It was several weeks before my 30th birthday and Debbie invited me to join her on a trip to Montana to celebrate my birthday and meet her friends. She had planned the trip with some of her greatest friends, Marcy and Marshall, months in advance and the itinerary sounded like a blast. They were going to go backcountry camping, do a little sightseeing, and, if at all possible, watch Marshall do some skiing. How could I say no? So, I booked a flight to Kalispell, Montana.
Debbie and I picked up some gear we needed in preparation for our trip. I purchased some Merrell Moab waterproof boots, which turned out to be a great choice. I only spent three days breaking them in before the trip, and I was able to do all of my hiking during the trip without getting so much as a hot spot. Debbie picked up a really nice Big Agnes sleeping bag that was big enough for the both of us and still had room to spare. If you have ever been to Glacier in September you understand why you want a warm sleeping bag.
Marcy, Marshall, and Debbie were wonderful to be with during the entire trip. They made certain I always had a beer in my hand, food in my mouth, or smile on my face. I imagine being in one of the United State’s most beautiful national parks helped a bit too.
Before we set off on our backcountry camping adventure we swung by the Polebridge Mercantile store. My god, they have the best pastries I have ever had. New York, London, San Fransisco, and Seoul have nothing on Polebridge pastries.
Unaware of what was going on around me, as usual, my friends had bought me some pastries for my birthday. So, in lieu of a birthday cake (which I don’t like anyways) they put candles in the huckleberry pastries and sang Happy Birthday to me on the shore of Bowman Lake. It was as beautiful a birthday celebration as any I can recall.
We departed from the shore of Bowman Lake and started our trek to Akokala Lake in the North Fork of Glacier. The hike was about 6 miles from Bowman to our campsite. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were the only ones who had reserved a spot in that valley for the night. We had the entire valley to ourselves – it was wonderful!
The following morning Marshall woke up before the rest of us in time to hear an elk bugling, it was an incredible start to the day. We spent the morning taking in the magnificent views, enjoying the tranquility, and prepping for our hike back to Bowman.
The hike was a pretty one and could have easily been uneventful too, but fate had something a little different in store for us. During our entire hike we were making noise and having lively conversations. It is customary to make noise when you are in bear country because it tips off the bears to the fact you are there. My understanding is that the bears would rather avoid humans, but don’t respond well if you surprise them.
So, about three-quarters of the way through our hike back to Bowman Lake one of us noticed a grizzly track in the mud of the trail we were hiking on. It wasn’t too big and seemed to be old enough not to cause too much concern. So, after a few moments of gawking we resumed our hike. No more than 5 minutes later we heard the cracking of trees and the unmistakable rustle of something much larger than us a few meters off the trail. We all stopped dead in our tracks. A moment passed before Debbie rallied us forward and away from the potential danger. Our adrenaline got pumping and we were wide eyed for the rest of the hike. We made good time on our return trip.
Maybe I should have taken the warning signs more seriously….
My trip to Glacier was about a week after the National Park Service Centennial. It is incredible to think that these great places around our beautiful country have only been officially recognized as indispensable to the fabric of our country for the last 100 years. From 1776 to 1916 (140 years) they were not officially recognized by our nation. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit one of these amazing places I implore you to make some time and find a way to visit one. In the wild you can let go of your daily worries and rediscover a part of who you are that got lost along the way.
I can’t wait to get back to Montana for some more fun and shenanigans with Marcy and Marshall.
What is your favorite National Park? What is it about that park you love?