Snow Angel

Snow Angel

Monday, November 21, 2011

Great Northern: The best hike in Montana

     Two July's ago I went on a hike that I will never forget.  I think it was the first time I saw a mountain goat and the first time my legs shook from fatigue after a hike.  The climb itself is only four miles, but the first mile and a half you gain almost two thousand vertical feet.  My hind quarters were burning as I climbed the trail in front of my family.  Mom kept me close because the grizzlies often used the trail to travel up and down between the summit and the river that weaved its way to Hungry Horse Reservoir below.    After we climbed the two miles we came out of the trees and I knew that the whole day was going to be unlike anything I have ever done before.  It was stunning.  

Hungry Horse Reservoir
A view of the climb to come

    The remaining two miles of the hike were above the treeline.  I led my family on the trail that weaved in between boulders and overlooked rocky descents unlike anything I'd ever seen.  I watched as two mountain goats descended the vertical cliff without hesitation.  I glanced at my paws.  I could never do that.  These animals could survive up here eating the small amount of lichen growing between the crevices.  I was very thankful my mom had packed my dog food.  I decided to travel right in front of her on the trail.  I didn't want to be too far away if she needed me...or IF I NEEDED HER.

The last mile

    We got up early that morning because if we would have started the hike too late, the wind would have wiped us off the mountain like we were dandelion seeds.  It was only nine, but my stomach growled as if it were noon.  I gently nudged my mom's hand.  She said, "Do you want water?" but I didn't want water.  When the family stopped for a snack and I drooled for the sandwich, my mom finally understood.  She removed my red travel bowl from her pack and dropped in a cup of my Nature's Recipe.  I gobbled it down and then she filled it to the brim with water.  I was hungry and thirsty.  The elements take a lot of you, especially above the treeline. 

     An hour after snack we trekked up the rocky face on a narrow goat trail that followed the ten foot wide ridgeline.  My mom tied a rope onto my harness to make sure the wind couldn't blow us off.  I stayed dead center on the ridgeline, intending to anchor both of us in case of emergency.   Through a small hole in the mountain's side I viewed the glacier.  It swept below us engulfing the entire north side of the mountain.  It looked like it would be the most fun to play in, but I knew that once I touched the snow I would slide down into the rocks below and be unable to stop.  I am thankful for my instincts.  Without them, I am not sure if I would know just how to protect my family.  We summited three hours and forty minutes after leaving the car almost 3800 feet below us.  My mom helped me touch the summit post so it was official.  Our time at the summit was brief.  The wind pulled at my cheeks and slobber blew from my face.  I felt how tired my back legs were. 

My summit

     We snapped a few photos with my mom, dad, and I. 
Myself, Mom, and Dad 2010

Then my mom took some pictures with my grandpa.  I did a quick 360 turn to witness what I might never witness again.  I was a small dot amidst a great picture of wonder.

The glacier

  "It's time to go Kootenai," my mom tugged at my leash. 

    As I started to head down I was surprised to find the trip down was more challenging that the ascent.  The rock gave way beneath my paws and the wind pushed at my backside.  I felt as though the mountain was going to eat me.  I pretended I was a goat and my paws became more stable.  Four long miles of later, we reached the car.  My mom and dad kissed me and I knew that I was going to get a nice massage later.  They gave me a treat and lifted me into the car.  I was too tired to jump.  I will never forget that hike.  If you ever go to Montana don't miss out on this hike of a lifetime.  It will rock your world. 

Hike with you later,