After the filming of episode one of Pathfinder’s I decided to make a return trip to Montana so I could spend time at Kevin Flynn’s family camp on the edge of Glacier National Park. If you had a chance to watch Pathfinders you know how passionate Kevin is about growing lacrosse and growing it properly. He spends his a great deal of time introducing lacrosse to new communities all over the state and beyond. I figured it would be a cool idea to take the concept one step further and a bit more literal.
After some big ol’ elk steaks with our good friends Brandon and Ross we sat around the fire on the first night relaxing, sharing stories and just taking in the beauty of a perfect Montana night. Brandon and Ross are both passionate outdoor lovers and former lacrosse players so we had that common ground. Lots of laughs as you could imagine. One of the highlights of our conversation that still sticks with me to this day is how most people in lacrosse seem to be obsessed with how fast they can shoot. There are radar guns at just about every lacrosse event across the country and kids will line up for days to chuck a ball. Kevin, Brandon, Ross and I talked about launching a campaign to try and find the fastest ASSIST ever recorded. I don’t know why but that is still super funny to me for some reason. I’m actually smiling as I write this. Okay, I digress.
With the big sky lit above us and millions of stars illuminating the ground in a glowing green we talked about our plan for the next two days which involved a cool trip into the backcountry of GNP. Kevin laid out the trail map and talked us through the journey and what to expect — it went like this.
“We’ll take the Going to the Sun road. Brandon is going to drive and we will park at the Gunsight Pass trailhead and start in. It’s a 19.7 mile hike to Lake MacDonald so we will stay tonight at Gunsight Lake and then hike out in the morning. Oh yeah and we will bring some sticks and have catch along the way.”
The next morning hit and we made our way up the beautiful traversing Going to the Sun road to the trailhead. Just moments into the hike we caught an incredible view of Jackson Glacier off in the distance, fast flowing streams and a cool suspension bridge – just a small example of what I was to come. As we walked deeper and deeper into a lush green valley I began to feel more and more alive. There is something to be said about this feeling of connectedness and natural emotion. I laughed to myself because we were literally in bear country where Grizzlies are roaming around in large numbers and I was equipped with a tiny red can of bear spray — and I had no idea how to actually use it!
We finally made our way to Gunsight Lake and got our sleeping bags set up in a good spot. We made our way down to the shoreline and Brandon brought up the idea of us getting a picture of “The Gunsight Pass”. (Great idea Brandon! this is certainly one of my favorite photos and one that is now on the wall of the Woodshop.)
The next day we made the ascent up Gunsight and caught a breathtaking view from above. We passed only a couple people on the trail but they all said the same exact thing to us in reference to the sticks we were carrying “What are those things connected to your pack?”. We would laugh and tell them that they are lacrosse sticks and we just came out to Glacier to have a catch. They would get a very odd look on their faces and say, “Okay, well be very careful up ahead. We just turned around about a mile up the trail because it is snowed out and extremely steep and dangerous.” So like most lacrosse players would do we just kept going. But as we got closer, we realized what they were talking about. There was about a 50 yard section of the trail that was completely iced over. The trail was super steep with a sharp angle down to the right. If we slipped we would surely be in some serious trouble. We would fall several hundred feet. We sat and talked about how we could safely make this pass without sliding. We didn’t have crampons or ice axes because we weren’t really expecting this snow. But what we did have were lacrosse sticks. So we used our sticks to steady our selves. We would take a few steps and then slam the shaft into the snow for leverage and repeat. At one point Kevin and I both slid and fell to our knees but were lucky enough to use our sticks to save us from sliding into the deep crevasse. It was a scary moment and a bit hairy but we finally made it through and continued to play some catch up the hillside among the goats.
I would like to thank Kevin for inviting me to his camp and leading the trip through Glacier. I had an amazing time. It’s always cool to bring lacrosse where it most likely has never ever been. I have to believe we are the only two people to ever play catch at Gunsight. And the moral of the story is to always have your stick in your hands because you never know — it may just save your life.