Day 55: Poia Lake

I set the alarm for four AM for the second day in a row and got up by it. This time I had the coffee maker already prepped and just had to press the button. I was ready to walk out the door by 4:45.

The drive up to Chief Mountain was very eventful. First, we saw a mama grizzly with cub walking down the side of the road, though it was dark and my picture taken backwards after passing her abs backing up came out blurry.

Immediately after, we saw a black bear on the other side of the road entirely nonplussed by all the attention it was getting from passersby.

We missed the turn for Chief Mountain and had to go back. My bad.

We were stopped by a lady moose in the middle of the road (that, facing us dead on, looked much like a tall, skinny man standing there upon first sight) who kept moving to block us until she ran off. We passed a small-antlered buck a moment later and then nearly ran into a swooping owl.

Finally, we arrived at the Chief Mountain trailhead for a photo session. I got as close to the border as I legally could and got some sign pictures and some trail pictures. I finally hiked out for good around 6:30.

Immediately, I came upon a bird running up the trail. It may have been a ptarmigan or a grouse. Right behind it fifty yards later I came upon a small herd of moose who went tearing out across the river as soon as they saw me.

The rest of the day, I encountered nothing but squirrels and ground squirrels. Maybe it was because I was playing podcasts out loud and clacking my poles together to ensure any bears could hear me coming.

I stopped twice along the way. The first time was fairly early on for a snack because my bagel and yogurt breakfast faded quickly. At this point, I applied tons of insect repellent to my legs because the flies and mosquitos were so thick, a total nightmare. They seemed to come with the territory: a wildflower-filled meadow all down the river valley. I had a horsefly bite my calf right through my calf sleeve. I swatted it instantly. It went down. I stepped on it. I won that exchange.

When I successfully arrived at Gable Creek, six miles in, by 9:30, I committed to reaching Elizabeth Lake by 11 for another snack break. And I achieved that. I knocked down the first nine miles in 4.5 hours, even with breaks included.

Leaving Elizabeth Lake, the trail begins a 4.4 mile climb up to Red Gap Pass. The average slope of the climb was exactly 600 feet per mile–enough to really feel your muscles straining by the end. Once it gets out of the trees, the views are just amazing. It took me four hours to climb those 2640 feet, so I took another snack break in the shadow of a tall red rock. (Come in under the shadow of this red rock…) Then I had a mere 5.5 mile descent to the valley floor and across it to Poia Lake and my designated campsite on the far side.

The man whose permit I was attached to, Boy MacGyver, was already there, as were a group of three others who actually lived just outside the park and had arranged a trip for a large group to come backpack and fish. Most of the group had canceled, freeing up several campsites for such as me. We chatted about the day’s activities and experiences as I cooked and ate.

Just as I was finishing up my dessert, another couple showed up, Jolly and Emma. Since Boy MacGyver had filled his entire campsite already, I pitched my tent with them after they ate. Jolly is about to start selling a line of button-down sun hood shirts for hikers and is reading testing one of the manufacturer samples as he hikes. Emma is testing the model for ladies. I am very impressed with the design and could see it selling very well.

Anyway, it was a pretty good first day for hiking the CDT in Glacier. I got all the way to my campsite in just 12 hours. It wasn’t ever too hot: cloudy in the morning, windy in the pass and by the lake. And I got to bed before sunset.

The next two days will basically be days of rest and fun. No big miles. There will be plenty of time for that at the other end of the week. At the very least, I’m looking for a week of beautiful scenery.

Trail miles: 19.4

Distance to Many Glacier: 7.5 miles

One reply on “Day 55: Poia Lake”

I love that the park service cares so much for hikers that they put up these seasonal bridges. It saves lives for sure.

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