Glacier National Park: Two Medicine, July 2010 — Day Two

My second day at Two Medicine started out miserably just because of my horrible night sleep. How was I going to stay warm tonight? After a couple of strong cups of coffee and oatmeal, I headed off to the camp store at the foot of Two Medicine Lake. There I got a bag of ice for my cooler, a couple of bottles of huckleberry soda, AND a BLANKET!!! Now, I felt better, and started off on my hike to Cobalt Lake.

The trail travels along the south side of the lake, but you really can’t see the lake through the thick forest and marsh areas. Great moose habitat, but I didn’t see any. The trail crosses a couple of creeks before heading up the valley between Painted Tepee and Rockwell Mountain on its way to Two Medicine Pass.

The first part was a fairly gentle climb through several meadows that looked like they were created by massive avalanches. Downed trees, tall grasses, weeds, and wildflowers dampened by the morning dew made the trail inconvenient and wet, but not much of a problem. Then, I heard the roar of water and realized that I was approaching Rockwell Falls and the beginning of the more steeper grade to Cobalt Lake and Two Medicine Pass.

After passing the lower falls, the climb begins with several switchbacks and glimpses of several other falls the form a very long series of plunges. Unfortunately, many of the falls and cascades seemed too difficult to reach. I decided to save any exploration until my return trip.

The climb continued up the cirque valley until it reach a ridge line that interrupts the cirque that extends south and west from Painted Tepee. There under the cirque rim were several large snowfields due to the northern exposure. And, on the closest field about 300 meters away were animal tracks. The animal was large and had been traveling east over the field. The tracks were fresh and I assumed it was a bear. Fortunately, (or unfortunately) there were no animals in sight. It did make me sing louder as I hiked and I was definitely more alert. Why were there no other hikers on the trail?

After crossing the creek that I assumed eventually made its way down to form Rockwell falls, I climb through meadow after meadow of Buttercup blossoms. It was incredible.

I arrived at Cobalt Lake just in time for lunch and a well deserved rest. The backcountry campsites were still covered in snow and the lake still had ice floes floating in it. It looked cold even though the air temperature was well over 65 degrees F.

I spent my lunch break drinking and eating my Clif bar and dried fruit and trying to take pictures.

It was getting frustrating dealing with the midday sun and the harsh light. I was beginning to understand why so many photographs of Glacier’s backcountry are usually taken in harsh lighting conditions: unless you get up very, very early or stay up late (both dangerous propositions in bear country) you are going to have midday lighting conditions. The only solution, I see, is to camp in the backcountry and that will have to wait till another visit.

After lunch I considered (very briefly) continuing my climb up to Two Medicine Pass, but the distance was about 3.1 miles from Cobalt Lake. That would have made my roundtrip almost 20 miles. Too far for me at my current physical conditioning. So, I started back down the trail. I took more time to take pictures visiting more off trail spots.

I started meeting other hikers who were heading up towards the pass. I thought it was pretty late in the day, but then again I’m not accustomed to the late evenings at this high latitude.

I tried a few more shots around the falls, then made a bee line back to the parking lot at the foot of Two Medicine Lake and the campground. An early test dinner of dehydrated foods and a relaxing cigar smoke while strolling around the lake. I hoped my new blanket would keep me warm overnight.

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