This is the third and final post about an epic backpack trip in Glacier National Park on the Dawson Pass and Pitakaman Pass loop in early September 2021. You can read the first post here and the second post here.
When I awaken on this third morning of our Glacier National Park backpacking trip, I notice the air is warmer than yesterday, even though we're at a higher elevation at Oldman Lake. Summer isn't over yet here in the Montana Rockies, even though the park ranger told us there used to be sleet and snow already by this time of year.
On this day, it's mostly all downhill, except a short uphill near the end of the trail. And, thankfully, it's a much more gradual descent than yesterday's descent to Oldman Lake from Pitamakan Pass.
In the early morning light, the first thing I do is grab my camera and head down to the lake. There's a gorgeous pink glow that's not visible in the harsh glare of midday.
|Oldman Lake campsite trail, morning light
We gather at the campsite cooking area for a hot drink and breakfast and pull down our bags of food from the high bars provided at each campsite. In grizzly country, the protocol is strict: Before even going to your campsite to drop your pack and pitch your tent, pull all your food and lotions/toothpaste out of your pack and hang them in a bag at the top of a 12-foot + bar.
After a light breakfast of hot tea and a KIND bar, I go back down to the lake while shooting another short video. (My shadow makes an appearance in the video linked below.)
After saying our goodbyes to the other hikers, we pack up and head on down the trail. This day is sunny, warm, and mellow compared to the strong wind and drama of being up on Dawson and Pitamakan passes. This day is just fine by me.
Occasionally we stop and take a look back from where we came.
Back below timberline, we're seeing brilliant fall color in the huckleberry and other shrubs.
|Passing through what appeared to be a grove of dwarf aspen
Seriously, the trail grade is so mild for most of the 6+ miles we hike this day, it hardly feels like we're losing elevation. After crossing a mostly dried up stream (Dry Fork Creek) over a small log bridge, we take another look back.
By this time, we're like horses headed to the barn. We do have a long drive back to the Spokane area (about 5 to 6 hours) tonight after finishing, so we're moving along at a pretty steady pace through alpine meadows, then forests, before finishing the loop.
Just as we can see the parking lot, suddenly we come to an abrupt halt. About 10 yards ahead is a cluster of bighorn sheep (I call them goats, but Mark corrects me) on the trail. They seem to be wary of the people down on the river below watching them. We're wary of them. They're also wary of us.
|Bighorn sheep. Photo by Mark Beaufait
After a few minutes minutes, the sheep finally all descend to the river below, and we scoot past to finish our hike.
The first thing Andy and I do is tear off our hiking boots and walk over to Pray Lake, where we both soothe our battered feet in the cold water. (My taped up feet and ankles make an appearance in the video below at the lake).
And then it's over, this hike planned for months. Mark got the reservations in January through a lottery, although some hikers told us they showed up the day of and got permits.
|Happy Hikers. The End.
Regardless, it was challenging, spectacular, and very rewarding. We covered 15 or 16 miles overall and gained and lost about 3,000 feet in elevation, peaking out at about 8,100 feet at our highest point; many do this loop as a day hike now. Gotta say, it would be much faster going without a full backpack, even with ultra light tents and such.
I'm happy to have seen a new corner of the park (and world). I'm slower than I was as a young woman, but I'm not much bothered anymore when faster, younger hikers pass on the trail. It's all worth it, no matter your pace.
Many thanks to Mark for planning this trip, and Mark and Andy for being so generous and including me. Old friends are gold, but old friends who like to get out and do fun outdoors adventures together are platinum.
I'd love to hear in a comment below if you'd done this hike too, or other similar adventures.