This is considered the best backpacking trip in Glacier and I was able to get permits at 7am on Monday for 4 nights at some great campsites along Kintla Lake to Bowman Lake. Mike Harrison went out of his way on his birthday to meet us at Polebridge and drive us to the Trailhead at Kintla Lake after leaving our car at the Bowman Lake Trailhead where we will finish our hike in 5 days. A big thank you to Mike for driving us and taking most of his day to take us to the trailhead. The hike today was only 6.3 miles and we started about 1pm but there was not much elevation gain, as the trail winds around the north lakeshore in a forested valley. We arrived at the campsite at the head of Kintla Lake and found a great campsite up from the lake with our own private beach front. We took a dip in the lake and settled into our camp chairs to dry off. When we went to the food-prep area for dinner we met a father with his son and daughter from Houston, and a guide with a father and two sons from Minnesota. We shared lots of stories while eating dinner and then bed at sunset. The views across the lake of the sunset were spectacular as the sun disappeared behind the mountains.
Another short day of hiking, 5.3 miles, to Upper Kintla Lake with only 400 feet of elevation gain. We had breakfast with the group and left about 10 am to start the hike. The father and sons group with the Guide left earlier as they were hiking all the way to Boulder Pass Campsite, more than 10 miles with a steep climb the last 5 miles. After leaving the campground, at the head of the lake, the trail passes the Kintla Lake patrol cabin, then we began a gentle ascent to Upper Kintla Lake. We passed through remnants of the 2003 fire and the cascades of Kintla Creek are now visible, so we stopped for a break at the creek. We reached the foot of Upper Kintla Lake, a beautiful alpine lake, nestled at the foot of Kinnerly Peak across the valley. The trail follows the north shore of the lake for 2.5 miles to the campground at the head of the lake, which is beautifully situated among stands of fir and spruce with a spectacular beach. We set up camp and went to the beach to swim and relax in our camp chairs. What an idyllic campsite, couldn’t have asked for a better place to sit and dream. As we were getting ready for dinner, the group with the Guide returned to Upper Kintla Lake, they were unable to make it to the top of the pass. Not good because we have to do it tomorrow. We had to make room for their tents so we were a little crowded. All was well until we went to sleep and the father, who was next to us, snored like crazy. No good deed goes unpunished!
Once we fell asleep the snoring was not a problem anymore. As today was a big mileage day of 10 miles, and elevation gain of 3,070 feet and then a descent of 1,090 feet to Hole in the Wall Campground. The weather was still perfect except for the smoke in the air coming from Washington State’s forests fires. Without the wind the smoke just settles into the mountains, the sun was a bright red color through the haze. We took our time climbing the 6 miles to the Boulder Pass Campground, there are many switchbacks and we did have views of Kintla and Kinnerly Peaks to the west and the Agassiz Glacier at their feet. We stopped at the Boulder Pass Campground, after another successful summit, for lunch and it had the best pit toilet ever, with a 360 degree view of the mountains. From Boulder Pass, the trail winds for several miles through high, glacier-carved valley, across moraines left by the retreating ice. We began our descent onto a rocky shelf occupied by several tarns and around the curve of the Hole in the Wall, a perfectly formed hanging cirque that sits some 1,800 feet above the floor of the Bowman Valley. Soon we arrived at a beautiful alpine campground located among meadows of wildflowers and subalpine fir. We found a perfect site to set up our tent next to a babbling brook.
By the time we got up and went to the food prep area all the other hikers had left, so we ate our breakfast alone. Today our hike is mostly downhill for 8.6 miles, starting in a beautiful U-shaped valley carved by a glacier between rugged peaks and with views of massive mountains and glaciers in all directions and would be spectacular if it wasn’t still so smokey. We could see them through the haze but it was hard for photos. We continued on down the trail and clearings in the forest provided views of Hole in the Wall Falls across the valley and Boulder Peak high above. It was a very steep descent down to the valley floor where the trail crosses Pocket Creek and Bowman Creek. The Bowman Lake Campground is located at the head of the lake next to the Numa Creek, and just after setting up camp a storm blew through and we took shelter inside our cozy tent. The storm cleared and we went and had dinner with the rest of the hikers, and we celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary eating out of bags.
The last day of our hike was spectacular because the storm cleared the air of all the smoke. We had 7 miles of gentle up-and-down hiking following the north shore of Bowman Lake. We stopped for a break on the beach to enjoy the beautiful clear views across the lake of the mountains including Square Peak, Rainbow Peak and Mount Carter. We arrived at Bowman Lake Campground at the foot of the lake and I had to have one last swim in an alpine lake, the water is so clear and cool, before we found our Jeep and headed to Polebridge where we started this adventure 5 days ago. We were so excited to be able to celebrate our hike at the Northern Lights Saloon & Cafe with a beer and a bite to eat. The history of this magical place is over 100 years, when Bill Adair built the Polebridge Mercantile and Bakery ( with the best bear claws) back in 1914, just 4 years after Glacier Park became a park. He and his wife ran the store and lived in their homestead cabin, which is now the Northern Lights Saloon. After leaving Polebridge we drove back to West Glacier and stopped at Lake McDonald Lodge for dinner to celebrate our 44th anniversary in style.