Fifty in the Fall

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    A rock with a view, Fifty Mountain, Glacier National Park.

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    A stormy vista over Sue Lake in Glacier National Park.

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    A rock with a view, Fifty Mountain, Glacier National Park.

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    A stormy vista over Sue Lake in Glacier National Park.

The boy and I went up to Fifty Mountain a couple of weeks ago. Fifty Mountain is one of the most coveted backcountry camps in Glacier Park. From its vistas, you’re supposed to be able to count 50 mountains.

I think the best I’ve done is 26, but so what?

The Weather Service at the time was predicting a 20 percent chance of rain on the day we went in and a 30 percent chance of rain on the day we left.

It rained for about five hours going in, and rained about half the time going out, with a little wet snow mixed in.

Lousy weather does have its charms, however.

There was only one party in the camp, which, when full, can feel downright crowded. They were a couple from Maine and were on a five-day trip through the Park.

They weren’t too worried about the rain, but they were worried about lightning, as they had to hike along the Garden Wall the next day to Granite Park.

“Ah, it won’t lightning,” I blustered. “Too late in the year.”

When we got back to the car there was thunderstorm.

If there were medals for giving out lousy advice, I’d have a drawer full of them.

Once at camp I discovered I’d forgotten to pack my sleeping pad. I thought maybe I could sleep on the empty packs, but that was like sleeping on a bag full of rocks. In the end, I just put on as many layers as I had, got into the sleeping bag and managed to get some rest, even though it was about as comfortable as a hardwood floor.

The full moon shown through the clouds and it was nearly as bright at day, which was pretty cool. The only big furry creature we saw was a single grizzly that was digging up roots about 60 yards off the trail.

We stopped briefly to look at him. He looked up briefly to look at us and we went on our way.

It was a perfect grizzly conversation. No drama.

The hike up to Fifty from Packer’s Roost isn’t too far at 12 miles, but the elevation gain is substantial — 3,500 feet to camp, plus we squeezed in a quick hike up to the Sue Lake Overlook, just missing an ominous-looking squall. That jaunt adds another 2.4 miles (round trip) and 1,000 more feet of elevation gain. We had the whole place to ourselves, however, and that made it worth every step.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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