Glacier National Park bike tour, August 2001

Day 5: Rest day, Two Medicine hike

On the fifth day, we rested. Yesterday had been long and hard for everyone, so we were glad to have a day off from riding. We slept in, then discussed our options for the day over a leisurely breakfast. The plan was for a group hike; given the energy level of the group, we decided on an unchallenging one. Even so, Suzanne and Paul decided to spend the day lounging on the veranda. The rest of us drove out to the oddly named Two Medicine area and took a pleasant boat ride across Middle Two Medicine Lake to the trailhead.

The mental soundtrack for the day was Poi Dog Pondering’s “Watermelon,” probably for the line, “Wishing like the mountains and thinking like the sea/How it is to feel absolutely free.” I mention this only because Poi Dog is an extremely under-appreciated band. You should listen to them.

I was still hoping to see some wildlife that didn’t have a dozen people taking pictures of it. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to get away from the hordes of tourists in a national park; if you go somewhere slightly off the beaten path, it gets quiet very quickly. We hiked off through the woods on a slightly uphill trail towards Upper Two Medicine Lake, seeing only a handful of people along the way. The area was beautiful, though I noticed that I have a tendency, when hiking, to spend most of my time staring at the feet of the person in front of me. I had to consciously force myself to lift my eyes to regard the wonderful scenery. (I should have brought a mountain bike instead!)

Nola and Julie regaled us with tales of wildlife sightings they’d had along this trail. We passed a small, marshy pond known as The Pothole which was said to be a favorite of moose. A moose sighting would be nearly as cool as a bear sighting; I waited there for several minutes, scanning the woods for signs of movement, but saw nothing. I double-timed to catch up with the group, and not long afterwards we reached Upper Two Medicine Lake.

The vista from the rocky beach was gorgeous; I was glad I’d lugged my tripod along for a panorama, and Mark borrowed it for some shots of his own. A group of hikers already at the lake told us there’d been a bull moose browsing along the banks of a stream, but I saw no sign of him when I went over there. Later I heard a large animal crashing through the brush; to my disappointment, it turned out to be two portly tourists hiking with an inflatable fishing boat. We stayed on the shore for about an hour, relaxing in the sun and enjoying the placid beauty of the lake.

I would have liked to do a more ambitious hike, perhaps up to No Name Lake for the sheer Magritteness of it, but I was outvoted by the more docile members of the group. I had a mishap while using the backcountry toilet; I hadn’t zipped my camera bag and my camera fell out onto the wooden floor. It could have been a lot worse. But as it was, a splinter lodged under one of the buttons and I couldn’t work it out with just my fingernails. The camera wouldn’t turn on, so for the hike back I had a fairly high anxiety level, and no pictures. Luckily a tweezers was all that was needed to effect a repair.

The hike back was mostly along the ridge above Middle Two Medicine Lake. It was gradually downhill, so easier than the hike up, but we skipped the boat trip, so the hike was much longer. It was pretty, but I think we all were kind of tired by the end. We climbed back into the van for the return to East Glacier.

I was experiencing a serious diet deficiency. At home, my bike ride recovery meal is a half-pound cheeseburger and curly fries at Barney’s. None of the Glacier Park lodges have cheeseburgers on the dinner menu, so I’d been subsisting on fish and pasta all week. Now, I have nothing against fish and pasta, but sometimes you just need a cheeseburger. To my delight, Glacier Park Lodge has cheeseburgers on the lunch menu. I managed to limit myself to only one.

The lodge has an 18-hole pitch-and-putt course out front. I don’t play golf, and I have serious philosophical, ethical, and ecological issues with the game. But, I can understand the obsession. I hacked away for 54 holes, often sending the divots farther than the ball. On my last round, my goal was to break 50 (on a par-27 course). On the 18th hole I was on the green at 48 strokes, with a tricky 10-foot downhill, curving putt for par. A feather tap of the ball sent it rolling-it looked like it had no chance at first, but it kept rolling downhill and curving towards the cup, and dropped in perfectly at the end of its roll. I forget whether I went with the Tiger Woods fist pump or the Chi Chi Rodriguez sword-slash. (Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder).

After the game I walked into East Glacier (the first sizable town we’d seen since Apgar) looking for somewhere I could get online. It turns out they have something of an Internet cafĂ©, or at least what passes for one in rural Montana. Some teenager had set up two computers running Linux in an outbuilding with the town’s video games and pool table. No one was attending them, so I had to go knocking on doors until I found someone willing to take responsibility for the installation. The guy behind the counter in the general store walked me over and got me logged in, and I slogged through 380 e-mail messages.

When I returned to my room, I found the maid had assumed the small change I’d left on the dresser was a tip. (Is a pitifully small tip more insulting than no tip at all?) I went down to dinner, where I had an argument with Paul over whether it was easier to deal with 380 messages through e-mail or voice mail. (I won.) After dinner the lodge actually had some entertainment, a female piano player/singer with a nice voice and a dull repertoire. I stayed up for a while enjoying the relaxing sounds, and went to bed refreshed and ready to get back on the bike.


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