With the government shut down, the research and science programs in Glacier ground to a halt. Despite being at a critical juncture for the season—the brief, erratic window before the weather makes getting up high difficult and dangerous—, park scientists were forced to set aside their research until Congress could resolve its differences. When they were allowed to go back to work a week and a half ago, it appeared that the October snows would soon close the season with incomplete data sets.
But the unseasonably-warm weather continued to hold out hope. So, needing a night out, I volunteered to conduct a field survey at Gunsight Pass.
The plan was simple enough: Hike into Sperry after work, camp, hike to Gunsight in the morning, and out that afternoon the way I came.
I started an hour later than I had hoped—packing is never as simple as I pretend it is when planning at the last minute. But the sunset on the way up the Sperry trail made the headlamp-hiking worth it.
I got in later than I wanted to—3,400 feet of elevation gained seemed less daunting when I began scheming, and my hasty plan didn’t account for either the gap of nearly two months since my last serious trip or several extra pounds of survey equipment. But I still managed to get a full nine hours of sleep that night, and I woke refreshed and ready, with frost on the inside of my shelter.
Below me, Lake McDonald was covered in a morning haze thick enough to obscure all but the top of Howe Ridge, and the Apgar Mountains—the entire range in view—rose from the clouds in shades of blue and pink. I lingered longer than I should have. But the morning was beautiful, and I needed the opportunity to enjoy it.