Planning a Solo Car-free Trip to Glacier National Park

I awoke this morning and my first thought was, “Oh no, it’s Thursday already. Make it be Wednesday again.” Not that Wednesday was an out-of-the-ordinary day. To the contrary, it was a most ordinary day. I’m visiting Cat in north Texas. I awoke, made coffee, ate breakfast, went out for an early walk, played with Lucky, had long conversations with Cat, and all the other ordinary things we do each day. This moment induced a strange state of mind in me. A kind of grasping. I wanted time to stop, to back up. It’s passing too fast. I like perfectly ordinary days. Equally I long for the extraordinary days. Ordinary or extraordinary, each day passes much too quickly.

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On to the main topic. Glacier National Park. In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading there by train, solo, no car when I get there. I’ll have a backpack but will be camping in campgrounds. Most of the campgrounds have special hiker/biker group sites. There is a free shuttle that goes back and forth across the Park every half hour from 7am to 7pm, stopping at all of the important areas.

Yesterday I went over detailed plans for hikes, ranger talks and events while in Glacier. Some presentations are only offered every few days and may not be in a location that’s convenient. For the evening programs, such as the Blackfeet Singers and Dancers, I must be able to walk to and from the campground and need to plan my camping accordingly. And I must accept that I can’t see it all in only two weeks. Which is way more time than many people are able to spend there so I’m feeling grateful.

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A young Blackfeet dancer (photo credit http://www.visitusa.com)

I’ll have only one opportunity to see the Blackfeet Dancers during my 2-week stay there. I’m loving Google Calendar on my phone. I’m able to put planned activities in and know where I’ll need to be staying each night.

I arrive by train in West Glacier at 8am after a 2 1/2 day trip from Colorado. There is a shuttle that will take me to Apgar but not as far as the campground. However, I’ve decided to walk into town to buy food before going into the Park. This means walking 3-4 miles with my backpack, but it’s easier than riding into the Park, setting up camp, then walking out and back from West Glacier.

The first two nights will be in the Apgar Campground, in the hiker/biker area, $2.50/night for seniors and I’ll likely meet others to hike with. I hope :). Day One will be spent getting set up and oriented. There’s a Native American Speaks program at 8p in the campground, a good way to spend the first night. The next day I’ll take the shuttle to Logan Pass and will hope to join the Morning Highline Stroll, a 3-hour ranger-led hike starting at Logan Pass. I may continue on along the trail rather than returning with the group or return and enjoy some other activity.

Day Three: Move camp to the Avalanche Campground, a few miles beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge. There’s a hiking path that parallels the road between the Lodge area and the campground. I plan to spend the day hanging out in the Lake McDonald area, seeing the lodge, hiking up to McDonald Falls and just generally soaking it all in. At 4pm I’ll join a ranger-led 1-hr walk titled ‘A Walk Through Time,’ a historical walking tour of the Lake McDonald Lodge and the surrounding area.

Day Four may find me on the Avalanche Lake Trail on another ranger-led hike. I have no idea how crowded these hikes will be. If I find them annoying crowded then I can always walk ahead or drop behind. I’m not expecting a lot of wilderness experience in Glacier. I’m not going into the backcountry and honestly I’m not fond of grizzly bears. I mean, I like them well enough from a distance and with a lot of people around but don’t want to meet one alone. I did hike solo in Yellowstone without too much fear. I’m assuming the main trails in Glacier will be similarly crowded with other people so it’s usually easy to be near others.

By the fifth day I should be ready for the Highline Trail. I’m going solo but will find someone to go with and/or tag myself to other hikers at the trailhead. This is a fairly level 15-mile hike which begins at 6,646′ Logan Pass.

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Highline Trail (photo credit: http://www.outsidemedia.com)

The next day will be a moving day. I’ll move from Avalanche Campground all the way to Many Glaciers, where I’ll settle in for four nights. Once again the first day is a day of shopping, laundry, shower and a meander through the visitor center and the shops. The next two days I’ll do the Heart of Glacier hike and a boat ride and hike to Grinnell Glacier. The last day there will begin with the Early Morning Bird Walk followed by a day of whatever.

Leaving Many Glaciers on Day Ten and heading to St Marys. I’m not as excited about this area though I understand there are some interesting places to see. Of most interest to me are the Blackfeet Dancers who will be performing there, my only chance to see them. I’ll also hike Piegan Pass, another long hike and I’m certain there’s another interesting hike there.

My last two days, Days 12 & 13, are open. Day 14 will be spent getting organized for the return train trip which leaves the West Glacier platform at 8pm. 2 1/2 days and I’ll be back in my own bed. That fast. It will be interesting to see how closely my plans will match the reality of the trip.

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W Glacier Amtrak stop (photo credit: http://www.wikimapia.org)

 

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Okay, time to get serious

I’ve now read Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the Woods, once and watched the movie three times. I’m ready to begin my own adventure. I fear if I watch it one more time I’m talk myself out of going. As a line in the movie goes: Why hike it? You can see the whole A.T. in 4 minutes on the internet.

I’m not sure that keeping up with the adventures of others is a good idea. Many of the adventures are not that pleasant. But honestly, whenever I mention it to friends and family I get the same reaction that Bryson got – upraised eyebrows and concerns about my sanity. The only place I find any sympathy or understanding is from other A.T. wannabes. Not quite true. I’m encouraged to follow my dreams, sometimes cautiously (Are you sure that’s a good idea?), other times with modest enthusiasm and a kind of if-you-plan-it-maybe-I’ll-come-along-for-a-week response. I need to buy the book about Grandma Gatewood to continue to inspire me when I weaken.

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Grandma Gatewood (natureworldnews.com)

After all, the A.T. is unlike any trail in the world. It’s its own beast, its own brand of Americana insanity. I’ve heard it described as a moving city that’s 2,200 miles long and 6 feet wide, with a population of about 3 million supported by all that they need to survive their ordeals: grocery stores, hostels, hotels, shuttle services, medical facilities and outdoor gear shops, to name just a few.

I’ve just arrived in northern Texas from my home in western Colorado. While not exactly like the climate of the southern 1000 miles of the Appalachian Trail – the portion I intend to attempt first – this climate gives me a feel for what I’ll be facing. Yesterday it rained. Not the soft rains of western Colorado that are a delight to walk in. No, these rains are deluges, as if the sky were an ocean with the bottom ripped out. It doesn’t rain, it pours. Standing inside and looking out it’s awe-inspiring.

Whoa, people are actually reading this

“Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” -Brian Tracy

atmap

I found this map on another blog and couldn’t resist pulling it over to mine.

I started this blog just as a way to record my thoughts as I move through this coming year of planning for the A.T. I know it’s a public blog, but I kind of didn’t expect anyone to look at it. Glad I didn’t post any compromising photos of myself. I also didn’t expect that there are other blogs out there, written by people just like me, and that we’ll see each other’s tags and be able to follow along on each other’s journeys.

I’ve already discovered Appalachian Trials facebook and blog and have gained courage and inspiration from them. In fact, it inspired me not only to hike the A.T. but to write about my experience also. It doesn’t matter if I write well. Of course I do. When we share ourselves and our passions, it inspires others.

 

 

Why Hike The A.T.?

I read that question on a forum recently, that we should ask ourselves that question. I don’t know about everyone else but I have about 100 reasons and depending on the day, one will be more important than another. So here’s an unnumbered list in no special order except as they’ve come to mind.

Why not? Because it’s there. How can I call myself a hiker if I’ve never even set foot on the Appalachian Trail? I have nothing else to do next summer. I’ve never hiked in that part of the country. I’m fascinated to see the new flora and fauna. For the cultural experience. I drove through Shenandoah National Park several years ago and I told myself then that I’d like to come back and hike it. I always need a challenge. I love to hike and hike and hike and . . . . It’s a long trail that I can hike without support. PCT, CT and CDT all require long hikes out to towns to resupply. Many support systems have evolved along the A.T. I need a challenge. To be a hero, at least in my own mind. To help me to come out of my shell and write. Because I promised myself when I returned from traveling abroad that I wanted to explore the US on foot as I had done in other places. I can hike as short or as long as I desire. 2,200 miles? I doubt it, but . . . maybe. We’ll see. 150 miles? 500 miles? 1000 miles? We’ll see, we’ll see . . . .

For now I’m happy with planning. That’s as much fun as the trip itself. Another reason to hike the A.T. I get a lot of pleasure out of looking at maps, checking distances, planning food and campsites, looking at pictures and reading blogs. I think sometimes that even if I don’t step foot on the physical trail I could still be happy. Though, I must believe as I plan that it will happen, and barring unforeseen events, it will.

 

And So It Begins . . . . .

“Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” ~ Dylan Thomas

I definitely need a goal in life to keep me engaged. Right now I’m circling in on it. It’s many pronged. I long to do a long-distance hike and have chosen the Appalachian Trail as the target. I am, after all, a hiker and a walker, and how can I call myself a hiker in these days if I’ve never set foot on the A.T.?

I awoke around 1am last night feeling a lot of anxiety. I’ve developed this anxiety around my breathing, like if I don’t pay attention to it I’ll stop. Like, I constantly feel as if I can’t get a deep breath and I must constantly take deep breaths until my breath ‘catches.’ Then I get this creepy anxiety feeling in my body. Icky and awful.

I met a man outside the grocery store yesterday as I was leaving. He was about my age and pushing one of those walkers with a seat, and he was moving along fast even though his body was barely functional. I commented on how fast he was moving. He told me that he has Parkinson’s Disease and that he used to be a jogger. “I could still jog,” he said, “but it’s my balance that’s gone.” We talked for a few more minutes then went our separate ways.

I love meeting extraordinary people. He’ll never know how much that short conversation affected me. May I also greet whatever life gives me with such extraordinary strength and acceptance.IMG_1175