There are a few moments that I will never forget such as being greeted by a pika on Allen Mountain, hearing elk bulging in Buttercup Park while we were ascending Mount Ellsworth in the Two Medicine Valley, and the spectacular view from the summit of Mount Cleveland.
I also will never forget seeing a wolverine in the basin east of Reynolds Mountain. Throw in a handful of encounters with grizzly bears and I can say that I have a lot of great memories. It is times like these that help me keep things in perspective and cherish the simple things in life. They also help me slow down and look for beauty in the most surprising places.
Over the last few years I had heard of a basin in the Many Glacier Valley that nestled two beautiful alpine tarns. It was said that this basin was difficult to reach and was protected by cliffs on all sides. It was also said that this place was magical. As a Glacier mountaineer that kind of description captured my attention.
This basin is as special as the famed Shangri La below Mount Wilbur in Many Glacier. I am pretty sure that it is good there is no hiking trail to this magical place.
This is the kind of place that I imagine the Blackfeet people would use to escape from the view of their enemies or just to go to get some rest and relaxation.
Last year I saw this place from above and then got to visit the valley as we returned from climbing Apikuni Mountain. We had no intention to ascend to the basin but severe weather forced us off the ridge into the valley.
This place called Apikuni Basin, a large hanging valley, can be found above Apikuni Falls in the Many Glacier Valley. A one mile walk up a hiking trail leads to the base of Apikuni Falls. The waterfall pours over a steep cliff that guards the approach to a beautiful basin above.
Something even more special is guarded by another set of more challenging cliffs further up the valley. The upper portion of the basin is the location of another smaller hanging valley that was carved out by glaciers many years ago. The glacier left two beautiful shallow bodies of water called tarns.
A place like this needs a special name and the upper tarn located below Altyn Peak has a great name.
For some reason the lower tarn is unnamed but the upper one is named Natahki Lake. This shallow body of water is named for James W. Schultz’ wife, Natahki, which translated means Fine Shield Woman.
Schultz was instrumental for recording numerous volumes of information about the Blackfeet Nation and was adopted into the tribe. His Blackfeet name was “Apikuni” or “Appikunny” and the basin, creek, waterfall, and the mountain are named for him. Appikunny means Far-Off-White-Robe in the Blackfeet language.
Fine Shield Woman was the daughter of Chief Heavy Runner. She was one of the survivors of the Baker Massacre (see V1- 55 of What They Called It). Schultz wrote that she was a person who saw beauty in everything.
It is fitting that this lake be named for a Natahki who saw beauty in everything despite surviving a horrible massacre. It is also fitting that Schultz and his wife Natakhi be remembered by having places in Glacier National Park named for them.
Perhaps we could learn something from Fine Shield Woman’s example. We have so much but most of us are never quite satisfied with what we have.
Natakhi chose to be happy in her life circumstances and this is the example we could all follow.
Life is not about having what you want,
it is about wanting what you have.
Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park? I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see what I can find out.
© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015