CDT: Day 2, Cosley Lake to Foot Elizabeth Lake, 4 miles (GNP)

campsite view

Yeah, I know, it’s not so many miles today, so why am I exhausted?

A slight breeze cooled me off and I got concerned I brought the wrong gear to stay warm. Turns out my wool hoodie and puffy was enough under a quilt, the birds loud until dark, which really never comes this far north in summer. At night, across the lake, an enormous avalanche of rock burst down the mountain.

My tent is soaking wet and Glacier is surprisingly humid, but the clouds clear to reveal magnificent, glacier-studded cliffs surrounding our lake. The beach next to our site is filled with tiny, worn stones; perfectly flat in shades of grays and reds. Austin played baseball in high school and skips them far and elegantly. One skitters out like mergansers running across the water. Another leaps up mid-skip and begins a new series of skips.

We bring down the bear bags and make breakfast, leaving everything in place to explore the path towards Glens Lake. I put on damp clothes which dry quickly on my skin.

It’s a profusion of wild flowers and massive peaks like ramparts swooping up from the lake give me enough of a high. I’ve never seen anything like these mountains. Ancient seabeds, eroding into sharp-edged towers.

bear track
moose track

They truly look like castles or fists in the air, thousands of feet above us. Verdant green scales the walls as high as possible, trees marching in even rows. But there’s really no climbing them as the rock is too eroded and crumbling.

The next campsite is not nearly as stunning as ours; no beach or eating area looking straight at a crag. We walk back and notice black and grizzly bear tracks, plus moose. We are so loud, nothing surprises us – or us, them.

It’s a short hike, but I am tired. Since my surgeries, I don’t feel like I know my body anymore. Am I capable of walking this? All we missed yesterday in the rain is revealed, as if walking into a postcard. A shortcut takes us to a river crossing with a handy cable. I don’t need it and the current os only a gentle push as the I plunge into mid-thigh high ice-cold water.

We quickly rise up into spruce forest, limbs scraggly and tight against ghostly trunks. Large-nipple bear grass blossoms bob on thin stalks, each of us giving it a tap to send it swaying as we pass. The water below is loud, crashing through a steep canyon as we walk on its upper edge.

sticky geranium
drunk spring

We talk and sing and yell out to any passing bears, but see nothing but mosquitos, though thankfully, not very hungry. At a swing bridge, the group decides to cross and meet the trail below. It’s just slats of wood on wire and bounces and rolls as we cross one at a time.

The trail is actually a horse crossing and I decline, Oceana concerned I’m afraid and won’t cross bridge-less rivers to come. “Heck yeah, I will. There’s just no reason to chance this one when we have a perfectly good bridge!” Which we have back track to.

But it causes us to catch up with young Sid from Colorado whose setting off on the CDT as his first thru-hike. He tells me ‘Blissful’ might be a hard name to live up to, and I assure him I have many years to have figured that out.

thick thimble berries
Bliss at Cosley
Chief Mountain

We take a turn for Dawn Mist Falls and meet a spectacularly huge falls seemingly at capacity, tumbling into a massive pool then splitting into two smaller falls. The water goes from foamy white to a pastel blue then green as it continues down. We all step up onto a rock platform which appears put in place for portraits.

It’s steep uphill out of there and I lead, but know I can’t possibly keep a pace with kids 30 years younger. I let then pass and Oceana pulls back. I’m fine to walk alone, but it’s better to let the bears know we’re coming and it’s not easy all by oneself.

She suggests we plan to split off tomorrow and get an earlier start over Red Gap Pass, a 3,000 foot climb over five miles. It’s really the only way I’ll walk this, at a slower pace with plenty of breaks. But that’s tomorrow and right now we’re arriving at our lake, surrounded by surreal mountains that appear to grow directly out of the water.

We all strip down to our skivvies and wade into the water, like plunging directly into ice cubes. I wonder if I should put my entire thigh in to help with any swelling? I’ll just sit on this rock a bit longer as I lose all feeling in my feet.

Dawn Mist Falls
Montana view
Elizabeth Lake

Bunny is here, a hiker who walked the wild Bob Marshall Wilderness first and tells us it’s filled with deep snow and blowdowns. He’s defied the permitting system and, while he has a permit, will plan to walk with us through Glacier. He has a lovely smile and laugh and I like his energy.

I set my tent, then eat hummus and mostly squashed pita chips. I lay down on the crushed stones at our beach and watch the light change on the massive crag across the lake. Every sort of bug visits me and for a brief moment, a cloud of may flies dance in the air. The distant tinkling of a waterfall working its way through a slot in the rock is all I hear besides my ever-present birds.

The others join me at the beach and we skip stones as the light fades, ‘merganser-ing’ our throws into skip upon skip. As the sun fades, pink on the highest mountains, the mosquitos feast, even through layers of clothes. I make a dinner of pasta, tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, oil and cheese and feel immediately revived, although I’m not entirely sure I’m carrying enough food.

I put that out of my mind and skip a few more stones under my bug burka. Veery and thrushes fill the sky and I crawl into alicoop 2 hearing soft snoring from a neighboring tent.

so much depends upon…
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Published by alison young

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

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