The Waterton Women Meet the Glacier Girls for Hiking Challenges
A fall, a lost hiker and an overheated hiker didn't deter the GiG (Girls in Glacier) and the WoW (Women of Wonder) hikers from having great adventures first to Muddy Creek Falls and then the next day to Our Lake.
This was a wonderful two-day trip with our Canadian sister hiking group, the WoW (Women of Wonder). Our first excursion was to Muddy Creek Falls, an obstacle course that follows Muddy Creek into a limestone slot canyon that ends in a gorgeous cascade.It truly is a hidden wonder.
The Wow group from Canada crossed the border at 7 a.m., the earliest it opens (one group had to backtrack as they tried Del Bonita which didn’t open until 8!) and met the American GiG group at the Rock Shop in Bynum at 9:15. After bathroom breaks, it was quarter to 10 before we left.
The it was a bumpy 18 miles and 40 minutes to the trailhead from there, which includes a gate and two-track road the last few miles. We had to park a half mile away from the main trailhead/parking area as the spring floods had created crevasses in the road. We weren’t sure why the road was roped, off but once we started walking, we realized why.
The day, although in the 60s temperature-wise, was hot nonetheless with the sun bearing down in the exposed first part of the trail. Our first incident happened when Jeanne overheated. We poured water on her and Loural offered Gatorade. Susan C agreed to stay with her as she cooled down and return to the cars. We really didn’t like leaving her and felt she would be fine once she got in the shade.
Then the rest of the group continued following the stream, with lots of crossings and some bushwhacking up the social trails. We were getting in our rock-hopping skills when Josy heard something, and rightly suspected that Susan and Jeanne had followed us after Jeanne cooled down. Josy went back to guide them to us.
It took us a bit longer to go three miles than normal with the route finding and creek crossings. Then the rain started, necessitating a change into ponchos and worrying a few about thunderstorms when we were wading in water. The brightly colored ponchos really made a splash against the limestone cliffs. Luckily, the thunderstorms kept a distance and never really developed where we were.
And then the canyon narrowed, and we saw the falls.
Everyone was amazed at how gorgeous they were, coming over the top of the cliff with a wedged stone forming a semi roof over our heads. We enjoyed taking many pictures and cooling our feet in the pool at the base of the cascade. After a snack/lunch on the rocks, we headed back with the rain drops now a drizzle.
On the return trip, we had two more incidents—maybe it was the far-off thunder foreboding trouble. First, Joan slipped on a rock as she was crossing the creek. She took a good tumble but seemed okay except a few bruises that would develop and soreness on an ankle. However, she was soaked and her boots full of water. So the gals helped her take her boots off and pour the water out, changed her socks and put plastic bags over her socks to keep them dry as her boots were very wet, and she was set to go again.
Meanwhile, some hikers had gotten far ahead as we attended to Joan. In fact, Roni missed the turn to the cars, bypassing them and continued down the road. However, no one saw that she had done this. So when we all arrived back at the cars, the slower group assumed Roni was with the faster group and the faster group assumed Roni had taken a potty break off the trail and was with the slower group. No one could really remember the last time we saw her. After we thought of possible scenarios and game up with a search strategy, she was probably gone for over half an hour.
So we all got a bit panicked at this point. Thinking she may have bypassed the cars, Susan C drove ahead two miles, honking her horn. When she returned without Roni, we lost a bit of hope. The WoW ladies called for a prayer circle, and we readily joined in.
We somewhat organized a search, but Katie realized we need more preparation for a situation like this: the cars started honking horns and some, led by Josy, took off with whistles to search the last half mile of trail or so and to explore splits in the creek to see if she followed the wrong one. Deb, Josy and Susan had cell service. After about an hour with no sign of her, Katie said to call 911. It was now past 5:30 and she wanted to make sure the search team, if needed, had daylight for an aerial search. We all thought Roni might have fallen like Joan did and hit her head.
Deb called 911. We had to explain that we were in wilderness even though, yes, we were on a remote road. It was hard to explain that we couldn’t just flag people down for help, that we had seen no one all day and didn’t expect to see anyone on this particular “road.” Then a confusion of mixed messages and several more calls to 911 ensured before she was found—safe!
To make a long story short, we found Roni, or she found us. Susan C picked her up on the road. After a while, Roni realized something was wrong and turned around. Katie started crying with relief when she saw Roni in Susan’s car; Deb too. We were all so thankful that nothing had happened and that she had been safe all the time and never in any danger. So many things can run through one's mind when worried.
It was now nearing 7 p.m. and we headed to town, tired and hungry. We quickly checked in at the Stagestop Inn and went to dinner at the Log Cabin Café. By now it was almost 9 p.m., so off to bed with a few opting to soak in the hot tub to relax after a good hike but a stressful day. Three of the GiG stayed overnight with all of the Canadians, while four GiG headed back to GF.
Many lessons were learned on this wake-up-call of a trip, that will require some research, training at a later date, but we had another adventure the next day.
Our Lake The next day it was up early to beat the heat. After a quick breakfast at 6 a.m., we met the GiG gals who were traveling from GF at 6:45 a.m. who met up with the three who stayed over plus the 8 Canadians, making for 15 again. However, Joan was still feeling a bit sore from her fall at Muddy Creek, so she decided to stay to read a book and heal. She needed to make sure she was okay for the big backpack at Mount Robson in a week.
After a quick bathroom break, we headed out at 7 a.m., getting on trail around 8:30. The trail was shaded most of the way, and we saw several orchids: lady slippers and Alaskan rein orchid. We were fairly fast going uphill, reaching the lake around 11. Many of the gals were awed by the views: the lake, the remaining snow and the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, no goats or sheep were out this day.
We followed the trail around the lake to the head to eat our lunch around 11:30. The wind was much better to our back. Partway around the trail, we saw Wayne’s Wednesday Walkers, which included Katie’s husband and Camille from our group, but they never encircled the lake, so we didn’t get to talk to them.
On the way back, we flew down the hill in about one hour 45 minutes. I guess the ice cream was calling in Choteau.
So, we picked up Joan at the Stage Stop inn and stopped in for ice cream; unfortunately, they were out of huckleberry.
We said our goodbyes to the Canadians and arrived back in Great Falls around 5 p.m.
Who went, Muddy Creek: Roni, Deb, Katie, Josy, Jeanne, Susan C, Joanne (GiG), Lorna, Laura, LaVern, Loural, Sherry, Joan, Dina, Sue Ellen (WoW); Our Lake: Lorna, Laura, LaVern, Loural, Sherry, Joan, Dina, Sue Ellen (WoW); Roni, Deb, Katie, Josy, Susan C, Susan W, Linda (GiG)