My Final Days on the Continental Divide Trail
Glacier National Park is nearly empty this time of year. A few locals visit, driving around to witness the change in seasons. After a couple early-October snowstorms, the clouds retreated for a week and a half, allowing the sun to make a full return. While visiting friends in California, I kept a close eye on the weather forecast and the park’s webcams, always plotting my return to finish up the last 75 miles from Two Medicine to the border crossing at the end of Chief Mountain Road.
I got a ride from a friend up to the border and began hiking south from there. This way proved to be difficult as more snow remained on the north side of the passes than the south side. Hiking up through snow was a struggle and the first morning out, it took me 5.5 hours to hike four miles up to Red Gap Pass.
I began hiking in the dark, waking up well before the sunrise and during the coldest part of the day. It is always a good idea to get over passes early before the sun has a chance to hit the snow and alter the conditions. Even with snowshoes on, my feet sink. Soon, my shoes and socks are soaked through. Twice on the short climb to the pass I was forced to take a break on the side of the trail, where I stuffed my lower extremities into my quilt to warm them back up.
After two and a half weeks off trail, my legs were not in their best trail shape, and upon reaching Many Glacier, 25 miles south of the border, I stuck out my thumb and was picked up by the first car that approached. I got a ride to East Glacier Park Village to reset mentally and so I could hike north to make the miles more manageable.
From Two Medicine to Many Glacier there were three passes and a longer stretch below 5,000 feet in the valley, where snow was completely melted out in some areas. The passes were much easier to get up and over from the south side, snow remaining in patches but not nearly as deep as on the north-facing slope. On the north side I encountered everything from waist-deep snow to blown-over hardpack that required careful travel to avoid sliding down the mountain.
The sun continued to shine during my time in the wilderness, slowly melting the snow. The mountains glow with a coat of white sitting upon them. The only noise in the forest coming from the crunch of snow underneath my feet. The occasional bird chirps but the snow-covered trees held all noise under cover of the canopy.
It was a bittersweet ending but also a great weight off my shoulders to finally finish the hike. It has been a challenging yet rewarding six months, during which I’ve learned a lot about myself and seen some of the more beautiful and remote parts of our country.
Hiking and camping alone for the majority of this journey allowed me the time to think and not to think, letting the moment be while my legs carry me forward only as fast as was ever necessary. Every day was the best day ever, each mile filled with wonder and bliss. Countless times during my hike I would stop, take a deep breath, look around me and smile, laughing to myself with no one around, constantly amazed by the beauty and appreciative of the opportunity to spend five-plus months on the Continental Divide Trail.
Thank you to all those who have followed my journey, read this blog, and offered words of encouragement. Whether you read one paragraph or every single word, I thank you for your time and attention. My goal with this blog was to share a piece of my experience while inspiring others to step outside their own comfort zone, and I hope I have been able to provide this.
The words I type and the pictures I post will never do any inch of this trail justice. Nevertheless, I am glad to have had the opportunity to share a piece of it with you.
Till next time.
Peace and Love,
Brian // knots
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