Laying in bed, on my side, I breathed in deep to beat back a bit of nerves rolling around my insides. Come morning my wife, Esther and I were headed out for another wilderness adventure. My mind slid over our planned route which hand-railed off a portion of the Continental Divide reaching through Glacier National Park. Snaking through the Americas, the Continental Divide is a real line separating the drainages that flow into the Pacific Ocean from those flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Ivan and Judy, my parents we’re going to drive us to our starting point, Kintla Lake. Getting there required 11 hours of highway driving followed by many miles of dirt road winding along the North Fork Flathead River. From Kintla Lake, we would pick up the Continental Divide and make our way south.
Standing at the foot of Kintla Lake the momentum of getting there gave way to method, preparedness, peace. Looking on, across the water, the landscape, history and lore offered a weighty atmosphere and now we were going to become part of it. My eyes drank in the scenery, a deep glaciated valley defined by the Border Mountains to the north and the the Parke and Kinerly mountain groups to the South. Kintla Lake’s beauty had an abyssal depth that was electric; beautiful and dangerous.
Kintla’s shores were once part of the tribal lands of the Upper Kootenai Indians. Kootenai Indians once traveled throughout what is now Glacier National Park for hunting, camping and visiting trips. One commonly used crossing would have led traveling Kootenais through the mountains to Kintla Lake. Elder lore tells of an Indian who made the crossing and went to the shores of Kintla Lake only to fall in. After falling in he drowned and never surfaced again. The Kootenai’s named the lake Kintla meaning “sack;” Kintla Lake was like a sack trapping anyone who entered.
A long time has passed since the days of the Kootenai crossing these mountains and origin of the Kintla lore, but the story was still palpable. Kintla Lake, the remnant of glaciers long gone, but filled with unfathomably clear water. Along it’s shore, a kaleidoscope of sedimentary color was revealed and intensified by the sunlit translucent water.
Taking our first steps away from the foot of Kintla Lake heading for more remote country, I wondered if Kintla would let Esther and I pass without being trapped and set us free to explore the treasures beyond.