Location- Many Glacier
Elevation- 4,948 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 7.9
Distance Traveled Total- 27.5
Weather/Temp- 60s 70s sprinkles
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- moose, Grizzly
Days without shower- 0
Still alive with all my limbs and distal organs, phew! It sprinkled during the night, but nothing to lose sleep over. We slept in because our hiking itinerary only had us hiking about 8 miles into a huge campground/tourist area known as “Many Glacier.”
About 4 miles into the morning, Schweppes was leading me by about 50 yards and a sharp bend in the trail. Suddenly, I heard him yell, then he began yelling my name, “KYLE! KYLE!” “WHAT IS IT?” I called back. “GRIZZLY,” he answered. I couldn’t see him, but I began running down the trail, and as I rounded the bend, heard a loud crashing in the vegetation just ahead of me. As I rounded the bend, I saw Schweppes standing on the corner of another bend; visibly shaken.
He had come around that second bend only to find himself twelve feet away from a large Grizzly (400-500 pounds by his estimation) standing just off the trail with his back to him. As soon as Schweppes saw the bear, the bear looked back at him over its shoulder for a moment before tearing ass up the densely over grown mountain. I never got to see it (super jealous), but Schweppes was so shaken by the encounter, he could hardly string a sentence together. Not more than a quarter mile later, we had to sit down for twenty minutes as Schweppes’s surge of adrenaline subsided, leaving him with weak legs. He kept telling me that it didn’t seem real, and that the more he tried to replay it in his head, the less he remembered. It had startled him so bad, he said the one thing he knew he wouldn’t forget was that famous hump on a Grizzly’s back (their shoulder blades).
The rest of the hike was leisurely, but as we got close to Many Glacier, we came across a Cow Moose and her calf grazing on the side of the trail. I got within ten feet, taking pictures and video before moving on. Expectations doubly blown, only the second day. I later found out that mother moose are actually considered more dangerous than bears, due to their small brains and unpredictable behavior. I now count myself a lucky Moose survivor.
While setting up camp in our designated spot at the huge touristy campground; a Ranger stopped by to check on us. Since the spot we were in was designated only for “back country permit holders,” it made us the most “outdoorsy” individuals of the entire campground. Once the ranger found out we were thru hiking the CDT for our Triple Crown, he told I’d he’d thru hiked the AT last year. A fellow thru hiker!
As it turned out, the three of us had about a half dozen mutual friends; several of which we stayed with in Asheville before beginning our road trip out here. Such a small world. Ranger Sean, or “Sunshine” (his trail name) offered us a ride to the nearest civilization for beer and pizza. Since you never pass up a good thing out here, we accepted.
The CDT is so remote, and traveled so little, that “trail magic” is basically non existent. This would probably be one of the only, if not THE only time this happened. I paid for Sean’s drinks and food as a “thank you,” for driving us 40 minutes out of the park to get some “real food,” as well as check out an outfitter.
When we got back to Many Glacier, he let us shower in his living quarters before we all sat around the fire at our private campsite telling stories, laughing, and otherwise building the sort of connections with people (the likes of which you can only build out here); late into the night.
Sean is a 28 year old former Army Ranger who just landed his dream job at one of the premier National Parks in our country. One of the fascistic things about doing a thru hike is that once it’s over, your standard for happiness, as well as what you’re willing to accept for/in your life – goes WAAAY up. After he finished the AT, he wanted to work at Glacier National Park, and nowhere else. Now he’s at Glacier National Park, getting paid to do things he’d happily do for free. If that’s not living the dream, then I must be dead.
Tomorrow we have another (supposedly harder) pass to traverse over the course of a planned 15 miles. I’m chomping at the bit to see what else this trail has in store for us…