We awoke with the sun coming through the century old windows of the Bunkhouse Inn. We met Thor, Scrapbook, Drive-by and Maine Man at the cafe to eat breakfast (which definitely included huckleberry pie). We went back to the fire command center to check on the fire status. The winds over night were not good for the fires and did not look good for us hiking the next section.
We also felt very selfish. We were here wandering through the wilderness for our personal gain when these towns and ranches were losing so much. The Bob Marshall was not going anywhere. If we tried to continue hiking north, got stuck in a fire and needed to be rescued, we would be placing fire crews and rescuers in danger to come save us. We would be taking them away from slowing the spread of fire towards the nearby communities.
Our very simple lives we had been living for the past five months seemed to come crashing in. We were worn down by trying to out run the fires. We were worn down from being on trail for this long as usual towards the end of a thru-hike. We wanted someone to tell us our solution. We looked for a big flashy sign that would show us which way to go. But everything had grown quiet in the smoke. So we made a very, very tough decision. We decided it best to walk to the end of the street where the highway divided and stick out our thumbs. We knew Glacier was shutting down, and there was no way we were going to miss hiking through Glacier. Two hours had passed and no one picked us up. Garbelly knew it was because there were five stinky guys and one Critter. After splitting up the group, we got a ride from a young woman in a small Chevy S10 and her dog. She picked up three of the guys and apologized for not having more room. We promised her that, if she did not mind, we could all fit into the bed of the truck. She allowed us to climb in and told us she was not going the entire way. Maine Man and the two of us jumped in the back with her dog and all six backpacks. Then our two hour drive towards East Glacier began.
The air was frigid. With the eighty mile per hour highway ride, it chilled our bones. The wind beat against our ears and face. Soon, we put on all of our layers, fought over whose legs the dog got to lay on and keep warm and buried our heads in our laps. At some point the woman must have agreed to take us the entire way, because we began to see the iconic snow spotted peaks of Glacier National Park. We were here. We had made it. This was in no way the ending we thought we would have, but we were here. Then the reality struck us that instead of ten days left of our journey, it was now under a week. This both elated and saddened us. This quick ending did not feel right, but we both knew that we had to make the best of the situation trail gave us.
We were dropped off at the Brownies Hostel and Bakery where we had reserved a room for all six of us. The good smells of the bakery counterbalanced the six of us crammed into a ten by ten bunk room. Glimmer texted us and let us know that a lot of hikers were in town and were meeting at the Mexican Restaurant in town. We headed out looking for the restaurant, which we found quickly considering the population of the small reservation town was under four hundred residents.
Walking into the courtyard behind the restaurant was like a hiker reunion of people we had not seen in months. Dinner that night was fantastic. We had never seen anywhere close to that many hikers in one place on the CDT. Garbelly had never seen that many hikers at once even on the PCT. It felt right. Our scary decision to bypass the wildfires was confirmed by the warm feeling we received reuniting with trail friends. Some of these hikers had already completed the trail and had hitched back from the border before heading home.
As the night got darker, we decided to head back to the hostel and get some sleep before figuring out permits for our next few days of hiking. The rumor was that the border was closed, but we would be able to hike up to the monument, take photos, kiss the earth and then hike twenty five miles out to the nearest road. At this point, we took whatever we could get as long as we could see Glacier.