Glacier in September

Backpacking Glacier was less rugged than I thought it would be. I was sort of envisioning cutting cross-country with the bear spray primed and ready, while stumbling over branches and weeds with 30-plus pounds strapped to my back. Instead, there were well-maintained trails and flat dirt campsites with tall metal rails to hang your food over and thus keep it (and the bears) out of your campsite. You could explore and picnic and leave your gear in the campsites without worrying.

We had hiked two days and 14 miles in up to Brown’s Pass when the weather decided to change. The wind picked up to a slow howl and freezing fog rolled in. We made camp quickly and crawled into our down sleeping bags. “The jewel of the continent, from the confines of a tent,” joked my boyfriend. We made hot tea with a Jetboil and fantasized about hot food, because we apparently hadn’t packed quite enough calories for the journey. We talked about a Mexican restaurant we had seen on the drive to Glacier. My boyfriend made me really mad by bringing up La Rosa’s pulled pork shoulder with polenta and fried kale. However, in my layers of wool and spandex and down I was my own personal toasty burrito, and I slept well, breathing through a small tunnel of down.

We got up early the next morning and shook off the snow that had accumulated on the tent, and hiked the 14 miles back in less than six hours. We stopped in Kalispell to find a place to eat, and flopped from the car, unwashed, travel worn, our bodies stiff and sore. We walked like zombies, slowly, painfully, across the street. We were supposed to be looking for good restaurants, but ended up just picking the closet one. We stumbled in and ordered: one hamburger, one New York strip. I had been talking about how good food tasted when you’d been eating nothing but dehydrated meats and trail mix, and I was prepared to be delighted even if it wasn’t objectively the most delicious fare on the planet. However, the mediocrity shone through our hunger — the fries tasted like they’d come out of a frozen bag and been reheated without salt, and my boyfriend said his steak was the toughest New York strip he’d ever had. “We’re foodies,” he said, and he laughed.

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