Photography: Helen Lake

Here is another photo you can download for your computer's desktop. I also took this in Glacier National Park in 2012.


“The guidebook calls it desolate,” said a passing ranger when I told him where I was headed. “But you be the judge.”

I hiked south along the shore of Elizabeth Lake, passed campsites all occupied with tents, then through wildflowers where butterflies perched. They fluttered about when I passed as though a gust of wind blew the flower petals off and whirled them around me. Beyond Elizabeth Lake, the trail became more overgrown and unkempt.

As I moved forward, I had to part a sea of tall grasses and green leaves that had grown higher than my waist. Much of the trail would have been invisible if not for a depression in the overgrowth leading the way. The head and back of a deer swam by like the world’s most passive crocodile, followed by two fawns barely able to keep their eyes above the green. I wouldn't call the region desolate, though. I prefer overlooked and secluded, two great qualities for a trail to have.

I knew I was close when I began to hear the Belly River, which begins at Helen Lake. I stopped to listen to it with my eyes shut. I absorbed every other sound as well, the beating of insect wings, the wind hissing between branches of pine, three different types of birds chirping: some rapid cheeps, some sporadic elongated whistles.

When I arrived at Helen Lake, I stood at its shore before taking off my pack and setting up camp. I balanced myself on flat rocks to keep the small ripples from soaking my feet and snapped this picture. Lush green hills and the sheer rocky face of Ahern peak, 3,700 feet above me, enclosed the back half of the lake. Ribbons of water from the melting Ahern Glacier fell over and down the mountainside accumulating in the clear blue pool.

Only four extra miles from the crowded Elizabeth Lake campsites to Helen Lake, and I’m all alone. That’s the real reason this site is overlooked and isolated, the extra miles. The solitude was worth every additional step.

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A Backpacker's Life List by Ryan Grayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.