An Early October Storm in Glacier
I met a couple other CDT hikers in the otherwise deserted village of East Glacier. After spending Saturday night at the Backpackers Inn, Windscreen and I relocated across town to Brownie’s Hostel, which stays open through mid-October. The inn, along with most businesses in town, was shutting down for the season, setting on the task of winterizing buildings.
Dropping our bags off inside the hostel, we bundled up, hydrated, and filled our pockets with snacks before going out on the road to hitch up to Two Medicine. From there we would hike ten miles south, over the shoulder of Mount Henry, before descending back down into the village of East Glacier, the warm hostel and bakery our finish line for the day.
At this point, there was a dusting in town and some ice on the roads. Two Medicine road was closed two miles from where the CDT crosses it, which added to our short day hike. Just after noon, we began our walk up the road, heading for the trailhead. From the bottom, we could not see much of the mountain, it being hidden in the clouds. Within a couple miles on trail, we had walked up and joined those clouds in the sky, nestled upon the mountain.
The snow became deeper as the fog grew dense. The trees provided cover for a short while but they soon disappeared with the valley. Without trees or rocks to latch our eyes onto, the horizon blended into its opposite. The trail was under six inches of snow, double this amount in the wind buff. Fortunately the red line on Guthook is fairly accurate. We hiked through the snow, occasionally checking a phone to properly navigate the ridge where visibility was nearly nonexistent and switchbacks were missed.
We made it back to the hostel, moist shoes and socks beginning to freeze as the temperature dropped. The 12 miles took us six hours to hike, which seemed reasonable for traveling through snow and whiteout conditions at times. Throughout that night and over the next couple days we reflected upon this day hike. We were honest and diligent in our evaluation, constantly swaying back and forth with the decision to stay or go
That evening was spent checking mileage and bailout points while a frozen pizza baked in the oven. The weather forecast was changing every hour and in the midst of planning, a winter storm warning went into effect for the Glacier National Park area. Two feet of snow was expected in areas like Logan Pass, six inches of snow to cover the lower elevations.
A few days later we were on the train, slowly pulling away from East Glacier. Leaving the trail behind, I felt a great hole in my heart. After three zeroes and two snowstorms, it seemed like time to leave. Unfortunately, the storm delivered what was predicted and it was not going to melt or clear up anytime soon.
Yet, either out of stubbornness or confidence, I refuse to admit my journey over. Currently, I am on an Amtrak en route to Southern California to see friends, feel the sunshine and enjoy a few more days off. Keeping an eye on the weather for East Glacier and webcams throughout the park, I will be ready to return, albeit with a couple more pairs of socks, if and when the snow melts. It was an early storm this year and a heavy one at that. I remain optimistic and still hope to finish my hike before the month closes.
Peace and Love
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