Why hello, Washington.

Washington, another state I had never been to before this trip, has officially stolen my heart. Sorry, Minnesota, you may have a bit of competition! The mountains, the forests, the lakes, the fog, the rain, the everything. My photos did not do this state justice.

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IMG_3725_1_1We drove the last six hours to Sol Duc, the campground where we would be spending the night. Sol Duc is located in the Olympic National Forest, in Washington’s beautiful Pacific Northwest region. Or, as Sara liked to call it, the GNP (Greater North Pacific), which should not to be confused with the GOP (Grand Old Party). We pitched our tent, a feat which all should be thoroughly impressed with. It took a bit of effort, but we did manage to make it stand up (by itself!) in the end.

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We then decided to hit up all of the trails that we could. Sol Duc is home to a gorgeous waterfall, appropriately named Sol Duc Falls. We wanted to make our way to the falls, and then on the trail to Deer Lake. To reach the falls, we went on a path called Lover’s Lane. Not sure why it was named this, as the path was terribly maintained and would likely cause lovers to unlove each other due to it’s ability to cause tension and arguments regarding which way to go. Luckily for us, we didn’t like each other very much to begin with, so Lover’s Lane did not have the disastrous effects as it would on people who do actually like each other.

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This is a photo of Sara and Jennifer attempting to find the path that was completely obscured by fallen trees. We were eventually successful in reclaiming our rightful spot on the path.
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An example of the aforementioned fallen trees obscuring the path.

IMG_3762_1_1Just kidding.

After what seemed like an year and a half, we made it through Lover’s Lane and out onto the super-fancy, super-nice path that led to the falls. We followed this path for about a mile, all the while hearing the falls roaring in the distance.

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The amount of green in this place was incredible. Seriously. Absolutely the greenest.
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This is merely a little creek-like waterfall, the real ones were further down the path, and alas I did not get any good photos of the real ones; misty water in the air does not help to make a very good photo.
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Here’s an adorable photo of an older couple crossing the bridge of the little creek-like waterfalls. Don’t you just love the contrast of their coats with the green?

It was a bit chilly and rainy on our walk, and the spray from the waterfall only assisted with making us more damp. It was a lovely waterfall, however. Even though it got my camera all wet. Sad day.

Just past the falls was the path for Deer Lake. We had read about Deer Lake in little pamphlet that the park ranger had given us upon check-in. It was about a 4-mile hike, which sounded like a good way for us to get out and stretch our legs after driving for the last 9 hours. We started the hike, and it was really uphill and rocky. The path was essentially a dry creek bed that they had somewhat improved by strategically placing rocks and/or building some steps and bridges. And I use the words “dry creek bed” lightly, as the majority of the creek bed had some water running through it, i.e. wet socks, wet shoes. Everything was so squishy damp. So squishy damp.

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Hey look, it’s the dry creek bed we hiked up. Isn’t that nice?

So we hiked uphill on this dry creek bed for a long time, and eventually we were like, “Wait, is this another mountain?” And sure enough, we doubled checked the pamphlet from the ranger and it said that Deer Lake was indeed a mountain lake. Meaning that it is a lake hidden in the mountains. The snow was a bit of a give-away, as well.

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Jen + a patch of baby snow!

IMG_3928_1_1Okay, so the elevation was only about 1700 feet vs. the 4200 feet of Mount Brown (refer to my post “The Story of Mount Brown” for the full story of Mount Brown), but seriously who accidentally climbs a mountain, not once but twice in one week? Apparently, we do.

We really need to start reading the fine print when people give us information.

IMG_3983_1_1So we made it to the top of this mountain, and we found Deer Lake. Sara, our line leader for this expedition, shrieked with excitement when she saw the lake, which spurred Jennifer and myself on. We were thrilled to be off this weird trail.

The lake was absolutely gorgeous. We sat on the wooden bridge for some time. Jennifer ate an apple and a granola bar. We all took a few hearty swigs of water. After a few moments, there was some fog that began to form. It was lovely fog, all heavy and wispy at the same time, and it came down from the mountains and covered the trees across the lake. I had never seen fog descend on a place like that, so that was pretty neat. I got a few neat photos too.

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Oh hey there, fog. Thanks for descending so neatly.

IMG_4048_1_1Sara and Jennifer had continued on the path; we were going to attempt the trail to Mink Lake, which would then lead us back to out campground. I think. I wasn’t 100% sure on the logistics of this hike. I was more focused on taking photos of the trees and the moss and the water. Which I did. I just followed Sara and Jennifer, and trusted that they knew the way. Or at the very least that they could interpret the map.

So I was busy taking pictures of the fog while Sara and Jennifer forged ahead on the path, and about six minutes later I hear Sara yelling at me, asking me what the hell I was doing. So I was like, yeah yeah I’m on my way when in reality I was still snapping a photo or two. Oops. ūüôā

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Nature, you’re pretty O.K.

I did make my way to them, however, and the path had effectively disappeared under the snow. So much snow. We made our way across a slough covered in snow on the south side of Deer Lake, and then there was just an open field of snow with no tracks from previous hikers. We were effectively screwed. Sara and Jennifer really gave it their best effort, in their attempt to find the trail.

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“A” for effort, guys!

We wandered around for about half a mile before resigning ourselves to the fact that we will just have to go back down the dry creek bed trail. I groaned inwardly and sighed outwardly, but since going downhill is easier than going uphill I was mildly okay with it. I tried being the line leader for about two minutes, and I ended up falling down and getting my shoe severely stuck in the snow. Jennifer had to retrieve it for me, which was harder than it sounds because my shoe was really stuck in there. I was a little embarrassed so I just went back to my usual spot in line, bringing up the rear. We ended up running down the mountain path again, but this one was much more rocky and dangerous so we stopped after about half a mile.

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Random Flower: Part 1
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Random Flower: Part 2
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Random Flower: Part 3

After what seemed like a forever amount of time spent walking (you know, it’s really hard to keep going when your butt and thighs and calves are sore and you haven’t slept more than an hour and a half in the 28 hours), we finally made it back to the waterfall, but then it was still quite a jaunt back to the entrance of Lover’s Lane. Apparently we were feeling quite spry when we began our hiking adventure earlier, and practically sprinted through the path because it seemed much shorter the first time. We reached the entrance of Lover’s Lane but we had already decided that we were not going through that shit-show of a trail again, even though it was quite lovely and very Jurassic Park/Star Wars-esk. It was fun to traipse through the woods and rediscover the lost path, but we just did not have the energy for that. Hiking up and down a mountain in squishy damp shoes with sore butts, thighs, and calves can really put a damper on one’s attitude for adventure. We were also hungry. So, we walked out to the parking lot and decided to walk along road back to our campground. Which was fine, it just took an extra mile or so to get back, bringing our total for the day up to approximately 12 miles. Woo!

We found the campground, and we cut through the small bit of woods between the road and the campground to get back more quickly. I saw a giant log on the ground, and of course I decided to sit there and count the rings on the stump to see how old it was.

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262 years old, in case you were curious.

So after this brief tree-ring-counting-detour, which took about 10 minutes, I made my way back to the campsite, where Sara and Jennifer were preparing their food for supper. I tucked right in, and after a hearty meal of sandwiches and s’mores and Cheerios and chickpeas, we went to bed. I was pooped. Which makes sense, because by that point I had slept for approximately an hour and a half in the last 36. Not a great track record.

We fell asleep listening to the sound of the breeze rustling through the moss on the prehistoric-looking pine trees.

And subsequently awoke to the same prehistoric-looking pine trees.

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The Story of Mount Brown

ACT 1 SCENE 2

SCENE: Mount Brown, Glacier National Park. Sunday, May 28, 2017. 10:30 a.m.

CHARACTERS:

  • Sara¬†–¬†our fearless line leader and choir conductor.
  • Jen – our amusing conversationalist and in-house animal expert/eye candy.
  • Anna¬†– the laggard bringing up the rear and company photographer.
  • Those two guys who made us feel bad about ourselves because they were sprinting up the mountain¬†– they also showed us mountain goats.
  • Pink Shirt Guy – at first, he was amused by our quirky antics but soon got really annoyed and quickly passed us by.
  • The Elderly Snientist – an optimistic gentleman who showered us with words of encouragement, which we ignorantly believed, and also made us laugh with his tales of lost chainsaws. We also think he may have been a snow scientist, but this fact was neither confirmed nor denied.
  • The Pesky Mountain Goats – so cute! But so annoying, as we are humans in their territory and are advised not to approach. Hard to do when they are standing on the trail and won’t leave.
  • Special Guest Star: The Snow that Wouldn’t Quit – first made it its appearance as a small patch along the trail and we were like, aw look at that snow and then it became 6 feet deep and were like what in the actual heck,¬†snow. Why.

Narrator: (Dramatic voice) On this day, three girls accidentally climbed a mountain. You may be wondering, just how dumb do you need to “accidentally” climb a mountain. Well, all you need is a bit of blind ambition and a lot of blissful ignorance. Mount Brown is home to a rather formidable trail, one of the most difficult in Glacier National Park. It ascends over 4200 feet in 5 miles, so you can imagine that the trail is steep. What you may not imagine is the fact that there is also snow on top of a mountain. Or maybe you can imagine that. If that is the case, then you would have been better prepared than these three girls. Good for you.

It’s not as if these girls did not have the means to be prepared to climb the mountain. In fact, they had a magazine (which they evidently did not read very closely before attempting to climb said mountain) that stated Mount Brown was indeed a difficult hike; in fact, it was labeled as “strenuous” in the magazine. Now, these are relatively smart girls, two with college degrees and the other beginning her junior year in college this fall, but apparently they decided to interpret the word “strenuous” as “oh, this will be a super nice hike with awesome views of the mountains and stuff” rather than “yeah you’re about to hike up a mountain.” It’s all about the context, I guess.

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Ah, the lovely pine trees. Thanks for being so photogenic.

This is their story, the story of Mount Brown and how they potentially possibly could have maybe died but didn’t.

Oh sorry, spoiler alert.


We started our day with a hearty continental breakfast from the hotel. We made our way to the Glacier National Park visitor center, located on the Going-To-The-Sun Road, where they told us that parking at Avalanche Lake would be extremely limited. We were feeling optimistic, however, and decided to try parking there. Apparently everyone else wanted to park there too, so we were forced to come back and park at Lake McDonald. This worked out just fine, and we decided to hike up Mount Brown. You would think, with a name like Mount Brown (emphasis on the “Mount”) we would have realized that it would not be a simple hike up a hill. We were literally in the mountains of Montana, for God’s sake!

Anyway.

IMG_3230_1_1We began our hike at the Sperry trail head, which started right across the road from Lake McDonald, and went up a fairly gradual incline for a solid mile and a half. We found the Mount Brown trail head and thus we began our ascent. Within 10 minutes we had to stop again, our butts and thighs were dying. But this was just the beginning. We hiked for a long time, back and forth up the switchbacks (thanks, expert hiking [aka mountain-sprinter] guys who helped us figure out the mountain lingo) and stopped periodically for water and air. We made it to a lovely little overlook, and we figured we should be fairly close to the top. Boy, were we wrong. We hadn’t even encountered the snow, yet!

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This is a lovely photo of me taking a photo of the mountains at the overlook which we foolishly mistook as being close to the top. Ha.

The snow started out as a small patch in the woods by the trail, and we thought it was just the cutest little patch of snow we’d ever seen. And then said snow patch multiplied in number and size, and soon everything was covered in a six-foot snowdrift. We learned later that this snow does not disappear until mid-July. Lucky us. It was during this snowy trail era that we ran across (whom we believe to be) the snow scientist. He was sitting in the snow using a little saw to cut into the snow drifts. So, he was either a snow scientist or an elderly¬†guy who liked to sit on the side of a mountain and investigate the snow. Rather curious. He told us we were doing a great job, climbing the mountain. He also gave us directions to get around a particularly giant snow drift which was coming up in our path. This snow drift was probably close to 10 feet tall. We had to skirt around it, so thank goodness there had been people going on the trail before us so we had footprints to follow in.

We trekked through the snow, slipping and sliding as we went along. Luckily we had started our journey early enough in the morning so the snow was still pretty solid during our ascent. No one had any major spills down the mountainside, but Sara and I did fall much more often than Jennifer (and I fell more often than Sara). Jennifer¬†does parkour (hard-core parkour!) as a hobby and thus has fairly decent balance and footwork, which I am sure contributed to her lack of falling. She’s so fancy.

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That’s Jen, with her water bottle and her backpack. Thanks for being our designated H2O supplier, Jennifer! You da best.

We were so full of optimism and blind ambition. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we started our journey up Mount Brown. However, I think it was this total unpreparedness that allowed us to get as far as we did. If we had 100% knew we would be climbing up a mountain, we honestly probably would have given up. It was the lack of us knowing just how steep and arduous this hike would be that allowed us to almost reach the top. I say “almost” because we did not actually make it to the top. We were probably about half a mile from the top, where it apparently became pretty flat and there was a nice building in which to sit. However, to get to said “top,” we would have had to hike crawl up the mountain side, by holding onto the snowy footholds made by¬†previous (and more courageous) hikers. We stopped because we honestly feared for our lives. In fact, Sara was sitting in the snow for some time, contemplating her life and was about 83% sure she might die. However, the odds were in her favor and she survived. We all survived, in fact, and we are stronger for it. I also got a few super sweet photos, so that was a bonus!

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IMG_3259_1_1Sara and Jennifer refused to go any further, but I decided to try, and climbed about 200 feet up the mountain before calling down to my companions that yes, they were right, it was absolutely terrifying and if they could be so kind as to not rub it in my face that would be great. So I channeled my inner mountain goat and crawled back down. It was a bit of a struggle, to be completely honest, but I made it without dying! Now it was just the rest of the mountain we had to descend.

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This was what our trail¬†looked like; there wasn’t a whole lot of anything to the right of us to catch us if we were to slide down the mountain!

Going down the mountain was much easier that going up. It helped that we were fueled by adrenaline and had just been staring our almost-death in the face. We traipsed our way through the snow drifts, and finally (finally!) got back to the no-snow-trail. At this point we started full-out running down the mountain path, which was actually a lot of fun and probably pretty dangerous, but none of us died or twisted an ankle or anything so that was good.

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We also made some friends on the way down the mountain; the two guys who sprinted up the mountain also sprinted down (how, we still don’t know) who introduced us to the pesky mountain goats who just would not get off the path, and the guy in the pink shirt, who we later developed an undeserved (yet extremely personal) vendetta against. Unsure why this vendetta became so strong, but it provided a solid source of entertainment for the rest of the week.

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The trail, ft. the pesky mountain goats + the snow.
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I have no idea what this flower is, but the Sperry trail was quite populated with them. I took my time heading back down the mountain, taking in the sights and discovering things I had not seen on our ridiculous hike up Mount Brown.

We finally made it down the mountain, feeling more than a little sore, tired, and hungry. We reconvened at the Jeep, determined that we had hiked (or bear-crawled) approximately 10 miles in 5 hours, and grabbed some water and food to replenish our bodies and souls. We meandered down to Lake McDonald to rest our feet in the cool mountain water.

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Along the way, we paused to appreciate Mount Brown from a distance. It was really high. We were like, wait we just hiked up that?

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I apologize for the terrible quality of this photo, as I took it with Snapchat. But that is indeed Mount Brown in the center of the photo; you know, the giant-mountain-looking-hill that we somehow managed to climb up and down without anyone dying or breaking something.

We fell, we laughed, we wanted to sit down and cry, we almost made it to the top of the mountain and we have no regrets. Having never climbed a mountain before, I think we did a bang-up job of doing it.

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My companions let me stop along the Going-To-The-Sun Road on our way back to civilization and take a few photos of the fabulous mountains, with Lake McDonald in the foreground.