Gals Go On Overnight to Crescent, Heart and Glacier Lakes in Smoke
So, Katie studied the smoke patterns, which seemed to indicate the more northern places weren't as smoky, so we picked the Mission Mountain Wilderness, a place most had never been.
We planned for short days of 5 miles or under, due to smoke and extreme heat and being unsure of our legs. So we got up early on Thursday--it was raining in Great Falls-- and hit the trail around 9:30 (no rain and already 70 degrees) with only two other cars in the lot.
Our hike started with a nice walk along Glacier Creek with a waterfall but also several creek crossings on sketchy log bridges. We thought we would face one fording as a Camille saw a sign at the trailhead saying once bridge had been "decommissioned." There wasn't a rope or sign at the bridge, so we crossed it anyway, avoiding getting our feet wet.
At our first junction, we decided to take the short 3/4 mile sidetrip into Glacier lake on the way in, thinking we might not have the legs for it on the way out. And we were glad we did. We met another couple, who were only going into Glacier Lake and back, but we continued on, backtracking to the trail split where the path leads uphill to Crescent and Heart Lake beyond.
We arrived at Crescent lake and spied an excellent camping spot and debated for five minutes if we should snag it and then just day hike into Heart lake, so we did, thinking the few spots at Heart might already be taken. We were glad we did as it was a perfect spot. We set up our tents and hung our food and toiletries (we had a hard time finding a decent branch to hang), with Amber doing the yeoman's work of hefting both bags on one rope! What strength she has.
While setting up camp, Katie saw something red partway hidden under a log. She thought it was a gas canister, but it turned out to be a 2.5 pound jar of Jif peanut butter. We guessed someone didn't want to carry the weight and abandoned it. It was a bit frightening to think we had peanut butter in bear country near us, so Katie decided to walk a quarter-mile down the trail and place it on the trail in case someone would carry it out. After placing it on the trail, she ran into two male hikers, who looked --and talked--like young military men. They agreed to carry the peanut butter! Such great guys, thank you, thank you! And they literally had to carry it in their hands as all they had on were hydration packs.
Peanut butter wasn't the only concern in camp. Huckleberry bushes covered the trail and surrounded the camping area, making us a bit nervous. However, we saw no sign of bears: no scat, not tracks. And no little critters either.
Then we hiked into Heart Lake, which was a bit of a climb with many rocky and rooty sections of trail as we climbed 200 feet up and over a ridge. Once we arrived, we were so thankful that we had set up at Crescent, since we would have had to cross the outlet to reach decent campsites. We walked through brush, Susan leading the way to a nice peninsula that jutted out into the lake for a nice resting spot to sit and enjoy the views. After a half hour of sitting and chatting, we headed back to Crescent to make dinner and have a nice evening.
On our way back, we met a family that asked if we needed a camping spot. She said she found "Shangri-la" out on a point that jutted out into the lake. We could see them from our spot, enjoying swimming and fly fishing, their dogs wading out and back too.
Ater we got back, we made dinner, with Susan and Amber using lake water. Katie and Camille were worried they didn't boil the water long enough to kill giardia, but we thought they would be okay. Recommendations for over 6,000 feet is 3-5 minutes for future reference.
We were surprised that the smoke really set in in the evening and the temperature didn't cool down. We discussed if we really should hike into Turquoise lake, our next day's plan. With the smoke and heat, we decided to cut our trip short and hike out. All of us had issues with the smoke, and the temperatures were supposed to rise even more. Plus, the camping spots at Turquoise lake weren't many. On a Friday, we were worried about getting there and having to turn around anyway.
It was hard to sleep it was so hot and it remained light out all night long too, possibly reflecting fires in the smoke. So no one slept very well. But it was fun, still and we didn't hear any critters in the night, which calmed us.
We got up, had breakfast and packed up camp. Susan was feeling pretty well for a first time backpacker.
We hit the trail around 8:30 and were glad we made our decision as so many people were coming in. We even saw people carrying inflatable kayaks and boats with paddles. Unfortunately, Camille had a small mishap as she slipped off one of the rickety log "bridges" across one of the streams, getting a bruise on her hip and her arm.
We finished at 10:30. The parking lot was full, and we had a very scary ride out, with people driving in the middle of the road and very fast as we tried to exist. Amber did an excellent job avoiding collisions on blind curves! A few were close calls.
We decided to go to Condon for one of the yummy deli sandwiches from the mercantile. They were yummy and the gal inside so fun. We asked her favorite sweet since she asked us whey were weren't getting dessert after a backpack!
We got home around 4 pm. What a fun trip with wonderful ladies.
Who went: Camille, Susan, Amber, Katie