On Saturday morning, November 10, Sean and I walked into the Guadalupe Mountains for a three-day backpacking trek that would mark, on the third day, my fortieth birthday. The nineteen-mile route from Pine Springs Trailhead to McKittrick Canyon Ranger Station is the classic route up into the Guadalupes, across the high country, and back down. It is a shuttle route from one trailhead to another, and the Park cannot provide transportation between the two. Happily, Adam and Phil had agreed to collect us early Monday afternoon when we emerged from the mountains.
Our goal for day one was Pine Top Campground, one of a constellation of primitive backcountry sites for backpackers in the Guadalupe Mountains high country. From the main trailhead at Pine Springs, it was 3.9 miles and 2,200 feet up to Pine Top.
Sean and I departed for our twelve-day adventure/birthday celebration in the Southwest on Thursday, November 8 after an unusually brutal period leading up to the trip. Sean had a lot on his plate at work, and I was wrapping up a very busy and exhilarating autumn of work and personal projects. We also looked forward to hosting my parents visiting from Detroit for Thanksgiving immediately after the trip. It’s a good thing that we are very experienced at National Park trips at this point because we didn’t actually start packing proper until 9pm on Wednesday night. We had everything we needed, and we were able to pull items from the camping closet fairly swiftly. Even so, it was something of a mess. Eventually we decided that because the trip was so big with so many components we’d each need to take a suitcase in addition to our backpacks and carry-on bags. It was more luggage than we’d taken on our three-week honeymoon in Alaska, but we hadn’t been planning a serious pack trip for Alaska.
On Sunday, August 5, Angela’s birthday and our final full day at Glacier National Park, we woke early to be on the road by 7. Angela’s birthday hike for 2018 would be the 3.8-mile (one-way) hike up to Grinnell Glacier, a favorite of all of our Glacier-loving companions. Our day’s adventure would also involve four boat rides on two lakes, because that’s what all the fanciest people have done in Glacier for over one hundred years.
On Saturday, August 4, we decided to do the wooded hike to Florence Falls, 4.6 miles from the trailhead at Jackson Glacier Overlook on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Our hikes the previous two days had been up in the alpine heights, and the following day we’d be hiking to a glacier, so a hike through a valley to a waterfall was perfect for seeing another side of Glacier National Park.
After our morning hike at Hidden Lake on Friday, August 3, we spent the afternoon running errands in anticipation of “Prosecco Hour,” which is that hour when you drink Prosecco in your campsite. But when running errands is as scenic as going to the Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park, you certainly don’t mind.
As we had the previous morning, we woke early on Friday, August 3. Our goal was to return early to Logan Pass to do the short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook and hopefully see some Mountain Goats and other wildlife. Then in the afternoon we’d go over to Many Glacier and reserve boat tickets for a hike over the weekend.
The Highline Trail along Glacier National Park’s Garden Wall is one of the great hikes in the entire National Park system. It is simultaneously splendor-drenched and intimate. As gorgeous a view as you can find anywhere unfolds around you while up close, a delicate micro-habitat is home to bouquets of wildflowers. It is the extreme of expansiveness and quiet. It is also terrifying for someone, like me, who is afraid of heights.
Nevertheless, Sean’s and my first full day in Glacier, Thursday, August 2, was spent on the Highline with friends who return to it like a pilgrimage to a holy site.