Our only plan for today was to walk north on U.S. Highway 2 to the village of East Glacier Park. The distance was only ten miles. The rest of the day was up in the air.
True, Top O', Polecat, and I expected we would do more than that. This would be our last opportunity to resupply before we entered Glacier National Park.
|Date||Saturday, September 11, 2021|
|Weather||Rain, then partly cloudy and smokey; temperatures from the mid-40s to upper-60s|
|Trail Conditions||Asphalt road|
A hot shower and clean clothes seemed certain. It's been six days since we've had those. No decisions had been made about when or where this would happen. We just figured the short mileage day would allow plenty of time to work out those details.
Rain started falling last night around midnight and didn't quit until 6:30 a.m. This was the first measurable rain we've had in more than two weeks.
Polecat had set up a tarp in our campsite last night, which came in handy for packing this morning. Though the rain had tapered off by the time we were ready to leave, water was still dripping from the trees.
Guy Number 5 and Fraggles needed to start walking this morning from Marias Pass because that is where they ended yesterday. They didn't follow the Summit Connector trail like Top O', Thirteen, and I did. To keep their footsteps connected, they needed to walk the additional two miles. They left nearly an hour before we did.
Because we only needed to start at Summit Trailhead, Polecat dropped us off there. We arrived at 8 a.m. Guy Number 5 and Fraggles showed up there a couple of minutes later.
Though the rain ended at least an hour before we started hiking, the highway stayed wet. The cars and trucks that drove by sometimes kicked up a spray of water.
Another small shower fell on us soon after we left, though it didn't last long. The rain clouds moved west of us, and the rain settled over the mountains of Glacier National Park. At the same time, the clouds above us began to break up, bringing out a little sun. There was enough sunlight to make a rainbow at the foot of the mountains.
Seeing this reminded me of another time I walked toward a town with a group of trail friends. A similar, low-hanging rainbow stretched along some mountains on my way to Kennedy Meadows on the PCT.
That day was the end of a chapter in that hike and the start of another. Soon, I left my tramily to go home and wait out the melting of heavy snowfall in the Sierra.
As my hike through the desert ended, there was a lot I didn't know about for the next chapter. Would I see any of my friends again? Would I be able to get back on the trail soon enough to finish before more winter weather arrived?
There were also many chapters yet to be written after that. For the moment, I knew nothing of the remaining plot that extended for nearly four more months.
On the whole, this morning was uneventful. The sky brightened around 10 a.m., and it looked as if the sun would push away the clouds. That didn't happen, and before long the sky darkened again. At least no more rain fell, and the cloud cover kept the temperature from getting uncomfortably warm while I walked along the asphalt highway.
I arrived at East Glacier Park at 11 a.m. After driving through it yesterday on our way to Two Medicine, I now knew the layout of the village. The main business district straddled the highway, and a spur road went to the national park.
The town's year-round population is just 354. It looked like it had not fully rebounded after the recession and COVID-19. Some businesses were empty. Others were open but needed some upkeep.
This was a far cry from some other tourism-driven towns at the doorstep of a large national park, like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Estes Park, Colorado.
The general store was where Thirteen bought a pizza yesterday. It was one of many businesses showing some wear and tear. At least it was open, and we could buy some snacks. I purchased a fresh muffin and coffee, which perked me up after a damp and dreary walk.
We decided after our break to continue walking another seven-tenths of a mile up the spur road to Looking Glass Basecamp. This would put us in a better spot to reconnect our footsteps tomorrow when we start hiking in the park.
Looking Glass Basecamp was located in a former restaurant. The owners found staying afloat with the previous business was a struggle. The tourism season barely lasted five months, and finding help was a constant challenge. Unexpectedly, the owners stumbled upon the idea of converting the building into a hostel. Their location made this ideal for anyone coming to Glacier on foot or bicycle.
Tiny cabins are now available for rent, or hikers and cyclists can pitch a tent in the yard or sleep on the floor inside the former restaurant.
So many hikers were there when we arrived, the place felt like a large family reunion. Some, like Doggone, Freebird, and Raven, were about to start hiking to the border. The Bennetts, Hush, and Sideview, were among those who returned after finishing. Everyone was in a celebratory mood.
Top O', Polecat, and I had yet to figure out our plans for the rest of the day. When Polecat met us at the hostel, we talked to the hostel's owners, Luna and Will. They told us there was just one cabin left, which seemed too small for the three of us. We offered it to Thirteen.
We decided what we wanted couldn't be found in East Glacier Park. We wanted a real grocery store and a comfortable motel, and thanks to Polecat and his truck, they were possible.
There were motels in East Glacier Park, but they were either booked full or appeared to be a little too seedy. The closest town to find what we wanted was Shelby on Interstate 15. That was about an hour away, which seemed a ridiculous distance to drive.
Still, today would be our last opportunity for platinum blazing, so we decided to go for it.
After cleaning up and doing our laundry, we shopped for our last resupply at an Albertsons grocery store. The selection was much better than East Glacier's general store and the prices were lower.
I found a Montana beer called Yardsale at the store. It seemed like an appropriate drink to take back to our motel room and enjoy where our tents and sleeping bags were spread out to dry. It was also a fitting way to open the final chapter of this long hike.
Top O' and I will secure our camping permit tomorrow and begin hiking in Glacier. The chapter of our walk to the border will be short, just seven days long. What happens in them is entirely unknown.
I could not be more excited to find out.
There are promises broken and promises kept
Angry words that were spoken, when I should have wept
There's a chapter of secrets, and words to confess
If I lose everything that I possess
There's a chapter on loss and a ghost who won't die
There's a chapter on love where the ink's never dry
There are sentences served in a prison I built out of lies
Though the pages are numbered
I can't see where they lead
For the end is a mystery no one can read
In the book of my life