Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Highline Trail

The main hike that was on my list was to originally have started at the Two Medicine Campground. I was going to hike around Two Medicine Lake and then up toward Dawson Pass where I would veer off the main trail and hike either to the summit of Mount Helen or make the scramble to the top of Flinsch Peak. I would have made my choice between these two big summits when I got to Dawson Pass and figured out how much time I would have had to get back to Two Medicine.

However, I had not counted on the spate of forest fires in the Park. There was a particularly bad one just beyond the peaks around Two Medicine Lake, and so the Park Service had closed off all routes leading up to Dawson Pass. Those trails stayed off limits the entire time we were in the Park.

So, I went back to Plan B which was to make the supposedly easy hike known  as the Highline Trail. This one begins at Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Road and winds its way down to a spot lower on that road known as "The Loop" (because of a hairpin curve there). Everyone I know had told me that the hike was pretty much downhill all the way and so easy that small children and lardasses were known to hike it with ease.

Those assholes all lied to me.

The trail is not "downhill" as I was told. Yes, you end up at a much lower altitude than where you start, but along the way you have to make a couple of very high and very difficult climbs before you reach the downhill section. I would like to punch some of these lying asswipes right in the nose. Especially one jackass who had even gone so far as to tell my wife that she could traverse it with ease. Thank Jove she didn't try, or else we'd have had to call in a rescue team.

As it was, one of my hiking companions took ill about halfway into the hike.  Instead of turning back (since we were already a little over halfway and had already climbed the highest of the walls you have to gain) we pressed on. We knew we had to reach The Loop before 6:00 pm when the last shuttle would go through (we had left our vehicle back at a visitors center and took a free Park shuttle). Still, we should have had enough time to make it. Except for the fact that Sharon was sick and continued to be sick as we went along.

Finally, after two huge climbs, I reached Granite Park Chalet, where the serious downhill to The Loop would begin. Bobby and Sharon caught up to me. Sharon  was so sick that there was no way she was going to reach the road before the last shuttle appeared. So Bobby handed me the keys to his truck and I had to high-tail it down the mountain. At double speed. I had to race down the steep four-mile incline. Fortunately, I had taken a powerful pain-killer and was able to achieve the goal and got to the road a full thirty minutes before the shuttle. But I had drained every drop of water from my pack and from my hydration  bottle (which holds five liters). I paid for this the following day when my hip pretty much kept me horizontal for most of the daylight hours.

From there the shuttle took me to Logan Pass where I had to catch a second shuttle (also the last of the day) to the St. Mary Visitor's Center. There I retrieved the truck and headed all the way back over Logans Pass to The Loop where Bobby and Sharon were waiting.

It was well after 10:00pm before we returned to camp to discover that Carole had alerted the Park Service that  we were lost. Fortunately, we were able to get word to them that we were safe and sound back at camp, so no effort was expended searching for us. They would not have bothered until morning, but still...

Along the trail we saw a little wildlife, but nothing major. One woman who I encountered along the way (she was headed in the opposite direction) told me that I had just missed seeing three grizzly bears grazing in the fields below Granite Park Chalet.

Well, damn.

My hip has still not recovered. And I still want to punch a few people concerning their rating of The Highline Trail as "easy".

Carole loves to hate the hat I'm wearing in this shot. Yeah, I admit it's silly looking. But for shedding rain and protecting my neck from sunburn, it's the best.

Bobby and Sharon precede me down the trail.

This is the section that freaks out a lot of hikers. So they have installed a cable for those who feel queasy along this area. If you did happen to fall, you'd tumble a few hundred feet straight down to the Going to the Sun Road where you would end up dead on the asphalt or on top of a vehicle.

These young ladies zipped past me and soon vanished into the distance.

Bobby and Sharon follow along.
This was the day the smoke haze that had been banished for a little while by rain and a cold front came zooming back in. By the following day you couldn't even see the nearby mountains anymore.

Wildlfowers flourish along a trailside seep.

Typical view along the way.

I wish we had been without the masking haze of fire smoke.

Looking far below at the road.
More details tomorrow!

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