Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Day 151: The Two Medicine Slackpack

September 18: While looking at maps the evening before and planning out the next section of my hike, I realized that I had an unexpected slackpacking opportunity. From East Glacier to Two Medicine, it was about 10 miles, and permits for Glacier NP could be acquired at Two Medicine. And I realized--I could therefore hike from here to Two Medicine, pick up a permit, then hitch a ride back to town until I could pick up my packages on Monday. It meant I'd only need one zero day instead of two!


Even better, tomorrow, Sunday, the weather was expected to be bad. Definitely a good day to take off! Which meant I should slackpack today.

The one kink in my plan, as I looked up permit information for Glacier, was that permits would be issued only a maximum of one day in advance of starting a trip. Since I didn't plan to start for two days, I couldn't get a permit today. I'd have to wait until tomorrow.

Well, at least that would give me something to do on Sunday, I suppose. I could hitch a ride to Two Medicine, then hitch a ride back into town. At least I wouldn't be hiking in the bad weather tomorrow.

I really liked the idea of not taking a zero day today when the weather was... well, the weather had problems, for sure, but rain and snow were not in the forecast. "Dangerously" strong winds, however, were most definitely in the forecast. As well as a heck of a lot of smoke from wildfires burning who-knows-where. But I could live with that.

So that's why, at about 8:30 in the morning, I found myself back on the trail and hiking. But my pack was very light--I would be returning to town at the end of the day and therefore didn't need much more than snacks to eat and some water. Perhaps a jacket if I got cold.

As I got above tree line, the wind was bad--perhaps the strongest wind gusts of any day on the trail so far. It knocked me over several times. The smoke was quite thick as well, thick enough to smell it in the air, and definitely enough to obscure otherwise phenomenal views along the way.

From this photo, you can't see that the wind was strong enough to knock a grown man over, but you can see a lot of the smoke in the sky that just seemed to get worse and worse throughout the morning.

It was also a fairly rugged day of hiking. Although I covered barely 10 miles for the day, my GPS recorded over 3,000 feet of elevation climb as well as another 3000 feet down. In total amounts, it wasn't much, but given the relatively short distance I covered, it was some of the steepest terrain of the trail. A perfect place to slackpack! =)

Near the top of one of the ridge lines, I found a credit card laying in the middle of the trail. It was an Amazon card, and surprisingly heavy, as if it were made out of metal instead of the usual plastic that my credit cards were made out of. It seemed like a weird choice for a thru-hiker--I'd imagine that a thru-hiker would prefer a lightweight credit card!

I didn't recognize the name on the card, but I didn't know the real names of most of the hikers on the trail. It looked like the card had only been out since that afternoon, and I knew Jazz Hands had left shortly ahead of me. Maybe it was his card? I wasn't sure how to contact him, though. In any case, I decided to pick it up and perhaps back at the hostel, someone might recognize the real name. Luna and Will might even recognize the name on the card if they had a record of the payment there. Additionally, almost all thru-hikers return to East Glacier after finishing the trail since it's pretty much required to go through on the way to anywhere else after getting off at the end of the trail. If it belonged to a thru-hiker, they'd probably wind up back in East Glacier within the week. I might be able to get this card back to the owner.

The first half of the hike, I saw absolutely nobody on the trail, but after passing a side trail to a scenic viewpoint a few miles from the end, I started passing a large number of day hikers from the park. They were climbing up a steep mountain and most of them looked exhausted and out of breath, but I often stopped to chat with them when they stopped to catch their breath as I was passing by.

One group said they could give me a ride back to East Glacier if I were still trying to hitch when they got back to the trailhead. That made me happy--there was a limit to how long I might have to hitch to get back to town! Probably not more than an hour or two. I hoped to find a ride sooner than that, but it was nice that I had this as a Plan B.

Eventually I made it down to the trailhead, and it only took me about 15 minutes to get a ride from two women who just finished finished their own hikes.

Back in town, I finally took a shower. I had arrived late enough the evening before that I never got around to it, but now in the middle of the day, most of the other hikers at the hostel were gone so I made use of the shower while I could.

Then I headed to Brownie's for lunch, where I ordered a sandwich, potato chips and a Coke.

Back at the hostel, I met a few of the other hikers there. The place was surprisingly busy with probably 10 or so hikers in all loitering around. Some of them had just finished the trail, reached the end, and were passing through East Glacier a second time, this time as a stopping point on their way home. The others were like me, still hiking toward the Canadian border.

One of the hikers fresh back from finishing the trail turned out to be from San Luis Obispo--my hometown in California. Wow! Way cool! His name was StormMocker, and he told me about first trying to thru-hike the CDT back in 1977. I couldn't imagine what the planning for something like that must have been like so long ago. Without Guthook, without GPSes, without decent guidebooks and resources to learn about thru-hiking. Of course, the operative word was tried. He didn't actually succeed, but it had been burning a hole in him ever since and he really wanted to finish the trail while he still had the health to do it, and by golly, he finally finished. He finished today! Congrats!

Later in the evening, I headed out with four hikers to Serranos Mexican Restaurant for dinner: Reality Check, Just Awesome, Click and StormMocker. We got there just as the restaurant opened for the evening and spent the next hour or two eating and chatting and laughing and having a good old time. I really missed people on the trail and was thoroughly enjoying my time with all the other hikers in town! It seemed odd that the trail could feel so empty but the trail towns so busy with other hikers.

Reality Check and Just Awesome couldn't sit still long enough for me to get a decent photo in the dark interior of Serranos!

I had already inquired among the other hikers if they recognized the name on the credit card they found, and when we sat down, I joked that they could order anything they wanted--that he hiker who lost their credit card was paying for our meal. I was totally joking--I had no intention of really using it, and they all knew that but laughed anyhow. =)

Then we headed back to the hostel where we eventually headed off to sleep for the night. Living the good life!

I did get a lead on the credit card I found, though. Someone said they thought it was a certain hiker with a given trailname, and he was actually hiking with his friend--both of whom were trying to hike the Triple Crown this year. I'm not talking about finishing a Triple Crown this year, but hiking the entire thing in one calendar year. That's the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail--all in a single year. Most people only do one of those trails in a single year, but a precious few want a bigger challenge and attempt to do all three in a single year. It's insane. Even by thru-hiker standards, it's totally insane.

Anyhow, I hadn't realized that's what he was doing. I met him briefly at my last campsite on the trail when they hiked by me in the dark, and the rumor was that they were planning to finish the CDT within a few days then hop over to the PCT and finish the Washington section of that trail. The rest of the Triple Crown they had already done.

In any case, I was finally able to find his account on Instagram, and the name on the account matched the one on the credit card. I found him! So I sent him a message to let me know that I found it and asked if he wanted me to throw it away or send it to him. I didn't expect a response quickly--he was in the backcountry probably without a signal. He might not even have realized he was missing his credit card yet, and wouldn't notice it was missing until he finished the trail and tried to pull it out to pay for something.

So I sent him a message, but I didn't expect an immediate response. I was a bit surprised when he finally did send me a message back a couple of weeks later. I figured he'd finish the trail in a few days and reply then, but it was two or three weeks later when I sent a second follow up message that I planned to throw it away unless I heard back otherwise, and a few days later he finally replied. He was already back on the PCT and had canceled the card and had a replacement sent after realizing he had lost it. So after carrying the card myself for two or three weeks, I finally just threw it away. At least he learned what had happened to it. =)

The views were awesome, but I imagined they would have been even more awesome if not for all the smoke in the air!

My ending point for the day was somewhere near the bottom of that lake in the distance.

These guys walked up to me like they expected me to feed them. They had definitely picked up some bad habits from earlier hikers!

This is the Two Medicine ranger station where I could get a permit to hike through Glacier NP, but since I didn't plan to camp until two nights later, I couldn't pick up a permit until tomorrow. I will return!!!!

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