And now the biggest day of the 4 day backpacking trip begins . I was nervous about it as I wasn't able to get in good hiking previous; the disadvantage to an August trip. You can't get any sooner as the pass doesn't open until August 1 if then. I wanted to make sure it would be open for us, thus the later booking. This hike is one of the most iconic you can do in the park so I wanted to do it sooner than later, so this was it. I spent hours of Rx as to the most scenic route whether to come up from the west or east and decided on this route from the east. After reviewing the Kintla route on youtube recently, I'm thinking that's a good choice as well but the logistics are tricky.
I liked our Lake Janet site and after visiting the Francis site on our hike out, I think I prefer it over Francis which is considered a premiere camp location. We had a dusting of rain during the nite but not enough to get the tents too wet. We had a nice hearty breakfast before packing up the tents. We visited with some people who were on their way to the Goat Haunt from Lake Francis Camp.
And once again, you start making your way through the forest. It opens up from time to time and once you get to the Hawksbill it stays pretty open until you start up the 11 huckleberry
laden switchbacks; talk about a great motivator. Even though you are surrounded by tall flora, you can still see the mountains and some waterfalls all around you with great views back to the Citadel Peaks and Porcupine Ridge but mostly we're trudging on trying to not trip as you can't see the trail sometimes due to the overgrowth... And, oh ya, because of the tall flora you can't see "da bears" but we were always trying to let them know we were coming. Although with our pants rubbing the overgrowth, you would think they could hear that.
We finally came to the beautiful glacially fed Thunderbird Pond that was being filled with Thunderbird Waterfalls coming from Thunderbird Glacier on Thunberbird Mountain. The lake was a beautiful shade of glacier blue and you hike right next to it and into the flora of the other side before making a u-turn and start heading up the side of the mountain and out of the glacial Olson Creek Valley. The trail is overgrown here as well but not as bad. We did encounter a couple hikers here.
Now these are my kind of switchbacks going up the Olson Creek Valley Headwall, loaded with huckleberry
bushes and we imbibed all the way up. And of course, there were pretty decent views down the Valley and over to Thunderbird Falls. Toward the top we ran into a couple who told us about the sow and her cubs that were roaming about over by Hole in the Wall. They also told us a bear had ripped into the bathroom at Brown's campsite and some workers were trying to repair it.
Finally we made it to Brown's Pass and walked a little ways to the intersection with the Bowman Lake and Hole In the Wall Trails. Here is where we would have our lunch before finishing off the next 5 miles. It is also here that we cross from Glacier to Flathead County. There was a pesky marmot that wanted some of our lunch. As we were observing our environment, little did we realize we were looking right at Boulder Pass and Peak in the distance. Toward the direction we would be heading we could see large patches of beargrass, wahoo! And so off we went hoping we would be walking thru those patches of beargrass and we did, OMG!
and there were wildflowers on the way and the mountains. Needless to say we lingered here for a bit to soak it all in as it was definitely a "the hills are alive moment".
Once we started up again we encountered a grouse family out for a walk on the trail leading the way. Altho mom seemed a bit annoyed as we wanted to keep on keepin' on and I think she wanted to dawdle. We worked our way above the rock ledge so that we could scoot around this southern base of Chapman Peak. Soon we could see the edges of Bowman Lake and then a grander view of it. It was smoky but not enough to obstruct the view to the lake. We got by one of Wendy's nemesis, a gash in the cliff that drops straight down 1200 feet. We continued our way on the ledge and started north where we got closer to a look-see at the Hole in the Wall headwall where the 800 foot Hole In the Wall Falls fell into the Bowman Valley below.
We stopped at the intersection for a snack I think and saw a couple hikers coming out. We still had a few miles to go around the top of the cirque above Hole in the Wall and in the distance I could see a scree field we would have to climb. Wendy said it didn't look too bad. So off we were again to the far side below Mount Custer. And the wildflowers went into overtime wowing us with their abundance and color. I think I heard Wendy mumble something about being
ostentatious. We decided we would take one more little break at the cascading waterfall before tackling the scree hill and the rest of our hike to Boulder Pass campsite. It was lovely here.
Next we crossed over a little snow and some more water as we started up the scree hill. It really wasn't too bad and as you got higher the views were even more spectacular. We eventually reached the high shelf and were now heading south. The wildflowers and little waterfalls, the Hole in the Wall Hanging Valley below us along with the views of all the mountains was just breathtaking. You sure don't want to rush this section. You eventually come to a large rock outcropping that you have to switchback up and around to get you to the Pass area. Your first view as you come around the corner is a full on frontal of Boulder Peak, Glacier and a tarn. The clouds came and went from here until we got to the campsite. Meanwhile, we enjoyed our time at the Tarn.
But, we still hadn't gone over the pass and we had to traverse over an area that was the trail covered in running water from the cascades above. This pass had only been opened for a week and I think in a less dry year (basically little to no summer rain), we would have encountered a lot more of that. But that's okay, we did the snow crossing thing in 2011 up here [ photo ]
. On this hike, only a few patches to deal with. As we finally got to the top of the pass, a storm blew in. It had been getting chillier but no indication of a storm. So I had to struggle a bit getting my rain gear out (jacket was toward the bottom of my pack). But then the lightning and thunder began in earnest
and here we are, the tallest things on the pass that was devoid of trees. Fortunately the fury of the storm saved itself for about 1/2 hour give or take.
Once you get to the top of the Pass you have an incredible view of Gardner Point (west) in front of you and Canada to the north of you including the Akamina Ridge. We did have to keep our heads down from time to time but that was okay because you had lots of wildflowers to smile at as the storm whisked in and out. Getting down to the campsite was no easy task in the storm but we made it. We had to go hang up our food first (it's a requirement), grab a snack bar and then rush over to set up our tents at an angle that would keep the rain out. I like my small easy set up tent but when you have to try and get everything inside including yourself in a hurry, it twasn't easy. Wendy didn't like the way my tent ended up with regard to water flow so after she changed she went out and was digging a little trench for the water to go and pounded my stakes in even further.
Finally after about another 45 minutes of whirling in and out fury and just sitting in my tent with my boots and jacket on, I should have filmed the storm on my tent, the sun would come in and out along with the sound of the thunder and then finally silence. Thank goodness it passed. We were able to come out and go over and make our dinner... oh and check out the most awesome location for an outdoor open air privy with views of Kintla & Kinnerly Peaks and Agassiz Glacier. I thot maybe the smoke to the west would have cleared but it actually looked worse thru the red and yellow glow of the sun. An elder couple who had gotten their earlier had been hunkered down as well. They had just got engaged (how awesome) up on Boulder Peak and made it down before the storm hit. They were on quite the backpack adventure all through the Park from west to east.
After our warm dinner and Fireballed peaches, it was off to sleep and lucky for us, no storms or critters. What a great day! Oh, almost forgot, a big shout out to Wendy for cheering me on. I was pretty tuckered by the time it was all said and done. I do think I used some of my whine tokens.
Little did we know the storm had sparked a fire over by Lake McDonald (Sprague) that would have sad consequences when it took out the Sperry Chalet. We would also learn the next night that the smoke was of such concern, the Park had been preparing plans to evacuate all hikers up here. As it was they stopped issuing permits for a couple days AND if you had permits, you were not allowed to use them.
FYI, Boulder Pass Trail is part of the Pacific Northwest Trail up to Brown Pass from Goat Haunt. I made 12 videos of our backpack of Boulder Pass up and back. I put them into a Playlist and the titles include the area we hiked.
Boulder Pass Playlist
For this part of the hike it is Videos 2 through 5.Wildflowers
in the valley lots of thimbleberry and fireweed.
around the pond, mixed flora
Brown Pass to Boulder Pass, ostentatious