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Hike To Mount Brown Lookout Tower In Glacier

Ben posted the picture of the jacket hanging from the branch at Mount Brown Lookout Tower in Glacier National Park last week.  I thought I would share how it got there.

So this was one of my adventures at Glacier National Park a few weeks back.  I'll start with the adventure selection.  I really wanted to do some trail running while in Glacier.  The thing is they, the park people that is, really frown on running the park.  You see you might come running around the corner and startle a grizzly bear.  Apparently when startled they can be fairly aggressive.  Now you combine that with my worrier/protective mother (Love you too Mom) who I was going to depend on to watch my children while I ran and we have a problem.

So after some further digging online and a comment from one of the program managers at work about a hike he did over 20 years ago I found the hike to the Mount Brown Lookout Tower.  Described as one of the toughest hikes in the park that sounded like the ticket instead of a run.

Description credit: http://www.hikinginglacier.com

The description is accurate.  It was a long tough slog and what a huge payoff.

I had a gear check (my brother checked my gear while my mom watched) before I left camp.  Good thing too, because I had forgotten to put any food in my bag.  That would have been bad since I was going to be gone over lunch.  My gear list included: 2L hydration pack, 1L water bottle, small first aide kit, reflective blanket, compass, whistle, bear spray, food (trail mix, half a bagel, dried banana chips, protein bar thing), bear bells, and my camera.  I hoped not to need the majority of it other than the food, water, and camera, but a Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared.  This also calmed my mother's nerves a little I think.

After that I shuttled over to McDonald Lodge to start the hike.  I have indicated the starting location and ending location in that one photo.

The first mile I don't think I saw any of the trail because I was fighting with my hydration pack.  This was the second time I was using it and the bite valve wasn't keeping the water in.  So with every step I was getting a little shower.  I spent that first mile trying to make it stop.  Thankfully it did and I was sweaty from the 90 degree heat anyhow so the extra water on me didn't matter and I hadn't lost too much that I really missed it.

After 1.7 miles or so the Mount Brown Lookout trail hangs a left off Gunsight Pass/Sperry Trail.

From here it is a mere 3.7 miles (G measured 3.4 miles, but there was 1 or 2 (27) switchbacks to the top which G doesn't measure too well) to the top.  Actually, I had already climbed 1,000 feet and the trail description said this is where it got tough.  Accurate again.  I had been hiking on a trail super highway.  It is a highly traveled trail thus far with lots of horse traffic.  At this point it turned into single track, and pitched decidedly uphill.

The following picture doesn't do it justice really.  What had been about 12% grade thus far turned into 21% for the next mile.  Yikes.

Continuing the trend of very accurate trail descriptions, it mentioned hiking through a huckleberry patch and to keep an eye out for bears.  I didn't see any of the latter, but there were plenty of the former.  They are a little hard to see in the following picture, but I picked a small bunch on the way back down as a treat for my family who watched my boys while I went adventuring.

Anyway, there was a guy on a horse leading a train of horses coming down from the lookout.  Not sure what he was doing since the lookout isn't manned.

OK, we are getting closer to the top here.  I think horse dude was around 3.65 miles, an hour fifteen, and 6,200 feet elevation into this little adventure.

Just a little while after that the trees started to clear up and I could get glimpses of the views that were going to be waiting at the top.  But first, a shot of one of the switch backs.

OK, so I made it to the top.  But I'm going to drag out the payoff for all of you a little longer and talk for a minute about this guy.

I have no idea what is name is, or exactly how old he is, but he is awesome.  I met him at the lookout tower.  If I had to guess he is easily 70+.  In our brief chat I learned he is from Seattle, this is his sixth time in the park, and his third time to this lookout tower.  His last time in the park in 2010 he stayed for 16 days and hiked over 200 miles.  Seriously, I want this kind of health when I get to be his age.  Dang impressive.

OK, how about the payoff for the hike?

Yup, that splotch there by the lake is McDonald Lodge, where I started.

Not enough?  How about a selfie from the top?  I don't generally do selfies, but I needed proof I was there and I wanted to model the sweet CyclovaXC top.

Really, still not what you were looking for?  Fine.  But since I think I'll blow up the blogger back end for this blog I'll link you to flickr.  Be sure to find the place to click to look at the larger images and pan around.  Absolutely incredible.  I want to go back now.

I can't say enough about how absolutely amazing this hike was.  The views were incredible and absolutely worth the effort.  Three days later and my legs are just barely starting to feel better after the ascent and descent.  They felt OK after the hike and I iced them in Lake McDonald.  Even so they were absolutely destroyed the next two days.  If you said I could do the hike again though I would do it without hesitation.  The thing is, there are quite a few other amazing hikes in Glacier so next time I'll be looking for something else.

OK, a little data time.

The ascent took 1:45:01, the descent took 1:28:33.  Turns out you (well I) really can't hike downhill that much faster than you can uphill when it is that steep.

Here is a glamour shot of G (yes my favorite training partner has a name) at the top.  His data fields are lap time, elevation, lap pace, and lap heart rate.  Note that my easy runs have a heart rate around 145.  The hike up was no joke so while I didn't actually run, I counted this as run training.

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