Hot Stuff at Fifty

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  • The views from the meadows above Fifty Mountain camp are expansive.

  • 1

    The Sue Lake observation point offers some of the finest views in Glacier.

  • 2

    Butterflies abound along the trail.

  • 3

    A young bull elk pauses on the West Flattop Mountain Trail.

  • 4

    A mule deer doe pauses near camp.

  • 5

    A mountain goat watches from the cliffs above Sue Lake.

  • 6

    A young billy goat on the Sue Lake overlook.

  • The views from the meadows above Fifty Mountain camp are expansive.

  • 1

    The Sue Lake observation point offers some of the finest views in Glacier.

  • 2

    Butterflies abound along the trail.

  • 3

    A young bull elk pauses on the West Flattop Mountain Trail.

  • 4

    A mule deer doe pauses near camp.

  • 5

    A mountain goat watches from the cliffs above Sue Lake.

  • 6

    A young billy goat on the Sue Lake overlook.

The problem with hiking long distances isn’t the sores you might get on your feet or the dehydration you might experience or the cramps you might get in your calves. The real problem is the songs that will pop into your head that you can’t get out.

So there I was in this gorgeous meadow nearly at the crest of the continent singing the Donna Summer song “Hot Stuff” from 1979.

Where and how my feeble brain drudged that song up was beyond me, but there it was, playing over and over again.

For those of you who have never heard of or listened to “Hot Stuff,” I suggest you Google it right now.

For those of you who remember disco and all that went with it, you know my torture.

Yes, it was getting hot outside, but gee, it wasn’t Donna Summer hot, if you get my drift. “Hot Stuff” isn’t even my favorite Donna Summer song, “MacArthur Park” is, with that oh-so-famous-chorus, “Someone left the cake out, in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, ‘cause it took so long to bake it.”

No one sings that song like Donna. Google it.

Who leaves a cake out in the rain anyway? But once again, I digress.

Like I said, I was on a fairly long hike with the boy and we were coming back from Fifty Mountain. Fifty, as it’s called for short, is one of the most coveted camps in Glacier Park, namely because you’re supposed to be able to see 50 different mountains from the vistas near camp.

I didn’t bother to count, I was just happy that I was able to walk into the backcountry permit center and get a permit, because Fifty is a tough permit to get. In fact, while some portions of Glacier’s backcountry certainly are busy this year, other areas are fairly vacant. I had three choices picked out and all of them were available, which is kind of a head-scratcher, considering Glacier is poised to shatter last year’s visitation record.

The hike in from Packer’s Roost to Fifty is 12 miles with a little more than 3,500 feet of elevation gain. Very little is in the trees — the landscape has been roasted by wildfires over the past 20 years — so it is a hot hike with no shade.

Once in camp we dropped weight, took a rest and then hiked up to the Sue Lake Observation Point.

It added just under another 1,000 feet and 2.4 miles to the day, but was worth every step. Sue Lake is about 1,000 feet straight down from the cliffs on the flank of Mount Kipp.

The next morning we got up at dawn and hit the trail hard, knowing it was supposed to be even warmer than the day before.

Donna would have been proud of us.

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