Getting to the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail

Thru-hiking is about embracing chance, then figuring things out as you go. If you plan too much, things won’t go according to plan. So, I’ve booked a flight to the Kalispell airport. And, I’m not planning how I’m getting to the Chief Mountain border crossing, where I’ll start the CDT. I’ll be figuring everything else out as I go.

But, it’s really really happening now. I’ll be flying to Glacier Park International Airport on June 29th. My flight arrives just after noon, so I’ll have the entire rest of the day to figure out how I’ll get to East Glacier Village. 

After doing a bunch of research I’ve decided to do nothing more than book a flight. I’ll hitchhike from the airport to East Glacier Village or figure out some other way. But who wouldn’t want to pick up this guy from the town closest to Glacier National Park?

I have my hitching thumbs ready, y’all!

From the airport to East Glacier is a 90-minute drive. About 80 miles by car. I know there are some taxi services in Whitefish, and an Amtrak train that runs from Whitefish to East Glacier. But, I’ll try to hitchhike to East Glacier first. 

I could even walk that in 2 days.

I don’t think hitchhiking from the airport to East Glacier will be difficult. In my experience, hitching in areas that are popular with backpackers is quite easy. And, what area is more popular with backpackers than Glacier National Park? This could be the most popular backpacking destination in the world for all I know…

Okay, I just googled it. I don’t think Glacier National Park is the most popular backpacking destination in the U.S., even. It didn’t even make this article that lists the top 10 backpacking destinations in the U.S. Well, Glacier is very popular. I bet I’ll be able to hitch there.

But if hitchhiking doesn’t work, I have a backup plan. If I can’t manage to find a hitch to East Glacier I can take that Amtrak. It leaves at 7:40 every morning, so I’d have to find a place to stay overnight in Whitefish to take it, though. 

just a pretty picture from a recent trail run in Lost Creek Wilderness.

I suspect it’ll be more difficult to find an affordable place to stay near Glacier National Park just before the 4th of July than it will be to hitchhike 80 miles. I also suspect that of all those people who will be making it difficult to find a place to stay in the nearest town to the National Park, at least one will pick me up.

Or, maybe I’ll be able to team up with some other hikers that I find in the airport. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet an eagle that will offer to fly me to East Glacier after they bring Gandolf to Banff. If I had a rigid plan, then I would have to turn down that eagle’s offer or surrender my $13 Amtrak ticket, and I know I won’t want to lose those 13 dollars!

So, I’ll start my walk into the unknown with a walk into the unknown…

How will I get to Chief Mountain? Who knows!

In East Glacier, I can camp at the walk-in backcountry campground. There, I’ll be able to talk to a ranger to get my backcountry permits sorted. I hear I’ll be forced to either hike short days or really long days. I think I’ll go for short days if it comes down to deciding between hiking 10 miles per day and 30 miles per day. But, maybe it won’t work out like that for me. 

From East Glacier, again, I’ll probably hitchhike to Chief Mountain Border Crossing. Chief Mountain is the location of 1 of the Continental Divide Trail northern terminuses. There is another, but you traditionally get to that from the Canadian side. And, with Covid still a reality, border crossings into Canada aren’t an option yet. So, Chief Mountain it is. 

I suspect not very many people will be driving to the border crossing since that crossing will be closed. But, I have a friend who has arranged a ride there on July 1st, so I can get a ride with them, or any of the other CDT hikers I find who are looking to do the same thing as me. 

Whatever, I’m excited to start hiking the CDT in a few weeks.

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