Saturday, August 31, 2019

Glacier's heavenly Hole in the Wall

Our group starting out in the rain at Bowman Lake

One of our sunsets at Boulder Head  
Katie near Boulder Pass

Mount Kinnerly pokes up its head at Boulder Pass 
Dave and Sandi at Lake Francis

Looking toward the end of Bowman Lake

We saw plenty of signs that autumn is on its way
I visited Glacier Park's spectacular Hole in the Wall for the first time in 18 years, camping there nearly 30 years since my first trip there.
This northwestern part of Glacier drains a number of good-size glacier that cascade hundreds of feet in wispy and thunderous drops over cliffs.
Katie and I and Helena friends Dave and Sandi Ashley spent five days, including four nights, in this North Fork Flathead section of the park.
We approached the hike from Bowman Lake, camping the first and fourth nights at its head.
In past visits I've approached Hole in the Wall from Waterton Lake National Park in Canada.
You get a significantly different feel from the Bowman Lake approach.  Half the hike is in deep forest and brush, the other half in high alpine terrain.  I prefer the alpine.
At the beginning the weather was horrid and we hiked in light rain the first day, and gloom and sprinkles the second day until the sun came out and stayed out for the rest of the trip.  We got thoroughly soaked both days.
The highlight of the trip was the high point, Boulder Pass at more than 7,400 feet, which gave us peeks at Kinnerly and Kintla peaks.  Kintla, one the six Glacier peaks over 10,000 feet was capped with new fallen snow from the precipitation, as was Mount Cleveland, the park's highest mountain in the distance to the east.
We reached that on Day 3 after a night at Hole in the Wall Campground, which is laced with waterfalls.  The trail to Boulder Pass is on high alpine ledges.
That same day we broke camp and descended from Brown's Pass to Lake Francis, where there is an isolated two-spot campground in the woods where we could see high waterfalls working their way down the massive cliffs into the lake.  I had camped here 30 years ago, but my memory tells me it was when there were camp spots right at the lake shore, not back and up in the woods.
We had an interesting night there when we were awakened by what we came to believe was an owl chasing some kind of critter that screeched and frightened us all.  We think the owl's wings slammed into our tent, but didn't knock it over.
The more than 1,000 feet of descent to Lake Francis from Brown's Pass featured more ripe huckleberries than any of us could eat.  The berries would explain why a couple of days earlier at Brown's Pass we spoke to hikers who had to use their bear spray when encountering bears.
Then, it was back to Bowman head and the campground.  On our first wet night we had been warned by a camping mother with three young boys that the mice had learned how to climb the food bag hanging ropes to get into food.  Unfortunately, we discovered first hand that what she said was true as mice had burrowed into our hang sack, ate through bags and left us mice droppings as a calling card.
Nonetheless, our second stay at Bowman head was dry, the night warm and the sunset spectacular.
On our fifth day we had a pleasant walk out along the lake and we were back at Polebridge a little after noon.
Although the weather turned nice, at Hole in the Wall we experienced a light frost.  Also, lots of ground cover had turned their falls colors.
Incidentally, this was the first backpack trip I had taken with Katie.
It worked out well.

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