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Engaged in Glacier National Park!

A glacier near the trail to Boulder Pass

View of Agassiz Glacier from the Boulder Pass Trail

Glacier National Park is one of our favorite places on the planet. It had been three years since our last trip to the park and we decided it was time to visit again. Apparently lots of other people felt the same way, because even in mid-September, we found backcountry campsites were popular and permits were sparse. Fortunately we managed to reserve campsites for a 4 day trip starting at Kintla Lake and heading up to Boulder Pass, then back down to the lake. The trip ended up being a very memorable one!

Day 1: Kintla Lake Trailhead to Upper Kintla Lake Backcountry Camp (11.6 miles)

We began our journey walking around the edge of Kintla Lake. The trail followed the shoreline at first, then broke away, climbing uphill. When the trail rejoined the lake, we gawked at the dramatic peaks surrounding us. It was a gorgeous day. The sharp laughs of loons echoed across the calm lake.

Anna at Kintla Lake

Anna at Kintla Lake

After a few miles of walking we reached the end of the lake. The trail continued through a burned area. Most of the pines had been killed by the flames, but many of these dead trees were still standing. To our left loomed the Boundary Mountains, so named because they sit on the border with Canada.

Eventually the burned area ended and we reached Upper Kintla Lake. This pristine lake is contained by massive peaks towering thousands of feet above.

Upper Kintla Lake

Upper Kintla Lake

After all the day’s walking we ate a hearty meal and then promptly fell asleep. Glacier had already rewarded us with some incredible landscapes, but we were just getting started.

Day 2: Upper Kintla Lake Backcountry Camp to Boulder Pass Backcountry Camp (5.6 miles)

Bear prints

Bear prints

Our second day in the backcountry featured a 3000 foot climb. During the climb we were rewarded not just with fantastic views, but also a variety of wildlife. Early on we noticed large bear prints in the mud, complete with claw marks. We did not encounter the bear, but given its size, we were fine with that.

Climbing higher, we caught glimpses of voles scurrying into their burrows as we approached. They were so quick we could barely identify them. Later we were thrilled to spot a creature we had never seen before: an ermine. The ermine is a type of weasel, and though cute, it’s quite vicious. When especially hungry, ermines can kill and eat mammals much larger than themselves, like rabbits. This ermine just seemed curious to see us, poking its head out of various holes in the stone wall it called home.

A curious ermine

A curious ermine

Larch trees also made their appearance. Larches are one of the few conifers whose needles turn colors and drop in autumn. When thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012, we had been blown away by their vibrant yellow needles in Washington State. We were too early to see Glacier’s larches at the peak of their color, but we could see hints of yellow appearing in the needles.

Finally we passed above treeline into an exposed rocky area. Small stacks of rocks (cairns) guided us across rock slabs to the Boulder Pass campsite, which is the highest in Glacier National Park. We set up our tent, then explored the rest of the site. The pit toilet featured the best view of any toilet we’d ever encountered. Massive glacier-covered peaks rose to the left, and in front spread the valley we’d just come from, 3000 feet below.

The most scenic pit toilet ever

The most scenic pit toilet ever

After we got situated, Chris decided to climb another thousand feet up Boulder Peak.

Chris makes his way towards Boulder Peak

Chris makes his way towards Boulder Peak

The view up there was even more expansive. To the north, Canada came into view. To the southwest, Pocket Lake rested at the bottom of a deep bowl. Looking back at the campsite, the tent was a tiny bright dot at the base of a towering rock wall.

Our tiny tent from Boulder Peak

Our tent (the tiny white speck slightly left of center) viewed from Boulder Peak

Chris made it back down in time for us to share a lovely sunset.

Day 3: Boulder Pass Backcountry Camp to Upper Kintla Lake Backcountry Camp (5.6 miles)

The next morning, Chris got up early to hike farther east past Boulder Pass. He continued almost to the Hole in the Wall trail junction. The views here were intense. Rows of jagged peaks framed a startlingly deep glacial valley. It was amazing that a trail could even be constructed in such steep, complicated terrain.

Above Hole in the Wall

Above Hole in the Wall

After getting his fill of views and photographs, Chris returned to the campsite. There we enjoyed another hour in the Boulder Pass area. The local marmots and pika were great fun to watch as they fattened up for winter.

Marmot at rest

Marmot at rest

Though it was hard to leave the most scenic pit toilet ever, we were scheduled to spend the night at the Upper Kintla Lake Camp. We packed up and enjoyed the easier hike back down the mountain. When we reached the bottom, we set up camp and ate in the designated food preparation area.

Sunset at Upper Kintla Lake

Sunset at Upper Kintla Lake

The lake proved an ideal spot to watch the sunset. We sat on the small beach enjoying this peaceful, beautiful place.

Then Anna broke the silence, proposing to Chris with a ring she’d made from a blade of grass. Chris said yes! He had the same thing in mind and had taken a ring along on the trip as well. He made a quick trip to the tent, brought back the ring, and gave it to Anna.

Our gold and grass engagement rings

Our gold and grass engagement rings

We stayed on the beach, soaking up the moment. After a while the moon set behind a tall peak, silhouetting pine trees on the ridge before it disappeared. Only a glow in the sky remained.

Day 4: Upper Kintla Lake Backcountry Camp to Kintla Lake Trailhead (11.6 miles)

Newly engaged, we very much enjoyed an early morning by the lake.

Engaged!

Engaged!

A sculptural tree

A sculptural tree

We wanted to linger, but had to get going so we could make the 11 miles back to the trailhead. When we reached the burned area between Upper Kintla and Kintla Lake, we found a tree with a beautiful pattern carved and burned into it. Fire and woodpeckers had together created a sculpture.

Ending the trip at the Kintla Lake trailhead, we were tired but elated. After spending the last five years of our life together, including city life and a complete hike of Pacific Crest Trail, we knew our relationship was rock solid. Glacier was the perfect place to make our commitment to each other stronger and more public. We are very excited about spending the rest of our lives together!

Resting our feet at Kintla Lake

Resting our feet at the western shore of Upper Kintla Lake

41 Comments Post a comment
  1. Congrats, you two! I love following all of your journeys! Thanks for sharing this very special one!

    September 24, 2013
  2. Oh!! Congratulations! What a sweet engagement story. Can’t wait until you get back to celebrate :)

    September 24, 2013
  3. steviec #

    Congratulations Anna and Chris! I love the gold and grass rings. Also, check out the bald cypress, another beautiful deciduous conifer.

    September 24, 2013
  4. Congrats to you both.

    September 24, 2013
  5. Ryan Firestone #

    BOOYAH! Congratulations :)

    September 24, 2013
  6. My favorite of all of your blog posts!!

    September 24, 2013
  7. Jane Alexander #

    YAY!!! Congrats! I love it that both of you had this thought and planned rings! What a great couple you are.

    September 24, 2013
  8. Gene K #

    Very best wishes!

    September 24, 2013
  9. Suzanne in Berkeley #

    Yaaaaay! Us folks here in the cubicles are very excited for you!

    September 24, 2013
  10. Congratulations to both of you!!!

    September 24, 2013
  11. Wallace #

    Your best news, and your best photography, ever. Thank you for sharing both.

    September 24, 2013
  12. Kathy Merrill #

    Congratulations Anna & Chris on your engagement! How excited you both must be. We are happy for you. We also would like to thank you for your spectacular book. What absolutely gorgeous pictures. You must be proud. We look forward to your future posts.

    September 24, 2013
  13. Congrats on your engagement!!! Loving your captures – thanks so much for sharing:) Happy Week!

    September 24, 2013
  14. lizziekat #

    Congratulations! Anna, I hope your health continues to improve. How have you been feeling?

    September 24, 2013
    • Thanks! I recently learned that my body has been fighting two viruses at once — shingles and mono. My health continues to improve gradually. This Glacier trip pushed me to my limits, but it was a huge victory in itself. At this rate, it will still be a few more months until I’m back to normal.

      October 23, 2013
  15. Sasha and David Edwards #

    Congratulations from Austin! What a sweet, sweet post. We are so happy for you.
    Sasha and David

    September 24, 2013
  16. Andreas #

    So happy for you guys. =) Sounds like a perfect place for such an event!

    September 24, 2013
  17. Mary Goodkind #

    Congratulations! Your post is a wonderful way to share such happy news. Love to you both.

    September 24, 2013
  18. Can’t think of a more perfect place to propose! So happy for you both. Happy trails together.

    September 24, 2013
  19. Matthew #

    I love how clear Kintla Lake is! And that tree is sweeeeet. Thanks for sharing!

    September 24, 2013
  20. Congratulations!! Mike “Just Retired” Tarman

    September 24, 2013
  21. Congratulations! And the adventure continues…

    September 24, 2013
  22. Patsy and Kate #

    Congratulations to you both! What a wonderful story…may your future travels together be blessed.

    September 24, 2013
  23. Congratulations Anna & Chris! Love your photos and postings.

    September 24, 2013
  24. Congratulations from Mama Bear and Monkey! We are so happy for you both!

    September 24, 2013
  25. Jan #

    This is the most spectacular engagement announcement ever! Gorgeous pictures, a pit toilet with an incredible view, and matching rings and shoes. We are so happy for you both!

    Love,
    Jan and George

    September 24, 2013
  26. Congrats to both of you!!!! Since you two are “experts” on Glacier National Park, what day hikes would you recommend? We can hike short or long distance day hikes, so anything 15 and under is game for a day. We are hoping to go to Glacier in the next year or two and of course what to hike and see all we can. Once again, congrats on the engagement and we love reading your stories and seeing the great pictures.

    September 24, 2013
    • All of Glacier National Park is beautiful. You can’t go wrong. Our absolute favorite spots can only be accessed by backpacking, so if that’s an option for you I’d recommend planning a two or three-day backpacking trip. That said, in the next few weeks we will be catching up the blog with a few Glacier day hike posts. Off the top of my head, I would recommend the Hidden Lake trail. It is short, has spectacular scenery, and we saw mountain goats and bighorn sheep when we hiked it in 2010 and again in 2013.

      October 23, 2013
  27. Gina Willig #

    Congratulations Anna and Chris! Love’s story …shared with us…thanks! May your love grow stronger still!

    September 24, 2013
  28. You are both glowing! Even your feet look ebullient! I’m so happy for you both. Thank you for sharing your beautiful proposal story and these gorgeous photos. I’m continually awed and inspired by this blog! I think this set and post is my favorite one ever. A perfect balance of seeing your lovey selves, the breathtaking surroundings, and so many cute animals!

    September 24, 2013
  29. Allen Edwards #

    Congratulations Anna and Chris. What a surprise. Remember you have family in Palo Alto if you get out this way. You are welcome any time.

    September 25, 2013
  30. This is great Anna and Chris, Cheers, Randy and Mary

    September 25, 2013
  31. Dante Rodriguez #

    Way to go Anna, with the proposal! And way to go Chris for being totally prepared too!

    September 25, 2013
  32. Lynn Sofranko #

    I’m so happy for you…what a beautiful love story!

    September 25, 2013
  33. Don #

    U 2 are lookin’ good. Great pics 2. If U think the park was crowded up north, the southern part was much worse (9/11 & 12). Couldn’t even find a place 2 park most of the time to take pics.

    September 27, 2013
    • It can be challenging to get a permit for popular backpacking camps, but the wonderful thing about Glacier NP’s backcountry system is that once you are in the backcountry it is never crowded. I wish every National Park copied the backcountry and bear management practices of Glacier.

      October 23, 2013
  34. How magnificent! Grass and gold and marmots and ermins and no bears! What a wonderful read and a joy. Mazel Tov.

    September 29, 2013
  35. margaret #

    So wonderful!!!!! Anna, so glad your body is healing so you two can go to ever new peaks & vistas!!

    September 30, 2013
  36. Thanks so much everyone for your good wishes and warm thoughts! We are very happy to have gotten engaged in such a wonderful, meaningful place. Being able to share some of that experience with you through the blog is a real pleasure.

    October 23, 2013
  37. Anna and Chris, Congratulations!! You brought tears to my eyes! You share your love for each other and nature is such beautiful and special ways!

    October 28, 2013

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