Today is an exciting day, because I go on an adventure again. After visiting Montana many times in the last years I finally go to Glacier National Park, which is closed most of the year. Also now it’s not fully open yet. They’re still removing snow from the roads, but at least I can go visit. When I drive out of Helena, I can’t help but feeling sad. I know I’ll come back here tomorrow, but also that I’ll leave for a longer time at the end of the week. I thought about leaving here on Friday, but I now decide I’ll stay until Saturday. I am an experienced traveler, but still I’m not good in leaving people and places behind.
When I drive out of town and in the direction of the mountains, I turn on some music and start feeling better. I just can’t believe this journey is almost over. It has been five weeks now, but it sure feels a lot longer. I’ve seen so many beautiful places and met so many wonderful people. This journey is one of the best experiences of my life and I feel thankful and privileged that I have the opportunities to go on adventures like these. Last year New Zealand, now back in America. I am a blessed man.
I drive to the North and stop half way at a place called Holland lake. My grandparents told me to stop here and I can see why. It’s a pretty lake surrounded by mountains. At the side of the lake is a nice lodge where I sit down for a coffee and to write and read. Then I want to hike to a waterfall I see on the other side of the lake. I put on my trail running shoes and run the first part. Somehow I didn’t read the signs well and end up going in a different direction. It was supposed to be 1,5 miles to the waterfall, but when I’ve ran and hiked for almost two miles, I figure I must have missed a trail somewhere. I’m in the woods now and remember all the stories about bears in this area and don’t feel so comfortable. I turn on my music to maximum volume so if there is any bear he’ll know I’m coming. Fortunately I don’t run into one, but after a while I meet two old ladies hiking. They’re carrying a big gun and bear spray, which makes me feel saver. They tell me that they didn’t see bears here recently and I walk along with them for a while until we get to a small river you have to cross. Since I’m walking in my new trail running shoes, I don’t feel like going through the water and turn around. I want to continue driving anyway, because it’s still about 1,5 hours to Glacier National Park. The road to Glacier is beautiful as the mountains get higher and higher. The North of Montana looks a bit like the North of Washington.
Inside Glacier National Park my patience is challenged several times. The roads are under construction and you have to wait a lot and the people are driving extremely slow. I remember one of the other grandchildren commenting grandma for driving fast. I wish more people were like her. More patience challenging at the visitor center where there is a huge line. After about ten minutes waiting I give up and decide to discover the park by myself. I’m on vacation and I’ve got better things to do than waiting in line all the time. I could leave this all out, but let’s keep the blog real and also share my frustrations sometimes. I drive as far as I can into the park until the sign where the road stops because of the snow. From there I walk further. It’s nice to walk on the road, because there is almost no one here and except for some road workers there are no cars at all. There is a big river flowing by the side of the road and there are high mountains on each side. I’m surprised by how far the road is open, I expected it to be covered by snow soon. While walking by the river my annoyance of waiting so long goes away and I’m able to enjoy nature again. From time to time people on bikes are passing by and I think that at this time of year that’s probably the best way to visit this park. While I walk further I see some people coming from the opposite direction. I ask them how much further you can go and they tell me that you can walk the road further for several hours. I don’t know yet how far I want to go, but since it’s just the beginning of the afternoon I figure I have time enough for a walk and continue down the road. A little later another hiker tells me that you can go 11 miles further. For a moment I’m disappointed that I didn’t turn on my hiking app, but then I realize that this enables me to walk the walk just for the sake of walking, not tracking anything. I think of a story I read a while ago about a guy who walked through the United States from East to West in six months or so. I’m just walking for a couple of hours, but I can see how it’s good for you. Just walking in nature, alone with your thoughts. I am an extrovert person and love to be with other people, but I can also really appreciate being alone, especially in nature. I also think of the movie Go Wild in which a girl hiked a long trail for several months. That must be hard with a big backpack on your shoulders. I’m only carrying my camera, my phone and a bottle of water.
When I’m almost at the top I meet a friendly couple who are biking and taking a rest. The guy looks at me for a moment and then says: “I thought you were prince William!”. I’ve heard that before when I was younger and find it a huge compliment. I smile and thank them. They see that I’m out of water by now and offer to refill my bottle, that’s very kind and I thank them again. With a full bottle of water and renewed energy, I continue my walk up the mountain. By now my watch shows that I’ve walked about 20.000 steps today and I wonder if I’ll break my personal record today.
The compliments keep coming. When I’ve climbed up to 5200 feet, that is about 1700 feet higher as where I started, a biker passes me and asks if I came all the way from the beginning. I can confirm that with a big smile. He answers “You’re a beast!” and I feel proud. By now I know that I’ll probably break my personal record for longest walk ever and that while I’m walking up a mountain. I do feel that I start to get a bit tired and wonder how much further I should go. Everything goes fine though, so I just keep going. “You’re awesome!”, another biker yells at me, exactly the motivation I need for some more steps. This might sound like an ego boost, but when you do something this physically challenging it is very encouraging to have people cheer you on.
When I’m close to the highest point, I see a sign that it’s half a mile further and I’m about to give up. I’m quite exhausted by now and my feet and legs start hurting. Then I make up my mind. I haven’t come this far to give up and I go further. The last half mile goes over snow and ice, through streaming cold water. It all makes the victory taste so much sweeter when I see the sign of Logans Pass. I made it! Some bikers at the top congratulate me and I feel accomplished. With due pride I stand by the sign to let them take a picture of me. I stay here for a short moment, but then quickly start walking again, because I want to get as far as possible before sunset. It took me about five hours to get to the top and I hope that the way down will be at least an hour faster. I guess that sunset will be here around nine, leaving light until about nine thirty. That leaves me with an hour to one and a half hours left in the dark. Maybe I’ll run some parts to be back quicker. Just when I head down, a biking couple walks to me and give me a sandwich. “We want you to have this, we’ve made too many.” I thank them a few times, this is such a welcome surprise. I enjoy the nice wrap while I walk back down. Walking down feels like a reward. This is what I worked so hard for, now I can take it easy for a moment.
The way down turns out to be tough as well. Because my feet got wet at the top, they hurt more now. I’m also very thirsty. Fortunately that’s not a problem, because there are many waterfalls by the side of the road. I’m not 100% sure if it’s healthy, but at this point I drink almost anything. The surprises keep coming because after walking down for a while there is a biker coming up and he stops when he sees me. Some people had seen him biking up and asked him to bring me some food. He hands me a bag of nuts and M&M’s. Again I’m thankful for all the support I get on this challenge.
At nine o’clock I am completely exhausted. I’ve been walking for about seven hours straight. I am almost sleep walking on the road. Fortunately it’s still light outside, so I don’t have to worry about that yet. I think it’s still about eight miles back to the starting point. I ask by myself how I got to this point, but I know the answer. It’s my childlike enthusiasm that made me do it. It can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s not the smartest thing. I’m so looking forward to be back at my car and think I won’t walk or hike much more this vacation. At a quarter past nine I reach the dream score of 50.000. My lifetime record of 41.500 steps has been broken big time and I’m not done yet, although I wish I was back by now. I wonder how the bottoms of my feet will look like by the end of the day. I see several deer while walking down the mountain, they are a nice distraction. I meet a few more biking people and get my water bottle refilled. These last miles are quite the battle. I realize that I now have walked the distance of a marathon in one day. I’m glad when I’m next to the river again, because that means I’m getting closer to the end. When it gets dark I don’t like it anymore. I have gone too far. I don’t have an option but to keep walking and so I continue. I use the last few percentage battery of my cell phone for my flash light, because it’s hard to see anything now and I want any possible wild animal to know that I’m coming. No more surprises. I think by myself that this might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done and have to admit that I actually get a bit scared here in the dark. Probably because I’ve heard so many stories about bears. If I would run into one now, there is a big chance that that’s the end of my story. Not to be dramatic, but walking in Glacier National Park at night sure isn’t a safe thing to do. There can be grizzly bears here anywhere and you sure don’t want to run into one.
Finally after what seems forever I see a sign in the distance that indicates the parking place. I get the remote of my car from my pocket and press a button. In the distance I hear the familiar sound and behind the trees I see my car lights flashing. I made it! When I arrive at my car I am so thankful. I get inside, grab a bottle of water and thank God for a good end to this adventure. There are a few more cars parked here and I could stay if I wanted, but I decide to drive to the nearest town outside the park. I don’t like to stay here overnight and I could actually use a bit of driving to let go of the excitement. While driving I’m filled with gratitude that this all ended well. I drive to a small town nearby and arrive there just before midnight. I park my car next to a store and a gas station and go to bed. I am so tired and and I’m glad I’m back in my mobile home. This was quite the adventure. The coming days I’ll take it a bit slower.