Friday, September 30, 2022

Day 152: The East Glacier Zero!

September 19: Today would be my first zero day since Debois, WY--36 days ago and two states back. For over a month, I've been hiking the CDT without a break. Some days were shorter than others, but every single day required some amount of hiking. My shortest day of hiking in the last 36 days was a little over 8 miles during one of my days in Yellowstone.

But today, I would take a zero day. For a couple of reasons. The main one was wanting to pick up my packages at the post office tomorrow, but perhaps a better reason was that the forecast for today was expected to be terrible. Rain, wind and possibly even snow at higher elevations. Not a great day for hiking, and I was perfectly happy to sit it out. However, after today, the weather forecast called for pretty decent weather the rest of the week. Not to mention that hanging out at the hostel only cost me $15/night--this zero day was very affordable.

All the CDT hikers going through East Glacier signed this page. (PNT hikers coming through also had a small portion in the lower-right corner they could sign, but their numbers are pretty small compared to the number of CDT hikers passing through.

I did, however, still have chores to do and the most important of them was getting myself a permit so I could legally hike through Glacier National Park. Just Awesome had a friend he had met on a previous trail, Granite, who had just finished his CDT thru-hike and Granite and Lady Granite planned to catch up with Just Awesome--who also happened to need a permit and arranged things so he could get a ride with them to the permitting office, and further arranged things so I could get a ride as well.

Which meant I needed to wake up early since Granite, Lady Granite and Just Awesome planned to meet up at 7:00am in time to be first in line for permits when the permitting office opened at 8:00am.

Just Awesome introduced me to Granite and Lady Granite, and we hopped in the car and were soon on the way to the backcountry ranger office.

We arrived before they opened, and kicked around waiting. The rain had stopped momentarily, so we waited outside for the doors to open at 8:00am.

There were two rangers to handle the permits, so Just Awesome and I each got our own ranger. Just Awesome wanted to follow the same path and schedule that Granite just completed, but the pace was a bit slower than I preferred so we arranged separate permits.

We both were required to watch a video about backcountry safety and the rules of the trail. I had seen it before--or at least something similar to it two years earlier when I hiked through the park when I started the Pacific Northwest Trail so there wasn't anything new or surprising for me.

That's Just Awesome, watching the video that we were required to watch before we'd be issued our permits.

We paid for our permits, then the rangers printed them and handed them over.

I liked my schedule for the most part. It wasn't totally want what I wanted. Tomorrow I'd do a pretty short 11-mile day, but that just meant I could take my time leaving town. And my last full day of hiking would require a long 26-mile stretch. Given how short the days were now, that would be a sunrise-to-sunset hike. I'd have preferred breaking it up into two days, but there weren't any nearby campsites available to do that. I'd live, though.

On the permit, they had written that the itinerary was not recommended--probably because of that 26-mile day. But the rangers knew were were thru-hikers and 26 miles wasn't a bit deal for us. =)

In any case, I officially had my permit, and I now knew the precise day I would finish: Friday--five days away. In five days, I'd reach the Canadian border and call it done. In five days, I could finally go home. Just Awesome, with his slower-paced schedule, would finish a couple of days after I did.

Afterwards, the other three wanted to get breakfast in St. Marys. I wasn't particularly excited about the idea because I had already eaten some cereal before we left East Glacier and wasn't hungry at all--not to mention that the town was in the wrong direction--but I joined along anyhow.

Upon arriving, however, we learned that the restaurant that they had wanted to go to wouldn't be open for another 1.5 hours. Argh! We looked through the gift shop nearby (which was open) before driving back to East Glacier. The drive was pretty, but it seemed like a huge waste of time overall.

After making it back to East Glacier, I rushed over to the laundromat to do some laundry. I never quite seemed to have enough time to do it yesterday while they were open, but I had time now. Timing was critical here. The laundromat was next door to Brownie's, and both were scheduled to close for the season today. They were owned by the same people, and the town was shutting down. Neither business would open their doors again until next year.

And, in fact, they were scheduled to close at 4:00pm. The last load of laundry was allowed an hour before at 3:00pm. If I didn't get my laundry started by 3:00pm, I'd have to wait until next year to do it here!

Brownies was scheduled to close for the season at 4:00pm, so anything you wanted to buy, you had to do it now or never! (Or at least not until next year.)

Anyhow, I got my laundry started with plenty of time to spare. I wandered back to Brownie's at 3:30pm to order a late lunch and early dinner. Since it closed at 4:00pm, I really couldn't come back any later!

I ordered a pizza and a Coke. With only a half-hour left before the store closed for the season, the shelves were mostly empty and a lot of food options were no longer available. Everything must go! Well, the non-perishable items seemed to mostly be in stock, but the perishable items were very limited.

While paying for my pizza and Coke, the lady behind the counter asked if I wanted one of the pastries for free. Anything they didn't sell in the next half hour was going to get thrown out anyhow. I was happy to help clear the store for her, and offered to take one of the cookies.

"Sure you don't want two of them?" she asked me.

"Well... okay..." I replied. "You twisted my arm." =)

Just Awesome shows off all the empty shelves at Brownies.

I went outside to wait for the pizza to be ready where Just Awesome was also waiting for his own pizza, and he looked longingly at my cookies. When I told him that I got them for free, he was a bit jealous. He went back into the store hoping to score a cookie for himself.

He came back out a few minutes with a cookie, but told me that he had to pay for it. I laughed.

"The trick," I told him, "was that you had to pretend not to be interested. When I didn't ask for or show any interest in the cookies, she tried to foist them off onto me. But you walk in asking about them, and she thinks she can sell them instead."

At least he enjoyed the cookie, even if he paid for his.

A short while later, our pizzas were ready and we sat at an outside table to eat them. At 4:00pm, the store closed for the season, and I took a photo of the sign in the window saying as such. There would be no more Brownie's visits while I was in town.

It's official, Brownies was now closed for the season. It happened right before my very eyes!

The whole town seemed like it was shutting down or soon would be. Many of the businesses already had signs up saying that they were closed for the season, and many of the others that were still operating I heard would be closing within the week. The place was starting to feel like a ghost town.

Later in the evening, I wandered over to the Glacier Park Lodge, a magnificent and historic building in its own right. I bought a postcard, a patch and a pin for my hat.

The interior of the Glacier Park Lodge was magnificent!

The rest of the evening I mostly spent with all the other hikers in the hostel, chatting away and having a great time. Life was good!

Although Brownies closed, the one store that was still open and would be all winter is the general store. So no worries, we won't be starving in town! Just that our options were becoming more limited.

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