CDT Day 74: Mile 2950.3 – 2965.0 + 2 dufus miles

(16.7 miles – 26.7 km)

Saturday June 29, 2019

Red Eagle Campground – Saint Mary Lake – Saint Mary Falls – Reynolds Campground

It rained heavily overnight. The rain must have stopped sometime through the night. I looked outside the tent about 1.30am and the sky was lit up by thousands of fairy lights. So wonderful to see the stars again. I was too tired to get up and try to take a photo. It may have been a nice starlight shot over the lake but I was simply too exhausted and fell back to sleep. By morning the sky was clear and it was very windy. The quacking of ducks on the lake rose above the wind whistling through the trees.

We don’t have a long day today as our next campsite is at Reynolds Campground about 15 miles away. It was tempting to stay cosy in our sleeping bags, but we like the idea of arriving early and resting when the section was done.

We said goodbye to a hiker we first met way back in the early days in New Mexico, Aeroplane Mode who was heading southbound. It was so nice to spend a little time talking with her and hearing what she had been through since we last met. It’s always interesting finding out what people do when they’re not hiking. Aeroplane Mode is an artist based in New York. On this hike she is gathering inspiration for the her next collection based on images from the CDT. She had previously produced a Pacific Crest Trail collection, having hiked it in 2017.

We left the campground before anyone else had stirred. We follow Red Eagle Creek for the first couple of hours. The trailside vegetation was lush and with last nights rain left our feet soaked in no time.

We crossed the creek on a terrific suspension bridge. Still delighted each time we come across these. We love Glaciers craggy peaks, steep rock walls and lush green valleys but the excellent trail network has sealed the deal.

We continued hiking for about 20 minutes and soon crossed the river again on another bridge. The trail continued to rise. I was concerned that we had not started to see Lake St Mary. I checked the map and realised that we were on the wrong trail. We were heading towards the St Mary park entrance gate. Over a mile and some unnecessary climbing. I don’t know who was more annoyed. Hammer read the trail junction sign and I knew we had a junction but somehow we both missed it. It was so annoying to have to backtrack so early in the day…two extra dufus miles.

It was too nice a morning to stay annoyed. The spring blooms were just as beautiful even on the ‘wrong’ trail. We got back on trail and soon reached the lake. We followed the lakeside for a couple of miles. Having driven the Going to the Sun Road a couple of times, it was nice to see the road from the other side of the lake. The mountains are spectacular as always. It was just nice to see the slow reveal as we neared the Going to the Sun Mountain.

Surprisingly few southbound hikers, we saw only 3 just a bit before the bridge over Virginia River. It was such a surprise to reach the river and find lots of dayhikers walking out to see the spectacular St Mary Falls.

The colour of the water was an incredible minty blue green. And the falls were breathtaking in their thundering splendour. It was a beautiful weekend and it’s great to see so many people out enjoying this natural wonder. I guess the more people see and appreciate the beauty of the parks the more they are likely to defend their protection. That’s my hope anyway.

We crossed paths with dayhikers for about a mile and were soon on our way to our campsite. We made it to Reynolds campsite by 3pm. That is the earliest we’ve set up camp on this hike. Time to catch up on photo edits and maybe even have time to listen to a podcast, I thought. Nope, I fell asleep as soon as I was horizontal. Hammer stayed up chatting to another hiker who had arrived before us.