Glacier National Park
The first trip Marc and I took together was to Glacier National Park, Montana. It was a hot and stuffy 18 hour car ride to East Glacier from Minneapolis. I was new to the National Park scene and six months post ACL surgery. My bionic knee brace (the most expensive item I owned at the time) lay in the backseat along with our packs and hiking gear. We were going for one week, and the only must-do on our list was to hike the Highline trail. The Highline trail is one of the better known loops in GNP. A stunning 12 mile hike through alpine forests and steep inclines to panoramic views. My surgeon even mentioned the hike as one of her favorites.
We hiked the Highline on our first full day in GNP. We went backwards to get away from the crowds, and for the most part we were hiking alone.
About four miles in was a chateau with a basic general store. There we saw more hikers, but again, we were mostly alone on this wilderness trail. The views were breathtaking, and we found ourselves stopping frequently for photos. My knee ached and I felt elderly for using trekking poles. I only lost my temper once when we ascended the extra mile to overlook a glacier.
Mid hike, maybe mile seven or eight, we found ourselves hiking for awhile amongst alpine trees. The trail was cut into the side of the mountains. To the left the mountain steeply ascended, to the right was a steep fall to the lower valley. The paved “Going to the Sun Road” was visible and tiny cars were slowly winding their way around mountains. The downward fall of the mountain was thick with trees and brush. We were alone for a long time as we continued our hike. It was quiet and peaceful.
Finally, we met another hiker. We came across a middle aged woman alone and in the middle of the trail. Her face looked weathered and smudged with dirt, her clothes were dirtier. She had no pack and no water. She looked calm. We said hello and started to politely pass her when she asked, “Which way did you come from?”
We told her we came from the west and we had passed the chateau about four miles earlier.
She looked puzzled and then asked what we were hiking toward. Marc and I looked at each other, confused. We told her we were on the Highline Trail and in about four miles we’d reach the visitors center where the hike began.
She was silent and kept looking to the east and to the west. “Hmm,” she said with a slight smile. She briefly gestured to the steep drop off. “I just hiked up through the woods from the road!”
Amazed we gazed down over the edge. We saw more tiny ant cars. That explained the dirt. We were all silent for awhile.
“Well I guess I’ll go this way!” She pointed toward the west where we had just come from.
She started off and we went on our way. I glanced back at her wishing I had offered her water or a snack. We even considered calling the chateau to notify them of this bizarre woman who is alone with no supplies. As we hiked I kept gazing down the edge thinking, ’there is no way.’