Monday, August 09, 2010

A week in Paradise --- Glacier's Belly River

Jim Tarvin of Chicago departs the Cosley Ranger Station in the Belly

Tarvin crosses the Belly River

Other-worldly Dawn Mist Falls

Me with brother Dan at Cosley Lake campsite
I’m back from a week in Glacier Park backpacking and day-hiking.
During that period my younger brother Dan, his wife, Kristin, and friend Jim Tarvin, all from the Chicago area, did a five-day backpack trip up the Belly River to Stoney Indian Pass and back to Goat Haunt via Waterton National Park.
We also hiked the Siyeh Pass trail from the bend to Sun Rift Gorge and topped off the week with a climb of Divide Peak (elevation: 8,660 feet).
We saw no bears, but plenty of bear sign. The Belly River trail looked like a grizzly bear solid waste site.
Our weather was quite changeable throughout the trip and included a rain shower all but one of the days. The insects were thick as well as the vegetation on the west side of Stoney Indian Pass. Likewise, the huckleberries were thick, and juicy.
We were treated to a tour of the Belly River Ranger station, deep within the Glacier backcountry, where I got to see Joe Cosley’s cabin and a section of one of the famous Cosley aspen trees where he carved his initials. This one bore a 1910 date.
Cosley was the renegade Glacier rangers who ran afoul of the law when the Belly was included within park boundaries when Glacier was created by Congress 100 years ago.
Cosley, who had been trapping in the area as a forest ranger couldn’t make the transition from forest to park, and began a notorious scofflaw as he continued to trap.
Many of the lakes in the area bear the names of his various girlfriends ---- Sue, Elizabeth, Helena, Margaret.
We camped two nights at Cosley Lake, one at Mokowanis Lake and one at Stoney Indian Lake.
I was surprised to bump into people I knew along the way, and enjoyed sharing camp with people from around the country.
The backcountry, as well as the park, was as full of people as I can recall. Perhaps the park’s centenary celebration is bringing folks in.
I was fascinated by the various gear my brother and his party brought in with them --- the innovations, such as camp cooking gear, and lightweight clothing and sleeping gear.
The Belly country is quite remote, even for Glacier Park. Its entrance, Chief Mountain sits feet from the Alberta border. It is littered with a progression of sizeable lakes, Cosley, Glenn, Mokowanis, Elizabeth, Helen, Sue, Margaret, and bordered by two of the park’s six 10,000 feet mountains, Merritt and Cleveland, the park’s highest. There are waterfalls worth seeing on day-hikes, as we did when we spent more than one night in camp --- Dawn Mist, Gros Ventre, Mokowanis, and many unnamed others.
I highly recommend a short climb we did to the site of a former fire lookout site, Bear Lookout Mountain, that sits on the first buttress of Bear Mountain above Cosley Lake. It is a rise of about 1,500 feet.
From Mokowanis Lake to Stoney Indian Pass it is a 2,400 feet climb, but one that reveals a landscape similar to Glacier’s most famous pass, Logan, but without any of its creature features, highways, and people.
At the pass we dropped our packs and climbed about 500 feet up the side of the unnamed peak on the Stoney ridge to get in some scrambling.
The Goat Haunt side of the pass is an overgrown jungle of shoulder-high vegetation.
Although some 2,000 feet down to the main Highline Trail to Goat Haunt, it was an enjoyable walk that offered views of the most northern portions of the park and Waterton park, and the backside of the spires of Porcupine Mountain.
We had a reservation at the Waterton backcountry campground, but having already experienced changeable and wet weather with more threatening, we decided to grab the boat ride back to the Waterton townsite.
This proved to be a good decision as we enjoyed a good meal and beer at Zum’s restaurant and a congenial, arranged custom ride to the Chief Mountain border station from the Tamarack sports store folks.
One thing for those who do this trip to anticipate is there are two ways to arrange shuttles over the border ---- the Tamarack way or the Glacier Park Inc., shuttle. Tamarack leaves daily at 2:30 p.m. from Waterton or by special arrangement. Reservations are desirable. You are dropped just before the U.S. border, where you cross by foot and go through Customs.
The Glacier Park Inc. hikers shuttle requires that you go into Canada and back out with them. You can’t pick up the shuttle in Waterton if you haven’t taken the shuttle there.
Best option: Tamarack unless you shuttle your own cars.
We got back into Montana just in time to put up a tent in the Johnson’s Red Eagle Motel camping park in St. Mary’s, that unlike the park camp, wasn’t full. It was quiet. The views were wonderful. We had a real western breakfast at Johnson’s restaurant the next morning.
It was clear enough on Sunday morning that we went up Divide Peak, about a 2,000 feet elevation gain and despite the smoke of fires obscuring views in the park’s valleys, had a good climb.
The trip was yet another week in Paradise.
Our cooking area at Stony Indian Pass campsite

Reaching summit of Divide Mountain after the backpack trip

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post! I was talking with a friend yesterday about the Belly River trail over Stoney Indian Pass to Goat Haunt. Several of our wonderings were answered in your blog. Pictures were also great. I enjoyed your write up and we hope / plan to see this part of the Park next summer when we return to Glacier.

Paul Clark - Alabama