Pitamakan – Dawson Passes Loop
Location: Two Medicine, MT
Distance: 18 Miles Loop
Elevation Gain: 2900ft
Highest Point: 8000ft
Before taking on a 18 mile hike, some introspection is in order. Do I really like hiking that much? Or do I need to prove something to myself under the gaze of middle agehood? Still sore from previous day’s 15 mile jaunt, I began. First 5 miles were innocuously pleasant. Highlighted by fall color, blue sky, and inspirational peaks.
Mile 6 – Pardon My Interruption
The mundane march was interrupted by a moose, either a juvenile or female, on the trail. Before I blinked, a ground shaking, tree snapping noise emitted from my left flank – a bull moose announced his presence. As I retreated uncertainly, his full bulk was manifested at 30 yards distance with nothing but air between us. Fortunately, he chose to heed the smaller moose over me. Soon their “relationship” became apparent, may I paraphrase as:
Bull: “Hey Honey!”
Cow: “Get away, I am not in the mood!”
The cow kept on scampering away from him. During one tense moment, the cow unwittingly ran towards me. Witnessing the bull moose in a full stride pursuit in my direction did not garner any warm and fuzzy feeling. Both stopped in time and gawked at me – did they look sheepish as in “How embarrassing, we got caught” or mad as in “Get lost, or I’ll give you a piece of my hooves”, deciding it’s the latter, I retreated like George Costanza. The lovelorn couple eventually went off the trail.
Mile 6.25 – You May Have the Lake
Relieved, I arrived at Oldman Lake junction, the last water stop for next 7 miles. As I was making the last turn downhill towards the lake, I heard water splashing sound – “Oh somebody is having fun in the lake.” I thought. “Isn’t it a bit cold….” “Oh shi*, it’s a grizzly”. My 10 oz. bear spray just did not seem large enough for this dude! Before I could command my motor neurons to do something, Mr. Dapper got out of the water, “towel off” nonchalantly, and sauntered into the woods. Moments of indecision, should I risk being mauled or die of thirst? Once I got down to the lake, I noticed Mr. Dapper was minding his own business in the woods 50 yards away, maybe sharpening his claws for my benefit since I interrupted his bath. “I can always jump in the water, but can grizzlies swim? ” I quickly got my water and of course, took some pictures of the lake – I have my priorities. Next 10 minutes through the forest was touch and go waiting for Mr. Dapper to pounce. Then I saw the backpacker from Philadelphia. I exclaimed “Am I glad to see you!” After a little chit-chat, Mr. Philadelphia joyfully announced “After 20 years of backpacking, last night I had my first close encounter with a bear!” Let me guess at Oldman Lake with Mr. Dapper.
Mile 7 to 12 – On Earth as it is in Heaven, Pitamakan Pass to Dawson Pass
Two (overly) exciting encounters, what could top that, maybe I should just turn back, have a bear, I mean, a beer at a nice bar. I could not handle anymore animal drama. But I pressed on. Being with Mr. Phil helped, this was his 67th day in GNP. It seemed he’s been to every National Park. Then suddenly we were at the saddle overlooking Old Man, Young Man and Boy Lakes. I stopped talking for I was overwhelmed by beauty. The photos below do not do justice to this section of the trail.
This heavenly trail continues along an exposed rocky ridge to Pitamakan Overlook and southward to Dawson Pass, part of Continental Divide Trail
Nearing Dawson Pass
Mile 13 to 17.6 – Mind over Matter time
With the euphoric part of the trail over, muscular lactic acid accumulating, the last miles were the drags. Yet beauty still abound, as Two Medicine loomed larger, No Name Lake’s provided my last major break, and setting sun played magic with color spectrum. Two fellow hikers provided much-needed company and distraction. I reached my destination.