Days 53-56: Glacier NP

I’m leaving a lot here at Glacier: blood, sweat, tears. But I’m taking so much more: the feelings of accomplishment, closure, and perseverance. Our three day, two night backpacking trip was anything but easy. We did it though.

The first day was only a little over 5 miles, mostly flat, and along a series of lakes. Gorgeous. It was the first majoring hiking since the probably-maybe-not-broken ankle injury. Zak was also suffering from a muscle injury in his back and down his leg. Once we got to the campsite I told the girls that their parents had gotten old almost overnight. They just nodded in agreement, trading a look of “goodness help us” with one another. Despite our pain, we found great joy in watching a moose eat it’s dinner in a lake. That was the definite highlight of the day.

Day two of the trip was hard. We hiked 11 miles, about 4,000 feet of gain, and more flies than a Fourth of July picnic. The flies were relentless. They would bite at our legs and we’d swat them away, only for all their friends to attack. Miles and miles, hours and hours, of fly attacks. They were so much worse when we paused to catch our breath among the switchbacks. My ankle was in constant, stabbing pain, Zak’s back and leg hurt, Ellie was done, just done with hiking (maybe forever). Zoe kept us moving, just moving forward. Until we had to stop at a stream and filter water for the rest of the day. The flies attacked in swarms, Ellie had a panic attack, I lost my temper, the filter process was taking too long. We almost turned around. I think all four of us said that we couldn’t go on like this, that we weren’t having fun. We decided to go one more mile, with the silent promises to change mindsets. (Not from the flies, they didn’t change their objective all morning.) After that mile, we’d reevaluate. That mile came and went, and no one demanded to turn around. So we just kept doing what hikers do, put one foot in front of the next. At five miles in we came to Dawson’s Pass. It was above treeline and breezy, the combination being unpleasant for the flies. We ate some beef sticks and peanuts, noted the sheer beauty, and kept on trekking. The next three miles of hiking are among my favorite of miles ever hiked. We were on a loooong exposed ridge, wrapping our way around a mountain. It was hard, especially with the focus needed to not misstep with my ankle, but it was so much fun. At this point the incline was mostly done and we could start to see the end of the day. By mid afternoon we had pulled ourselves together enough to do this and get it done.

Back country camping at Glacier is unlike any other National Park we’ve been to. With the hope of deterring bears from the campsites, the food prep and eating area is common. I usually love the solitude of backpacking, but it was great talking with other campers from all over the country. We traded camping hints. (Our Bailey’s in coffee is considered genius. 🤷) We spent a meal with two women, one of whom was a 2010 LT grad. She asked Zoe about her teachers and life at LT these days. The buzz among us all were rumored bear sitings, and the tragic story of a missing hiker who was currently being searched for in the general area we were in.

The hike out the last morning was almost all down, and about 7 miles. It was was easy enough and a good ending to the backpacking trip.

When we finally reached the car, peeled off the layers of smelly, wet clothes (it rained the whole last morning), we all praised one another of the accomplishment. It wasn’t an easy backpacking trip, especially for us in the condition we were all in, but we had done it.

Last night we checked into Many Glacier Lodge, one of the most beautiful pockets of the country. Again, we took what we could get for rooms and have two rooms with two twin beds each. When first discussing this with Ellie a few weeks ago, she shrieked in delight at the thought of her own bed, then she blurted out, “We’re all going to have platonic sleepovers!” Maybe she’s watched a bit too much Schitt’s Creek.

Today was a much needed rest day, so we rented kayaks by the hour and kept adding hours. Turns out we all LOVE kayaking. We filled the few spare hours with people watching, drinking cans of $2.25 Hazy Little Thing IPAs, grizzly bear watching, catching up on blogs, and drying out tents.

We leave Glacier tomorrow, but I already can’t wait to return. This is such a special place, a sacred sanctuary, where we had a handful of opportunities to interact with nature.

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