Home: St. Mary Campground hiker/biker site at Glacier National Park
For the first night in a long time, the meteorological metrics of low temperature and rain probability were such that we could let laziness take over and skip putting the rainfly on the tent. But the other meteorological metrics of clear skies, temperature changes, and dewpoint surprisingly meant the top of our sleeping bag, and all of the tent body, had gotten quite wet by morning. Yuck. But then those clear skies and late-June sun intensity made short work of the drying process, even early in the morning.
No bagels exist within or near the borders of Glacier National Park, so we were forced to switch off our bagel/bacon/Laughing-Cow-cheese breakfast habit, and remember how to cook eggs.
The next task in the already hot day was to pack up and move to the hiker/biker site at the other end of the campground. We rolled up to find it beautifully shaded, flat, with multiple tent pads, two bear boxes, and even a bike rack. In short, far better than both the hiker/biker site at Two Medicine, and last night’s site. I guess we should have just come to the hiker/biker site straight away. Oh well, now we know for next time!
I had briefly met Maryam with her bike at the showers last night, so knew that she would be in the hiker/biker site for another night, but she was already out on a 44-mile round-trip ride to Many Glacier, to do an 11-mile hike in the middle. Damn impressive strength to do all that, and an admirable “where there’s a will, there’s a way” solution to the tent-camping closure that had us all sorely disappointed.
But there are few problems solvable with human effort that cannot be alternatively (and regretfully) solved with money. And while we don’t have the capability to duplicate a Maryam-level effort, we do have money, so I guess I’ve turned us into some of those people. I had found (much to my surprise) that there were some rooms available at the Swiftcurrent Motel in the Many Glacier National Park village, so without even telling Rett (partly because I thought she might stop me!), I booked three nights there. One night in a rustic National Park cabin with no bathroom (so basically glamping) for $150, then a move to a basic motel room for two nights at $250/night! So expensive and not particularly easy or relaxing, but I figured we’re paying for location location location, and it would hopefully get us in to do two hikes in a world-class place that we’re unlikely to ever return to. And we paid more to stay in a hot apartment above a 2am nightclub in Burlington, Vermont, so this was at least a better value than that!
Just to rub salt into my self-inflicted wound, Claire and Maura showed up impressively early in the day for a couple of girls who had just used their badass human effort to take their loaded bikes up and over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, and the hard way too. And rather than spending money to do so, they were raising money, for abortion access, as part of an 18-year tradition for UConn students to ride their bikes across the Northern Tier from Astoria, Oregon back to Connecticut.
Some time after that a couple of Continental Divide Trail through-hikers (trail names: Mojo and Speakeasy) turned up, and we all became fast friends in no time. Since they had just come in from the wilderness, they didn’t have a reservation, and unfortunately when they tried to make one, they found the fourth and final hiker/biker slot was already filled. Nonetheless since I was riding the mile-and-a-half into the grocery store, I asked if they needed anything, and since their request was beer, I went ahead and got a second six pack to share around, some (Juanita!) chips, and Claire and Maura brought some salsa, so we quickly had a great happy hour going.
Luckily the hikers were able to talk to a camp host and got set up in some sort of “administrative site” back over in the C loop, but we were bummed that we couldn’t spend the evening together.
Eventually the 4th reservation showed up, a couple of guys with full-sized backpacker packs. There wasn’t really space on a tent pad left for them, but there was a flat area near the entrance that would work fine. “Oh, this is concrete”, one of the guys said as he half-heartedly tried to push a tent stake in with his foot, and then he proclaimed that they would just squeeze between the two girls’ tents, a space so narrow that they wouldn’t be able to even set up their rainfly properly. Huh?
At that point, Rett had noticed that they were pulling their stuff out of a car they had parked in the adjoining site. WTF?! That’s completely not allowed at a hiker/biker site. I sat down at the picnic table with Claire, Maura, and Rett and quietly discussed whether they’d be fine with me saying something to them, or if we should just keep the peace. In an oddly prophetic coincidence, Maryam (who was out again on a coincidental reunion with a former best friend she hadn’t seen in 14 years!) had brought up car-driving hiker-biker thieves during our brief meeting yesterday, so I miraculously had a good feel for what her take on the matter would be.
Everyone was supportive of me speaking with them, and then when one of guys stepped on a guyline on Maryam’s tent, snapping it, that was the last straw. I told them that we knew they had a vehicle, and while I wouldn’t report them to a ranger, they need to at least get out from the girls’ area and set up on the “concrete”. They said something about a ranger telling them it would be ok as long as they left their car in a parking area and “hiked” back (an obvious lie), admitted to doing the same thing at Two Medicine (which conveniently for them has trailhead parking right across from the hiker/biker site), but then to their (slight) credit, after a couple minutes of discussion amongst themselves, they owned up to being wrong, and said they would move on and find someplace else for the night. It would likely be out of the park, because nearly every reservable site at every campground in Glacier for the entire season is booked. Except for the hiker/biker sites, which turn them into a prime target for people with low morals.
Wow, I hadn’t expected that to be resolved so quickly and cleanly! Maybe it helped that we were able to prod at their sense of guilt by pointing out that on this night, theirs was not a victimless crime. In many cases, all of the hiker/biker slots might not be occupied, so while it’s still taking space that doesn’t belong to you (and budging into our non-motorized camaraderie), it doesn’t always squeeze out someone who needs the spot. But in this case it did! Unfortunately Mojo and Speakeasy were already gone so it didn’t make sense to call them back, but the experience of ejecting the interlopers seemed to bond the rest of us together even closer for the rest of the night.
Since we were late in the season in 2021 when we started riding south down the Pacific Coast, Rett never quite experienced the “Coast Caravan” of bike tourers that I did with my brother on my first go-round. So I realized that this was probably the most she’s ever hung out with other bike tourers, especially three other women, so it was great to see them commiserating over peeing strategies and the features of good camp bathrooms.
We’ve been in Glacier National Park for nearly a week already, and while we’re far from hating it, it hasn’t exactly felt like we’ve been having a lot of fun, for a variety of reasons. Today really helped turn that feeling around, and I give all the credit to our five wonderful non-motorized compatriots that we spent the afternoon and evening with.
And since I couldn’t resist, long after the jerks were gone, I pulled one of our own tent stakes out of the ground, brought it over to the “concrete”, and, as God intended, hammered it into the ground with a rock just as easily as I (and the three girls) had done on the tent pads. Low morals and idiots!