So it seems like just yesterday I was attending Fundamentals of Epidemiology in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I remember running in the beautiful arboretum at the university; visiting its natural history museum and law library; exploring the town and trying restaurants; and taking day trips to Port Huron and Detroit. That was three years ago during the summer of 2010. But the best part of that entire three weeks? It allowed me to experience all of those things with some pretty amazing people: David, Anna and Malene. It’s pretty crazy where you can meet people. I never thought that spending three short weeks in close quarters of the residence hall would lead to me seeing David every summer since then, one of those times being two years ago when we traveled to Denmark to visit Malene. And then there’s this summer, where a surprise e-mail from Anna would initiate a nerd reunion in Glacier National Park.
It started when Anna, out of the blue, sent an e-mail saying that the PhD was “back on the table”. The PhD had been “off the table” for many years as we all worked, so to receive this was exciting! I thought: “Hmm. Something tells me David will like this information. Maybe it’s on the table for him too.” So I forwarded the e-mail to him, and lo-and-behold, he was in Madison, WI at a graduate studies fair! As it turned out, he was also on the verge of starting his PhD. In the end, Anna chose to leave the big city of New York and begin a PhD this fall in environmental health at Boston University. David decided to leave Seattle and head to the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall to begin his PhD in biomedical engineering. I had just quit my job and was job hunting. Although it wasn’t school, exciting things were on the horizon. Naturally, it seemed like a perfect time for a reunion. And so with one google video chat, a few e-mails, and minimal planning, we decided that we’d all converge in Calgary and drive down to Glacier National Park in Montana for a lovely weekend of backpacking, hiking, and reconnecting. Unfortunately Malene couldn’t make it. She was in the midst of working as a doctor in Greenland during the planning phase and would be arriving back in Denmark at the time of the trip, but she was definitely there in spirit.
On Wednesday, David arrived after spending a few days in Field and Jasper. After our trademark awkward hug, we were off to gather food for the trip. Anna arrived later that night to an “Anna” sign, and with all smiles, we all hugged it out, ready for a weekend of fun. The next day, I sent them to the Calgary Farmer’s Market to get a little taste of something Calgary, and then after I was done work, we packed up the car and drove down to the East Glacier Motel and Cabins. Of course, there was a Timmies stop in there (I couldn’t let my American friends get away without one!) It was quite cloudy and foggy that evening, which made the scenery a bit eerie… perfect conditions for those pesky ghost bears…
Friday morning we were up early and off to the ranger station to book our backcountry camp sites. Our goal: conquer the 17-mile (27.4 km) Dawson-Pitamakan Trail Loop Hike over the course of three days. But by happenstance, all of the sites were booked up! After much discussion with Jennifer (aka Jenny, aka Jenn shakes fist), we decided to set up camp at the Two Medicine campground and complete the entire hike in one day. All I can say is that it was exhausting, but an absolutely stunning hike. Our trek would take us around the Rising Wolf Mountain, first along Dawson Pass, and then returning along Pitamakan Pass.
There were many peaks and lakes to view. What was especially awesome was that Dawson Pass rests on the Continental Divide, which resulted in some incredible vistas. Pictures don’t do it justice! After 9 hours, we were back at the campsite, where we feasted on chilli with tortillas, dark chocolate and red wine. What a day! (As a side note: some yogurt and half a banana are not enough to sustain a long morning. I hit quite the wall while hiking, which made the ascent a bit tedious. After lunch, I ended up slipping on a rock and almost sliding down the side of the mountain! I have a nice knee scar to show for it :S.)
The next day, based on Jennifer’s recommendation, we would head to the Many Glaciers area for our backpacking experience at Cracker Lake. There was lots of poop. shakes fist!
Start: 10:45 am
End: 7:50 pm (~9 hours!)
Elevation Gain: 895 m
Distance: 27.4 km. Makes for a long day…