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TWO MEDICINE - Chief Lodgepole Peak is mostly just a bump on a high ridge and an easy summit to claim, though I admit I was flat exhausted by the time I got to the top.

It is also one of the emptiest places I've been to in Glacier National Park. On a busy week with a full campground at Two Medicine Lake, I bumped into only two other people after Cobalt Lake.

You take the Two Medicine Pass trail from the parking lot at the Two Medicine Lake dock. Or, if you want to cut a couple of miles from the hike, you can take the boat from the dock down to the far end of the lake.

The trail goes through thick woods and underbrush and doesn't offer much as far as views. After a few miles, you reach the coolest suspension bridge I've ever seen in the Rockies. It reminded me of the bridge in "Sorcerer." This bridge crosses about 20 or 30 feet above Paradise Creek, so it isn't too spooky, though it does swing back and forth when you cross it.

The trail climbs steadily through the woods until you get to Cobalt Lake. The day I hiked this, it was a hot, muggy day and the heat was starting to get to me. After Cobalt Lake, there's little shade and trail gets a lot steeper. Bring lots of water. It appeared to me that most of the people who hike this trail stop at the lake.

The trail finally climbs out of the woods into high-altitude scrubby brush and you finally start getting some great views. You can see Cobalt Lake hiding deep in a tiny, steep valley. (You appreciate how much work it took to climb out of that valley once you're looking down on it.) Painted Tepee Peak dominates much of the view of the valley. At this point, you've passed to the west of Painted Tepee and you can see the mountain is actually a very long ridge thrusting north from Chief Lodgepole Peak.

You reach the top of Chief Lodgepole's ridge and some amazing views of the Park Creek Canyon to the west. There was a bit of haze from fires, but it wasn't bad. This is a really empty part of Glacier that isn't visited much. Like I said, there were only two other people who braved the trail all the way up to the ridge.

At this point, I was really suffering. It was about 85 degrees and I felt like I was about a mile from the sun. Once you get to the top of the ridge, it's a pretty easy walk to the summit. Unfortunately, the trail drops down about 100 feet along the ridge then climbs back up again (I HATE going back downhill) - a very steep final climb to the summit. Fortunately, it's a pretty short climb, probably only a couple hundred yards.

The trail drops back down to Two Medicine Pass and later the Park Creek Canyon. I stopped at Chief Lodgepole Peak. It was about a 7.5-mile hike and 2,500-foot climb from the Two Medicine parking lot and on a sweltering day, I was cooked.

From Chief Lodgepole, Painted Tepee Peak looks very tempting. It's an easy hike along a gentle ridgeline to the summit. But at the summit are some pretty big and pretty much dead vertical rock outcroppings. I have to imagine those outcroppings entail some Class 4 scrambles to get to the top of the peak.

This looked like good mountain goat and bighorn sheep country, but one disappointment on this hike is I didn't see any animals. On the way back, it was tempting to take the Two Medicine boat to the trailhead, but I realized I would have to wait 45 minutes for the boat and it would be quicker to just hike along the shore of the lake. In all, it was a nine-hour day on the trail. And that Red Jammer huckleberry creme soda at the Two Medicine store sure tasted good.


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