It is the final day of August. Summer in the heart of the mountains is giving way to snow. Yes. Snow already.
But it shouldn’t come as any surprise. We tend to get a snowstorm in late August in the mountains each and every summer. The sky hovers close to the peaks, gunmetal gray and spits snow. The valley is cloaked in a cold rain and then after a few days of the storm, the weather gives way into a warm fall through September.
In the past four years, I’ve typically had a few days off of work during this week of unsettled weather. And each year, despite the warnings and advisories, I still go to Glacier.
While my self-proclaimed badass self has a bit of bruise after my failed attempt at Rainbow, weather be damned, I’m going backpacking. Working a seasonal job, I have little choice in my schedule. The final week of August usually offers a bit of flexibility in the work schedule as the gobs of tourists return home and their children are back in school. The trails are usually quiet and not overrun with visitors. The days are still quite long, mountain tops saturated in the setting sun and the temperatures are not scorching on the trail.
But there’s always the chance for these snow storms this week. Cole and I were already planning a three day backpacking trip into the North Fork region of Glacier before my mom arrives for a week. Originally, we (or should I say it was more of Cole’s idea) were thinking about trekking to the Belly River area of the park and climbing a big mountain. But I sprained my ankle two weeks ago — my left ankle is the weakest point on my body after a serious tear in high school and annual sprains — and then the weather service issued an announcement for snow in the high country. Best to keep to a trail and not to a ridgeline when the weather turns ugly.
Plus, I need a little confidence boost of a long trail before I can test my ankle and my heart on a peak.
So we awoke at 6:00 am and traveled to the Backcountry Permit office this morning to apply for a permit to camp at the famed Hole in the Wall campground.
Two years ago, this same week, a storm hit while a partner and I hiked across Floral Park. It snowed, the fog swamped the mountains and the rain was relentless. The Floral Park traverse is quite a spectacular hike in the park and I was determined to make the trip despite the weather. Apparently, the views are amazing from the ridge and in the Sperry Glacier basin, but I only have cloudy pictures of slick rock to form my memories. Another weather deterred Glacier trip happened four year ago in the North Fork. The plan was to canoe across Bowman Lake and hike to Brown’s Pass for two nights. The weather was not in our favor, but we were going to make the trip anyway.
On that trip, I was with an old boyfriend who was not fond of foul weather. Despite his weather-proof gear, he did not find the rain and snow humorous. I thought it only added to the adventure. By the time we made our camp at Brown’s Pass, I was looking forward to a few days hunkered down in a tent with my book. My job was extremely stressful at the time and I wanted nothing to do with Board of Directors, camp schedules, or the failing propane freezer. The tent was waterproof and I was warm in my sleeping bag. And I was in my favorite place in the world, Glacier.
The boy bailed after one night. He was not happy. Story of our relationship.
This time, despite the winter weather advisory, I’ll be with Cole. The one guy who actually looks forward to hiking in adverse conditions and will relish in spending two days in a tent with just me and me alone. Of course, if the weather improves, my Cole will be looking at the surrounding mountains to climb.
Our trip involves a paddle across Bowman Lake, giving my still-swollen ankle a rest for 7 miles. And the time on the water satiates my need for floating, for the connection with water. We’ll make the long hike to Hole in the Wall and hope that even if there’s snow on the ground, we’ll at least see the high country and the much-talked about breathtaking views. We’ve just got to go.
Summer’s much to short and one can’t always let a warning issued by the National Weather Service to give scare. Plus, I’ve got Cole, my down jacket, lots of long underwear, a paperback (I’m not bringing Anna Karenina, too much weight!) and some whiskey for the predicted cold temperatures.
Here’s to camping in the snow in August!