CDT Part 1–Glacier National Park

Two weeks ago I flew to Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, Montana. Now, I’m sitting outside a motel room in Lincoln, Montana. I’m almost 300 miles away from the northernmost terminus of the Continental Divide Trail. But, I didn’t actually start at the northern terminus. It was too busy to start there.

And now it’s been two weeks since we started hiking north across the park. It’s already been two weeks but it seems like longer.

National parks are great places for hiking and backpacking. They’re beautiful, really beautiful, but they’re busy. They smell like cologne and travel shampoo. But they’re beautiful. And busy.

We couldn’t get permits to hike south through the park. But, we could get permits to hike north. After 5 days of hiking, we made it to the “starting point” at the Canadian border.

The beginning of a thru-hike at the end of a Glacier backpacking trip.

Back to the beginning now.

On Tuesday, June 29th I flew from Denver to Glacier Park International Airport. The airport is small, but big enough to handle everyone flying in to visit Glacier. Also on the flight was a friend I met on the Colorado Trail last summer.

After the flight, it was hitchhiking the rest of the way. We were able to find everything we couldn’t bring on an airplane on the way, too: camp stove fuel, bear spray, and bug spray (okay, I just couldn’t find that at the one place I looked for it in Denver before leaving).

It was hot, like 100 degrees hot, and right next to Canada. That isn’t normal. Standing on the blacktop to hitchhike was harder than hiking on those nice dirt trails. But, we got to Apgar Village in West Glacier quickly enough.

A lone bighorn sheep met us on the ridge between Two Medicine and East Glacier Village.

You have to get permits to backpack Glacier National Park, and the only way to do this is through a walk up system that starts at 8 am every morning. We went into the backcountry permit office in Apgar Village at 3 in the afternoon. There was nothing available. It was close the the 4th of July.

But, the CDT is on the east side of the park. Maybe that side will be more favorable to us CDT thru-hikers trying to get a permit to backpack GNP. We started hitching to East Glacier Village.

It’s about a 90 minute drive from the West side to the East side of the park. We made it there in one ride.

The following morning we’re waiting outside the Two Medicine Backcountry Permit office at 6 am. And, we get permits! I was with two other hikers on the permit, so I’d be hiking or at least camping with them.

Trippy, dude.

Our itinerary isn’t great but we can start today, the last day of June. We have to hike through the park north and then figure out how to get back to the southern end. Plus, the mileage between campsites is silly: 13 miles, 25 miles, 31 miles, 20 miles, and 6 miles to finish. But, we have permits. And we can start today.

So let’s gooooo.

Pretty rivers.

Pretty waterfalls.
Pretty rocks.

We hike across the park, staying at the backcountry campsites we had permits for. Glacier was amazing to hike through, but again, the crowds. It really didn’t feel like the beginning of a thru-hike, but it was.

To top it all off, we couldn’t even walk to the official start of the CDT. The official terminus next to Canada was somewhere off behind those cones.

STOP! You can’t go into Canada

Maybe the Chief Mountain Border Crossing will be open next year…

This adventure is still in the surreal faze. It hasn’t really sunk in that it’s happening. But, next is the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The Bob will be a very different experience and it’ll all start to sink in then.

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