We hit the road early the next morning, bound for the Two Medicine area of Glacier on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, where you don’t need Going-To-The-Sun-Road tickets (but do need a mask! Businesses will provide one if you forget). Our destination hike was Scenic Point which was the ultimate favorite of our server Maria’s from a few nights ago. We were nervous – it was 4 miles uphill and 4 miles back down with a 2,500ft elevation gain, longer and more strenuous than anything we had done. Don, the guy running our lodge for the past two nights, sent us off with a bout of confidence: “you girls can definitely handle it”.
We suited up with bear spray, lots of Gatorade, and fleece ear coverings for the wind. The first mile or so is a breezy stroll through a forested area, which out of nowhere opens onto a skinny, rocky path that zig-zags up a series of endless switchbacks along the mountain. The scenery was beautiful almost immediately but deepened as we climbed higher. The temperature also changed on a dime – biting wind so intense that it felt like a winter snowstorm, and still air the next minute that made the sun feel piercing on your skin. We did a little dance with our layers of hiking clothes – two shirts and fleece in one moment, and nothing but a thin tank top and sunglasses the next. Ear coverings were unexpectedly crucial.
I honestly didn’t think that we’d make it all the way up. We assumed all along that we’d be turning back as soon as the fatigue hit a point. But adrenaline kicked in and we just kept saying, “one more switchback”, or “it must be just beyond that ridge…no, maybe that one…”. I chugged down Gatorade as the air became thinner. It felt like climbing straight into the sky. Bighorn sheep confidently skipped down cliffs so steep that it would have sent us tumbling. The path was nothing but a thin strip of worn away dust and rock lined with twisted and baron white trees.
At the top, the scenery looked fake, like an overly filtered Instagram post. We thought we’d finally reached the end when we met up with a large group of hikers enjoying the sweeping view at a wide overlook. But the “official” end of the hike was about ¾ miles further, across a precipitous snowdrift that we could only cross by squeezing our bodies into a carved-out space between ice and sharp rock. The last leg of the hike was along a desolate, flat stretch of land that looked like it could be at the mountain base just as easily as the top. When the wind kicked up, it was enough to knock you clear off your feet. Our faces burned and our eyes watered, but we had to reach the very end. It was all on principal now. By the time our feet scraped those final rocks, we were rewarded with a truly panoramic view. A prairie dog (identified only by googling it later) hobbled across the wind-whipped gravel as my exhausted body inhaled a stick of beef jerky. We felt so very far away and alone at the summit. Despite the vicious wind, my heart was still.
Barely traversing back over the snowdrift safely, we experienced a brief moment of panic when I noticed that the bear spray was no longer tucked into Katie’s water bottle holder. Sprinting back to the snowdrift, a group of teenagers eagerly waved us down and returned our lost spray, having been knocked off when Katie punched her way through the gritty ice. Kids for the win. As we moved further back down the mountain, the groups of hikers became few and far between. At times it felt like we were the only souls for miles. We walked along cheerily, singing 90s songs in a unique attempt to scare away bears (by our poor singing skills alone) and keep ourselves alert. Finishing that hike made me feel like I could do anything.
The drive up to St Mary was far more beautiful than we expected. We had no idea that it was an official “scenic drive” as found in guidebooks. Take Route 49 out of the park to Route 89 and enjoy the mountain ranges and switchbacks that seemed to resemble Switzerland. Who needs Going-To-The-Sun-Road tickets anyway?
We rolled into St Mary’s Village in the early evening, relaxing into our little motel room as the air cooled and the sun set. Katie managed to come home with a pink sunburn on the backs of her ankles – the one spot that wasn’t covered in sunscreen. We washed out our hiking clothes in the sink and laid them to dry on a plastic chair outside our room, preparing for more gritty paths to unknown places in the morning.