I was sitting next to my soaked pack next to the St. Mary River sleeping when I heard the splashing of hooves in water. I sprung up, looked around and was able to get off a half-dozen photos of a momma moose and her two cows as they crossed the river from south to north.
I shouldn’t have been there. I should have been up in the hills, 10 miles away, merrily crossing passes as I went.
But Mother Nature had other plans. The day before a cold front swept down out of Canada and blanketed Glacier’s high country with a coat of fresh snow. This is a normal thing this time of year, something I have grown to expect. September is a fickle month in the Park. I have also hiked over passes in snowstorms. It is not fun. Trails disappear and cliffs you barely noticed in the summer are now ice-slicked slopes waiting to dump you over the Divide.
But even so, I would have continued my journey, save for one failure: My snow/rain pants turned out to be completely and utterly worthless. Not only did they not repel water, they seemed to attract it, sucking it to my skin. At lower elevations, it was just misery as I slogged along.
But at higher elevations, coupled with a stiff wind, it could quickly add up to frostbite, or worse.
Freezing to death is only romantic in the movies.
These were not cheap pants. They were a name brand — North Face — and I had only used them a few times before.
My plan was a 100-mile hike through Glacier to commemorate the centennial of the Park Service. It was roughly an hour into the hike I discovered the rain pants, quite literally, sucked.
I slogged along in them for four days, but a little more than 50 miles into the journey, I bailed.
By the time I was at St. Mary I was at 57 miles and sitting next to the river, napping in the bright wonderful sunshine, waiting for my ride home.
Years ago, I walked into Many Glacier in November and camped. The caretaker of the joint, who was locked back there for four months alone had these words of wisdom: You don’t appreciate an apple until you can’t have one.
The same could be said for sunshine. You don’t appreciate it until you haven’t seen it for four days. I found myself dreaming that children’s song.
“Oh Mr. Sun, sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me...”
And then the moose walked across the river.
So now I have to “make up” 43 miles of my journey. I wish it were as simple as starting back from whence I came. Schedules are tightening and I may end up in other places instead.
Stay tuned for part two.
— Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.