CDT: Day 4, Poia to Many Glacier (GNP)

A trail through verdant green with peaks hovering above pines is typical for Glacier National Park

The birds begin their slide-whistle calls just as the sky begins to lighten. I’m also awake, starting to feel panicky about my thighs, tightness mostly in my hamstring and right near my six inch scars. Did I choose this trail too soon after surgery?

Well I can’t just lay here worrying, so I get up, throw on trousers and sweater then grab my phone and bear spray and head back on the bridge across the falls where loons swim just at the edge. I sing all the way back up the hill, the sun just now lighting up the highest glacier.

I work my fingers into my legs, pressing into the tight spots and kneading the fascia. There’s no pain in the joint or, god forbid, the bone. I think my muscles are still healing and they did make me slightly longer.

The sunlight moves gradually over the rock, a massive reflection from my mountain working its way slowly across another mountain. I keep myself visible in case a bear walks by, but no one comes.

Our tent tetras at Poia Lake
resident rabbit with massive haunches
our home for a night

I’m hungry, so head down to our eating area and make cereal with Oceana. I’m proud I got my bear bag hung on the 20 foot (?) pole, tossing my rock bag over on the first try. A rabbit with enormous back legs and muscular haunches nibbles something nearby.

It’s another short day, leaving us time to enjoy this quiet space apart from civilization we’ll have later today. We pack our bags, then do yoga in the site. The stretches also help with the tightening in my muscles. I offer up a few Bikram hot yoga moves before heading back on trail.

It follows the river, crashing down stair steps of rock, then quietly into a tunnel of thick Aspen – I think. The bark looks it, but the leaves are larger and serrated. Perhaps birch. Certainly stunning, making shade as the day heats up.

The trail soon moves into thick forest, but I stay covered in my hoodie to keep the mosquitos at bay. I head straight up, not quite expecting so much climb. I’m not just sore, but really out of breath, having to slow my ascent down drastically. I don’t stop, but it amazes me how much fitness I’ve lost since the surgeries.

arrowleaf balsamroot
mariposa lilly
bear grass

I tell myself it will come back and just lumber on, calling out to the bears and hearing my friends in front and behind doing it as well. The forest reminds me of the Cascades, dark yet full of bird song.

It’s not the steady ramp of yesterday but rather undulating up, then flat, then up. It takes me finally to a meadow and spectacular spires packed tight with glaciers. Pussy Ears, Aster, Mountain Sunflower, Indian Paintbrush, Forget-Me-Nots, Beargrass and so many I’m still learning to identify reach steeply up as the meadow rises up to meet pine trees like soldiers and cliffs like ship prows beyond.

I’m tired, so stop for water, Austin and Emily catching up. I can’t walk their speed and know I’ll just have to start early tomorrow. Yes, there are bears, but ai know a lot of songs and my bear spray is at the ready on my hip belt.

The trail winds down towards Lake Sherburne, magnificent walls coming into view. I hear cars and have hit the road, but it’s still a two-mile walk in roasting sun on tarmac. Thank goodness Gossamer Gear added that umbrella with the pack and tent.

But you already know, it doesn’t seem to clip on in such a way that I can carry it hands free and see beyond my feet. Determined, I finagle with it and march up the left side, a few tourists snapping a pic of the ‘local wildlife.’ I’m exhausted and thirsty when I reach the turn for the campground, the final bit past Swiftcurrent Lake, the official CDT at last.

We’re given a large spot near water and the bathroom. Someone left a ‘hiker box’ in the bear box of mostly snacks and tuna packets. I claim the one Clif bar telling everyone I’m completely enervated. Austin suggests I stick my head under the faucet, which at first I think is a pump, but turns out to be more of a fire hose.

I’m better immediately.

the road walk
the thigh soak in Swiftcurrent Lake

There’s food and beer, so we stuff ourselves and grab a few items for the next four nights. The tents are set and a little path leads to Many Glacier Lodge with classic views across the lake to Grinnell Glacier, the Garden Wall and a slot up to Piegan Pass, our second big climb of the walk.

Austin’s friend of a friend is the desk manager and offers us the use of wifi-with-a-view, but it’s spotty so all I can manage is to post a picture on social and check in with Richard. I start off in a rocking chair discussing bear sightings – we got our first grizzly lumbering through the woods next to the road.

It’s beastly hot and there are heat warnings in effect tomorrow, so I give up my rocker for a couch with the same view, momentarily knocking out. The rest of the group drinks beer and plays music at the beach and I join them to soak my thighs, my umbrella, welcome protection.

I’m not into partying my way down the trail, but for one glorious shared week, it’s pretty special as I break in my new legs and gain strength and confidence. I’ll make it an early start tomorrow with bear spray and my operatic-wannabe voice – not at dawn when the grizzlies roam, but early enough to get some distance before the pass.

There’s supposedly a ‘sketch’ section of snow on a chute, bit that report is from over a week ago and I have my microspikes. Plus, I’ll wait for my friends – or they me – and ensure we make wise decisions.

Tired now at 9 and cuddling in, but that’s why it’s called ‘Hiker Midnight.’

yoga got me through this section
the view from Many Glacier Lodge
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Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

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