Sunday, March 15, 2020

Mosaic Monday # 71: Spread Your Wings

Last night, we submitted our on-line applications for summer backcountry camping in Glacier National Park (GNP)!  Along with hundreds of other people!  After all, midnight marked the first time this year that you could enter applications.  We won't hear the outcome for weeks, but it has me in a dreamy mood.  Of boots and backpacks.  Lakes and legends.  Flowers and fishing (well, fishing for Man with Hat).  What better time to revisit one of our hikes from 2017?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 - Pitamakan Pass - 15.4 miles out and back (Entry 21 in Hiking Journal)

We launched this trek from the Two Medicine campground, a car accessible encampment on the east side of GNP and our home for two nights.  By checking in the evening before, it enabled Head Chef to cook up a hearty breakfast, kick-starting the hike in style. 

The first part of the trail was surprising - mostly meadow and open terrain.  Quickly we arrived at a dry creek bed with a sturdy bridge, belying the torrents that rush this way in the spring.  Nearby cottonwoods sported yellow leaves, which occasionally drifted downward in a lazy spiral to crunch beneath our dusty boots.

A gradual incline and a trail that seemed to point due west offered views of Mount Morgan and Red Mountain.  The autumn season displayed its wares in the form of profuse berries, and flowers that had long since dried on the stem.  Red huckleberry foliage contrasted with the juniper and crumbling beargrass.
Biscuitroot - as beautiful now as it was when it first bloomed
We arrived at the fork for Oldman Lake/Pitamakan Pass three hours later, and then began our assault of the Pass.  From the base of the cliff, it is almost impossible to discern the switchbacks that are cleverly woven into the rock face.
The Pass is smack in the middle of this picture.  Can you see any trail?  Nope!

Mount Morgan towers above Oldman Lake
With each turn, Oldman Lake fell further below us, until finally we reached a relatively narrow ledge that ran between Oldman Lake and Pitamakan Lake.

The drop-off to Pitamakan Lake takes your breath - straight down, my friends!  As my father-in-law likes to say - stop and look, or an unexpected tumble will follow!

Given the treacherous nature of this terrain, it is altogether fitting that Pitamakan Pass is eponymous with the female warrior leader of the Blackfeet Nation in the early 1700s.  She had a vision in the area and went on to lead her tribe through many successful raids.  She was the only woman in the tribe to ever lead, or be given a man's name, which translates to Running Eagle.  
Left: Looking north toward Morning Star Lake     Middle: Yep, that's the trail!      Right: McClintock Peak
Note: the more we hike in GNP, the easier it is to "connect the dots".  My post on August 25, 2019 included camping at Atlantic Creek Campground, which we accessed through Triple Divide Pass.  You could also arrive at Atlantic Creek from this direction, if you went 6 miles north, past Pitamakan Lake and Morning Star Lake.  Something about that really tickles me!

Perched on a rocky outcropping with a 360-degree panorama, we dug into our lunch of rice and beans.  We certainly needed that carbo load after 7.7 miles and 1,850 feet of elevation gain. Only the smoke and haze from that summer's forest fires could slightly dampen our mood, affecting as they did the quality of the views and our photos.

Re-tracing our steps along the switchbacks, we felt that familiar quadricep burn as we descended to the fork in the trail that leads to Oldman Lake.  The short side path down to the lake travels through a ghostly forest of dead whitebark pines, the result of white pine blister rust, a fungal disease that was accidentally introduced from Europe around 1900.

As the trail meandered through those pines we spotted fresh bear scat.  One hiker informed us a couple had told him they'd seen a grizzly at the head of the lake the night before.  With heightened awareness, we traipsed to the lake's edge, where Man with Hat promptly set to fishing.  He caught three cutthroat, but I was only able to document one since the others speedily wriggled off the hook.
Don't worry - it was released!
We left the lake behind, and without a bear sighting.  Fine by me.  I was satisfied to be surrounded by prolific yellow butterflies instead - Clouded Sulphur.

In no time we found ourselves back in the meadow, the sun drenching us in sweat, and the dust puffing up from the trail with every step.  The stream flowing perpendicular to the trail proved too much to resist.  Aaahhh.  Weary feet in cool mountain water - only two scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream on a hot day could be any more refreshing.

With less than a mile to the campground, we squeezed our way through several brushy sections of the trail.  The sun had passed behind Rising Wolf Mountain, and my phone told me it was nearly 6 p.m.  In other words, time for wild critters to reclaim the backcountry.  You can imagine my nerves were jangling like a tambourine when those bushes started making a rustling noise!  Man with Hat stepped between me and the offending bush, and the pumping adrenalin propelled me all the way back to the tent like a rocket!

With deep satisfaction, we sank into our camp chairs and removed our boots and socks.  We recounted the day's events, adult beverages loosening the accumulated trail dust and our tongues.  And we raised a glass to Pitamakan, wishing for a small portion of her prowess and courage.  To Running Eagle!  
"No one can predict to what heights you might soar.  Even you will not know until you spread your wings."  -- Gil Atkinson

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Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
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Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.

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  1. Pitamakan Lake is breathtakingly beautiful and the water looks so pure. I can see why Running Eagle and others wanted to keep in close proximity of this thirst-quenching body of blue. It’s easy to imagine real eagles keeping an eye on it, too!

  2. What an amazing trip and tiring as well. Love the view from the top but man what a climb.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

  3. We were there for 3 days. We didn't do any back country hiking but what we did do was absolutely incredible. We were there after. It even snowed on the pass! Thanks for the memories! Have a grand week!

  4. That really is a pretty area and you get to see so much. That lake sure is pretty!

  5. A good title, a good mantra of course, to spread our wings in thoughts.

    I admire you, making such an exhausting trip. But of course the nature there is absolutly wonderful.

    Happy MosaicMonday

  6. ...being out in nature is no doubt the safest place to be in these uncertain times. Thanks for hosting.

  7. Wow! These photos are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing and hosting.

  8. Loved learning the history of Running Eagle! We didn’t learn this good stuff in school! Your memory pictures are simply stunning. Just beautiful. Good luck on this summers drawing. It’s such a wonderful National Park!

  9. I am sitting here smiling at your enthusiasm of your summer of camping. Looking at your amazing photos of your glorious landscapes, I wouldn't mind tagging along.....especially if "Man with a Hat" cooks hearty meals after a long day filled with hiking, canoeing, happy snap taking etc. etc. =)

  10. Wow! Excellent hike. We went to Glacier a few years back in July. They had just opened the road we wanted to go on. We had fun but wear ourselves out like I am imaging you all did.

  11. You are really an outdoor person! Fantastic experiences & photos from your hikes once again. Thank you for taking me along.

  12. I hope you get to go on your camping holiday - I've never heard about having to submit an application on-line before! But the location looks amazing. Happy camping and stay safe from the "virus". And have a great week.

  13. Hello Angie, what an awesome camping trip. The hike and views are stunning. I like the drop off view of the lake. I would like to see a bear, but only in the distance. I enjoyed your hike and photos. Thanks for hosting. Stay safe and healthy, calm and happy. Enjoy your day, have a great new week!

  14. Dear Angie - My energy for hiking and camping has been wearing off, but I’ve always enjoyed accompanying you and the photos of the changing landscape you showed us. Wish you good outcome of your application.


  15. Hello, Angie, this Park looks like a little piece of Paradise on earth. I do hope the permits come through and you get to revisit it!

  16. I know you are anxious to plan hikes in that beautiful area again. I love seeing these photos! Nature has such beauty that nothing can ruin! Take care of yourself and stay healthy. Thanks for the fun party today too! Hugs, Diane

  17. Good Monday to all, be safe, be healthy, be hopeful

    much love...

  18. Gorgeous photos and so nice to see here in still-somewhat-snowy New Hampshire. I've never been and am more inspired after seeing your pictures. Another friend also put in his application for a back-country Glacier spot last night! Hope you both get one.

  19. Beautiful country. It's amazing the wonder you get to see when you put in the hiking effort and face the fear of wildlife encounters! Those views are amazing. I enjoy your hiking adventures seeing as they are out of my ballpark!

  20. Angie, I felt quite satisfied reading your adventure, as if I hiked it, too (I could hear the crunch beneath my boots), so I'm now thinking I deserve a beer about now. Here's to knocking on wood, crossing fingers, and thinking positively that you get your application approved.

  21. Hi Angie. That's what I like to read. Positivity and optimism. There's so much doom and gloom around that getting out in the big wide world and concentrating on something like photography, birding while cooking and eating outdoors will lift anyone's spirits. Keep taking the positive pills you British Bulldog.

  22. Nature is so beautiful ~ gorgeous photography ^_^

    Keep calm and be well,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  23. The natural way you caught photos, beautiful images.

  24. What an adventure you had!! I'd be fine with no bears either. When we go hiking in Yellowstone or the Tetons I got my head on a swivel and try and be ready for anything every time we go around a corner.

  25. what a fun post!! i knew i was in for a treat when i read the title!! i am not a camper, i will enjoy it vicariously through you!! the pictures are beautiful, i enjoyed every single one!!

    if i understood the beginning correctly!!! good luck with the drawing??

  26. What a wonderful hike with some beautiful stunning photos.
    Good luck with the lottery, stay safe and healthy!

  27. Thanks for sharing this hike with its gorgeous scenery.

    Feel free to share at My Corner of the World

  28. Planning for most of us is a bit of an ifffy thing right now. We don't have wilderness close by, but there many areas where few people go and we have been out every day. So far, being constrained by the COVID-19 virus has not bothered us much. When I have shopped I have had no trouble buying what I need, although the choices on wine were a tad limited! I did not lead my usual Tuesday walk this week and doubtless will not be doing it again for some time. We will miss the socialization I am sure; other than that we are fine. Maybe like you, Angie, we'll relive some of our old adventures. That's always fun.

  29. Mother Nature in all her glory. I do hope that by the time summer rolls around, the pandemic will be behind us; and hopefully, during all this time at home, people are carefully considered how they will move forward in the world and with each other. So much positive change needs to come out of this.

  30. Good luck with your application Angie, I really enjoy your hike stories and photos..The rustling bushes had me concerned though 😁😁.

  31. Looks such a lovely area, great photographs.

    All the best Jan


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