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How to Hike in Montana

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How to Hike in Montana - Page Text Content

BC: The End

FC: How to Hike in Montana | A comprehensive (and somewhat nonsensical) guide to the northern Rockies.

1: This book is dedicated to our friends and family; you who let us leave home long enough to explore. Without your sacrifice and encouragement, we would still be toasting marshmallows over the grill. Remember, we are mountain people. It's in our skin like a tick (we don't have ticks though, we checked). We love our tent, our tiny stove, our packs, and especially our mountains; but never more than we love you.

2: *Disclaimer* This book is not very informative; it isn't meant to be. You might learn something, we sure have! Feel free to laugh at our failings (none of them were fatal), and cheer with our triumphs, they are few and far between. These pages are our account of how we have managed to stay alive this long, so don't take it too seriously. After all, we still have many more years of hiking and camping mistakes to make. We promise to write you a new book just as soon as we have made enough.

3: Table of Contents | Chapter 1-Preparation and Preparedness Chapter 2- The Backpackers Diet Chapter 3- Bears! Chapter 4- Challenges in Hiking Chapter 5- The Art of Hiking Chapter 6- How to Not Look Like a Tourist Chapter 7- The Most Important Rule.

4: One might think that a trek into the woods wouldn't require much planning...Oh how wrong one would be. Every little thing must be present and accounted for, and yes you do have to check. If you don't check on every little thing, you will end up arriving at your campsite without such important things as the rain fly. | Chapter 1- Preparation and Preparedness | A homemade rain fly, while visually appealing, will cost you an arm and a leg in time and materials. It will take you 2 trips to the store, 3 hours, and 1 relationship crisis to discover that you cannot make a rain tarp out of cardboard boxes. It will then take you a further trip to the store, another 3 hrs, several hundred trash bags, and a roll of duct tape to complete the project. | If it costs you an hour of your day to double and triple check each of your supplies, pat yourself on the back; you just saved 5 hours. Packing can be overwhelming though, so we have provided a list of the essentials. If you have these, you should be able to McGuyver yourself anything else you might need.

5: Sleeping Supplies- a tent (this includes but is not limited to; a rain fly, the tent body, a ground tarp, poles, and stakes. If any part is missing, you're going to want to take care of that), a sleeping bag, ear plugs, a pillow, and an sleeping pad. If you don't have a sleeping pad, be prepared to either sleep on a pile of your clothes, or spend the night fighting with your hiking partner over who gets to sleep on top. Cooking: a stove, a pot or pan, and food. We recommend something lightweight and easy to cook. Our personal favorites are boxed macaroni and cheese (high in sodium and deliciousness) and hot dogs (yay, protein). We also make sure we have coffee to hand; instant works, but after tasting it we bought a lightweight air-press pot. Hiking: you will need good shoes. Again, good shoes. We bring along hiking boots and chacos, because the weather in Montana is more erratic than Tyler's planning. You'll need a pack if you're headed in overnight; make sure you find one that is the right size. Most packs have adjustable trees in the back that can be fitted to your hight. Bring/find a walking stick to help keep your hands elevated, this way they don't look like bratwurst when you get done.

6: Make sure that you have enough water, or a water filter. Giardia is a severe problem, especially if you forgot the toilet paper. be on the lookout for snow that has pools of a pinkish color. That is either blood, or the evidence of the bacteria that causes Giardia. | If you don't have a filter, or don't trust it, you can boil your water for drinking. Just make sure to pick out all sticks and dirt and be sure that it boils for at least 5 min before consuming.

7: Practice setting up the tent before you leave, so you do it right the first time. If you are on a slight incline, make sure your head is higher than your feet, or you will wake up with one major headache. | Either dump or sweep your tent out before and after each use. Snakes, spiders, rodents, and deer really like goose down sleeping bags, so you'll want to make sure that it is in fact your head is resting on your pillow and not a marmot.

8: As far as hiking shoes go, we prefer Chacos. Fully adjustable straps and a lightweight, durable design make these the perfect outdoor sandal. They may not look like much at first, but we can guarantee, wear them on a hike once, and you will be sneakily trying to find ways to show off that Z shaped tan line just like the rest of us. *Be warned. They smell horrible. This is due to a substance that lives in the cracks of the soles; we Chaco enthusiasts refer to this as "Chaco Cheese". | Additional Notes: | Bring socks. Not the ones that sit below your ankle, but the chunky, hideous ones that you used to roll down into the "sock doughnut". Blisters are no fun, and they don't seem to like ugly socks, so don't even bother with the cute ones that match your hiking outfit.

9: Map- You need one. | Maps are great, not only for helping you find distance, but also for calculating the difficulty of a trek. In Montana, most of the popular hikes are not very hard or very long, but some are. You don't want to come home from a hike wondering why you are so out of shape, only to find out that you just hiked 3 miles with a 3800 ft elevation gain. No wonder you're exhausted; that's like hiking 5 inch stairs for 4 straight hours. And it all could have been prevented if you had looked at the map beforehand like a normal person. | NO DO NOT HIKE: TOO HARD

10: Pack food. By all means, bring a fishing pole; but also bring food. Know your limits! Don't think that you can get away with not packing dinner, because the moment your livelihood depends on your ability to fish, you will not catch another one for 3 years. | Chapter 2- The Backpacker's Diet | There has been some debate as to whether there are actually fish in Montana's lakes and rivers. The general consensus is that there are fish in there somewhere, but the chances that you will guess the correct fly for the season are about slim to none. Here's to granola and dried fruit!

11: Don't forget the silverware. There are some people out there who will never let you live down the fact that you both spent a weekend eating your meals out of their containers with sticks. This is exceptionally hard to do with oatmeal. | Also, carrying a watermelon up a mountain is simply not worth it. Yes, it will taste good; but perhaps not as good as it would have tasted if you had packed 3 less pounds on your back. When packing food, stop to consider "is this really worth it?" and then adjust accordingly.

12: Huckleberries! Much like corn was to the Aztecs, 'hucks' are a staple of the Montana hiker's diet. Once you have learned the correct identification of a huckleberry bush, you'll want to hunker down and get to work. It takes several hours to collect enough, especially if you subscribe to the 'pick one eat two' philosophy. Somewhere in the middle, you'll start to wonder why you're doing this; then you will remember that these suckers sell for $19.75 a quart, and your berry-picking passion will be rekindled.

13: This is a huckleberry bush. Feel free to eat as many berries as you like, and savor the joy of saving stupid amounts of money. Although take a lesson from the bears and don't eat TOO many. They are fruit after all. | This is NOT a huckleberry bush. If you eat these, you will die. Also, don't eat white berries; or black ones. Actually just don't eat berries. Chances are that they will either kill you or give you severe gastrointestinal problems.

14: Chapter 3- Bears! | You've heard the stories, almost none of them good, about Grizzly bears. The truth is, if you take precautions and don't act like a tourist, you won't (probably) run into trouble. | Note: You cannot outrun a bear. You can't. You also can't out climb a bear. As one British tourist was overheard saying "They've got better 'grabsies' than we do!"

15: In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear encounters, the Montana Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, backpackers, hunters, and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears. We advise outdoorsmen to wear noisy little bells on their clothing so that the bears are not startled unexpectedly by a humans presence. We also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear poop and grizzly bear poop. Black bear poop is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear poop smells like pepper and has little bells in it.

16: How to not get mauled; or how we've managed so far. | When hiking in Montana, you must carry a can of bear spray. But you also must not be an idiot. This is bear spray, not 'bear repellent'. Just as you would not spray Pepper Spray onto your dinner, you should never spray your possessions or loved ones with bear spray. These cans will spray 30 feet out for a total of 7 seconds. It will plow your child over, or collapse and destroy your tent. | It is NOT wise to periodically spray your bear spray whilst you hike, as the smell will attract bears if used before an attack. This all may seem intuitive, but far too many Californians have maced their children in misguided attempts to protect them for these things to go unsaid.

17: A final note on bears. | Grizzly bears can run well over 30 mph for a ridiculous amount of time. Usian Bolt can run 27 mph. for 200 meters. If that mother of triplets decides that you are a threat or that you look stupid trying to photograph with your IPad, you have no chance. | Remember, pictures of bears are really cool, but having a face is even cooler.

18: Chapter 4- Challenges in Hiking | Your desire to hike will undoubtedly face many many challenges. Here are just a few that you will want to be prepared for. | 1. Weather- It really sucks when you hike 5 miles against 60 mph wind, and over 12 ft snow drifts to reach a nearly frozen lake. There's not really a way to prepare for or prevent this, so just hope it doesn't happen to you! | 2. Inability to start fires- You remembered the matches, you collected dry wood, everything should be fine! Never forget the variable...X. Is there too much wind? Is there enough wind? Are the rocks cold? Does your dinner depend on this fire? Good Luck! (and watch out for wet pebbles, they explode with the force of a shotgun fired at close range.)

19: 3. Finding the Trailhead- When your trip will require most of the day, you'd better leave all of the day free; you'll need a few hours to find the road. Its nothing against the Montana Forest Service, It must just be our problem. How would we not know that "Moose Creek Road" also goes by the name "Forrest Service road 1192863"? | 4. Cold- The real battle in Montana is the fear of being cold. It's a very rational fear; it is not at all uncommon to wake up in what was 12 hrs ago a tent, just to discover that it has become a well formed igloo. The cold is, unfortunately a mind-over-matter issue. You really have to pluck up the courage to chance it. Remember, snow makes mountains look bigger, so your pictures will be all th.e more fantastic for it

20: 5. False Summits- (or F.S.) occurs when the hiker becomes unduly excited that the top of the mountain is "just over that ridge" or "just around those trees". There is no worse feeling than making a mad scramble to the top of a mountain just to find that you're still 1/2 mile away. The best way to combat a false summit is with a determined air of hiking pessimism. Just never let yourself think the trip will end. | Really, enthusiasm is the main cause of F.S. Uttering the sentence, "Were almost there!" is the best way to compound the symptoms of F.S. If you ever hear those fateful words, punch your hiking partner, because the act of saying them made the summit move farther away

21: 6. "Taking care of business"- Great hikers have been destroyed by their fear of needing 'human moments' while in the woods. One bad experience, like not accurately watching your step, can devastate. This little acrostic should help you remember the cardinal rules of forest...duty. | P(repare)- Scout the area for a pit toilet, or a nice secluded place far from the trail and your tent. It's also a good idea to bring a trowel, digging a hole with a rock is hard. | O(bserve)- scour the ground for any sticks to make sure that you don't 'go' on one. If you accidentally do, as you're stepping away, make sure that you don't land on the end of the stick. Unless you're prepared to become thoroughly educated about the finer points of a catapult. T(oilet paper)- Bring it. Don't tempt fate. Pine cones, leaves, and rocks aren't great substitutes.

22: Chapter 5- The Art of Hiking Hiking is a little bit like walking in a foreign country or being a freshman on campus. Its always a good idea to know where you're going, or at least to look like it. Eyes on the trail ahead of you, swinging your arms like you're on a mission. You can rest when you're dead! Here are a few tips to make your hike something to look back on with a smile (and not the kind where you're actually thinking "Wow, I'm so glad that's over"). | 1. Understand Trail Markers- This will be immensely helpful. This is a Cairn (pronounced: care-run), and they are often used to mark trails in places where it would be easy to lose; dried creek beds, boulder fields, rivers, avalanche shoots etc. Most trails are well-worn enough that you can find them, but markers such as these serve to orient the hiker, and are environmentally friendly!

23: 2. Be Resourceful- Hiking isn't all a walk in the forest. The Montana terrain in particular can be a challenge to navigate, so never deny the possibility that you may have to crawl. If the trail is obscured by a river, look for an alternate route or build a bridge out of logs. If you can't get down an avalanche slide, tie your coat onto your backpack and Viola! Sled! | 3. Watch Your Step- Look at the trail ahead of you, not the ground in front of you. That way you won't be surprised by bears, fallen logs or your hiking partner who has stopped suddenly in front of you. Don't step down to have to step back up. Don't step on patches of fallen leaves without checking for holes or snakes first (use your walking stick, not your hand).

24: Chapter 6- How to Not Look Like a Tourist. We Montanan's especially, but Mountain people in general, will judge you if you do certain things. It won't result in anything more than a sigh and a sympathetic head shake in your direction, but if you would rather deny us our patronizing glances at you, follow these steps to insure that we can't pick you out of a line-up. | Don't take pictures of deer. At the very least, don't yank the camera from around your neck and hold up the people behind you for a deer. If you need a photo of a deer, take it under your armpit as you walk unconcernedly past her. | If you must stop, don't force the hikers behind you to stop too. Also, don't whisper to people walking past you "Shh! a DEER!!!". You will get an eye-roll and perhaps a, "We don't CARE." or a "We ran one of those over on our way HERE."

25: Bring the right supplies. If you are from Montana and you flunk this one, you get more than the head shake...you get the chuckle. If you have the foresight to bring a tarp for the picnic table, have the sense to figure out how to engineer it before you leave. | Your hiking partner might forgive little lapses in the tourist rules, but mountain people won't. Keep your camera on your back, not hanging around your neck. Camera location is the first giveaway. Next is blinker usage/lane changes, which will be immediately followed by the license plate check, and then "Ooh..."

26: Chapter 7- The Most Important Rule Don't forget your camera. The ache in your legs and butt goes away, dirt washes off and wounds heal; but pictures last forever (unless you delete them or rip them up). | Siyeh Bend, Glacier National Park | The Great Grizzly National Forest | Logan Pass, GNP

27: Holland Lake, Swan Mountains | Trapper Peak, Bitterroot Mountains | Bell Lake, Tobacco Root Mountains | Morrell Falls, Swan Mountains

28: Edith Lake, Pintlar Mountains | Cracker Lake, Glacier National Park | Iceberg Lake, GNP | Avalanche Lake, GNP

29: Avalanche Lake, GNP | Apgar, GNP | Logan Pass, GNP | Johns Lake, GNP | Camas Lake, Bitterroot Mountains | Lake McDonald, GNP

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