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
ZERO LAKES LEFT!!!
-- Marc jumped into Fisher Cap Lake on Sunday September 8th, 2013 to complete his goal! --
Read about Marc and how this project started...

The Magical Moments of Calm

How many of you have experienced Glacier National Park, during her rare, entirely calm moments?



There is nothing quite like standing at the foot of Two Medicine Lake, at midnight when the lake is perfect glass.

A full moon finally slipping into what sky the mountains leave unfilled.

 

The moon illuminates the Sinopah while the lake mirrors it and every canoe tucked along the shore.

The chalet boathouse providing the only man-made light, somehow adds instead of detracting from the whole.

Appistoki Peak oversees his entire domain and dwarfs the tiny historic buildings.

 

The whole scene is flanked on all sides by enormous, mountainous silhouettes.

Unique names like Rising Wolf, Sinopah, Lone Walker, Painted Tepee and Never Laughs all take on their imagined, midnight personalities.

Much like clouds can look like dragons, poodles or hoagie sandwiches.

 

When dawn rises from the east, each mountain will reassume its daytime persona.

But, right now they are powerful beings from a night time universe.

For me this is when the park is at her most romantic and enchanting, begging you to sit just a few minutes longer.

At this very second you are more than aware that that these are the moments you are supposed to catalog and store away for use in the future.

Delaying logical, much needed sleep, and ignoring the human instinct to go inside, simply to extend the magic for just a tiny bit longer.

 

It is a tough feeling to forget.

The smell of actively growing July vegetation.

The sound of literally everything other than the standard east side winds.

The feel of sitting on cold, flat shore rocks as you take in the profound scene unfurling around you.

 

Those moments are what get us by when life is not as… Perfect.

Glacier National Park draw over a million travelers and wilderness seeking nomads every year.

I have always loved meeting people who haven’t been to Glacier in decades.

Often, the simple fact that it’s out there, just like they remember is calming.

Somehow it’s a centering, grounding reality check in an often chaotic world.

As I was huddled indoors on this gloomy, February afternoon, with my head cold in full effect,  I found myself yearning for it.

I figured that I probably wasn’t the only one.

Pull from the catalog, que up the memory…

Maybe these photo will help.

To Life,

Marc Ankenbauer

 

*Do you have any personal experiences with the magic of Glacier on a calm night?  I’m sure you do!  Lets hear them.

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.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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.

 

winter1                       

 

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.

 

winter21

 

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! 

 

Winter2 

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. 

 

winter3

 

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.

 

winter4

 

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!

 

winter5

 

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.

 

winter19

 

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. 

 

winter6

 

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

 

winter8

 

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

 

winter7

 

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.

Right?

 

Not so much…

 

winter9

 

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.

 

winter15

 

 

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.

 

winter10

 

There was snow literally encompassing our entire apartment building.

 

winter11

 

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.

 

winter12

 

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.  

 

winter13

 

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.

 

 

winter20 

 

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.

 

winter16

 

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

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

 

winter17

 

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!

Fishercap, a moose and some really great friends! #168

Good Morning,

I’m still working through the events of the last 48 hours.

It was a whirlwind.

The Fishecap Lake dip went better than I could have ever expected.

I woke in the morning to a pounding September rain storm.

But, when I opened my front blinds, there was the most vibrant rainbow that I have ever seen.

Glacier Park was telling me it was going to all be ALRIGHT!

Thanks for the reassurance old friend.

 

Fisher 1

 

Then, the driving rain continued all morning.

It would have officially been the worst weather that I had ever jumped into a lake in…easily.

Then it all came together.

It was still overcast and misting, but the rain stopped.

Friend after friend parked their cars in Swiftcurrent Parking Lot.

My buddy Clay grabbed my cooler “Dave Michi” which was filled with tasty micro brews.

 

Fisher 2

 

He and Dave fell in line with the pack train of friendly faces as we walked the 10 minute soggy stroll to Fishercap Lake.

My mom, Jess my lovely wife, thirty awesome friends and a couple people I’ve never seen before gathered around the rocky shore.

I stumbled through a tear filled thank you speech.

This is the culmination of a powerful time period of my life filled with amazing friends, life growth and obviously experiences never to be recreated.

There wasn’t a chance I wasn’t going to cry.

 

It was absolutely amazing!

And to top it off, a neighborhood moose came to swim with us.

 

Fisher 3

 

Chris Peterson from the Hungry Horse News waded out into the mucky lake bottom with camera in hand.

Chris is easily one of the most avid reporters currently covering Glacier National Park.

Thanks for making it a priority to be there and document the event for me.

 

Fisher 4

 

Three seconds after I hopped in, along came Mom, Jess, Laura, Pat, Clay, Ed, Eric and Monica right after me.

Thank you all for that, as I was dealing with some pretty serious stage fright.

This has been a project that while publicly supported, has been executed in quiet remoteness.

Normally, with one or two friends in tow in the middle of nowhere.

To have such a large, supportive turnout was spectacular!

 

Fisher 5

 

We then enjoyed Dave Michi’s contents along with a bottle of Champagne (thanks Wilsons)!

And  you know, while we were all standing in a misty, cool September day drenched in glacier lake water…for that moment somehow I wasn’t that cold.

I was just caught, directly in the moment and the love of friends and family.

Thank you all!

For those who came out, for those who couldn’t but would have, to those who have just always been supportive of this nutty endeavor.

Thank you for all the donations and helping me make this about more than a guy and some lakes.

Thank You All!

 

Fisher 6

 

I’ll get more written about Fishercap and the trips leading up to this moment.

I just wanted to tell everyone how Sunday went.

It went great!

 

Fisher 7

 

Keep an eye out for what I’m sure will be a great article by Chris Peterson at the Hungry Horse News.

Also, a couple other news outlets are starting to be in contact.

I’ll keep you informed as they come out.

To Life and the Future!

 

Fishercap Lake here we come! #168 The Last Lake

Prefishercap2

 

So… Sunday or “Fishercap Day”, is right around the corner.

I’ve been waiting for this day for ten years.

Ten Years…

Good Golly!

 

Prefishercap5

 

On August 22nd, Leah and Anna accompanied me to Medicine Owl Lake.

Lake #167 was celebrated in the middle of nowhere, but with good friends on a warm day.

 

Prefishercap3

 

Fishercap Lake (#168) on the other hand is ten minutes from a parking lot.

It will still with spent with great friends.

 

September 8th, at 1pm, I’ll more or less “lay down” in Fishercap.

It’s not very deep, especially at this time of year.

But, boy is it a lovely spot.

It’s a meer 10 minutes from the end of the Many Glacier Road on the Swiftcurrent Valley Trail.

I’m hoping for some good weather, but it might very well be a bit cooler than I would hope.

Only time will tell.

Either way I’ll be there to play my part.

Any of you stopping by, thanks ahead of time.

Afterward, I’m thinking about hitting up Many Glacier Hotel for a drink and some fellowship.

 

If you feel like accompanying me, then Awesome!

If you can’t, no biggies.

It’s just a silly lake anyways…

 

Thanks always for everyone’s support, donations and interest through the years.

It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to spend the last decade in this park and with you all as friends and colleagues.

To Life,

Marc

 

Prefishercap4

 

P.S.  I still have the stories of the Evangeline(#164), Ruger(#165), Miche Waben(#166) and Medicine Owl Lakes (#167), along with past outings to write about.

I’m a bit overwhelmed at this moment and plan to simply focus on the Fishercap dip on Sunday.

But, the stories will be written in time…fear not.

Oh, and to  you football fans, I’m sorry I planned Fishercap on the first day of the season.

Stay tuned.

 

Pre Fishercap1

Running Crane Lake : Grizzly Bears, Icebergs and Captain Clint #161

Remember in early July when it was like 5 million degrees in the Western United States?

Obviously an exaggeration, but it did break records in Las Vegas and Death Valley of 117 and 129 respectively.

This was also when Glacier’s already hot summer took it to the next level.

It was breaking 90 daily for a couple weeks.

That is very hot here.

RC27

 

I was still recuperating from the brutal Lilly Lake outing.

And with temperatures like this, I didn’t really want to hike much of anywhere.

But I had to choose something from the list.

They weren’t going to jump in themselves. ..Now were they?

 

running crane - Glacier Explorer

 

So, my friend Captain Clint and I decided that the best thing to do on a hot day was to go swimming.

Come to find out, Running Crane Lake was the cure for this summer time scorcher.

There would be very little bushwhacking and lots of lovely clear lakes.

But there would also be absolutely no shade on an outrageously hot and sunny day.

 

RC1

 

Captain Clint, is actually a Captain.

He heads the Two Medicine faction of the Glacier Boat Company.

Countless visitors have experienced the park through his brand of intimate knowledge and sharp, witty banter.

He is one of the biggest characters I’ve ever met and we were “goinona mission”.

It was gonna be a good day…

Two Medicine to Running Crane Lake and return in a day.

And lay our overheating bodies in as many pools of water as possible.

This was our task…

 

RC2

 

We left Two Med at 6:15am and B-lined it to the Dry Fork Junction which is on the way towards Old Man Lake.

We paused to rest by the creek for five minutes before continuing on.

 

RC30

 

As we walked up hill slightly, we looked down where we were just sitting and saw a bear cruise down valley.

He was literally in the exact same spot we had just been resting five minutes earlier.

I’ll call that great timing for everyone involved.

 

RC3

 

From here on it was all off trail as we headed toward the saddle between Spot and Red Mountains.

 

RC4

 

I had been up there once before when my good friend Josh Paulson and I went to Lonely Lakes in 2005.

Josh is a well more comfortable climber than I was or still am.

I knew at the time that I had to start working on the off trail lakes and Josh helped work me into that era of the project.
He also turned me into a trekking pole believer!

Eight years later I owe the project to trekking poles, gaiters and goat trails.

Thanks for all your help and insight.

 

RC5

Josh and I in 2005.  It was windy… Really Windy…

 

This is an extremely windswept and barren valley.

In winter, the winds must absolutly howl through here.

There was a tiny rivulet stream running through flower filled scree.

 

RC6

 

Our early start allowed us to have shade until almost the saddle.

That was huge!

 

RC31

 

At the top we paused to take it all in.

Many climbers have stared down at the Lake Creek Valley, but few ever roam around in it.

Clint and I both knew how special this area and today was.

We had a lot of distance to cover, but were excited about the opportunity.

Seeing as it was July 2nd  and we had the opportunity, we both made a snow ball to throw over the cliff before dropping in.

That kind of stuff still makes two boys from Ohio and Texas smile.

 

RC7

 

We dug our heels in and scree skied directly down towards the Lonely Lakes.

Halfway down we had to choose a gulley and luckily chose correctly.

Once down at the lake we looked back at our descent and found that we took the only “good” way.

We kind of funneled down to the ideal cliff exit, which was consistent with how our day progressed.

 

RC30

 

Since our real objective was Running Crane Lake, we resisted temptation to hang out at the Lonelys and pressed up the next ridge.

 

RC8

 

We rose above Lonely Lakes which were cradled by Red Mountain’s namesake hues.

 

RC(

 

Eventually Running Crane came into view tucked high into the upper valley.

Josh and I peered out at Running Crane in 05’ but short on time, we left it for another trip…

 

RC10

 

Eight years later Clint and I hardly broke stride past my previous stopping point.

Onward across a couple snow fields and down bright red scree filled slopes.

 

RC11

 

As the lake came into view we noticed icebergs floating near the beach.

We both looked at each other and knew that those bergs were our destination.

How often do you get to climb out on icebergs on a 90 degree day?

This was going to happen!

 

RC12

 

The snow beyond the lake had a melt spot that looked exactly like a soaring eagle.

Clint liked the Eagle…

 

RC13

 

Hot from our hike here, we jumped in immediately and dealt with lunch and photos later.

 

RC13

 

Sprawled out on the rocky shore, we ate our lunch and smiled widely.

Clint was telling an animated story and threw his hands in the air.

At that exact moment, we looked left and saw two sub adult grizzly bears running away from the lake.

I don’t think they saw us until Ol’ Captain Clint told a rousing story about lord knows what!

I’m guessing they had some swimming plans of their own and they weren’t expecting that two loud humans got to the pool first.

I certainly do appreciate them letting us continue.

Thanks guys.

 

 

Obviously, from that point on I kept one eye out for the bears and one on my icebergs.

They never returned, which is good… but what an amazing sighting.

With the time we had left we hopped up on the icebergs which had started to float around by now.

 

RC14

 

We had to jump off before the wind blew us down lake.

Ah, July 2nd in Glacier National Park.

 

RC15

 

Clint eyed a high point on the ridge off Red Mountain and we pushed for it.

The views were amazing!

 

RC16

 

The skyline to the west was the Cutbank Valley and a sea of layered peaks.

 

RC17

 

To the north was the Madwolf Circuit with Eagle Plume directly above Running Crane.

The South was Red Mountain and the ridge we had just come over.

And, to the East was the Great Plains stretching past Browning and the Sweetgrass Hills all the way to Chicago…

 

RC18

 

Red Mountain is obviously red but the Eastern part of the ridge is tan.

At one point, there is the transition and it looked like the red and tan rocks had a fight.

Fallen rock soldiers strewn about, making the transition very chaotic.

 

RC19

 

As we wondered down the ridge it had officially gotten HOT!

The sun beat on us making the idea of the Lonely Lakes extremely inviting.

We made really good time by starting early and knowing the route from last time I was back here.

 

RC20

 

Just beyond the red and tan rock battle, we found a nice ramp back down to the lakes.

Clint had beaten me to the upper Lonely Lake.

While I was still high above the lake, I watched him cannonball off a lakeside boulder.

 

RC21

 

Thus began a two hour, swim, snack, swim, drink, swim, kick it fest at the Lonely Lakes.

 

RC22

 

There is a flower filled rock shelf separating the upper and lower lakes.

Between them are two tiny ponds which we named the Upper and Lower – Middle Lonely Ponds.

It’s a catchy name.

I know.

They were comparatively quite warm, but only about two feet deep.

Clint skied down a snow bank into the Upper Middle Lonely pond in his Chacos.

 

RC23

 

The lower Lonely Lake was spectacular also.

We continued our lazy, swimming ways while tucked into a piece of shade made by the rock shelf.

We must have said, “This is amazing” 763 times throughout the day.

We just somehow earned the perfect high elevation, mountain lake swimming extravaganza!

And on a hot day.

 

RC24

 

Last time I was back here it was 50 degrees and the wind was blowing so hard that I had to put rocks on my clothes so they wouldn’t fly away.

The swimming conditions were much different.

I would like to thank Good Juju, Glacier Park and a hot weather pattern for this one.

 

RC25

 

Eventually we left our cooling salvation and headed up the rocky ridge towards Two Medicine.

We took a slight detour to check out a vegetation filled waterfall chute.

Today was a good day!

The scree was soft, the ridges sound, the views extensive and crisp, and the water cold and clear.

 

 

A couple miles from Two Medicine we bumped into what we believe was the same black bear from this morning.

He didn’t seem to have any time for us.

We stepped off trail behind some trees and he cruised past us bound for his next destination

Clint and I mused about how he was headed home on his work commute.

This morning he headed down valley to his 9 to 5 and tonight he was headed back up valley.

Headed back to the casa to have a bear beer and put his paws up.

I figured we should follow suit.

 

Thanks for a great time Clint.

We got a hold of a great lake trip and four bears in one day.

That is certainly a Waterton Glacier Lake Jumping Project single day bear record.

Most of them aren’t this good and it was even better with the great company.

 

RC28

 

Josh Paulson, thanks for showing me the way on this one.

You’re the man.

May you all be having a great summer and enjoying your bear beer and your commute.

To Life,

Marc Ankenbauer

 

 

 

#160 Lilly Lake : Who in the **** named this thing?

About six years ago I began to investigate the specifics of the lake project a bit deeper.

I knew there were 132 name lakes in Glacier National Park.

Most of them are very obviously labeled on the park topographical map.

At the time I had so much on my plate that it didn’t much matter what made up those 132.

I could throw a dart at the map and find a lake that needed a little swimming done.

 

 

Lilly bw

 

Then one day I wrote the park mapping expert to request the official USGS named lakes list.

As I scanned down the predictable and by then very familiar list, I came across the words “Lilly Lake”.

Where is that?

Has anyone heard of Lilly Lake?

No matter who I asked, no one had any knowledge of this remote puddle.

 

Lilly Pine Trees

 

 

There has long been a trail that leads along the western boundary of the park called the West Lakes Trail.

About 25 years ago the section leading through the Logging, Anaconda and Dutch Valleys was let go to be reclaimed by the vegitation.

That old trail also passed by a non-descript, mucky leech filled pool in the Anaconda Creek valley.

We are here today people, because some evil, mean spirited surveyor named it Lilly Lake.

 

lilly - Glacier Explorer

Lilly is the kidney bean shaped thing in the middle…

 

Fast forward to 2013 and that trail is nonexistent.

The park vegetation reclaims trails as if they were never there to start with.

Then toss in the fact that most of the route burnt in the major 2003 fire season.

 

Lilly expansive

 

For years now, people have literally laughed in my face when I pointed at this lake.

It’s a tiny dot on the map surrounded by a huge expanse of trail less west side forest.

No one and I mean no one actually WANTS to go there.

I ran through the list of companions and between different days off, logistics and a simple want for personal enjoyment…no one could or would go.

Thank you to everyone who at least tried to help.

 

But when the the chips are down…

In walks Mr. Pat Cattelino.

 

Lilly Pat

 

While he still didn’t really WANT to go.

He’s far enough into this whole project, that this had him intrigued.

I think he long ago figured that he would get stuck going anyway to make sure that I was able to finish.

And so I didn’t come up missing in the middle of the west side jungle by myself.

 

Lilly Pat

 

So, last week me and my buddy went on an EPIC.

Possibly THE EPIC of the whole damn ten year run.

Not including driving time, we spent 16 hours trailhead to trailhead.

12.5 hours completely off trail, constantly moving through dense forest following a GPS coordinate.

 

Lilly Car

 

We started driving from Whitefish at 6am and hit the Logging Lake trail at 8am.

About a month earlier I was on this seldom traveled trail when Clay and I had headed up to Grace Lake.

It’s starting to become familiar territory.

 

Lilly trail

 

By 9:30 we had ticked off the five miles to the foot of Logging Lake and we were seeking a nice place to cross the creek below the outlet.

 

Lillly Creek Crossing

 

We happened upon the spot where the old West Lakes Trail Bridge used to cross Logging creek.

We even found the old bridge supports still mostly intact.

I love finding parts of the parks history that have been left to fall apart in their remote peace.

 

Lilly Bridge

 

I wonder how many people crossed that bridge back in the day?

Now it leads to nowhere.

This might be the West Lakes Trail Bridge, but beyond that there is ABSOLUTLY NO SIGN OF THE OLD TRAIL!

NADA!

 

Lilly Sticks

 

Shortly after crossing the bridge, we spooked a moose, which in turn SPOOKED us!

 

Lilly Day Bed

 

After that all we saw was a mule deer and some bear poop.

Most animals just don’t want to be in brush this thick.

They are simply too smart for such foolish antics.

 

Lilly Poop

 

As we pulled ourselves up Adair Ridge, we couldn’t see anything but forest.

The comedian Brian Regan has a skit in which he calls woods plural, the Woodesen…

This was the Woodesen alright, or so Pat and I said while laughing manically at the time.

 

Lilly Woodsen

 

At the top of the ridge we found the post burn regrowth which came in form of five billion baby pine trees all less than 12 inches apart….

We were moving curtains of baby pine trees for hours.

 

Lilly Pine Trees

 

After 4.5 hours off trail we finally got a view down into the Anaconda creek valley but still the lake was nowhere in sight.

There was an obscene amount of land to still cross.

At 2pm we surveyed our future and it looked pretty bleak.

We were still 3.5 miles from the lake or so the GPS said.

 

Lilly far stare

 

By now it was also getting HOT!

The brush was so nasty that there’s no way to not have long pants, long shirt and gaiters on.

Without this wardrobe we wouldn’t have legs left, we would have bloody stumps.

For us bald guys, toss in the sweat creator itself, the floppy hat.

I’m was just getting crushed.

Somehow every time I’m thrashing through a old burn which gives no shade, it’s 90 degrees and sunny.

What’s up with that?

 

 

Lilly red neck

 

We used a map, compass and GPS to figure out an approximately line.

Without these three tools we would be hopeless.

 

Lilly GPS

 

As we B lined it into the Anaconda Creek valley we passed an enormous old Beaver Pond.

This scum pond was the only water, so we declined in hopes of arriving to Lilly soon.

We were both almost out of water but you can’t go drinking out of a beaver pond…

 

Lilly Beaver Pond

 

So, hot, dehydrated and hours in I started to get cramps in my hamstrings.

I was pouring powdered Gatorade in my mouth and swigging it down with what water I had left.

Cramping in the middle of nowhere is not alright.

I’m pretty sure I ingested 83 servings of Gatorade that day.

It was ridiculous.

 

Out of water and hobbled we came over a rise to see a very non-descript pond.

So much work for a puddle!

We left trail at 9:30am and got to the lake at 5pm.

Seriously?

 

Lilly Far Pat

 

We went into our hyper-efficient lake dip, water pulling, Gatorade pounding, food devouring mode which took 30 minutes.

 

Lilly Lillies

 

I’m glad I didn’t actually see the leeches until after I had slid my body in using a gooey old tree to keep myself from touching too much of the decaying lake bottom.

All that work for a 30 second photo op and some stinky swimming trunks.

 

Lilly Dip

 

So, wrinkle after wrinkle, baby pine after baby pine was plodded out way in reverse.

Clouds gathered in the Northwest but didn’t manifest into anything much.

A thunderstorm actually cooled us off a bit, but was short lived.

 

Lilly Leaving

 

I’m just thankful that we did it when we did, because the next day started the 4 day monsoon that flooded out Calgary.

We got to the saddle of Adair ridge at about 8:45pm or so… and dropped downhill towards Logging lake.

Best possible option was just to hit trail before dark, which we just did.

Thanks to the GPS we were able to cross the creek at approximately the same spot with the old bridge supports.

 

Lilly Late Creek

 

Dusk was turning to plain dark when we finally popped out on to trail at 10pm..

We were daffy but ecstatic.

 

The large moon helped us for a little bit but mostly we hoofed the five miles back in the pitch black.

We hit the trailhead and my car at 11:45pm.

Almost 16 hours in all…

 

Lilly Late Car

My car! At Midnight…

 

The drive out to civilization took forever!

It was 2 hours later when we finally stopped for food at the Super One in Columbia Falls.

My eye had been kind of bothering me for hours now.

So, I looked in the mirror and found dirt and an old brown tree needle in my eye.

I was able to pick it out and all is better, but WOW!

What a Bushwhack!

 

Honestly I’m just really glad to have this lake done.

I wholly recommend NEVER going anywhere near this place.

I certainly will never go back.

It wasn’t the prettiest, the most dramatic, the most animal filled or even much fun…

Despite all of that, I still feel extremely lucky to be able to live and test myself in a place so profound.

 

Lilly Laugh

 

Plus, it’s one more off the list!

Eight Left!

Thank You Pat!

To Life!

Marc Ankenbauer

 

 

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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Grizzly Bear Track

 

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

 

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

We even got a serenade from the local Loon population.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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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.

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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?

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Graceful!

 

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

 

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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!

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Bench Lake-The Land of Alder: Ten Lakes Left!!!

NOTE: The Missoulian article that was written on March 11th, 2013 about the lake project stated that I have 10 lakes left, but up till now the website count still said 11 left.  Pat and I got Bench Lake done right before I left for Antarctica and I was never able to get the story posted before I was whisked away to the Great White South.  So, many months later…Here goes Bench Lake…

Bench Lake has been one of the “hardest lakes”  on my list since the inception of the project.

Since I never know exactly what these places will be like, I can only guess at any point on which is “the hardest lake left”.

The “crux” has ebbed and flowed as I checked off lakes, although Bench has stood atop this list for some time.

While this lake was physically very difficult, the logistics made it even harder.

Before our feet even hit trail we had to travel hours and cross two border crossings, one by car and one by boat.

The trip begins by driving to Waterton National Park in Canada.

From there we took a tour boat down Waterton Lake to a place called Goat Haunt which is back in the United States.

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My good friend Keith works on the MV International.

It is the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company’s pride and joy tour boat.

This historical wooden vessel is 85 years old.

There is no classier way to enter the United States.

 

Halfway down lake, the boat crosses the U.S./Canada border which is designated by the border swath.

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This is a 100 foot wide clearing that runs the length of the border from Atlantic to Pacific.

Trail crew clears it every few years to keep Mother Nature at bay.

 

Pat and I have entertained making a website entitled “where I ate my lunch”.

This photo was taken as we enjoyed the most lovely border crossing in the world.

We even had chips…  Two kinds…

 

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At the southern end of the lake, U.S. Park Rangers and Customs Officials were there to welcome us back into the United States.

They are only welcoming between 11AM and 5PM though,  and don’t forget your passport if you want to enter!

The tiny Ranger Station is referred to as Goat Haunt.

The custom goat weather vane makes it very clear where you have landed.

 

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I had forgotten my trekking poles and the kind Park Ranger allowed me to use a mismatched pair they had in the corner.

Thanks Nice Park Ranger!!

Before we left Goat Haunt, Pat and I stopped by and saw the horse corral.

Pat is neither this small nor is this horse this big.  I swear.

 

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Goat Haunt is the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail which leads from Mexico to Canada.

The trail head sign leading south shows the official CDT emblem.

 

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We happened upon a few very excited CDT hikers who were only miles from completing the journey of a lifetime.

Congratulations on your accomplishment folks!

I’ll raise my glass while you put your feet up.

 

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The trail meanders up valley through some of the thickest forest in the park.

Glacier National Park is the wettest part of the entire continental divide and the thick undergrowth and forest in the area show it.

Tomorrow’s objective is tucked into the side of Kootenai Peak.

 

 

The waterfalls draining Bench Lake become the Waterton River 3000’ below.

 

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It pools a bit to form Kootenai Lake and then rolls onward into Canada and beyond.

 

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Night fell as we pondered the tomorrow’s logistics.  Fingers Crossed!

 

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A cold but clear morning met us as we hit the trail early.

The bridge crossing Pass Creek made a nice spot to have a snack.

 

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Eventually we struck off into the head high brush instead of continuing on-trail towards Fifty Mountain backcountry campground.

From here, we are talking thick, thick vegetation!

I’ve had conversations with researchers who agree that Goat Haunt vegetation is the thickest they have ever experienced.

Pat and I found an opening to survey our route options.

The direct frontal attack toward the lake looked horrendous.

 

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We knew any route would be bad, but this looked worse than necessary so we continued up river.

We headed down a dry creek bed that would have been fine for a garden gnome.

Anything that would get us a moment of reprieve from plant material.

 

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The dry creek bed led us to the Waterton River and a very manageable late season crossing.

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The river and all the waterfall chutes we need to work through would be terrible with higher water.

After crossing we dried our feet, put our boots back on and ate a little snack.

We stood in a meadow staring at what would prove to be the worst part of the whole trip.

 

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We had a couple thousand feet of what I guess to have been 50 degree angle alder slope.

We literally had to pull ourselves up branch by branch as we were swallowed on all sides by plants.

 

Bench 16

 

The limbs were interwoven so tightly we literally had to undo the weave to push through.

We had to watch what we were grabbing because the ground cover was made of devils club and strawberries.

Strawberries sound innocent enough but they are covered in awful little needles.

Devils Club is aptly named; it’s the worst stuff around.

So if ripping and thrashing up this insane slope of crap wasn’t bad enough we had thorns everywhere.

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To make things worse, when we finally punched out of the alder we ended up in a steep, wet cliff band.

This is where Pat steps up in like Superman.

Although he has taken to wallowing around in plant material, bushwhacking has always been more my bag.

He’s a confident mountain goat and has “talked” me through some pretty hairy moments.

 

 

I picked lakes for a reason folks.  I’m not great with climbing.

Thanks man.  I owe you big time.

How about a tall Rouge Voodoo Donuts Bacon Maple beer and a cigar?   Deal!

 

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The slope above the cliffs was insanely steep and we had to bear crawl our way up.

Anyone out there that played football, remember bear crawls?

Now try them with a freaky cliff below you on a slope of hard pack dirt and scrubby plant material.

I was grabbing tiny plants and hoping they held as I tried to just keep my feet moving.

 

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Eventually we popped out on the ridge and things calmed down a bit.

Hoping for a view of the lake we plodded through off angle bear grass and intermittent cliffs.

 

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From the top of the ridge we realized that we still had plenty left.

The lake is tucked at the bottom of the main headwall of Kootenai Peak.

Envision that the lake is in the bottom of the pocket of a molar tooth.

 

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We knew light was going to start becoming an issue so we double timed it to the lake.

Eventually we were greeted by profoundly beautiful turquoise water.

 

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In a rush we both mowed our lunches.

Pat pumped a bunch of water as I got ready to hop in.  .

The lake felt great and helped get the seeds and debris out of my ears.

 


 

Seriously though, this was monumental for me.

At the time we were focused on the situation at hand.

But,  I’d been waiting for this moment for a long while.

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This was BENCH LAKE!!!  My long time arch nemesis!

This thing had been staring me in the face for years.

As I knocked off other members of the “Top 20 List”, or wallowed into other lakes in the Goat Haunt jungle, I was always waiting for this moment.

Plus, I now had 10 lakes left.

 

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What a great number.

Ten.

How simple and straight forward.

I had ten left.

Not, 67 or 93, or 126 and certainly not 168.

But, 10.

High Five, Bench Lake!

 

But, now we had to get back before nightfall hits the alder thicket.

We will celebrate later.

The lighting got more and more amazing as it got later than it should be.

We stared off from an odd vantage point in which most never see.

We looked directly across at the parks high point, Mt. Cleveland.  All 10,461 feet of it.

Next to it stood Stoney Indian, Cathedral and Wacheechee Peak all surrounding Stoney Indian Pass

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We gazed North into Canada past the Porcupine Spires, Kootenai Lakes and Waterton Lake.

 

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I saw the tour boat leaving Goat Haunt which meant it was 5:30.

And it was not getting any earlier.

As we cruised south along the ridge we stared off at the mountains that shadow the northern Highline trail.

 

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To the West was the remote upper Waterton Valley with Nahsukin Lake, Vulture Peak and the rest of the Livingston Range.

 

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Keep Moving!

Down a steep rocky chute to gain the correct exit ramp.

Keep Moving!

Try to stay upright sliding down slopes of uneven bear grass.

 

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We walked the ridge further south so we could bypass those blasted cliffs.

Keep Moving!

Back into the thickest alder on earth.

 

Bench 30

 

We weren’t even touching the ground at a lot of times.

Keep Moving!

Two daffy goof balls yelling “Hey Bear” and laughing in that not totally there kinda way.

 

In the end our pants looked like we did battle.

A Vegi battle.

A Waterton River Vegi Battle.

 

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Once we hit Waterton River we knew we were going to be alright.

We moved happily back towards camp which was still miles away.

We weren’t in alders anymore and that’s all that mattered.

I would like to thank Waterton Valley for safe passage.

She allowed this to happen and I’m forever grateful.

 

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I still can’t believe that I’ve only got 10 left.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time.

This project may seem goofy to some of you.

And, while that may be true…

It has taken a whole lot of dedicated, sweaty and painful Goofy to get to this point.

Most of all, Thanks be to Pat.

I couldn’t have done this without you.

You’re the man!!

Now let’s revisit that horse picture.

 

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To Life!!!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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We Met Our Original Goal of $5000!!! Thank You!!!

THANK YOU!    THANK YOU!!  THANK YOU!!!

GIVE YOURSELF A ROUND OF APPLAUSE!!!

 

Ten years ago I decided to undertake what will prove to be the most time-consuming, physically exhausting and kinda bizarre endeavor I’ll ever participate in.

I wanted to try to be the first person to “Jump in Every Named Lake in Glacier and Waterton National Parks.”

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There was something missing though.

Summer would arrive and my friends and I would roam some of the wildest and most remote corners of the Northern Rocky mountains.

But I wanted it to mean more.

 

Then I learned about a camp that gives kids affected by cancer a unique and medically supervised Montana experience.

It just seemed right.

You know?

In my opinion, life is all about experiences.

So, whats better than helping to create a few for some kids that could certainly use them?

 

I needed YOUR HELP though.

And Wow, did you deliver!

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We just met our original goal of $5000!

A HUGE round of applause for everyone that made this happen!

We’ve not only met the original goal, but we quickly passed it!

 

It’s March now.

I won’t be finishing up the last 10 lakes till late summer.

LET’S SEE HOW FAR WE CAN TAKE THIS THING!!

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I’ll keep more stories and photography coming.

Tales from the lake project, Antarctica and whatever else I think you might like.

I hope you have enjoyed what I’ve put out so far.

I certainly enjoy doing it.

 

And Again, I want to THANK YOU all so much for making this project a fundraising success.

You are ALL A BUNCH OF ROCKSTARS!!