East Glacier National Park

After a beautiful visit to the central part of the park, we decided to head east. East Glacier sits on the eastern side of the continental divide. During the warmer months, we could have continued on the going-to-the-sun-road all the over the continental divide and down into the eastern section of the park. However, due to an early season snow, this route was closed, so we took the long way around.

East of the divide, the landscape changes, and as we drove I couldn’t help but notice the dichotomy in the landscape. To the west green forest ran up to the rugged, snow topped Rockies. To the east the rolling golden hills of the Great Plains stretch out under a huge blue sky. We couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like for any humans who spent what must have been months to cross the plains, to come over a hill and see in the distance such an impenetrable looking monolith running as far as the eye could see in either direction. It is a truly imposing sight when compared to the great openness of the plains.

The road passes through a piece of the Blackfeet reservation, which is marked by a pair of beautiful metal statues of Blackfeet on horses. Not long past these statues you hit the town of East Glacier, which has gas, groceries, and amenities if you are lacking. The store was sadly out of firewood, so we took a left at the Two Medicine junction and headed into the park.

Now the east side of the park, or so the ranger told us, is usually much quieter then the western half after Labor Day. As a result, they begin shutting things down. The Two Medicine campsite, where we stayed, has three loops worth of camping spots, but only two were open. Combined with this was the fact that you could still actually get up to Logan Pass from the east side (though not directly through two medicine), the campground was actually full when we arrived in the mid afternoon.

Luckily the ranger allowed us to camp in one of the closed camp spots, though we had to park our car in the day use area. It was a minor annoyance, but I have no idea what we would have done if they had not made room for us. On top of that, the bathrooms here have lights and are heated! We felt rather lucky.img_0155

The camp ground itself is gorgeous. It sits on the northeastern end of the Two Medicine lake, which has a large body and a small body separated by a sand bar with multiple shallow streams running through it. The beaches were made up of light, flat stones, and combined with the glassy water, made for the perfect rock-skipping environment. I had a few stones skip farther then I have ever had them go before. I even got a compliment from a lady enjoying the lovely weather on their distance. Though for some strange reason neither of us actually took any pictures of Two Medicine Lake…

You can also walk around much of the eastern side of the lake. After our walk we had a nice dinner and basically retired to the tent for another cold night.

The next day we did the usual morning routine, packed our stuff up, and made ready for a day hike that we were rather excited for. There are basically two major trails that leave from Two Medicine. One starts more north then heads west as winds its way up to Old Man Lake and beyond. That trek would have been 6.4 miles one way with a 1500 foot elevation gain. The second trail heads southwest (mostly west) just inside the forest off the bank of Two Medicine Lake. A ways in the trail splits, one fork heads towards upper Two Medicine Lake (5 miles 350 feet elevation gain including the shared portion of the trail), and the other, heads towards No Name Lake (4.9 miles 300 feet elevation gain). Either would likely have been perfect, but No Name Lake just sounded better.

We set off between 9 and 9:30 AM. I would guess no more then half a mile from camp we came across the first of a string of surprising encounters. Foraging just off the path was a medium size black bear. Now black bears are generally much smaller then their grizzly counterparts, and are rarely aggressive, so we made some noise so he knew we were there, and headed on.

We went perhaps another quarter mile, came around a corner, and froze. About 25 feet ahead of us, lying maybe 8 feet off the trail, was a female moose. This was a bit of a shock, partly because both of us wanted to see a moose, but mostly because neither of us have ever dealt with one before. Bear protocol I am familiar with, but moose is way out of my comfort zone. She did not seemed phased however, so we gave her a bit of distance as we walked around and continued on our way.img_0156

A bit further on we came across another black bear. Again, no problem, black bears are easy. It was no more than a mile from camp, in a more densely wooded section, that we encountered something that nearly made us turn back, a bull moose. Now he was in the trees and had he not been making some noise, I might not have seen him till we got too close for comfort. In the end all I ever did see of him was his head and horns, which were quite enough for me. Luckily, while we were discussing what to do, he went on his merry way, and we were able to keep walking. Thankfully, that was the end of our large wildlife encounters (squirrels and chipmunks are not very threatening) for the rest of the hike.

The hike itself was quite beautiful. The trail winds through pine forest and low shrub, with the rugged ridges always in the background. There was still snow on the ground from the weekends snow storm, and after our earlier wildlife encounters, we jumped the first few times the snow fell off a branch.

The final bit of the trail contains most of the 300 foot elevation gain, but it is well worth it. No Name lake is a small, round lake, tucked up against a tall, sharp ridge. The lake was glassy and reflected the sun and surrounding scenery like a mirror. We enjoyed our lunch as we soaked up the natural beauty. The only issue with this lake is, due to the height and angle of the bordering ridge, the lake is in shadow for much of the day. If you want some time in the sun, make sure you get there before 12.img_0166

The walk back down was just as pretty as the walk up. If you ever find yourself in the park, which you without a doubt should, like right now, the walk to No Name Lake is well worth the effort.img_0168

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