Traveling through Big Sky Country
Montana or Bust – 1973
Driving our VW bug cross country from northern Illinois, through most of Montana on our way to backpack in Glacier National Park was an adventure. Following us in their sporty Triumph convertible were our friends. We had decided early on that they would follow since their car could travel much faster than ours.
I am driving. Something is definitely wrong, but I can’t yet figure out what. My companion is sound asleep. Suddenly there’s a loud noise – the front passenger tire blew. I may not have learned to change a tire yet, but I know enough not to slam on the brakes.
Lifting my foot from the accelerator, I guide the bug to a stop on the almost non-existent shoulder, as my companion slowly comes to. We exit to see what the damage is while the car tilts precariously above a deep ditch swarming with the biggest mosquitoes I’ve ever seen! Our friends pull up behind us and get out to help.
The spare is under everything in the trunk; so we unload all our camping supplies, get the tire and jack out, and with lots of slapping and cursing at the stinging insects change the tire. After loading the blown tire and all the camping gear, we start off again.
Montana can be very lonely wide-open space when you are looking for a place to get a tire fixed. Finally we pull into a small town where we find a filling station that also sold and fixed tires. Luckily for us they are still open. The attendant offers to fix the flat while we look over the small downtown area which features a hardware store, two bars, a small grocery and a drug store with a soda fountain. Following a round of cold drinks, we head back to the filling station. The tire is ready. Again we load the trunk and set off. This time in search of a campground.
Seven Days on the Trail
A day later, arriving near Glacier National Park, we find a private campground that boasts hot showers. We would need one before a week long backpacking trip. And we go out for a delicious dinner so we could remember what real food tastes like before a week’s worth of reconstituted, freeze dried, astronaut food. Next day we park the VW in a parking lot near the end of the trail we plan to take, load all our gear and four people into the two-seater Triumph convertible and set off for the trail head. It’s a beautiful day so the top is down – the only way to fit everything into the car!
We pull into a parking spot in the lot near the trail head. Backpacks on, top up and off we go on our adventure. We climb all day. My new hiking boots actually are comfortable. Lunch by a mountain lake. Dinner by a stream which later sings us to sleep. Some days are easier than others. We meet other hikers going the opposite direction, eat berries we identify as being edible, ford streams, gaze at the unpolluted night sky filled with gleaming stars and the silvery moon. Before we know it the last day is upon us. We have to climb the last mountain and then descend into the valley below. An all day hike to be sure.
Up and up we climb crossing a narrow ledge of shale rock. I am the slowest and stop to rest many times, my pack growing heavier with each step. So I am the last to reach the top of the trail and gaze below at the pristine lake sparkling in the bright sunlight. Soup is ready by the time I reach the lake. Soup and a welcome rest for my tired muscles. But we are only half way. All afternoon we walk down, down, down. The shadows are long by the time I reach the bottom. The guys went on ahead to get the car left at the trail head which means my girlfriend and I have to hike the extra distance to the parking lot closer to the campground. We try hitchhiking, but nobody wants to pick up two grungy looking women.
That night after long hot showers, we eat at a local deli. Two gigantic ham sandwiches each fill us up. Crawling into our sleeping bags that night, knowing there would be no hiking the next day can only be described as bliss!