As soon as you wake up at Brownie’s Hostel, you can smell baked goods downstairs and I was eager for 7am to roll around. I grabbed two pastries and a cold coke to drink. We lounged on the couches realizing this is the last stretch. The two of us left first and walked down a few roads before finding the trail. We had a pet dog for a few minutes as he lead back to the trail before turning around. Our first pet together… didn’t last too long. We came to a Glacier National Park sign along with one reminding us we are in grizzly bear country! Trust me, I have not forgotten about our bear encounter a few days back. There were lots of reflections this morning about how far we have come together and all the epic views along the way. I have a difficult time comprehending how many miles I have hiked in the past three years and how my life came to this point. All it took was one crazy decision to attempt the Appalachian Trail. Little did I know that I would find a lifestyle full of wonder, adventure, and years of friendships. I am also fortunate to have reconnected with my AT hiking partner, Paperweight, and realize the friendship we had on that trail has only grown stronger. We created a strenuous schedule for ourselves with a deadline to finish since we have a ride booked. We followed the cairns up to an amazing pass with views that blew my mind. Some of the best hiking in the past three years certainly include Glacier National Park. At the top of the pass, we soaked in the views and waited for our friends to join us. Chipmunk and I joked about how we never thought we were going to make it, but here we are. Paperweight and I began the downhill towards Two Medicine campground and parking. We met a man out hiking that pointed out three big horned sheep! This is my first time seeing them in the wild. Another unforgettable experience! We made it to Two Medicine which had closed down a few days ago for the season and even the trash cans were locked. We found a huge herd of big horned sheep eating out of the campfire pits. We began the climb towards Pitamakan Pass. We met lots of people out for a day hike congratulating us on our hike and asking lots of questions. It is nice to meet people again on the CDT and share some stories. They all agreed with us that today is one of the best weather days in a long time in this area. I enjoyed the sun shine, warm weather, and clear views for miles. We passed a closed down campsite near a lake that is closed due to grizzly bear activity. As expected, the top of the pass rewarded us with more surreal views. We headed down the pass to a large lake where we enjoyed one last snack before pushing on to the Atlantic Creek campsite. I enjoy having a campsite reserved because you know there are cleared out spots for tents and room for everyone. In Glacier, the campsites all met a specific design. There is an eating spot near where the food is hung, a separate spot to camp, and a separate area for the privy. We enjoyed dinner getting to know Rodger from Wild (His real name is Greg, but he is “Rodger” from the book Wild. Meaning he was on the PCT the same year that Cheryl hiked it and wrote her now famous story of her experience on trail) and a lovely couple from Czech Republic. Crocs eventually showed up as it was getting dark and joined us. It was a nice evening followed up by a quick tent set up and off to bed. Only 3 more days and 2 more nights now of this lifestyle…
We got an early start this morning looking forward to exploring more of Glacier National Park. We spooked a mama and baby moose out of the dense trees onto the trail then deep into the woods. The landscape was stunning as expected as we gradually climbed uphill to our next pass. This section is far enough from the parking lots so the only people I see on the trail are 6 other thru hikers nearing the end of a long journey. We made it to Triple Divide Pass with Rodger from Wild and a nice couple from Czech Republic as everyone took a snack break and savored the view. Triple Divide Pass is near where the two divides meet forming a peak where water runs off to the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian Ocean. It was relaxing to just stare at the peak and chat with fellow hikers. Paperweight and I spent the day reflecting and dreaming of future trips together. We came to the spot where the trail follows along Saint Mary’s Lake. Across from the lake, you can see the famous Going to the Sun road. That is certainly on my list of roads to travel. The trail was easy walking and full of beauty every around turn. We found lots of waterfalls as he realized he had been here before. I am a sucker for waterfalls, but we couldn’t spend too long needing to get to camp before it gets too dark. Walking in grizzly bear country at night is not on my favorites list. As we got to a trial junction, there was no mention of Reynolds Creek Campsite as we noticed someone had carved into the sign and it pointed across the bridge. But instead of a bridge, the suspension bridge was taken out and we followed the trail down to the “horse ford” route. We both took off our shoes and I slipped on my crocs. The water was freezing cold and my feet went numb during the last few steps. We dropped all of our food and smelly items off at the food area, but setting up our tent for the night. We cooked dinner resting on the ideal long in front of a fire pit which we were too tired to build. We heard people on the other side of the creek and he went to the river to guide them across in the dark. It was another night of wonderful company and lots of calories. We headed back to our tent first to relax and check our maps as our routine has been for months. Trail life is beautiful and full of so many emotions.
The morning started out with a drizzly and a ford. I really didn’t need to take off my shoes because it would rain most of the morning, but I did. We plunged into the cold water of the creek moving fast over the chilly water. It was only a light drizzle, but it quickly changed as a put on my rain gear. We crossed a paved road of no cars before joining the trail and beginning the climb up to Piegan Pass. The trees sheltered us from the rain for a bit before we reached tree line. It was another pleasant uphill especially after 5 ½ months of hiking my mind is a well-oiled hiking machine. The clouds passed over the mountains tops and glaciers at the top stole my breath. I am so fortunate to explore Glacier for the first time by foot. We made it to the top of the pass before began the downhill. As we turned the corner, we were rewarded with epic views, waterfalls, and the possibility of clearing skies. I got ahead by just a few seconds. Suddenly, I noticed two animals way off moving in the distance. As I pointed to them with my hiking poles, I saw Crocs under a rock in front of me. We agreed it was likely grizzly bears as Paperweight joined us. We did what we were told and began shouting at them. I was getting cold waiting for the bears to move. We debated a scree downhill for only a few seconds because it was way too risky. We inched closer and closer yelling at the bears and they could care less. It was a big mama grizzly and a baby. The baby was curious about us, but the mother continued digging up roots. We all had our bear spray read as we lost sight of them from our vantage point. We moved slowly as I was in between the two fellows this time as we saw them less than 100 feet up above the trail. The mother continued eating and I got a lovely glimpse at the baby bear. The most adorable and cuddly looking creature that I have ever seen, but that cute little critter will soon be a huge grizzly. I do not have a photo to post because we would not wait around or waste any time. You do not want to spook or anger a grizzly bear. We zoomed down the hill as we lost sight of them eventually. I warmed up due to the fast walking, adrenaline rush, and lower elevation. We walked near the waterfalls and analyzed the stunning landscape. Many moments this year felt like I was in a different world or a dream. The four of us took a break at a stream after a quick ford for lunch. We watched mountain goats walk along rocky cliffs through Chipmunk’s binoculars. What an extraordinary animal to watch. You can see white specks on the side of the cliffs with your bare eyes. Then using the binoculars you realize how steep the cliff is usually up to 60 degree slope they are maneuvering and watch them eating. We all took off and headed farther downhill towards Many Glacier. It was clear most of the way and then the sky began to darken. We made it to the closed down restaurant, ranger station, and warm food. This is the negative aspect of finishing late in the season. We took refuge under different shelters as the wind and rain was intense for a while. The four of us ended up together again sitting under a roof watching and listening to the storm pass. This is the reality of thru hiking. An hour plus later we took one of the two choices to the border. Ptarmigan Tunnel closed down a few days earlier solidifying the route we would take. We walked along the road for a bit before dipping to the left onto the trail. The sun was beginning to set and we rushed wanting to get to camp before it was too dark. We choose to camp at Poia Lake Campsite. We ventured off to grab water out of the lake as my foot slipped into the lake as I used my headlamp to light up my water source. We found a canopy set up over the fire ring so we sat down, cooked, hung our bear bags and found a tent site. It was chilly in the high 30s as we moved quickly and got cozy one last night. I am ready for the indoors for a bit. It has been a wild few months.
It is the last time this season of packing up a damp tent and eating a cold breakfast. It has been an exciting, exhausting, and beautiful 5 ½ months. But winter is right around the corner and we just made it in time to complete our thru hike. The morning light allowed us to see the beauty of Poia Lake and look ahead towards our last pass to Canada. There are lots of emotions today and mixed feelings about finishing the trail. I was so unsure if I would complete the trail after the snow in the San Juans and getting into the month of October, but we did it. The support of my family and friends encouraging me to stay strong and earn that Triple Crown reassured me. Luckily, I have the ideal hiking partner that knows how to motivate, reassure, and push me to be a stronger woman. Without Paperweight this sure would have been a lonely trail and I’m fortunate to have in my life. We began the gradual climb towards Red Gap Pass. We passed icy covered streams and warmed up one more time. The view from the pass did not disappoint as I have fallen madly in love with Glacier National Park. We headed downhill where it was a bit warmer and took a break on the trail reflecting, discussing previous fears, and looking forward to the future. It was then one last march towards the border. We made our way to the Belly River Ranger Station to take one last break and Chipmunk joined us as well. Chocolate Chipmunk is one of the best thru hikers I have had the privilege of sharing my journey with. As we left that last break stop, I kept looking back at the mountains and the pass I had just been on top of. I understand how far away I stood from the Mexican Border back on April 22nd. Also, a year ago today I finished my thru hike of the PCT. I walked in awe of my accomplishments, dedication, and experiences over the past three seasons of hiking. I have been blessed to see so many parts of the country you can only visit by feet. The hospitality of small towns along the way, the generosity of rides as we hitched hiked, and the beauty of this country make thru hiking the best way to travel in my opinion. Before I knew it, I was standing at a marker for the trail as everyone was cheering. The four of us shared congratulations before walking the road towards the border crossing. It has closed down for the season, but we still took our photo in Canada at an old marker. It was a surreal moment as I tried to comprehend the past few months. We took the usual photos and I placed on my crown that Crocs made me. I have earned the triple crown on thru hiking in three years and became a better person seeing new places, meeting people from across the globe, and evolving as a woman. Take that risk and live out your dreams!