Oct 8, 2015

Bringing the Boats to Glacier - Bowman & Thunderbird Lakes

Glacier National Park.

Vertical feet of rock make for some of the most spectacular vistas in North America. Glaciers, some just hanging on by a threadbare patch of snow, carved waterfalls and lakes and rivers into the unforgiving peaks over the eons, and among those imposing jagged edges lay a series of trails and waterways across the park.

Time to go exploring.

My last stretch on the Continental Divide Trail traversed almost 100 miles of Glacier's spine from just outside the sleepy town of East Glacier up to the Canadian Border at the Chief Mountain Trailhead. Many of the passes: Pitamakan, Triple Divide, Piegan, Ptarmigan, revealed landscapes that just got more and more astounding.

Pitamakan Pass
Triple Divide Pass
Piegan Pass
Ptarmigan Pass
When Kirk picked me up at the Canadian border, we knew staying in Glacier to do some adventuring was going to happen, and since he brought the packrafts, we looked to the water for inspiration.

Since I had spent most of the last week on the east side of the park, I first looked to the west to see what was possible.

When I realized Polebridge, the site of a famous bakery on the remote west side of the park, lay as a gateway to a few lakes and rivers, we decided to head that way. The North Fork of the Flathead River could have enough water in it for a good float, and we could get in some stunning lake paddling too.

Really it was the bakery.

We spent the first night camped at the edge of Bowman lake, car camping style. It was luxury after all those nights I spent this year with no camp chairs, no cooler, no pillows, and definitely no boyfriend. Car camping!!

The next morning we packed up our camping gear into our boats and headed out to the 7 mile lake to paddle to the far side for our first night out.

The going was fairly slow in the packrafts...they aren't the most efficient crafts for lake paddling...and it renewed our resolve to either make some sails for the boats or get our hands on some soon.

The afternoon wind picked up, but luckily it was at our backs, and the second half of the lake paddle went by in a flash thanks to the wind and waves that carried us along quite swiftly.

Camp that night was lake-side, and we passed the evening playing cards and just looking at the mountains.

The next morning we packed up our boats and gear into our packs. Dude. So heavy!!! I think this is probably the heaviest my pack has been this entire year, and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to pack our boats in and paddle in some high-altitude lake. That meant thousands of feet of climbing with these things on our backs. In the early hours of the previous morning it had seemed possible to shove all sorts of things in our boats, we would be floating after all, but the next day when trying to shove it all in a pack, I bitterly regretted all the luxuries.

Time to hike! It was only 6 miles anyway to our next camp at Brown's Pass.

So heavy!

Kirk grins and bears it
Longest 6 miles ever.

A lot of the trail on the east side of the park had been gently graded, allowing hikers to keep their pace as the miles passed up to the divide. This side, not so.

It was steep and we labored with our extraordinary loads. Why did I want to go hiking after just completing a 2,700 mile trail?

We look lots of breaks, not only due to the weight, but this place was stunning.

We made it to camp in the late afternoon and after setting up our tarp decided we might just have enough time to make it down the pass to the nearest lake for some paddling. We had carried our boats all this way afterall!

The trail down the Thunderbird drainage was AMAZING. We spied the small Thunderbird Lake and decided it was the place to float. We had intended to make for Lake Francis, but didn't think we had quite enough time to paddle and make it back to camp before dark.

So beautiful.

Then back to camp. The next day we packed up and hiked the 13 miles back to our car at Bowman Lake. Looking at the map one last time I realized we had just spent the past few days on the Pacific Northwest Trail, a 1,200 mile route that travels from Glacier over to the Olympic Peninsula. Coincidence that I found myself on another long distance trail just days after completing the triple crown? I don't think so!

One more night at the edge of Bowman Lake and we headed back to Polebridge to see about doing a section of the Flathead.

We brought a bike in case we wanted to do a bike shuttle, but neither of us felt like riding. I just wanted to sit for a while and not move so much. We decided to launch on the North Fork of the Flathead at the Canadian Border and float back to our car if we could find a shuttle, but after the only guy available told us he couldn't drive a stick shift and it started to rain we decided to scrap the Flathead idea and go somewhere else. So many options!!!

We decided to head south to Bozeman Montana and get some data on the Yellowstone River from Tom and Laurie, an amazing couple I had met on the CDT when I stopped in Lander, WY, and who took me in for a few days when I was hiking near the Butte, MT area.

To Bozeman!

Sep 14, 2015

100 Miles left to Canada

With days that seem impossibly long and weeks that pass in a short moment, my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike (and triple crown) is just about 100 miles from the end!
Glacier National Park will be an epic finish to a trail that can only be described as one hell of a challenging and beautiful experience.
Kirk is meeting me at the Canadian border with our packrafts where we will take a leisurely few weeks to road trip back to Bend and hopefully find a few rivers to float.
Any suggestions in Idaho/Montana/Wyoming? I know water levels are quite low in many areas...
Mostly I'm looking forward to not walking for a while, but might as well get on the water if we have a chance!!
Thanks to all who have followed along, my last few blog posts will be here (www.sherahikes.wordpress.com), and we look forward to getting back in the boats to bring you more adventures with packrafts!

Jun 4, 2015

One State Down on the Continental Divide Trail

Well, New Mexico is done! I'm currently about 800 miles into my CDT thru-hike and am playing hopscotch with the heavy snow levels still hanging on to the Southern San Juan peaks However the ever industrious Kirk made me some shoe-ski bindings and I've successfully been able to ski some of the divide. I'll be headed back up to the snow soon for another session, but sucessive 80 degree days may let me send the skis home soon. This is a hike, not a ski tour, but what a way to travel across the backbone of the US!

If you haven't checked out my blog here's the link: www.sherahikes.wordpress.com

And lots of photos on my instagram: @wearehikertrash

Feb 13, 2015

Packrafting the Chewaucan River

We finally got in our boats last weekend...warm rainy weather is making snow levels suck, and besides, rain on the snow means water in the creeks! Especially since a lot of our high desert creeks only run once a year...we looked East to find a potential river to run.

Load up the adventure-mobile!
Enter the Chewaucan River. At just over a 2 hour drive from Bend it was close enough, but without a gauge on the river we weren't sure if there would be enough flow...and since it had been raining throughout the state last week we thought chances were good.

I had been up there backpacking a few months ago, and noted that the 10-mile stretch along the road would be a pretty little section to try when water levels were good.

Kirk had decided to take his hardshell creek boat, but I'm faithful to my little yellow packraft, so we loaded up the car with a bike to run shuttle and took off on Saturday morning.

Sure enough, when we turned right into the river canyon at Paisley, OR, we saw water! Actually, the river was pumping. All that rain and snow melt had swollen the river, and we noted the lack of eddies, several munchy holes and what looked to be a channel primarily free from trees or hazards. Score!

We drove up to where the road started to leave the river, about 10 miles in, parked the car and hiked our boats down to the water, having decided to just boat a few miles back to our camp at Jones Crossing.

But a quick look at the map told us there was a least another 10 miles up stream we could try next time. The road was too muddy for my little Honda Fit, but we could walk in if needed. There's a reason they call them packrafts!

Note the barb wire Fence crossing the river, we paddled under three that were passable.

The wide meadow where we started meandered through what looks to be primarily a cow pasture, and I couldn't help but think as we boated down and got into some bouncy Class II rapids, that all those cow paddies were churning in the water that was now splashing of my face. Ugg.

It was a quick run, and before we knew it were back to camp, no hazards, a clear channel, and some fun bouncy waves right before camp. Nice!

Sunrise with coffee. Yes please.
A nifty little trick Kirk taught me: put a stick in the ground were water levels are, and you can see if the river is rising or falling. The next morning water levels had dropped quite a bit.
We're digging our new Hyperlite Mid
And then what did I spy across the river? Why a National Recreation Trail! The Fremont Trail meanders a beautiful 175 miles in these mountains. One day I will return for you.

It was a beautiful day on the water. The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we didn't see a drop.

The river was mellow for the most part.

It started to get a bit choppier as we got a few miles within range of Paisley. Boulder gardens and such...

Don't drink the cow dung water!

All and all a very successful weekend, considering we weren't sure if we would find enough water to boat. Without a gauge, it's a gamble, and spring is the most likely time for success. Or a crazy warm and dry winter like we're having this year.

And as luck would have it, we were right around the corner from Summer Lake Hotsprings. A soak after our paddle? Don't mind if I do.