Oh Canada

Date: 9/13/2012
Day: 146
Start: 7:15 am
End: 3:30 pm
Camp: Waterton campground
Others here: none
Distance: 20 mI
Elevation: 4,003 ft

Oh Canada, oh Canada! After nearly five months and some 2700 miles of determined pursuit through searing desert heat, long waterless miles, cold snowy slopes, rain, hail, snow, sleet, extreme weight loss, debilitating sickness, and some of the most rewarding, beautiful country I have ever experienced, we are finally, finally together again. I love you Canada!

I am feeling mostly numb today and don’t seem to have the any more words. I will try and write a final post at a later date.

Advertisements

Watch out for that grizzly

Date: 9/12/2012
Day: 145
Start: 8:20 am
End: 5:00 pm
Camp: Fifty Mountain Campground
Others here: Travis, Brook, Gabriela, Jeff, Toph, ?, 2 others (no thru hikers)
Distance: 20 mi
Elevation: 6,661 ft

My penultimate day on the trail was one to remember. Breathtaking scenery and, may I say harrowing; no, that’s too strong, a tension filled encounter with a grizzly. If I were permitted to use such a word it would seem much more exciting.

Lina came back from Waterton to the Many Glacier Campsite last night, so I had breakfast with her this morning. Well a convenience store breakfast burrito, biscuit, and cappuccino anyway. We said goodbye and I headed up toward Swiftcurrent pass. There was ice on the trail starting out which makes me glad that I am not any later.

Early on, I met Nol from boulder, formerly from a ranch just north of Waterton park. We hiked up to the pass together for the company and since this valley is prime grizzly habitat. Near the top, I got a bit ahead and went just a little off trail to check out one of those places in a snow field where running water makes a sort of cave. As I was walking back to the trail, a grizzly came running up toward the snow field in my general direction. I made my presence known with a few shouts which caused him to slow, look my way, and then high tail it up the slope and out of view. It was gone before Nol came along. We hiked the rest of the way to the pass and he turned back toward his car at Many Glacier. I went about two minutes down the other side of the pass, rounded some trees, and spied the same bear digging right under the trail some 20 yards ahead. He was really going to town and didn’t seem to see me. I backed up, went to the top of the pass, and waited a few minutes while I had a snack and some water. Then I went back toward where I had seen him while making all kinds of racket. He was so intent on his now very large hole that he still took no notice of me. I backed up again, and made a wide circuit above him. Well not quite as far up as I had planned, maybe only 50 yards. This time he took notice and stopped digging long enough to look up at me. I took a few snapshots since I didn’t feel threatened and then moved on. Even so, when a grizzly looks directly at you from that close, it’s more than a little uncomfortable and a good idea to move calmly away. Just as I made my way back down to the trail, I saw two guys go by and yelled to them about the bear. I tried several times to get their attention, but they didn’t seem to hear me. Thankfully, they saw him in time to stop and back away. Of course after three others in their party came along they did everything wrong. I told them about my route around, but they took out cameras instead and crept closer. I told them I was moving on and parted with a “keep safe”.

By the way, the views coming up Swiftcurrent Pass were some of the best yet. Along the other side was also very nice …. and no more bears. Before going down to the campsite, I took a short trail up to the Sue Lake overlook; magnificent! I would have liked to stay there the rest of the afternoon, but the cold wind drove me off. Watching the wind currents at the lake 500 feet below cause the rippling waters to dance was a moving experience.

I know this is my last night on the trail, but somehow it feels just like any other night; a normal night in my life. I guess that I’m not allowing myself to think beyond this night.

Thanks Daniel

Date: 9/11/2012
Day: 144
Start: –
End: –
Camp: Many Glacier Campground
Others here: none
Distance: 12 (0 CDT ) miles
Elevation:

A banner day. And here I was complaining about the reservation system forcing me to take a day off. Last night, Wyoming found me at the campground and took me back to the hotel lobby for about an hour where we got caught up on each others hikes. Last I saw her was in Silverton. She and her husband are both working at the Many Glacier hotel restaurant. It was a very pleasant surprise to see her again.

I went back over this morning to say hi and to pick up my camera and phone batteries that she charged over night for me. Had a nice cup of tea along with the two bananas and four cookies she gave me last night. Then I decided to do a day hike to Grinnel Glacier since the trail to iceberg lake is closed due to bear activity.

Grinnel Glacier was well worth the extra miles. Though I think I encountered more people, on trail, on this day hike than I did on the entire CDT, not counting the Old Faithful boardwalk. On the way back I got within 5 feet of a bighorn sheep ram, our rather he got within five feet of me. He was on the trail and several had stopped to take pictures. After taking many pictures, I was going down and around him like I had already seen four people do, when he walked directly toward me and stopped about five feet away. Then he quietly turned and went up the slope. They and their big curved horns are rather intimidating.

Back at the campsite, I went for a final restaurant meal consisting of a hamburger, fries, and a coke. I got to talking with my server, Daniel from Birmingham, about the hike and his experiences with seasonal work and when it came time for my ticket, he told me the meal was on him. He let me leave a tip, but wow! This is a first. I’ve said this before, but I am constantly amazed by the kindness of people I meet. On a hike like this, it seems easier to take the time to really talk to folks, and I always discover that there is someone inside worth knowing.

All the attention I’ve been getting lately reminds me that another adjustment off trail will be going from a somebody on trail back to a nobody in that other world. All my notoriety will fade away like a withering wildflower. It has its days of glory in the spring and then gradually passes to a dry stalk rustling in the fall winds.

I’ll be finally heading again toward Canada tomorrow and strange to say, I feel a nervousness not unlike that of my first nights on the trail.

Many Glacier

Date: 9/10/2012
Day: 143
Start: 8:00 am
End: 2:30 pm
Camp: Many Glacier Campground
Others here: lots of tourists
Distance: 15 mi
Elevation: 4,868 ft

Here I am laying in wait within my tent for the day when I can make that final push to Canada.

I woke to a gray sky and cool temps, but not cold enough to hike in a jacket and gloves. On my way up to Piegan Pass it started to sleet, so the gloves and jacket eventually made their way on. On the other side of the pass, the winds was so intense at times that not only did I have to hold onto my hat, but had trouble keeping my feet planted firmly on the trail. In fact, there was nothing firm about it.

It’s been alternating between rain and sleet since I got to the campground. Well actually, my first stop was the restaurant next door. I still have to decide whether to go for one of those cellophane wrapped hamburgers or canned Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee ravioli for dinner. Yum!

It turns out that the reservation forced day off here works out well since Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be clear, sunny days.

While walking today, I was thinking about how easy it will be to sink back with the rest of “civilization” into those upside down values that put things like wealth, comfort, and entertainment at the forefront of life, while in reality they are no life at all. I don’t have a solution. I guess that’s why I keep ending up out here – away from the things of man.

I ended up going with the canned ravioli heated in the can. Out was actually kinda good.

Can we shorten the stick attached to that carrot?

Date: 9/9/2012
Day: 142
Start: 9:00 am
End: 3:30 pm
Camp: Reynolds Creek
Others here: none
Distance: 17 mi
Elevation: 4,646 ft

Again, I was in no hurry this morning since the distance to my campsite was so short. I went back to the Park Cafe for a forgettable breakfast but good strawberry rhubarb pie. They were out of coconut cream; if only I had a sister legendary for her coconut cream pie …. just sayin. I must admit, though, that it was more enjoyable here the first time, ten years ago, with friends. I had the same grumpy waitress as yesterday’s lunch. Funny how we build things up in our minds and when we finally get there, we are often disappointed. All that aside, at least I have bested John at pie play.

I’m now only two easy days away from Canada as far as mileage goes, but it will take me four since I have to use reserved campsites. It’s almost too much to bear being so close but having to hold back on the reins.
I feel like Canada is being held out like a carrot on a stick just out of my reach.

It’s funny though, I know after only a few weeks, I’ll be longing for the peace and simplicity of trail life. As much as I’m ready to complete this journey and return to loved ones, I expect to have a bit of a difficult time adjusting to the culture shock. It can be very difficult going from this lifestyle that I love, and for which I believe I was made, though the whirlwind, and back to the inside world of plastic, busyness, and topsy-turvy priorities. The world where we all somehow learn to thrive, or at least subsist, when all the while something inside tells us that we were not intended for such an existence.

This is my second to last night in the backcountry and I’m feeling sad.

Score settled

Date: 9/8/2012
Day: 141
Start: 7:30 am
End: 2:30 pm
Camp: St Mary Campground
Others here: none
Distance: 21 mi
Elevation: 4,490 ft

This time I knew just what to do with all the extra time. Over ten years ago I did a week long hike in Glacier with JK and my nephew John. After the hike, we stopped at the Park Cafe in St Mary for a meal and pie. I short sightedly only had one piece of pie to John’s two and he has not let me forget it all these years. I have made it my mission these 26 or 2700 miles to make it to St Mary and settle the pie score once and for all. To prepare myself, I skipped lunch, then ordered the veggie burger without fries and three pieces of pie; rhubarb, razzleberry, and banana cream. One mission complete; John’s days of pie tyranny are finally over. With this quest complete, I could almost go home now. However, since I’m this close, I guess I’ll go ahead and hike the rest of the way to the border.

I confess my tummy was a bit upset after the three pies, so I had no pie for dinner, only chili and ice tea. I’ll have a piece with breakfast in the morning, probably coconut cream.

Trail news: I saw two bears within five minutes today a couple miles down from Triple Divide Pass. I’m calling the first a grizzly because that sounds more exciting and I’m pretty sure it had round ears. The second was definitely a black bear. They were both on the slope above me. The first one was walking toward me with it’s head down so I couldn’t see it’s face. It either had a hump or kind of a sway back. It didn’t see me so I was getting ready to use my most intimidating voice to make my presence known. I cleared my throat, it looked up, stood up, and then turned tail and ran. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good look at it. The second saw me first and took off running.

I also saw a group of bighorn sheep earlier in the day laying down below me. They were too far away to make out if they were male or female. Yesterday I saw about 8 females.

This Glacier vacation from thru hiking is fun, but I admit that I’m aching to get to that border. It’s tough going so slowly.

Dawson pass

Date: 9/7/2012
Day: 140
Start: 9:15 am
End: 4:00 pm
Camp: Atlantic Creek
Others here: 3 guys from Texas A&M (?, Rickie, Ishmael), another from Alabama
Distance: 16 mi
Elevation: 5,273 ft

Dawson Pass was another alternate and well worth the extra couple miles. One of the things I love about the CDT is the freedom to choose my own route. The alpine section from Dawson pass to Pitamakan pass was one of the most spectacular of my hike. It was amazingly beautiful. Three miles, which I would normally do in one hour took me two because I was stopping so often to admire the views. Just after lunch, I was admiring one of those views near a notch when I watched a hawk float over the ridge and then bank left, so the sun made his wings glow, and then glide effortlessly up, and away. I thought how well his free flight symbolized part of my reasoning for loving the long distance hiking lifestyle so. I can’t put it into words, but that hawk said it well with his sublime soaring. If only my hiking could be so effortless, but then it is the effort and pressing through the hard times that make it so rewarding.

It’s difficult getting to camp so early; I don’t know what to do with all the time. Though, at least for the present, I am liking the relaxed, easy schedule. It is like a vacation at the end of an often grueling (but beyond rewarding) thru hike. I realized today that I am only at a backcountry site every other night. St Mary tomorrow, then Reynolds creek, then Many Glacier campground where there is also a lodge and restaurant for two nights, then Fifty Mountain, and finally Waterton in Canada – yippee!

I have a feeling that I will look back at Glacier as the most beautiful part of the hike. What a great way to finish.

Looking forward to pie tomorrow!