

You can literally cut blocks with hand saws.  Whatever shape you cut them, they stay.

If they are not exactly how you want them, you trim them.

It was like perfect cartoon igloo snow.  WILD!

Welcome to Antarctica 20 - Glacier Explorer

Once camp was finished we melted blocks of snow to get boiling water.

Welcome to Antarctica 21 - Glacier Explorer

Bundled up, with a mug of hot chocolate and a freeze dried meal…I was warm.

Welcome to Antarctica 22 - Glacier Explorer

In the morning it was crystal clear.

Welcome to Antarctica 23 - Glacier Explorer

You could see where one of the main ice sheets rolls down into the ocean creating the ice shelf.

Welcome to Antarctica 24 - Glacier Explorer

I can’t even explain how huge this landscape is.

I have no comparison.


Beyond amazing.

Welcome to Antarctica 25 - Glacier Explorer

We broke down camp, and did some more training.

One scenario was the famous buckethead drill.

Welcome to Antarctica 26 - Glacier Explorer

We all had to put plastic buckets on our heads and try to find our teacher.

It is to simulate what it’s like to communicate and functionally find someone lost in a whiteout.

Basically impossible.

Welcome to Antarctica 27 - Glacier Explorer

The same enormous vehicle came to pick us up and bring us back to the station.

Later that evening was our Halloween celebration.

Everyone works six days a week and has Sunday off, so Saturday night is when organized holidays are held.

So, like it or not…Saturday was Halloween.

We ate like kings and hit the “town”.

Welcome to Antarctica 28 - Glacier Explorer

It was the first time I have been up late enough to see what counts for sunset down here.

Welcome to Antarctica 30 - Glacier Explorer

The sun does not actually fall below the horizon these days.  A week ago I think it still did slightly, but as of a few days ago it stopped fully setting.

It still gets real close and creates a few hour sunset color fest and then rises up again.

Since I’ve been here I have been asleep when this happens, but thanks to a few drinks and a Halloween party I was still awake to take part.

Welcome to Antarctica 34 - Glacier Explorer

So, I went home and got bundled up, grabbed my camera and went for a walk to a place called Hut Point.

It is a hut that Robert Scott’s expedition made in 1901.  They were trying to be the first group to ever reach the South Pole.

It’s so dry and cold down here that the hut is still in perfect shape.  Pretty wild.

It was the first time I saw McMurdo Station from a far.

Welcome to Antarctica 35 - Glacier Explorer

I’ve seen countless sunsets in my life, but none set against a backdrop like this.

I’m still having trouble comprehending that I’m in Antarctica.

Welcome to Antarctica 31 - Glacier Explorer

I am so happy that I got a chance at some photographs while the sun was right.

Welcome to Antarctica 32 - Glacier Explorer

In a few weeks I’ll be in the middle of the flat expanses of the interior plateau.

Welcome to Antarctica 33 - Glacier Explorer

A few weeks from now the sun will not set at all.

But tonight, at 2:30am I roamed around with a wig in my pocket and whiskey on my breath and took photos of Antarctica at Sunset.


Welcome to Antarctica 36 - Glacier Explorer