It was a painful day for me, but everyone else said they really enjoyed it. We got lucky on weather. The forecast in Kalispell said 90 and sunny, but it was much cooler there and many clouds gave us shade breaks.
We followed the loop route described in Blake's book. After a mile walk up the railroad tracks we arrived at the abandoned tunnel and entered the woods. The game trail we were on quickly disappeared and we spent an hour bushwhacking through down timber and vegetation. The woods are very dense so no landmarks can be seen, we stopped a couple times to get our bearings with GPS, at one stop I noticed my $300 prescription sun glasses were not on my face. I figured they must have got dropped at our previous stop when viewing the GPS. I was ready to abandon them figuring we would not find them, but Joe volunteered to go back 1/4 mile by GPS and see if he could find them. He did not. When we heard Joe returning we all started to put our packs back on, as I picked up my trekking poles I found my glasses handing from the strap. Thanks Joe for a funny memory. This became a running joke for the rest of the day. After most stops I was asked, "do you have your glasses?"
A while later things finally opened up and we reached the hill up to the ridge. We ascended the steep hill and the next four miles were a wonderful ridge walk with great views.
I was then struck with the debilitating leg cramp that has been plaguing me for the last 2 years. I though I had licked it, I had been training hard the 8 weeks before, getting ready for this. But here it was, I was unable to walk and we were at the farthest point of our trip, no turning around. Rob, who is a Doctor, suggested I ice it with snow, there were several small patches around. What a life saver, while still in pain, it calmed things down to the point I could stop screaming in pain and walk again. The cramp would seize up about every half mile for the rest of the trip, so icing this over and over added about 2 hours to our trip.
We continued on to Mt. Shields, not an impressive peak. Then on to Snowslip where we had to do some Class 3 scrambling. The ridge walk out was beautiful, but if you try this route, keep your GPS handy, the ridge bifurcates many times, twice we got off route and had to back track. The glasses saga continued, after a short uphill which kicked off my cramp someone asked, "where are your glasses?", sure enough not on my face. I had just iced at the bottom of that hill and figured I must have taken them off there. Alice, a guest of Laurie, volunteered to go back down and did find them and brought them back to me. Further down the ridge we stumbled on to the most well defined game trail ever that led us though the woods and out to the rail road tracks. Two miles on the railroad grade brought us back to our car and the watermelon I had brought as a treat.
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