Maine Man quietly left the room. We groggily looked over to see Thor on his phone. He smiled as he whispered “good morning kiddos,” and let us know that Glimmer wanted to have breakfast with us all down the street at Looking Glass. We quietly got dressed and left Drive-By and Scrapbook asleep in their bunks. As soon as we stepped out of our room, we smelled cinnamon rolls from the bakery below. If there had not been a line, we would have gotten an appetizer for our breakfast with Glimmer.
Being in a National Park town is unique from other town experiences. In most towns, we stand out as outsiders. In a National Park town, even though we still smell bad, people just assume we are normal backpackers spending time in the park. When the waitress came to take our order, she did not ask what we were doing or where we were heading. While we truly love talking about hiking, it was nice to simply eat our food and talk about all of our plans for after the trail.
After breakfast, we went to the post office to refuse our boxes since our packs were still full from our Benchmark resupply. We then headed to the grocery store to pick up a few fresh snacks for our last few days on trail and then grabbed our packs up from the hostel. Before we knew it, we were on trail hiking towards the border of Glacier National Park.
The first few miles of trail were unimproved dirt roads leading us by a golf course and through some skinny lodgepole pines. A steep climb led us to the national park boundary. The trail was darker due to the thickness of the pines that surrounded us now. Once the trees started to thin again, we got our first glimpse at Glacier’s sharp and rigid peaks. A rocky downhill took us right over a crystal clear creak. We stopped and filtered a little bit of water, just in case. And then we were climbing again, but this time we had switch backs, beautiful, beautiful switch backs. Trail led us far East where we could see all of East Glacier and the flatness that extended beyond the horizon.
At the top of the climb we found two smaller peaks. From the edge we could see the peaks of Rising Wolf, Appistoki, Sinopah and many others and nestled in the deep valleys below was Two Medicine Lake. It was hazy still from the fires. So it felt as if we were heading right into a dream. Stark contrasts with heavy shadows and muted royal colors like purple and blue painted this new world. Our descent wrapped us around to a saddle before winding us down switch back after switch back. We passed a handful of people heading up to Scenic Point. One group stopped frequently to take photos, we couldn’t blame them. It was beautiful. We passed by Appistoki falls before the trail ended at a paved road.
Loads of cars passed us on the narrow road. There was a parking lot at the end with a full lot even though there were cars leaving. We made our way to the ranger station but when we got there the door was shut. Dang. Our one goal was to get permits, but as we were several minutes too late, it wasn’t going to happen today. A ranger walked out closing and locking the door behind him. From anticipation, we jumped on our chance to possibly find our more information. He told us that due to conditions in Waterton, we could no longer hike not just in to Waterton nor could we hike to the border. We were crushed. The ranger informed us that our only option was Chief Mountain, whether we liked it or not. And after an poorly timed joke on our end, he very seriously warned us about a pretty hefty fine for hiking closed trail. It was just so hard to accept our new reality. We were here in Glacier, we made it, but we weren’t finishing at the Waterton lakes monument. We wouldn’t even see it or touch it. The moment we had dreamt about since Crazy Cook, the moment we had dreamt of as we first started planning our hike.
We felt the weight of our bags drop into the pit of our stomach taking our hearts with it. The ranger seemed stressed and was frustrated that we were still standing there. He said some pretty not nice things about thru-hikers and then told us to come back first thing in the morning to try to get permits. We walked away, with the pep completed ripped out of our step. In that moment, I think we finally felt how tired we were like we had been in battle for months now. We were so close to finishing but so much stood in our way. We were one large gust of wind and hundreds of acres of wildfires away from not being able to finish at all. And it absolutely couldn’t have been more out of our control.
We followed the map around to look for the walk-up tent site. Thor and crew had shown up also missing the chance to get permits. We passed by a campsite where Toasted Toad, Chardonnay and Kelsey were set up. They offered a spot to us to set up our tent. It came as the first bit of good news since it appeared the campground was full as well.
As we laid down in our tent and began to close our eyes, a skittering and squeaking came down out of the trees right next to us. Shit. Mice.