After being gone for what seems like a lifetime, my wife and I are finally back home after a five-week trip of a lifetime. Neither of us has ever done anything like this. We spent more than a month in Glacier National Park exploring the backcountry of what Native Americans called the "Backbone of the World".
I return home with a newfound respect for backpackers, especially long distance thru-hikers. Kathy and I hiked 250 miles while in Glacier. By the last day both of us were pretty much physically and mentally spent. Although we never got tired of the scenery, we did get pretty burned out on the act of walking. This was by far the most miles we’ve ever hiked in such a short period of time. It was far more difficult than I ever really thought it would be. We only did day hikes, so our packs were probably only half the weight backpackers normally carry. Furthermore, thru-hikers likely do more miles per day than we did. For those that partake in long distance backpacking – I salute you!
I also learned that cycling doesn’t do anything to prepare your feet for high mileage hiking. From a cardiovascular standpoint we were both fine. Our legs were fine as well. But our feet took a major beating, from achy muscles and joints, to several blisters. We thought we set-up a pretty good training program beforehand, by walking and hiking three or four days a week for the four weeks prior to leaving, including a couple of 8-mile hikes. Obviously this wasn’t enough preparation.
Glacier is an incredibly beautiful park, and with roughly 740 miles of trails, is also a hiker’s paradise. We were incredibly lucky with weather as well. It rained on only two days, there were overcast skies on two days, and there was haze from forest fires on two others. On every other day we had glorious blue skies.
We saw lots of wildlife, including about a dozen bears, most of them grizzlies. Several of those bears were seen while hiking, including one that ran away from us as we approached it on our way to Gunsight Lake. One day we hiked a trail that does a half loop off the Going-To-The-Sun Road. Unbeknownst to us, as there was no forewarning at our point of entry, but we stepped off the trail on the other end and discovered that a warning had been posted for an aggressive mountain lion in the area.
Anyway, I’m going to get caught up on everything Great Smoky Mountains over the next several days. Also, over the next few days and weeks, I’ll post some photos and stories from our trip, including our hike up Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota.