Old Man and the Camper-Glacier 2019

With overcrowding at Glacier, our annual trips to Glacier have become occasional spontaneous trips in the off-season. Part of the reason for this last minute planning is we’re hoping to find another area we like as much as Glacier, but without any research, it doesn’t seem to happen. I wonder why.

The T@B

Summer 2019 was consumed with researching the purchase of a T@B 400 RV trailer, and then a Jeep Grand Cherokee. (My Mazda 3 wasn’t going to pull this thing, and neither was the Subaru.)

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At that point, it seemed I was done with the research and decision making, but I underestimated all the accessories needed and the time involved in learning not only how to pick all this stuff, but using it.

So the end of summer came. It felt like I never had a summer vacation and I never got out the camera. After Labor Day but before Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge closes down seems like a little keyhole of time that was:

  • Late enough to avoid the major crowds
  • Early enough that facilities are open (showers, camp store, hotel lobby)
  • The last opportunity to take summer pictures
  • The first opportunity to take the camper for a spin

The big problem was Julie was working. It’s always more fun with Julie and she would be bummed to be left out of the first trip since the T@B was really her idea. (Think in terms of a full court press press that we’re getting a camper, dammit.) A second problem was my right leg was hurting. I’m not sure of the problem, but I was hoping that time off of cycling would give my leg a chance to recover. I had already quit running and rollerskiing, so I’m running out of ways to exercise.

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The Leg

First things first. I got a last minute medical appointment for my leg. I was worried it was a stress fracture, but the doc thought it was “compartment syndrome.” A swelling in the leg restricted by the sheathing (facia) of the leg. He got to that diagnosis by the process of elimination. The x-ray showed no stress fracture. (Only later would I find out that an x-ray doesn’t show a stress fracture unless it’s in the process of healing.) Based on a lack of swelling, it wasn’t an embolism, so compartment syndrome it is. Right. The doc was old and deaf, as in had an interpreter, and didn’t leave me with much confidence in the diagnosis.

Day 1 Fort Peck

There was no particular destination for the first night, but the options were: Roosevelt NP, Fort Peck, and Havre. Since I’m pulling a trailer, 75 or 80 mph is out of the question, so I was thinking about stopping at Buffalo Gap Campground, which is just off the freeway near Teddy Roosevelt NP. Havre is a stretch without a trailer, and I’m too old for something like an 18 hr day of driving. I did’t want to start the trip all jacked up on caffeine.

Starting in central MN, I took the back highways and got lost in Moorehead due to a poorly marked detour, and after that, the drive was basically an all day rain.

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Since I’m a newby with a trailer, backing up is about as fun as a colonoscopy. So any turn off the freeway brings on some anxiety. A feature of the new Jeep is it’ll show you local gas prices. What it didn’t show me, is that at Walmart, you need a membership card to fill, and the Bismark locals wouldn’t scan me in. After that “gas fail,” it was back past the penitentiary for a fill and a Subway (with three cookies), and then back on the road. Backing the trailer went fine for the trip into Subway.

Subway cookie

Hello Buffalo Gap, goodbye Buffalo Gap. Around sunset, I parked at Fort Peck, watched an episode of House of Cards on the ipad and had a beer. If you like abandoned picnic areas in the middle of a stark prairie, Fort Peck is the place.

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Hold On

The next morning, I was in no particular hurry and stopped right off the bat before making it back to Hwy 2. To add a sonic element, a train went by as I was setting up the shot of the old building.

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Dogs and a Horse

I thought I heard a flapping on the trailer, so I stopped again at a “rest stop” (more like a turnout) and ran into a former doc that was showing dogs in Canada. Hell, why not bring the wife and the wife’s horse too. Why not indeed. It was a fun conversation.

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The Pink Church

It’s kind of weird to call this a bucket list item, but I’ve always wanted to stop and check out the Church of the hill. You know the one. So I backed up the trailer into the driveway and headed up the hill with the camera. I didn’t realize there was a cemetery up there, but churches and cemeteries go together. The surprising thing was the back of the church was open so I explored a little inside.

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This looks like a perfect spot for Dexter.

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Is that blood spatter?

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Better Skedaddle

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After filling the tank and emptying the bladder in Browning, I started thinking that I better get to St. Mary for a campsite. I took the backroads to Babb, and when you’re pulling a trailer, those hills are big. I had a couple of RVs go by me at some crazy speed, and it felt like the race was on. Yup, they were heading to St. Mary. After pulling in, I got one of the last spots in the “A” or “RV loop,” and a fairly crappy spot at that, but I was in. Fortunately, it didn’t matter, but I did move spots the next morning.

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The neighbors fed me a burger and small salad, and we watched a fire die in the rain. Good times.

9/9/2019 St Mary, Virginia Falls

After spending some time at the visitor center trying to connect with Julie at home (via wifi), I took the shuttle and very slowly hiked St. Mary and Virginia Falls. Rain was threat all day, but it held off and the leg put up with the day of walking. Well, really more moseying around…a sober saunter as compared to a drunken sailor walk.

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Damn it feels good to be back in Glacier again.

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Above St. Mary Falls.

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That night it was rainy and windy, and I gotta say, it was nice being indoors and off the ground.

9/10/2019 Siyeh Pass

For some reason, I seemed to remember the Siyeh Pass hike was about 7 miles and figured my leg could handle that. There were two levels of cognitive dissonance going on here. One, the distance, and two, that my leg would handle it. So in the morning, I was on the shuttle again, and the weather was about the same.

The leg was fine heading uphill, and it started snowing at the pass. The clouds were changing quick, and on the way down my leg was changing too. Yeah, it was complaining. Damn it, and you know what, this seems like more than 7 miles.

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After getting back to town, I saw another (sports med) doc since I wasn’t convinced of the first diagnosis by the old geezer was correct. I think this doc also thought I had a stress fracture since he asked, “How long were these hikes you were doing?” “Some were about 10 miles.” “Were you out there alone?” “Yeah.” I could tell he thought I was a little…foolish hiking that far alone. The subsequent MRI on the leg was also negative (no stress fracture), and compartment syndrome didn’t make sense because there were too many compartment affected. He sent me off to PT, and Mr. PT had me strengthen my transverse butt muscles, which helped…..initially.

 9/11/20 Many Glacier

PLANE WORLD TRADE TOWER

I made the decision to jump to Many Glacier and got there fairly early (about 6:30), but I was about 11-12th in line (as I recall). The ranger gave me a site across from the famously great site 38, but that’s not a great camper site since we have a solar panel. A little irked, she gave me the same site Julie and I had the year before. Score!!

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Damn it feels good to be back in Many Glacier. After getting the site setup and geeking around the campsite for a while, I figured my sore leg could handle a hike to Fishercap Lake. I know what you’re thinking, but my leg felt ok on the hike. I got to the lake, set up the tripod and camera, snapped a couple photos, got the chair set up, and started reading.

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About a paragraph in, the moose showed up.

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I think this is Alice and the calf that hung out at our campsite last spring.

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Ok, show’s over.

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Not bad. Not bad at all.

To the people lined up along the shore, it seemed like I was some kind of moose whisperer. I walk up, set up all my gear, sit down in the chair and read for a couple minutes, and out come the moose. (Looking at my fingernails), “Yup.”

9/12/19, What can I do?

So now the decision is not so much which hike, but what hike can I handle? Grinnell, Cracker, and even Iceberg are all too far with too much elevation, and the plan for later in the week was a hike with Pete and Tina. So I took another saunter in Swiftcurrent Valley. Last year, I got some good photos of both griz and moose on this hike. Not this year.

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I took all the side streets and alleys above Red Rock Falls.

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Onward down the trail.

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As I recall, I turned around before climbing out of the valley. Not much for photography, but still, better than a day at the desk.

9/13/19, More Denial

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Cell phone snaps of sunrise.

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The leg seemed good enough to hike Iceberg. I mean, how can you not hike Iceberg? It’s right there.

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A photo attempt at Ptarmigan Falls. Meh, but I tried.

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Playing in Photoshop. This started as a really dark foreground with a light sky.

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After I shot this, I turned around and there was a couple waiting for me. I apologized and they blew it off as no problem. I think they got a kick out of what I was photographing.

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Once at the lake, I got a few photos I like and haven’t shot before. The look down the bowling alley was possible because hardly anyone was there. That didn’t last long. The wind on the water above gave a little twist to the common shot of the lake. I also tried a panorama, but that didn’t really add anything.

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Here’s one out of the phone.

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Rode hard, put away wet

On the hike home, it started raining and then raining hard after Ptarmigan Falls. I should have been patient, but I picked up the pace. A few hikers caught up to me and I started stepping it off like I was living in the land of the uninjured. Downhill hiking seems to be a problem for the leg, but the pain doesn’t arrive until later.

9/14/19, Hibernation Season

How come what tastes bad does ya good

And feels real good does ya bad. (Lucky Peterson)

With a hurting leg, I wasn’t going anywhere, well, except to above the hotel for sunrise. This is the area with signs saying stay away, anyone caught tampering with the water supply will be shot on sight. It was a nasty, raw morning, so I tucked in behind a rock and hoped sunrise would deliver. The headlight came in handy.

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On the way back, I was a bit hesitant to shoot pictures in the wind, but I grabbed one pano with a hand ready to grab the tripod.

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It was well after sunrise, but it still felt pre-sunrise dark. It was a good day to spend inside and off the ground reading.

Later that evening, Tina walked up to the campsite with a bottle of wine. The original plan was for Pete, Tina and I to hike something out of Logan Pass, but Pete whimped out (hate it when work gets in the way). Tina and I had a good conversation about all things Glacier and decided to hike Grinnell the next day.

9/15/19 Grinnell Glacier

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An early morning shot from near the campstore.

Hey, nice weather for a change. Tina picked me up at the campsite and we drove the half mile to the trailhead. I kind of turned this hike into a slow gabfest. Yup, we headed uphill, but not fast. I “snapped” a couple of images, but didn’t force Tina into waiting around while I shoot 20 images of the same scene or just stare in a direction and shoot nothing. To be fair, Tina said to go ahead and stop for photos since she had enough time, but I kind of hate to make the hike about me taking pictures. Over the years, Julie has accepted the abuse and learned to bring a book. With limited images, I present more Photoshop gymnastics.

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Ok, I stopped Tina for the one below. I was kind of excited about it at the time. I liked the dark background without the normal harsh light on the rock foreground.

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I think we made it to about the first switchback and that was about far enough. That’s about or around the most scenic part of the trail. We headed downhill into the throngs of people heading uphill. It was more crowded than I ever remember the Grinnell trail. We finished up with plenty of time for Tina’s commitment on the west side (and drive over the pass).

Later that evening, I headed over to the bridge near the motel rooms and snapped a few photos.

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9/16/20 One Last Dance, One Last Chance

The weather forecast sounded like a nice day followed by some more rainy, windy days. As I recall, this was the first day Swiftcurrent Lodge was closed and it just kind of felt like it was time to head home.

The plan was to shoot some photos at Lost Lake. Yeah, right, where the hell is that? Just past Goose Island.

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is a little lake on the uphill side of the road.

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There was signage saying there was a rare snail found in the lake, so no swimming and fishing was only allowed from shore. As I poked around on the internet, I found a picture of the sign, and that Glacier employees used to do a lot of swimming in this lake since it was one of the few lakes that actually warms up in summer.

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Onward and upward. Next stop, Sunrift Gorge.

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I actually spent quite a bit of time farting around with the manual focus lenses. I hiked down to the stream looking for something a little different, but the light was so “hot” that I didn’t really see anything. I ventured down to just below GTTS road.

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At this point, I was thinking, what the hell, let’s keep going, and I drove to, and even got a parking spot at Logan Pass. Move over small dogs, the big dog is here. I re-packed the pack and headed out to Dragon’s Tail. Why not, eh.

I ran into a woman, college age, who was hiking back to the trail eating an apple. She had a tiny little backpack, nylon with strings kind of thing. She was just finishing hiking both Dragon’s Tail (the real peak), and Reynolds. Damn. She said she had a day off.

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A Dragon Pano.

I enjoyed the hell out of the view from the false summit. The clouds and lighting were great. I got one last photo that seemed a fitting way to end the trip.

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I present Miss Reynolds.

All-in-all, a good trip in spite of some poor weather. I got lucky on the spot at Many Glacier and the camper worked great.

Next up is the drive home. I have enough photos that I’ll make that a separate post.

The Leg Epilogue

I got an MRI last week, and my guess is the leg pain was connected to a protruding disc. I think it first showed up in my right leg, so strength work on my butt muscles helped the problem, but then it showed up in my left butt (piriformis area). So that’s one possibility. Another possibility would be that I actually had a strength problem in my transverse butt muscles (I did), and strength work helped the pain in the right leg, but then my back produced a problem in my left glute. So, more strength work for now. Old Man and the Camper.

One Response to “Old Man and the Camper-Glacier 2019”

  1. Juliejoy Says:

    Very nice jay, and every trip without me, you somehow find people to feed you!!! That is hilarious.

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