It’s the evening before we begin our hike of the CDT from Chief Mountain in Northeast Glacier Park, on the Canadian border. I had some butterflies and knots in my stomach earlier, but as of right now I feel calm and resolved. We have a lot of snow to work though in this first 115 miles through Glacier Park, but I’m confident it won’t be any worse than the worst I encountered last year in the Sierra Nevada. Despite all the snow pack there last year, l pushed through the more than 300 miles of high mountain passes in 14 days flat; only getting off trail once for 6 hours to resupply. I’m drawing a great deal of confidence from that experience, and applying it here. Even still, this place feels different. I think it’s because I’m starting in the “hard stuff” right off the bat, instead of working up to it. I guess I’ll know if it’s really “different” after I get out there and get some miles under my feet. I’ll keep you posted on that…
So we drove about 40 miles to Glacier this morning to work out our permits. It felt like driving into Disney World. There were cars, campers, RVs, motorcycles, screaming children, and people decked out in their sportiest outdoor ensembles. I get it. It’s one of the most famous national parks and it draws a lot of attention/business. However, those kinds of crowds and the environment they create… It’s not for me. I would just as well skip this entire park if it meant I didn’t have to deal with hordes of people who come to the wilderness just to embody the cliches they seek to escape. Luckily… I only have to deal with these crowds while I get the paperwork in order. Once I have the paperwork, I’ll be going where the crowds can’t go, where they don’t dare to go; into the real backcountry. Not the drive up campsites or the scenic loop highways; they’re still beautiful, but they can keep em’.
After dealing with the crowds and paying a $30 entrance fee just to drive to the permit office, we found ourselves standing in line to apply for a permit “itinerary.” The Ranger behind the desk had to check the availability of all the campsites along our route, then tell us how many miles we had to hike each day to camp at the available specified campsites; which would all have rangers at them checking your permit itinerary to make sure you were where you were supposed to be, when you were supposed to be there. Basically, it’s a very structured and almost chaperoned hike through Glacier Park. Once again, I get it. If they didn’t do it that way, it would be a total clusterf**k of people going wherever they want and camping wherever they want, trudging around off trail trying to make more space for tents, trampling vegetation, going to the bathroom, making fires, etc. Their system works for the park and keeps the people from overloading the environment, as well as each other. I will abide by the system, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it; mainly because of the whole being on a “schedule” thing, and not even a schedule I set! I digress.
So once we had our permits/itinerary, we both each had to pay another $42, or basically $7 per night/per person that we we’re slated to stay in the park. We were now up to $114 in Glacier Fun, even though our taxes pay for the park anyways. Not complaining! I’m an outdoor enthusiast and conservationist, so I have no problem seeing extra money going towards the environment… So long as that’s where it goes, and not towards people’s “bonuses.” Thennnnn, after all that was paid for, we were treated to a 15 minute educational video about the park and safe camping practices. Fun, fun!
40 miles later we were back in Kalispell, tying up a few loose ends with gear and other supplies. I bought a pair of micro spikes at the behest of the rangers; whether I will need this $50 investment remains to be seen. I didn’t use them in the Sierra Nevada, but of course this isn’t the Sierra Nevada. Only time will tell. Even if I don’t end up needing/using them, I’ll at least always have a pair to cherish, love, and use when the day comes that I do need them.
As I hoped, the Katana/truck situation fell right into place and solved itself. A sweet couple by the name of Hannah and Tyler (who follow my instagram) live in Kalispell and own two shibas (same quirky breed as Katana). It felt like fate when Hannah commented on a recent instagram photo welcoming us to her hometown; the “fate” part being that her profile picture was of her and her Shiba “Toshi.” I reached out and explained our predicament; long story short, her and her husband were more than happy to watch after the scallywag for a week or so while we knocked out Glacier. As a bonus, they also let me park my truck in their front yard for the next 5 to 6 months. Their kindness knows no bounds!
So after getting Katana acclimated to the new house, yard, and Shiba-mates for about an hour; their friend Chris gave us an 85 mile lift to East Glacier and a hostel/bakery that Schweppes and I are currently holed up at.
Even with that 85 mile lift, we’re still a 2 hour drive from Chief Mountain. So we booked another shuttle (for $150 :-/ ) that will pick us up at 6:30 am tomorrow morning and whisk us away to begin our journey.
I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready…. I’m ready to get this show on the road and see what new experiences this trail has in store for us. I’m ready to knock out this first 115 miles and get my fur child back. I’m ready to have my expectations blown away, just as they have been every time I set out on one of these adventures. The entire thing seems idyllic to think about before taking the first step, as I’m sure it does to everyone reading this who has never partaken in a months* long hiking trip. As excited and starry eyed as I am right now for this endeavor; deep down I know the reality is far from ideal. What the pictures I take and share with you won’t show… is the suffering. They won’t make you feel the weight of my pack. They won’t make you feel the freezing cold or burning heat. They won’t make you feel the pain and soreness of a 30 mile day on rough terrain. They won’t let you feel the stinging rain, the biting wind, the aches and pains and injuries, the fear of uncertainty or just plain fear. No, the pictures won’t do any of that. They will only show you a moment. A moment that has much more to it than meets the eye, and can’t be fully understood without actually being there in that moment; enduring everything that lead up to it, as well as everything which will follow it. My job is to fill in those extra moments with my words, in hopes that you will better understand the experiences you undoubtedly crave. I will do my best to put you in my shoes and inside my head for the next 3,000 miles. If for no other reason than for you to understand the “in between,” as well as what goes into capturing these collages of moments…
I know what’s in store for us, and I know it’s not all going to be sunshine and rainbows. There will be dark times in whatever form they may take. There will be as much misery as there will be fun, perhaps even more so; either way, they both serve to enrich the other, and so long as you don’t lose sight of that fact… you’ll be fine. Checks and balances. Good with the bad. Give and get. Push and pull. Roll with it. I’m ready to meet them all, and I’m ready take you along with me. Essentially, you will be reading a story in near real time, as it unfolds. Enjoy the ride.
**** I have no idea what my cellphone reception will look like over the next 115 miles or so. I will be writing every night, but I may not be able to upload to the blog right away. I will try to update it every three to five days, but if I can post every night, then I will. Sometimes it might be a week between updates. It takes a great deal of discipline and energy to write this much at the end of every day, but I’ll do my best. I’m looking forward to sharing these first steps with you soon!****