Mark and I took a few days off to go backcountry camping at Glacier National Park in Kalispell, Montana. I’ve camped before in college in near by small parks, but never to the extent that Mark was used to. We were going to hike into the mountains with food and supplies to spend 4 days and 3 nights in the wild with the bears and deers and whatever else!!
In theory this sounded fun, especially since I was extra excited about cooking in the wild. I liked the thought of cooking gourmet food on an open fire in beautiful landscape, after doing some research, there are actually very few camp sites at Glacier that allows for camp fire. A butane stove was deemed as necessary, and we went to REI for a bunch of other needed supplies for this trip.
Mark already had a little camp pot, a frying pan with a fold up handle, and a fold up spatula. I bought a bigger aluminum pot, a six pack yellow egg carrier, plastic plates and cups, silver ware, and a hand pump water filter. Butane and propane are not allowed on flights, not even if you check them, so we planned to get some once we got there.
I figured out I needed the bigger pot after doing research on what to bring in terms of food, and it was fun researching for recipes that can be made from non perishable, and light weight ingredients. I was determined to make more than those “just add water” soup and meal mixes. Just because we are in the wild does not mean we need to eat like goats.
I searched Gourmet.com, Foodandwine.com, as well as Martha Stewart Living.com, and it did not take as long as I expected to find the perfect menu, I fact, I had a hard time picking from all the choices I had.
I decided on making two breakfast meals, 1 lunch, and three dinners from scratch. For breakfast, I was going to make a salmon egg hash with dill pancakes on one morning, and a egg and spam has the other. For dinner I decided on Tuna Pasta Puttanesca, Spam fried rice, and Orzo risotto with Chorizo and dried Shitake mushrooms. For lunch I was going to make a tuna nicoise sandwich. All the ingredients used in these recipes are non perishable, and I could not believe it when I found kalamata olives that came in small sealed plastic bags!
For the condiments, I got packets of soy sauce, mustard, and mayo from Central Market last time I bought takeout food there.
I also bought some Asian ramen noodles to fill in for those days when I don’t feel like cooking. On top of that I brought trail mix, beef jerky, energy tummies, and energy wafers for snacking on the way.
With everything packed up, I was ready and really looking forward in this challenge. I knew things won’t go exactly as planned on the way, but I thought we would be well prepared for it. I did not expect our first trial was going to be at the airport. We were supposed to get in to Kalispell late Thursday night, spend the night at the hotel, then drive next day to the park, which is about 1 hour away. We were supposed to spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night in the mountains, hike out early Monday, and fly back Monday afternoon.
What actually happened was our flight was delayed by over an hour in Austin, which caused us to miss the last flight of the day out to Kalispell, so we ended up having to stay Thursday night in Denver. The next flight that we could get on to Kalispell was not until 4PM on Friday, so we didn’t get into Kalispell until 7PM. We also lost our rental car reservation, and all 5 rental companies at the airport was out of cars. All the rental places in town were also closed, and no cabs were to be found at the airport.
We ended up having to find a chartered Taxi, and ended up spending the night in Kalispell before being taxied out to the park finally on Saturday morning. We lost 1 day and 1 night during this whole ordeal trying to even get to the park, but we were determined to make the best of it. We changed out original hike plan, decided on trekking out to Sperry’s camp ground for the first night, and Snyder’s camp ground the second night. Thankfully, since we didn’t make reservations ahead of time at the camp grounds, there were plenty of other options available for walk-in campers. The ranger we spoke to was also exceedingly helpful in guiding us through possible options and routes.
Sperry was near the top of one of the mountains, and Snyder was a secluded lake nestled near the foot of another mountain, and we thought these two sites would’ve let us experience the different aspects of Glacier.
Sperry’s was a 6.5 mile hike up the mountain the entire way. It took us 5 hours with 40lbs of equipment each to get to the campsite. On the way up, we waded through streams, where I almost had an accident, slipping on the rocks with my big backpack.
We also snacked on freshly picked huckleberries, which tasted like tart blueberries. I wish I could’ve picked a whole bag of these and made pie with them.
By the time we got to the campsite, we were physically exhausted, but the view was breathtaking.
We saw a family of snow white mountain goats, who didn’t seem to care we were setting up camp.
Next morning we woke up with sore hips and backs, but it’s the sight of a mommy and baby goat grazing close to a nearby pond that made it all seem worth it.
After breakfast we hiked 3 hours down hill, then 3 more hours uphill to Snyder Lake camp ground, where our campsite was right by this beautiful lake.
I made dinner while Mark attempted to fish. After several unsuccessful tries, Mark abandoned his efforts and started using the hand pump water filter to get us water for the night.
Early next morning, we ate breakfast, packed up, and hiked out of the park. It was, by no means, an easy journey, but I think both Mark and myself enjoyed the sights and animals. Most of all, we gained a sense of satisfaction in completing what we had set out to do while welcoming unforeseen challenges every step of the way. Much of the stresses from life and work disappear when you are that close to nature, and in a way, it helped us clear our minds and think constructively about troubling situations without the emotional clutter.
Glacier is such a huge place that we’ve barely penetrated all its awesomeness. We learned a lot during this trip and we will definitely be back.