Our day started comfortably early. More smoke had moved in over night. Critter could really feel it in her lungs which would occasionally come out as coughs and some tightness in her chest. She took the climb a little bit slower than the rest of the group. Trail was narrow and had a fairly steep drop off to the left. A moose could be seen in the v-shaped valley. The red of the rock was eye-catching, and trail snaked around chunks of rock extending from the side of the mountain, weaving us in and out. When we finally could see Triple Divide Pass, a young bighorn sheep stepped into trail. Giving Critter a chance to catch back up to the group. The four of us stood there and watched as it crossed over trail and made its way down the steep slope below. How fortunate we were to share this place with the incredible animals that survive here. How fortunate we were that they allowed us entrance into their world. Had all it taken was loosing our human scent to allow us peaceful cohabitation. Or was there a deep level of respect found mutually through our quietness as he pranced over trail.
We only had a little bit left of our climb so we continued on. Triple Divide Pass was special in that it is supposedly a hydrological apex, meaning the water shed from Triple Divide Peak would make its way eventually to either the Atlantic, Pacific or Arctic. Let me write that again, the water from here would eventually be part of the Atlantic, Pacific or Arctic Ocean. How connected everything is. If you don’t believe that the water you pollute in landlocked Nashville, won’t make it to pollute the Gulf of Mexico, then ignorance blinds you. We stood on top of a ridge with the closest ocean at least 700 miles away yet we immediately felt the pressure of this ridge’s preservation, more so than we already felt.
A steep and strenuous descent led us back into a valley, which turned into a burn area with a cold, deep river crossing. We came to a suspension bridge crossing Hudson Bay Creek. The most perfect jumping rock was angled perfectly to land in a large turquoise blue pool below some rapids. We had to stop and jump in. We all stripped down to our undies and took turns jumping in. While the air temperature was hot, the freezing temperature of the water was unforgiving and took our breaths away sending our bodies into a sort of shock upon hitting the water. It was refreshing to say the least.
Our hike down to St. Mary’s Lake was brutal. Trail was not as well maintained, but the smoke was what was tough. We couldn’t even see the lake until we were right on it. Trail followed the bank crossing over scree fields and eroded dirt. The smoke was horrendous. The air felt sharp.. I don’t know what was worst the taste or the smell. Trail took us back into the forest where we started seeing falls on either side of trail. Two of the big ones being Virginia Falls and St. Mary’s Falls. There seemed to be a tiny oasis of fresh air created by the mist coming off of Virginia Falls. St. Mary’s Falls was shorter than Virginia but oh was she powerful. Her water ripped down towards us flowing powerfully under the bridge we stood on. Her roaring sound canceled out all other noises. We admired where she carved out the rock on the opposite bank. It was simply beautiful. So much so that we sat down for a few minutes to take it all in. We didn’t have much farther to go to make it to our campsite for the night.
We followed a flowing creek with large rock boulders up to another bridge, over the bridge we could see a group of hikers, familiar hikers, Canadian sounding hikers. Ian, Liam, Kate and Maine Man were sitting around a circle eating dinner with two friends that had flown in to hike through Glacier with them. We sat down to join them, figuring they must be our campground mates for the night. Our night was not as quiet as the night before, but it was so good to be reunited with some more trail family as we neared our last two days on trail.