In the Tour de France, the last day is considered a parade route into Paris as a celebration to the end of a three-week 2,000 mile grueling bike race; considered by many to be the hardest sporting event in the world. For me, it was the final leg of a five month journey that began on April 15th hiking some 3,000 miles through some of the most remote and scenic countryside found in the United States. This last leg of my journey was my parade route to celebrate the ending of an epic adventure.
Karen drove 26 plus hours all the way from Michigan to met me along with Natalie and a friend of hers who wanted to be part of this celebration.
We met at Bowman Lake on the west side of Glacier National Park. The rain and snow over the last couple of days left several feet of snow at the higher elevations and closed Going To The Sun Road at Logan’s Pass for a couple of days.
Fortunately, when we began our hike a high pressure system moved in and the weather turned beautiful. We began our hike late in the day because it was the only time we could get a permit for the route we needed to take. Glacier National Park is by far the hardest park to get back country permits. They are not nearly as cooperative as Yellowstone where they work with you and have a “Can Do Attitude,” whereas, Glacier loves to tell you what you can’t do. What Glacier lacks in cooperation, they make up in scenery and wildlife. It could arguably be defined as the “Hidden Jewel” of all our National Parks.
Our hike started at the south end of Bowman Lake. We hiked 7 plus miles to the north end of the lake to our first campsite. What a change from the rigorous 25 mile days I had to endure the previous several months. It was great to sleep later in the morning and enjoy breakfast overlooking the mountains, alpine lakes and what remains of some glaciers. The next day I would climb my last mountain pass (Brown Pass) and it reminded me of how much I loved getting to the top of a pass and seeing the landscape explode around me with high vista, views of the valleys below and neighboring peaks. We descended down the pass and camped at Francis Lake.
Francis Lake was not our designated campsite, so we were hoping that we might find a site open and fortunately we did. I met someone the previous day who worked on a trail crew and told me this was his favorite backcountry site in the entire park and we were not disappointed.
The weather was improving; it was sunny and approaching 70 degrees, the perfect weather for Natalie to swim. She can’t pass by an alpine lake without swimming regardless of the weather. Goat Haunt would be my last backcountry campsite. The Canadian border is six miles north of this location. If you are hiking from Canada to the U.S., you need to check in at this location with U.S. customs.
Goat Haunt is at the South end of Waterton Lake. The next morning as we packing up our camp we met a couple who took the boat to Goat Haunt from Canada to spend their honeymoon camping at this location. We hiked north along the west shore of Waterton Lake heading to Canada. We met two U.S. Border Patrol personnel who were hiking the same trail. It is interesting that on the United States and Canadian border there is an easement all along the border where the trees and brush have been cleared so anyone crossing the border can be seen.
Finally, on a beautiful day nearly 150 days from when I started from the Mexican border on April 15th, the “Journey For The Kids” adventure was completed. What made this day special was having Karen and Natalie with me and knowing that all my friends and family that could not be here were silently celebrating my safe finish.