Thursday, March 14, 2024

Getting my (camping) mojo on!

March 15 marks the day we can enter a lottery for back-country camping reservations in Glacier National Park, and I am caught up in memories of picturesque pit toilets, gourmet meals on a camp stove and wine as an end-of-hike treat.  What better way to celebrate this moment than to highlight an epic trip from last year?  Hoist your backpack and come along with me!

My nephew and his girlfriend embarked on this pilgrimage with us, an epic trip covering 37.3 miles and 10,090 feet of elevation gain in the first 4 days of August 2023.

Does it look like we left the house at 4.45 am?  That's what you do when you want to make sure to get a parking spot in Glacier National Park!  Here we are, fortified with breakfast burritos and ready to go at 7.15 am!

This is Mineral Creek with Heavens Peak in the background.  Below is a picture of my nephew on a seasonal bridge - this means that every fall the Park Service takes it down, and every spring it is re-installed.  From this point, the trail rises to Flattop Mountain, and along the way we passed through the thickest huckleberry bushes we have ever seen, and every one was laden with luscious fat hucks.  We already have a plan to return here this summer!

As we reached the plateau that is Flattop Mountain, a delightful waterfall (see video below) greeted us and provided soothing pools for our feet in the afternoon heat of August.

Not long after, we arrived at the campground.  My nephew, in the lead at the time, shouted "I see a pit toilet!"

A forest fire that went through this area (in 2005, I believe) meant there was little shade to be had.  Flattop Creek had a few trees, and cooling waters - a pleasant respite from the relentless Montana sun.  The flowers thrive there too!

We closed the day with a few hands of cards, and a chicken and curried rice dinner, a specialty prepared by the father of our nephew's girlfriend.  Delicious!

Day 2: since the day held only 7 miles of hiking and the least elevation gain of the trip, we had a leisurely start.  The crisp morning gave way to shorts and light shirts as the sun moved overhead and numerous jagged mountains came into view. Around the cooking area that night, a Park Ranger would tell us that the area is called Fifty Mountain because you can see fifty peaks on a clear day!

 Getting closer.

We paused at this dry creekbed for a break, and I couldn't stop taking pictures of the flowers that lined its banks in undulating waves of Arnica yellow and Aster purple, with an occasional splash of Paintbrush red.

August in the high country can pose water supply challenges, and although we had verified with the back country office that water is available at Fifty Mountain campground, hearing it first-hand from a fellow camper is priceless.  Three fellows described the location of the water source in detail, which enabled us to choose the prime campsite when we arrived to a deserted campground.  Hubby and I came up empty with our goat observations, while the other two went on an excursion.  As the sun dropped, more hikers arrived until 3 of the 4 sites were taken.  The latest arrivals were making quite a racket until Spousal Unit got of our tent to hush them up!  We wouldn't normally do that, but we had our sights set on an early morning departure, and we needed some shut-eye.

Day 3: the moon hung over the cooking area/food hang when we emerged at 6 am, planning for a 7.30 am start.  It must have been the slow gas canister, or watching the pot boil, that turned into an 8.15 am kickoff!  As we trekked the 12.5 miles and 3,283 feet of elevation gain that day, we were easily distracted by the jaw-dropping views around every twist in the trail.

Up we go.

 Toward Cattle Queen Creek.

This waterfall came right out of the rock!!!






Can you see my nephew and his girlfriend standing the creek-bed of Cattle Queen Creek?  And he is 6 feet 7 - these mountains are GRAND!

If you look carefully at the photo below, you can see a trail descending the far mountain - we came from over there!

In 2021, I wrote several posts about our first Glacier hiking trip with my nephew (July 25, 2021, August 8, 2021 and August 15, 2021).  In the August 8 post, Helen Lake - a veritable slice of paradise - was featured.  Wouldn't you know that this current hike offered a spur with an overlook of Helen Lake?

And did I mention it was our anniversary?

It may not be apparent from the photo, but the overlook was peppered with about 20 people, more than we had seen in the previous 48 hours!  We were tickled that we timed our departure to have this refreshing stream to ourselves.






We were glad of cool feet as we finished our ascent to the Granite Park campground, arriving around 4.30.

Water was scarce there - we had to walk upstream quite a ways to find even a few small pools.

We weren't late to bed - as they say, early to bed, early to rise!

Day 4: We improved our process, and we left camp 25 minutes earlier than the day before.  Our destination?  Swiftcurrent Lookout, almost 2,200 feet of elevation in a couple of miles!!!  And why?  For goat observations, of course.  And for the views.  Except, the day dawned with low clouds and rolling mist.


It was surreal and a tad disconcerting to see my hiking partners disappear into the clouds.






Momentarily, the Lookout peeked out from the mist. (It's the little square on the top of the mountain.)

Check out this video of the clouds rolling over the mountains.

Despite the mist, we were able to observe 3 goats.  Yippee!  

And even more special, a little pika entertained us at the lookout.  We heard a squeaking among the rocks, and a little patience earned us a photo of this adorable critter.

And then it was down, down, down to the Loop, our starting point three days before.  In August, the last three miles are a dusty, dry, downhill slog - the views don't change and you are ready to be done.  Inevitably, we see people on this stretch who are dehydrated and not faring well.  We gave them electrolyte tablets and a bottle of glucose water and advice to take it slow.  Almost everyone rejoices with a splash in the pool below the bridge, just a quarter mile from the parking lot.  We add some adult beverages to round out the picture!

So, here's to winning another extraordinary back-country trip in Glacier!


Joining LeeAnna's I Like Thursday.  Prompt this week: "What is your favorite spring flower?  Do you try to grow them in your house or yard?"  Since moving to Montana, my favorite is the Glacier Lily.  I have a few in my yard, but they occur naturally - I have not made any attempt to plant more.  Maybe in the future, someone will get to see a blanket of them in my yard, such as the picture below, taken on Beartrap Mountain in May 2017.  Happy Spring everyone!

Linking to Mosaic Monday


  1. Hello,
    What an adventure, beautiful hike with fabulous views! I love all the pretty wildflowers! Wonderful photos. Take care, enjoy your day and your weekend!

  2. ...a beautiful place for a stroll.

  3. What a wonderful re-visit with lots of encouragement that hiking season is coming again for you. Double the fun to enjoy this hike with your nephew and his girlfriend. :) 5 more days until Spring!!

  4. That is epic! I have never camped, nor hiked on this grand a scale.

  5. I love Glacier! we have camped in the campgrounds and taken hikes but no longer was able to backpack as we did in our younger years but what we saw was lovely - have been to the park at least 4 or 5 times over the years

  6. That is such an amazing area and I can see why you like it so much. It's beautiful!

  7. Beautiful photos. Looks like you had great weather!

  8. Looks like a beautiful trip. Somehow I lost track of you for a while. Glad you are okay and planning another trip.

  9. Well done! Looks like an epic hike with gorgeous scenery to ease the weary. I think my days of hiking with a fully laden back pack are over. I only thought about it too late in life. Shorter walks with my camera bag are better for me now. Have a great week, and happy hiking. I am joining you at Mosaic Monday!

  10. What a great hike Angie, amazing views and cool water rewards!

  11. Dear Angie - I was happy to find your entry on Mosaic Monday. You’re always adventuresome, which I’ve been attracted. This hike is really epic and the views you showed us are worthy of the strenuous hike. I wonder how much you could take a rest during the break when your camera was busy clicking.

  12. Beautiful! I have only been to Montana once but it is on my list to visit one day. I would love to visit The Farmer’s Daughter yarn shop in Great Falls too.

  13. Hi Angie
    Your photos are lovely. Thanks for shsting
    Happy you dropped by my blog


  14. Incredible scenery! I am so glad you had a great time and good weather. Happy Anniversary to both of you. What a great way to celebrate.


  15. Your enthusiasm is infectious, dear Angie. And I'm delighted to read about you again, to experience this special trip in pictures and, of course, that you let us take part in it. I strapped the rucksack on in my mind!

    And I am happy about your contribution to

    Greetings from Heidrun

  16. What a magnificent hike Angie! I hope you win the lottery again this year. So beautiful. Thanks for sharing views I'll never see "in person" -- to think of seeing all those mountains in one view is incredible.

  17. Wow Angie ... what an adventure this hike and trip looks.
    Beautiful photographs.

    Sending my good wishes, early happy Easter wishes too.

    All the best Jan

  18. Reading about this adventure and pouring over the beautiful photos made my day! Angie thank you so much for taking the time to share this journey with us all. You had such stellar weather! Other than the creepy fun fog. And goats!! No bears :) I can't wait to see the next journey. xx much love

  19. Quite a trip, Angie! Waterfalls, moon, mist, goats, mountains - multitude of impressions. How many miles did you cover all in all? Your March looks blooming like our May, we still have occassional snowfalls, the last was this night:) I dropped in from Stardust blog. Thank you for an enjoyable trip.
    Irina (retired by age but still working with students))


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