Today’s miles: ~1.4
In the morning DJ tells me everyone’s awake, and then Cowboy drops my Ursack by my tent and says they’ll meet me at the junction about a mile ahead. I am very creaky and slow for the first half mile — my toe blisters hurt and my chafe is still bad. I pass several giant waterfalls and then see the guys sitting at the junction. DJ and Cowboy plan to go on over Piegan Pass, 16 more miles to camp; Dad Jokes and Sultry plan to go 0.3 miles to the road and hitch into St Mary to zero. I consider these two options. My brain and heart want to hike on, but my body desperately needs rest. The hiking to sleeping ratio has been way off these last two days, not nearly enough time for physical recovery. (As I’m deciding, a hiker comes through and first chastizes us for not hiking (!) then says he hates flippers [hikers who start the trail in one direction and then switch to the other direction usually because of dangerous snow, wildfires, etc — many northbounders flipped up to Montana due to record snowpack in Colorado this year, for instance]. Flipping is not hiking, he proclaims. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Sultry Bear says. And it is.)
I opt for hitching to town, wish my two braver comrades luck, and walk to Going-to-the-Sun Road. Dad Jokes gets a hitch from the very first car. Sultry and I stand in the sun for an hour. We do see a small grizzly wandering around in the field just below us, though. It shows absolutely zero interest in us. Finally a pair of day hikers picks us up. We meet Dad Jokes at the hiker campground in St. Mary and the rest and recovery begin. My body is so tired that I fall asleep in my tent with no sleeping mat, lying on my side on the hard ground, for over an hour. Dad Jokes hitches to East Glacier to pick up some packages from the post office. Whiz texts that she’s in St Mary and hitching to East Glacier to recuperate at the hostel. She had a scary time of it out there and was very seriously sick; I feel terrible about having left her, but very relieved that she’s okay. I let Sultry decide what we should do tomorrow: get a new permit and hike on one day behind, or skip those miles and go back to East Glacier. I’m just out here for five weeks to hike and have no particular investment in the specific sections. He decides to skip these miles. It rains, clears up, then rains again in the night.
In the morning it rains as we’re walking to the intersection so we eat hot breakfast in a restaurant and wait for it to clear. One of the wait staff hiked part of the AT and sends us free bowls of fruit salad, which we greatly appreciate. We get a hitch from a guy who camps in his Prius, so I ride lying on the makeshift bed and Sultry takes the only available seat. We reunite with Whiz, who is now on the mend, and I spend the day napping, eating, doing town chores (shower! laundry!), and dealing with my toenails. I hope to leave three of them behind here by the time I hike out.
On Friday I mail my snow gear and bear line home. The mile-ish walk to the post office feels pretty good on everything except those three toes. I feel recovered and ready to hike. DJ and Cowboy arrive, beat up and tired but very happy, and we plan to hike out tomorrow morning for a shorter, easier day. We’re all excited to do this next section through the Bob Marshall Wilderness, one of the most remote wilderness areas in the lower 48. Whiz reads me what she’s learning about Bob Marshall, a Jewish socialist who dedicated much of his life to dismantling racial and economic discrimination in the Forest Service and outdoor recreation (this doesn’t erase the relationship of his conservation efforts to settler colonialism, but at least his explicitly anti-racist views are a welcome change from many other environmentalist legends like John Muir). We’re planning for about seven days out there, with no cell service, lots of wildlife, and some vast roadless landscape. See you from the next town.
Bonus town pic: in my raingear on our Prius hitch from St. Mary to East Glacier. Never a dull moment!