Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 5: Wait a tick...

I must have done something to Montana in a past life, like dumped a metric ton of toxic waste in some pristine lake or ran for government. More on this to follow.

Early yesterday I headed out of Whitefish towards Glacier. I arrived at the park probably around 9:30 or so (I don't quite remember and was too busy looking out the window to look at the clock). Note to anyone who has never visited Glacier, even if you only plan on driving through, it will cost you TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS just to enter the park. The pass lasts for seven days, so definitely plan on longer stays to really get the most out of your TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS. There is one main road through the park going west to east aptly named Going-To-The-Sun road. I'll give it an A+ for a name more interesting than Glacier Drive or Twenty Five Dollars to Drive On This road.

Being from Oregon, I've seen and driven through mountains before, but nothing like this. For as much as I was irked by the steep entrance fee, I must admit that once I got into the park those feelings were mostly abated. Awesome, in the true sense of the word. Nothing I write will really live up to it, so I won't even bother.

I arrived at my camp ground, Rising sun, near the east end of the park around noon. After setting up my tent and paying my fee, I packed my camera equipment and set off on a hike. From Rising Sun, the only official trail is to Otokomi Lake, a 5.2 mile hike that rises about 1900 feet. Keep in mind, you start from an altitude of over 5000 feet above sea level. After about 15 minutes on the trail, I was cursing myself for bringing so much equipment (would I really need a tripod and flash?), but I really didn't want to turn back.

Don't feed the bears bits of yourself.
One thing to note about Glacier, and specifically with respect to hiking/camping there: bears. Upon entering the trail head, there was a sign informing me that I had no guarantee of safety if I went any further. There are many useful tips to avoiding bear conflicts in the literature provided, however. For example, apparently bears don't like to be surprised, so make a lot of racket on your hike. One method of achieving this, which I resorted to since I was hiking alone, is to clap loudly every few minutes. It felt a bit goofy to be honest, but I survived unmauled.

The hike was pretty intense, especially carrying probably 40 lbs of camera equipment, backpack, and water on my back. Note to future self, most of the time all that equipment is not necessary. Seriously.

Probably should have used the tripod for this
shot to justify bringing it along.
I took a break for a bit on the bank of the river the trail followed. It was quite pleasant, and gave my blistered feet a much needed rest.

Inspired by the beauty of the river and determined to see the damn lake it originated from, I pushed on. I had been on the trail for a good couple of hours now, so I felt it must be close. A couple minutes up the trail, however, I met a couple on their way back. Apparently they had left the lake over an hour previous, and were coming downhill.

After weighing my options, and realizing that I was running uncomfortably low on water (I had filled a 2 liter Camelbak before leaving), I decided to head back. I had come about 3.5 miles and risen about 1500 feet; not bad, I thought, for my first major hike of the trip.

Coming back down was (obviously) much easier than going up, and mostly uneventful. I passed a man wearing an umbrella hat ("Gives me an excuse to stop," he said as I walked by), and caught up to a couple who thought they saw a bear on the trail, but which turned out to be a stump.

Not pictured: flies eating of my flesh.
I was bummed that I didn't get to the lake at the end of the trail, but luckily my campground was across the road from St Mary Lake. I bandaged up my feet, put on my lighter backpack and Birkenstocks, and set out again.

The lake was that beautiful shade of blue green, and very very cold (pure glacial waters tend to do that apparently). I sat for a while soaking my feet and soaking in the view, until I could no longer stand the multitude of flies that my salty skin attracted. Heading back to camp, it happened.

Here's the thing about nature. Walking around is like playing Craps with about 6 dice; you get snake eyes much less often than usual, but it still sucks.

Me: (throws dice) Ooo awesome I just got triple snake eyes! That must win something right?!
Nature: Oh bad lucky matey, triple snake eyes wins a tick in your leg.
Me: Bummer.

Yup, I joined the exclusive "I've had a parasite embedded in my skin" club (newsletter forthcoming). After cursing profusely for a few minutes, I decided I better do something about it. I booked it (as much as one can "book it" in Birks with blisters on both feet and aching leg muscles) back to the camp store to see if they had any handy tick removing devices, or if they could direct me to a park ranger.

They had tweezers and a book with an article on how to remove ticks.

I'll take what I can get, I thought, and purchased the tweezers. I sat down on the porch and proceeded to dig at my cafe with my newly acquired surgical instruments, chasing the bugger further into my skin. This was about as pleasant as it sounds, so I won't go into anymore detail. The story ends with me having the campground host dig out the remaining bits with a sterilized needle.

The rest of my night was comparatively boring. I ate, missed the ranger's talk on cats because my clock was an hour late, and went to bed pretty early.

This morning I packed up, and have pretty much been on the road since. I'm currently in Great Falls, Montana, deciding where to go from here. I'm thinking Yellowstone, although I may have had enough of nature for a while.

Trip status: itchy, I feel like I've been eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Total mileage: Just over 1000 (I can't be bothered to level Starbucks to check).
Soundtrack for the day:
The Ataris - so long, astoria
Story of the Year - Page Avenue
Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue & Lights and Sounds
(today was a flashback to sophomore year in college)


g said...

damn dude... that is harsh... ticks suck man.

i hope your next day is less crappy!

Lynsey said...


pretty scenery though... :)

John and Dianne said...

We have heard that liquid soap and a cotton ball works in removing ticks. The soap suffocates them and they come out searching for air. Be sure to observe your wound for signs of Lyme's disease. You must see a doctor quickly to prevent longterm problems. Check the internet for possible symptoms.
Do you have a can of Deet?

Nature is like a rose, beautiful and sweet smelling, but watch out for those thorns.

We loved your pictures! Take care!

bluexy said...

"Wait a Tick..."

Oh you clever, silly man.

Lynsey said...

danny suggests lighting the ticks ass on fire. he said they tend to jump out on their own....just a thought.

Stuart said...

All this tick talk is a good way to pass the time...

Anonymous said...

Okay Colin! Birkenstocks are soo passe! It's all about Keens! They're sturdier than Tevas and make your feet smell like vinegar but almost worth the investment!

Your pictures look like postcards. I need a camera.

Meghan and Izzy got ticks in Santa Cruz and didn't believe me when I told them to twist it out.

colin douglas said...

yeah I heard about the burning them out with a heated pin head, although unfortunately I had neither a pin nor a way to heat it up. the soap one is new to me, though.

don't be hating on the birks laura