PNT Jitters – The Prologue
From drafts to plans to action, the PNT was finally happening. July 5th, I was set to board an Amtrak train and head east to begin my hike.
Now, there are two kinds of people who travel, those who set all their things out days prior to their trip, making sure everything has been checked twice, maybe even a third time. And then there’s those who procrastinate until day of to do all their packing and last minute details. Normally, I am the former. Meticulous, thorough, and ready to hit the road. But something about this pandemic life has really shifted my motivation and changed me. So what did I do? Naturally, I saved everything until the last minute, and by last minute I mean three hours before my train was leaving.
Things I needed to do before I was able to leave:
- Drive to my Aunt’s house to pick up my extra shoes from storage
- Grab snacks from the store for the Glacier portion of trail
- Pack dinners for Glacier (choosing which veggies/protein/spices/base to put together)
- Pack all my gear while carefully trying not to forget things
- Put my extra gear and stuff into a friend’s cellar
- Tidy my van– quickly
- Fold laundry for future me to come home to
- Make a first-aid kit
- Take gear pic (If you don’t take a pic, did you really even hike?)
Now you’re probably wondering why I left all of this for the last three hours, and, well, I really needed those last minute snuggles before heading out to trail for 2 months.
Riding In Style
I don’t know about you, but normally I strive for the cheapest option available. From cross country greyhound trips to 35 hour flights to Asia, I -love- a good deal, but traveling with a partner in crime who wanted to snag our own room, I opted in for the upgraded seats. Let me tell you, I am NOT used to feeling fancy. The trip started with free drink tickets and our own personal lounge. Two dirtbags in a lounge? A mood I’ll tell ya. A perk of having our own room meant that we didn’t have to wear our masks for the entire ride, which was entirely worth the upgrade on its own.
At this point it was truly starting to settle in that the PNT was happening. All the anxieties of tying up loose ends in Portland were beginning to wash away. Just a few more hours until we would be in Montana, picking up our permits for Glacier, and then the emergence of our hike would finally happen.
Arrival In Glacier!!!
We’re here, we’re queer, and we only forgot a couple pieces of gear (R.I.P. my titanium spork). AT LAST, we had made it to Glacier. Next stop, Two Medicine ranger station for our permits. As we departed the train, we ran into a handful of other hikers, mostly other PNT hikers, but a couple CDT as well. Sauntering up the road, we stopped by the Brownie hostel for a last minute attempt for a new spork. It was… unsuccessful, and also quite crowded. This then sparked our first challenge of trail, hitchhiking. Hitching in non-COVID times is on its own very hit or miss, but in the midst of a pandemic, when borders are closed, the difficulty grows.
As we watch one hiker get picked up almost instantaneously, we popped up shop in some shade near a pull off, ready for our chance. Car after car, van after van, we watched as vehicles stuffed with gear or people passed. I checked my watch, still only about 11am. While the day may have been young, our itinerary was beefy. We still needed to pick up our permits, hitch out of Two Medicine and up to the Canadian border, and then hike about 12 miles to our site for the night.
Baby Steps, Patience
Eventually we were scooped up by this young couple who had been road tripping around to different national parks and happened to be driving to the exact place we needed to go. How serendipitous. From there, permits were secured/printed and we were off to our next leg of hitchhiking. It was hot, scorching hot. By now it was probably a little past noon.
Our next ride was a local and his son, they were heading to St. Mary and offered their truck bed as a ride. Now personally, I love getting hitches in the back of trucks; there’s less socializing, wind in my hair, don’t have to worry about stinking up someone’s vehicle, and in times of COVID, I don’t have to internally battle about wearing a mask or not. However, this hitch was unlike any other hitch I’d had. The bed of the truck had this platform in it, so instead of being seated at the bottom, we were lifted by about a foot. Additionally, with the driver being a local, he chose to ZOOM through this drive. I found myself white-knuckling the side of the truck while seated as close to the cab as possible, a bit terrified honestly. After an hour of driving roughly 80mph and passing every single car on the road, we were dropped off in St. Mary.
(Pasta the broccoli and our scary hitch)
2 Hitches Down, 1 To Go
We stopped at the store for some last minute snacks and soda, then headed off to find our next spot to hitch from. St. Mary was kind of bopping because there’s an entrance to Glacier national park, but few people were driving north. At this point it’s about 2pm, so time was dwindling. We still had 12ish miles to hike which meant if we were going 2.5mph it would take us just under 5 hours to hike. The later it got, the more anxious I got about making it to the terminus at a decent time, and still making our miles. Countless cars passed. The sun continued to blaze. The clock ticked. An hour and a half had passed, were we ever gonna make it to Chief Mountain? Just as we were about to give up at our current location and find a new spot to post-up at, an SUV pulled over to rescue us and take us north. Our last leg of hitching!
At last we reached the Canadian border, which is surprisingly closed off by two tiny orange cones, nothing more. You’d think they’d have a little more -unf- blocking off the border, but apparently two baby cones does the job. Remember the countless cars that passed us hours ago while we were hitching? Well I recognized at least 4 vehicles in the parking lot. The shade. I checked my watch, a little after 4pm. That’s not… too late. It’s only 12 miles. We stopped at the pit toilet for a last minute luxury, snapped some pics in front of the trailhead sign, and we… were… OFF.
PNT 2021 had officially commenced.
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