As some of you know, about a year ago I started freelance editing and writing. It turns out that having a website to showcase your portfolio is super helpful (surprise!), so over the next few weeks I’m going to be making some significant changes to this website. You can actually see my first change already: I registered my new domain name using my new last name! One reason I’m excited about this is that Andrea Umfleet has a lot fewer search results to compete with than Andrea White (310,000 to 981 million), which, yes, I did check prior to my first date with Marc. AndreaUmfleet.com it is!
I’ll also be updating the design of my website to better promote my new business. As much as I love the current design of my blog, when I originally chose it 5 years ago, the only thing I needed was a way to give my friends and family a glimpse of my time on the PCT, and later, in New Zealand and Montana. Once I’ve finished updating my website, I’ll still have the blog, but the landing page and most of the website will be dedicated to promoting Trask Mountain Editing and all the fun things I do through that!
My plan is to continue to blog about my travel/backpacking fun on this website, but also create content focused more on my business. As I’ve been researching ways to make a peaceful transition, it seems like I’ll be able to create separate RSS feeds so that people who only want to read about travel/backpacking will be able to sign up for just the travel/backpacking posts, but I haven’t gotten that far into this process yet.
All that to say, if you get some random emails as a result of these changes, I apologize! A cluttered inbox is the worst. I’m hopeful there won’t be too many notifications.
When I figure out the details, I’ll make a new post to explain how to sign up for only the travel blog posts (if you’re interested). Until then, Happy Thanksgiving! And if know anyone who needs a freelance writer, let me know 😉
I love my husband. I love him so much. Like, I would do almost anything for him.
One of the things that I will not do is help him battle raccoons at 4 in the morning. Even if it’s maybe my fault that they’re there. (their…)
First of all, I got married in July! (Yay!) Marc is great, the wedding was beautiful, marriage is fun, etc.
Now back to the raccoons.
Marc is taking online courses, continuing towards his dream of becoming a PE teacher. I’m working mostly from home as a freelance technical editor. Last week we thought, “Hey, our duplex is nice, but you know what’s also nice? Going literally anywhere.” So, ignoring the frigid forecast, we booked a campsite for Fort Stevens, forced 2 bicycles, a cooler, and a bin of camping gear into the back of my Subaru, and headed to the coast.
Oh, also, we did all of our packing and traveling after Marc stayed up until 5 am the night before trying to finish up his homework. He loves me.
We got to Fort Stevens, realized we’d forgotten pillows and had to make a quick stop at Fred Meyer to buy new ones. Because we’re planners.
Back at camp, we set up our tent, then went for a quick bike ride. Well, we thought it would be quick—we got a little extra adventurous and ended up mountain biking on an unknown trail for about an hour. It was great, but we had thought we’d only be gone 20 minutes and didn’t pack any water, and since Marc was running on almost 0 sleep, he was ready for dinner and bed by the time we got back.
We made a delicious dinner of nachos on the grill. I made two s’mores. The temperature dropped. We said, “Let’s get in our sleeping bags!”
Marc put away the bikes, camping gear, and cooler while I changed into warm clothes. Then he went to get into his sleeping clothes while I put away all the dinner stuff and stuffed our trash in a plastic bag. I set that bag on the picnic table and thought, “I’d better remember to put that in the car before I go to bed,” then went to stand over the fire again.
You have to understand—it was really cold. Like, 30 degrees. Fahrenheit! So yes, my sleeping bag and the two handwarmers that I stuffed in it somehow distracted me from putting away the trash bag. What’s the worst that could happen?
At approximately 4 in the morning, I started to hear…things…outside the tent. I wasn’t all that interested in investigating. I’ve never heard of a bear attack at Fort Stevens, and honestly, what am I going to do against a bear? I resolved to ignore the rustling.
At about this time, Marc stepped outside to go to the bathroom. While I was able to ignore the noises, he was less able to ignore the family of raccoons that was tearing into our trash bag, eating the remains of our nachos and Subway sandwiches.
“Get away!” he shouted, and then I heard a thud.
I thought about going to help him. I really did. But I sat in the dark of my tent, my feet finally toasty for the first time all night, and thought, “Do I want to get rabies? Or frostbite?”
After 10 minutes of listening to my husband do battle, I finally opened the tent and shined a flashlight out the door. The raccoons had just fled, and Marc had picked up all the remaining trash and secured it in our car. Our campsite was littered with firewood—those thuds I’d heard were pieces that Marc had thrown to scare away the trash pandas. He was also holding an axe, which he had used to keep the critters at bay when they tried to sneak up on him as he gathered the garbage.
I felt terrible. All those years in Girl Scouts and I made such a rookie mistake with the trash bag? I’d contributed to a wildlife/pest problem at the campground, potentially endangering those poor raccoons. And I’d cost my husband some precious sleep.
“I’m so sorry, Marc,” I mumbled as he climbed back in his sleeping bag.
He shrugged. “Honestly, it was kind of fun,” he said, then settled into his new pillow and fell asleep.
Ethan looks a lot more excited before he swings his leg over the railing, before there’s nothing but a breeze between him and the river’s surface 20 feet below. At 10 years old, he’s the youngest of his crew—a gang of brothers and maybe cousins (but certainly no parents) out for an evening swim on the border of Glacier National Park. They’ve been here for hours. Most have already jumped. But the terror is fresh for Ethan.
“I’m nervous!” he shouts as his pack turns to goad him into the jump.
“Know what’ll help that?” his cousin calls. “If you jump.”
Ethan takes a deep breath. The sunset sparkles on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River below him. Sure, the river is deep here, but the Belton Bridge feels high when you’re planning to jump off it. There’s plenty of space under its concrete arch, enough for rafting tours to pass beneath and feel dwarfed by the bridge, slapping their paddles against the water to hear the echo. A group of gift shop employees has set up a barbecue under the decking, their backpacks resting on the concrete arch, hammocks slung between the piers.
Would living be worth it if it involved the shame of turning back? Ethan’s not sure. “Three!” he calls. “Two!” His knees bend. “One—”
The final number of his countdown ends in a groan as he turns his face from the river. His hands clasp the rail, knuckles white.
“It’s easy,” his brother yells from the riverbank.
Their cousin frowns between sips of his Corona. “Teegan, go do it with him,” he orders the nearest heckler. Without waiting for agreement, he shouts, “Teegan’s gonna do it with you!”
Ethan nods eagerly. “Teegan, we can die together!”
“I ain’t dying,” Teegan responds, pushing himself to his feet. In seconds he’s scrambled up the riverbank and onto the bridge. “Just don’t look down.”
“I kind of have to look down,” Ethan replies, casting a suspicious glance at the water sliding calmly below him.
The river, like the bridge above it, is calm today. You could almost join with the middle school boys in taunting Ethan (right up until they invited you to jump with them). While the Belton Bridge used to be the main entrance to the park, it closed in 1938, surrendering that duty to the New Bridge, as locals still call it, a quarter-mile downstream. The New Bridge starts rumbling with traffic an hour before dawn and sometimes hosts a traffic jam of people trying to get into the park. The Belton Bridge suffers no such crowds. It presides over the water like a grandpa in a rocking chair, watching the kids jump and maybe, if needed, springing into action.
The last time it was needed was nearly half a century before Ethan was born. In 1964, the Belton Bridge had been quietly fading for 26 years. Then, the worst flood in Montana history destroyed the New Bridge, cutting off access to the park and leaving tourists and employees stranded inside. Over the course of 36 hours, the area received as much as 14 inches of rain, which combined with snowmelt to flood the Middle Fork with 39 times the amount of incoming water that they would expect in a typical 50-year flood. Inside the park, tourists woke up in the middle of the night to find water lapping at the door of their RVs. A wall of water washed out the fireplace at Lake McDonald Lodge, leaving taxidermic animal heads poised on a chimney over a hole in the wall. Water poured into Lake McDonald from the Middle Fork despite the fact that it usually flows the opposite direction.
The economic impact for Montana was staggering. Nearly 20% of the state was impacted, with the damages totaling an estimated $62 million. On Highway 2, 20 miles of road were wiped out, along with sizeable chunks of the Great Northern Railway’s tracks. The park’s heavy road equipment, which would be critical for the cleanup effort, was parked 16 miles east of (and 3,000 feet above) Lake McDonald at Logan Pass, having just been used to clear the narrow Going to the Sun Road of snow.
Within days of the flood, reports started to circulate, insisting that this crisis wasn’t unbeatable. Helicopters took men to the road equipment at Logan Pass. They drove it down to the rest of the park, clearing the famous Going to the Sun Road of mud and debris as they went. Another helicopter took a doctor throughout the park, inoculating people against typhoid as cleanup efforts began. Lodge employees busied themselves with work they never imagined would be part of their contract, like setting up a gift shop in a room with a missing wall. Ten days after the flood, the United States Secretary of the Interior visited the park and urged people across the nation not to cancel their plans to vacation there that summer.
Of course, if visitors were to come, they needed a way to get into the park. The New Bridge was a total loss and needed to be replaced. But a quarter-mile upstream, mostly ignored for the past two decades, sat the skeleton of the old Belton Bridge. The decking of the bridge had been swept away, but the concrete arch had endured. It was time to bring the old bridge out of retirement.
Within 15 days, park officials had laid a new trestle atop the dependable arch. For the next two years, the Belton Bridge once again served as the main entrance for the park until workers finished the New Bridge.
Today, a plaque stands next to the Belton Bridge to commemorate its history and service during the flood. While a strategically-placed row of boulders now blocks the bridge to motor vehicles, it’s still maintained as a footbridge and part of a bicycle path. As summer progresses and the normal swollen waters of spring recede, the riverbanks emerge to welcome picnickers like Ethan’s family and other people who seek a calm place to watch the water and air turn orange with the sunset.
“He’s not going to jump,” Teegan announces after emerging from the water. Despite all the countdowns, the encouragement and disparagement from the riverbank, despite even his vows to his brother that if Teegan would jump, he would jump, Ethan has still not let go of the railing for anything more than to tap a nervous beat on it.
“Ethan. Let—go—of—the—railing.” his cousin orders. “Just jump forward, and you’ll do great.”
“He’s shaking too much to jump,” another cousin says, loud enough that a cluster of teenage girls on the opposite bank can hear.
“My toes are tightening up for some reason!” Ethan shouts.
“Because they want you to jump! Come on, man, you’ve been up there for five minutes.”
“Is that all?”
His cousin turns away for a moment. Ethan takes a breath. His cousin turns back just in time to watch him arc through the air. A collective cheer instinctively rises from the riverbanks. People on both sides of the river leap to their feet, shouting and applauding. Ethan emerges from the water, takes a breath, and frog-kicks his way to the shore, grinning. The arch of the Belton Bridge smiles down on him.
First of all, I’m kind of digging the name “Sun Rift.” What a great word pairing.
Anyways, a few weeks ago I hiked 10.3 miles, beginning about 2 miles to the east of Logan Pass. I chose it because my friend posted a photo of it the other day, and also the shuttle stops there so I wouldn’t have to find parking. I hate looking for a parking spot.
The first three miles or so were nice. It felt really good to be on a hike, and there were a ton of flowers carpeting the ground between the pine trees. Every so often I’d get a glimpse of the mountain face above me, but mostly I just kept walking and enjoying the sunshine.
I stopped for lunch at Siyeh Creek, in part because it was pretty but mostly because it was the first place with enough of a breeze to keep the biting flies off me. Pro tip: bug spray that you leave in the car does you no good.
After Siyeh Creek, the trail goes up a series of switchbacks. This is where the trail gets glorious. I was almost regretting hiking it in that direction, as the view behind me got better every time I glanced back. I could see the mountains above Logan Pass behind the forest I’d just walked through. To the left, a bare mountain slid into a cirque with a pair of lakes in the base. I could hear a group of people laughing as they swam in them.
The trail narrowed as I crossed Siyeh pass. There was a woman and an eight-ish-year-old girl crouched against the uphill wall. “We’re not used to this sort of hike. Please don’t go near the edge,” she said when I asked her to take my picture.
From there, the trail was all descent. It was not a bad descent, though—my legs feel a lot better after that than after the Highline, to be honest. The sun was starting to hide behind the mountains on the opposite side of the valley, streaking the air with sunlight. There’s a glacier-fed river running the length of the valley, with a few sparkling waterfalls as well. Basically, I stopped being sad that I hadn’t hiked the other direction—my way was both easier and prettier.
Due to me oversleeping that morning, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t make it to the shuttle. However, I got to the Sun Rift Gorge shuttle stop an hour before the last shuttle arrived, and got to Logan Pass in time to stand in line with some really fun retired people. Yay, travel friends!!
In case the title of this post was too obscure, I’m going to be home in 4 days!! Based off my past adventures, here are some answers to questions I know I’m gonna get asked.
Wait, you were gone?
Yeah! I left May 8 and got back (or, at the moment, plan to get back) September 6. I spent the summer in Glacier National Park, working at a gift shop as a barista and t-shirt putter-outter, and also serving with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.
I thought you were supposed to be back at the end of September?
True! I was originally supposed to work until September 21, but it turns out that is a ton of time to be away from home, my family, my super cute boyfriend, Burgerville milkshakes, etc.
Was it just amazing?
Just amazing—that’s a really high expectation to put on any 4-month period. So no, not exactly. There were some really awesome parts, and also some really sucky parts. Overall, it was a good experience.
Are you glad you did it?
Absolutely! This had been a dream of mine for seven-ish years, and I don’t think it would have ever left me alone if I hadn’t gone and tried. Also, Glacier is gorgeous and there were so many days when I stepped out of my dorm and thought, “I can’t believe I get to live here for a summer!!”
So what happened? Why are you home early?
Okay, this question maybe falls on the “questions I know people will want to ask but will probably be too polite to actually ask” list. Honestly, July happened. I cruised through June with only a few homesick days, but then I hit July and thought, “Wow, I’ve been here two months………and I’m not even halfway done yet. Crap.” July was one of the loneliest months I have had in the last 7 years. That was my own fault—I didn’t make a huge effort to go out and meet people. I get pretty stressed out of I don’t get time alone, and when I’m working retail 5 days a week and spending Sunday doing worship services, the thought of taking someone I barely know on a 2-hour car ride, then a 6-hour hike, then another 2-hour car ride back home on my only day to myself seemed like a bit more than I could handle. And it didn’t help to be thinking that I was also missing out on my first summer of dating Marc because we were in separate states.
Then, in the middle of July, I decided to Skype my mom. She was with my sister’s kids, so I got to talk with them. I was in my car so as not to disturb my roommate. The conversation went like this:
Pearl (my 3-year-old niece who loves to point out the obvious): Auntie, you are in your car.
Pearl: Good. Now you can come home!
And I thought, dang, girl, you have a point. I might have started the car right then and been home by dinner the next day, except my favorite books were in my dorm at the time and there’s no way I’m abandoning them. In any case, that got the idea in my head, and a few weeks later I found out that one of my co-workers was staying later than she had originally planned, and they were hiring another person who would stay until my original end date, so I asked if I could leave and my manager looked at the schedule and asked if I could stay till September 5, which was reasonable.
So, basically, I’m home early because I took advice from a toddler. But, like, a really cute one so it’s okay. #auntielife
Did you get to go on some great hikes?
Oh yeah!! I loved my days hiking.
Did you see some cool wildlife?
I saw mountain goats, marmots, deer, foxes, and a billion squirrels. I didn’t see any moose, and I only saw bears from the car, which I was honestly okay with. I usually hiked alone, so I wasn’t all that interested in seeing things that might decide to kill me.
You hiked alone! Insanity!!
Shhhhhhh……I was usually on well-traveled trails, I had bear spray and an emergency locator, and I didn’t spend four months away from home, family, friends, nieces, nephew, and boyfriend to not hike. It worked out fine. #NotDead
So what’s your next adventure?
There isn’t one! At least, not a long-term travel adventure. That’s kind of a new experience for me. I started dreaming of the PCT in middle school, and that dream took me through college. Then six months after I got back, my sister and I started planning our trip to New Zealand, which took me through another two years, and then a few months after that I got to come to Glacier, which is another dream I’ve had for a long time. I’m gonna go ahead and stay put for a while. I’m excited to not constantly be living a few months ahead of myself. I think it’s gonna work out just fine 🙂
About a month ago, I was having a not super fun time and just needed to get out and hike. My days off had consisted of thunderstorms and homesickness, so I finally decided to just do a short trail after work. I drove across the park to hike to St. Mary Falls and, just past that, Virginia Falls.
Honestly, I’m not usually one for walking to waterfalls to begin with, so I chose this one more out of desperation to be outside than anything else. My expectations were low. This was a good thing. It’s a pretty enough hike, but definitely not one I would recommend to someone who only has a few days in the park, especially not if you’re physically capable of doing a more difficult hike. This hike was really easy, at just around 4 miles, but the burned forest blocks most of your view and I think the fact that the trees are all dead would make it pretty miserable on a hot day. Luckily, I went on a cool evening so at least I had that advantage.
Virginia Falls was actually pretty impressive. The water brought out the vibrant colors of the rocks. I think my favorite thing was getting to see a bird’s nest that was tucked into a hollow just below the falls. No predator could get to it. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if the mama bird hadn’t been flying back and forth to it so frequently, tiny orange breaks visible for a moment every time she returned to the nest. Getting to see that made me feel like the hike was totally worth it.
Yes, that’s an emoji in my blog post title, because this trail was awesome. I first hiked this trail in 2015 with my dad and sister, Olivia. It’s kind of the reason I started dreaming about Glacier and wanted to come back. It’s pretty gorgeous.
It also takes a while for the snow on it to melt, so it wasn’t open until early July. Then, the day before I planned to hike it, there was a grizzly bear hanging out on the trail, so they closed it for a few weeks. I finally got to hike it a week and a half ago, on a glorious sunny day in which I remembered both my sunscreen and my hat. #rare
The trail starts at Logan Pass, and quickly goes out on a ledge in the middle of a cliff. There’s a steel cable along this length, to which a family of 5 desperately clung. However, the trail is pretty wide even here, so I was able to pass them without feeling like I would die.
One of my favorite moments happened a few hundred feet after that section, on what’s called the Garden Wall. Steep fields of flowers stretch above and below you, the trail the only interruption in the slope. The vastness of the valley masks the true height of the mountains around you, making them seem somehow huge but also not that far away. As I came around a corner, there was a little boy kneeling in the dirt, his grandpa walking a few steps ahead of him. His grandpa turned when he heard me coming and looked down at the 4-year-old.
“What are you doing?” he asked, confused.
“Drawing,” the little boy replied.
Because, ya know, what better place to draw than in the dirt of the most gorgeous trail around?
Grandpa sighed. “Move aside so she can pass.”
The boy stood up, the seat of his sweatpants as dusty as his cuffs, and scampered out of the way. He was adorable.
The rest of the trail was also nice. I saw another goat, marveled at the flowers, and took a billion pictures. At the Granite Park Chalet, I stopped to make a sandwich on the porch. A squirrel tried to steal it from my hand. Some Canadians laughed at that. I ate faster.
The last four miles are pretty lame, but they’re made worth it by the 7 or so that you’ve already done. The trail ends at The Loop, a hairpin turn in the Going to the Sun Road. From there, I caught one of the last shuttles back to my car at the Apgar Campground, got some ice cream at the Cedar Tree, and finished the day cooling my feet in Lake McDonald. Not bad for a Friday 🙂
About a week and a half ago, I picked up my friend from work, Cindy, and we headed over the Going to the Sun Road with two possible destinations in mind: Grinell Glacier or Cracker Lake.
We did neither of them.
Instead, we decided to go to Iceberg Lake, which was in the same area but has actual icebergs in it. I figured seeing icebergs floating in the lake would be pretty cool.
It was, but that wasn’t even the highlight of the trip. The highlight was the walk there. The trail makes a quick ascent right at the start, then levels out to a more gradual incline so that the last few miles let the gorgeous views take your breath away, rather than doing it through a cardio workout. As I approached Iceberg Lake, I had the distinct feeling that I was about to happen upon Rivenedell, with the river forming small waterfalls and wildflowers everywhere. Bear grass covered steep hillsides above me. The trail looked forward to the mountains and back at the valley we’d just climbed through, so both the walk in and out were beautiful. This is my favorite hike I’ve gotten to do this year.
Today I had the day off, and since I was pretty sure I didn’t work until 2 tomorrow, I thought, “Hey, I’ll go for a hike on the east side of the park, camp there, and then take the Going to the Sun Road back tomorrow.”
Luckily I checked my schedule before I left and discovered that I actually work at 11. So, instead of a camping retreat, I just drove an hour and a half to the Two Medicine area and hiked to Cobalt Lake.
Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite hike ever. It’s pretty, but not spectacular like so many of the hikes in Glacier are. Still, I think it was exactly the hike I needed to be on today. Just being outside, on a trail that wasn’t crowded and was full of my favorite wildflower (Indian Paintbrush) and shallow water crossings was perfect.
I also met another solo female hiker, which is always fun. She was probably a few years younger than me and starts work in the park on Monday. She’s headed to New Zealand in October for a year, so we chatted about that for a while. After she left, I ate my dinner and watched the lake for a while. A marmot crossed the creek and walked within 10 feet of me to nibble some bear grass.
It started raining just as it was time to leave. Luckily, I’d packed my warm jacket and leggings, and the rain was intermittent anyways so I didn’t get even a little uncomfortable. It did make the mountains look really cool with the shadows from the evening sun. It also gave me a great excuse to stop for hot chocolate on my way back home. Oh, darn 🙂
I had yesterday off, so I decided to go to East Glacier. My plan was to leave no later than 8 am, so naturally, I rolled out of West Glacier at around 10:30.
Because of my late start, I figured I’d just make it a scouting trip and see what the area looked like, maybe visit an information center, but definitely no hiking.
My first stop was at Running Eagle Falls. Pretty neat, and only .3 miles up the trail, so, like, it’s not even a hike.
I proceeded to Two Medicine Lake and ate my lunch at a super windy picnic bench, drove to the end of the road, and turned around to go home.
And then I saw a sign that said “Scenic Point.” Which usually is a pullover spot, maybe a short walk, right? I decided to stop and investigate.
By the time I saw the sign that said it was a 3.1 mile hike to the scenic point, I already had my backpack and boots on. I didn’t want to insult them by turning back, and I still had a few hours before I really needed to turn around, so I went up.
It was awesome. The trail followed a creek through a canyon for a bit before taking switchbacks up above the treeline. There was a section of bleached trees that reminded me of Gondor, and views of Two Medicine Lake and the mountains beyond. You could also look east to see the views beyond the Continental Divide.
“They guard it because they have hope.”
One of the most fun parts was when I came across a mountain goat. He was eating pine needles near the top of the trail, and continued doing so as I stood a few feet from him for about 5 minutes watching. His neck looked like he’s had a rough spring, but it was still really fun.
I really wanted to make it to the advertised scenic point and figured I was within a few minutes of it, but then I came to a snow patch on a steep scree slope. There were other hikers who had crossed the first portion of it and were clearly trying to decide if they could make the second half without plummeting a half-mile to their doom. I looked at it and thought, “Nah, I like being alive.” Nevertheless, this hike was beautiful the whole way up, and I completely recommend it to anyone looking to kill a few hours in the Two Medicine area.