By CHRIS PETERSON
Hungry Horse News
We didn’t set out to hike 21 miles the other day in Glacier National Park, but it worked out that way, which, quite honestly, wasn’t the end of the world and turned out to be pretty pleasant.
The idea was to do a mountain goat survey for Glacier Park’s citizen science program en route to Isabel Lake.
Most folks who hike to the remote lake below Vigil Peak make the 17-mile walk from the Walton Ranger Station. But there’s a shortcut – if you’re willing to go up and over Two Medicine Pass, drop down into the Park Creek Valley and then hike the 500-plus feet back up to Isabel.
That route is only 14 miles, but has a lot more elevation gain and loss. You gain about 3,450 feet going in and just under 2,900 feet coming out. But the ridge walk along Two Medicine Pass is one of the prettiest in the Park, even if the wind is blowing 40 mph, which it often is.
The problem was that in order to complete the goat survey, you have to look for the goats from a specific location. I thought the survey site was on the way, but it turned out it was another 3.5 miles south of the Upper Park Creek Patrol Cabin.
That added another seven miles to our day.
Fortunately, the extra seven miles were pretty flat and despite this horribly dry summer, there were tons of huckleberries along the way. (I even saw a goat on the survey, which I just got a glimpse of as it wandered into the trees from a half-mile away).
There are only two campsites at Isabel and they’re spaced far apart, so it’s a quiet place. It burned in 2003, but the brush has grown up and the lake itself is full of fish. Equally impressive is the sheer north face of Vigil Peak that drops nearly straight down to the lake.
A short bushwhack up the drainage takes you to upper Isabel. There was a big rock fall at night. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear a mountain busting off in the dark, because you don’t know which way to run, if you can run at all.
The rocks never came close to camp.
The next day we slogged back over Two Med Pass. The wind howled and it was hotter than the day before.
A memorable journey just the same.