I’m going by myself, by train, from western Colorado through Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and at last, Montana and Glacier. I have things to entertain myself on the trip but find instead that I do only three things: watch the scenery out the window, talk to other passengers and Amtrak employees, and try to sleep. I arrive at Glacier at 8:30am, in a state of jet lag.
The first two days in the Park are extremely challenging. I feel uncomfortably alone and lonely in the Sprague Creek campground. It’s too close to a busy road and I share the campsite with 2 young men who are as tired and un-talkative as I am. Nothing is as I expect. I must make long trips on foot and by shuttle to get fuel for my stove. Everything food-wise costs 2 1/2 times normal and the choices are extremely poor. I have no phone service or internet and I’m lonely and feel so out of place. I would leave immediately, but I can’t. I have no way to reach Amtrak and change my ticket.
So I do what I do: I go for a hike. Avalanche Lake. I hang out by Lake McDonald. I get some much needed sleep. I remember why I’m there.
On Day 3 I move to the east side of the Park, to St Mary’s. Here the climate and character of the vegetation and landscape change dramatically. The campground is large but during the day is almost completely empty and quiet as people shuttle off to the many accessible trails. More bikers show up – no hikers yet, that’s still to come.
I hike daily while here. The trails on the east side are more accessible from St Mary’s, the roads and shuttles less crowded.
Day 7 is moving day again. I catch the Xanterra shuttle ($10) to Many Glaciers. Once again I enter into a new world, unique. This is the Heart of Glacier. It is extraordinarily beautiful with its glacial lakes, waterfalls, flowers, rugged peaks and wildlife. I fall in love.
The hiking is easy. The trails empty of crowds before 9am. A few go before me, many more come after. I hike to Ptarmigan Pass, then to Iceberg Lake twice. I walk to the Many Glacier Lodge. Each day I walk 10-15 miles then recharge on huckleberry ice cream for lunch. It’s the best lunch available.
I’m meeting more hikers here and more interesting bikers. I’m impressed with the young family biking through Glacier and the surrounding area. The little girl, Alyssa, is 5, her brother 8. She has mesmerizing eyes and long tangled curls. Their bike is quite the affair, allowing for an adult and 2 children to bike in tandem.
A little explanation about the hiker/biker campsites. They cost $5/night per person ($2.50 for federal parks cardholders). The Park will never turn away a biker or hiker. The sites can hold several people and usually have a couple of tables and fire pits. It’s a great way to meet and mingle with interesting people doing amazing things.
Photos from the Many Glaciers area . . .
This trip was a trial run at solo travel and hiking/backpacking in the US. Back home in Colorado, as soon as all commitments are out of way by Aug 19 I intend to hit the trail again. This time to Frisco, Colorado where I’ll pick up the Colorado Trail heading east to Denver. From there, if I’m feeling strong, I’ll shuttle back to Frisco and head west toward Leadville. All of this in preparation for the A.T. next year. I must first challenge myself this summer to see if I really have the stuff I need to make my dreams happen. More to come . . . . .
What a beautiful place, truly the Crown of the Continent. Visit it if you can. It’s like a pilgrimage.