Starting in Glacier National Park at the Canadian border on the 110 mile segment of the CDT seems like cheating a bit. You have “short” miles and magnificent views. You can’t help but say and point, “Oh my gosh, look at that!”… repeatably. It’s like being a kid in a toy store. What makes it even better is sharing it with great people. Just by chance we have started our SOBO CDT hike with, for lack of a better term, a small “trail family”. What do a Chinese Canadian, a Naval Dane and two old retired farts (that would be us) have in common? Serindipity.
A little back story…
On the Facebook CDT 2021 group, a Danish man (Jan) was hoping to hop on a camping permit for Glacier National Park with someone who already had a permit. (You can have up to four people on your camping permit.) I messaged him and told him we would see if we could add him, as it appeared that we all would be staring at the same time. He had been stuck in Mexico (Cancun to be exact), “serving” his 14 day “quarantine”, before he could enter the United States, even though he has been vaccinated. Why he couldn’t fly directly from Denmark, made absolutely NO sense…let alone the “quarantine” in Mexico. He flew into Kalispell, shopped for resupply and the hopped the Amtrak train to East Glacier. He was to arrive after the time we thought we’d have already left for the Canadian border, so we helped him arrange for a ride.
Meanwhile, at the train station, “Hobbit” (real name is He) was looking for someone to share a ride up to the border…and possibly share a permit as well. Hobbit said he just looked for someone getting off the train with a “thru-hiker” pack and approached Jan. Hobbit unofficially became the fourth person on our permit.
Our dilly dallying for the morning resulted in us getting to the border at Chief Mountain the same time as Jan and Hobbit. This of course was fortuitous, as it laid the ground work for our current crew.
Quick introductions and obligatory photos, and soon we were headed Southbound on the CDT (alternate…as Canada was still closed. Thus, we could not start from Waterton Lake…in Canada)
Because of the high volume of on-line permit applications (over 4500), the Park Service set aside 50% of the Backcountry campsites for walk-up permitting. Arriving at the Two Medicine Ranger office at 5:30 am the previous for an 8 a.m. opening ensured we got a decent itinerary. We either had to do really big miles, or somewhat small miles. Considering it was Glacier National Park, I chose “small” miles for our trek through GNP. Why would one want to hurry through it? Jan and Hobbit were perfectly happy to do “small” miles. It was no less than a dream come true for them. Jan was hiking the CDT as a “gift” to himself for his 50th birthday, and to honor three close friends he lost during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hobbit had been waiting for two years to be able to begin the final leg of his “Triple Crown”(PCT, AT, CDT).
Day One (0-11.1 miles)
Chief Mountain – Elizabeth Lake Head (ELH)
From the Canadian border we began downhill into a lush green canopy of trees, reminiscent of our finish of the PCT in Washington state. Jan and Hobbit, like two excited kids, raced ahead and soon were out of sight. This was a good thing as within 2 miles I had already tripped and taken a header into the ground. In doing so, I banged up my left knee (the one I normally KT tape) pretty good. Needless to say…it left a mark, whose colors and tenderness evolve with each passing day.
We were glad the miles were “small” for the day, as I don’t think we could have handled anymore beauty. Our mental SIM cards were nearly full. Our first night’s campsite was 1.6 miles off trail at the “head” of Elizabeth Lake. It was somewhat of a jaunt, and once we reached the site, we were greeted by no less that 1000 flies.
And let me tell you, these flies, do NOT respect the DEET. Without our head nets, I think we may have been driven mad.
Once the temperature dropped, we were safe to attempt to eat. While at the food prep area, we met a couple who were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with a 4 day backpacking trip. “It was her idea”, the husband told me. “I wanted to take her to Hawaii”, he continued. She smiled, nodded and confirmed it was her idea, after which I logically asked if they had been on many backpacking trips. “No, this is our first”, she replied with a chuckle. An unsolved mysteries episode suddenly flashed in my head. Come to think of it, we never saw them make it back to Many Glacier where, like us, they were headed the following morning.