Montana… it’s been real. You generously provided us with drunken cowboys, grizzly bear horror stories, and an infamous luau party. We are eternally grateful to your state that possesses more cows than people. We’re currently in Dubois, Wyoming. 1,099 miles complete, 1,901 to go.
Let’s kick off this blog with one of my favorite topics: State Roundup! Here’s the best of Montana:
Best Hiking: The Montana/Idaho Border. Huge views and sunsets on top of rolling mountains mostly bare of trees. Bonus points since the trail literally runs the border for days. This allows me to frequently perform the helicopter pee on both states simultaneously.
Best Town / Best Bar: East Glacier, Montana. Double award! Trailhead Saloon was the home of the epic luau party (all thanks to entertainment provided by DJ T-Funk) and shots with the chief of the Blackfeet Tribe. The icing on the cake of the slice of heaven that is East Glacier? The owner of the only restaurant in town liked us enough to allow us to camp out behind the restaurant as long as we didn’t “shit in the bushes.” We gladly honored his only request.
Drumroll please… The moment you’ve all been (doubtfully) waiting for… Random Trail Ramblings!
– While traversing a steeply angled snow field one day, I hear a loud noise higher up the mountain, slightly in front of me. I peer up expecting to spot mountain goats or something of the like (hopefully a herd of cute marmots). Nope. Just a boulder tumbling down the mountain. For a split second, I think, “How neat is that?” Until I realize that it is plummeting STRAIGHT for Michigan while we he is attempting to manage the steeply angled snow. As I’m about to yell to warm him, I see that he is sprinting/fumbling with arms flailing. The boulder narrowly misses him.
– It’s good practice to warn the grizzly bears that you are potentially prancing their way down the trail in order to avoid scaring the shit out of them. Startling a grizzly can instantly transform you into a prepared microwave dinner. We usually yell things like “hey bear!” every couple minutes to prevent this. I’ve turned this monotonous task into a game by altering the songs that I’m listening to in my headphones. A go-to for me has been changing “Oh Sherry” by Steve Perry to “Oh Bearry” and singing my new (and not improved) version at the top of my lungs.
– Since changing songs to ward off grizzly bears, I’ve adopted this method for other purposes. Being above treeline (high enough elevation that trees don’t grow) in a storm (where you are the only thing a lightning bolt will want to hit) is terrifying. I comfort myself by listening to “Back in the High Life Again” by Steve Winwood. When the chorus hits, I reassure myself (singing out loud of course) that I’ll be “Back in the Treeline Again”.
– Who can resist the incredible deals on fireworks after the 4th of July?! On an off day in Augusta Montana, we take advantage of said deals. After closing down the only bar in town, we decide it’s the perfect time for fireworks at the motel. The next morning, the motel owner asks us “Did the people shooting fireworks last night wake you guys up?” I immediately respond with “Not at all… slept like babies!”
– I’ve noticed a trend in grizzly bear country. If you ask locals about the grizzlies, you will ONLY hear the horror stories.
Q: Many grizzly bears around here?
A: Better believe it, got charged by one a few years ago.
One night, we are in town in a local bar and get to talking to a Native American local. I think a lot of the stories I hear are total poppy cock if you will, but I 100% believe this guy. He says “ I’m with my buddy here (guy sitting next to him at the bar) and I had just shot an elk. We’re on our way to get it. We’re walking about 10 feet from the treeline, and out of nowhere, a grizzly leaps out and immediately pins me to the ground. I figure it’s trying to eat the elk before we get to it. I’m pinned, but fortunately the bear pushes my arm directly by my side where I can grab my pistol on my hip. I unload the 5 bullets in my clip into his chest. Nothing. By that time, my buddy has loaded up his riffle and it takes another 3 large riffle shots to get this bear to give up and limp off.” This has been my explanatory story when people ask me why I’m not carrying a gun. I’m not going to carry anything heavy enough to do anything other than piss a bear off.
– We’re topping a mountain one day in the MIDDLE of nowhere, and coming from the other direction is a cowboy on a horse. We meet at the top and I ask “How’s it going?” The guy stoically tips his cowboy hat to respond. I immediately think, “This guy is legit.” We’re talking straight up Marlboro Man aged 25 years since he was famous. I ask where he is headed. He simply replies “Rodeo.” He tips his hat a second time and then majestically rides off into the sunset… If you have never been to Montana and curious what it is like, that sums it up into one short story.
Well I hope this has been entertaining and as minimally educational as possible (unless you’ve been searching high and low for the best dive bar in Montana). However, if you seek to expand your knowledge on the topic of this ridiculous thing I’m doing, this round’s non-required reading is the FAQ section of PCT Blog #1 (Border Patrol / Angry Foreigners / Coyotes). You will discover the answers to age old questions such as “If you are in the wilderness, how do you eat?!” Hint: it involves a good strong thumb.
Stay tuned for Wyoming shenanigans. We are about to begin our longest stretch of the whole trail with no resupply. 168 miles through the Wind River Range hovering around 10,000 feet in elevation the entire time. Type 2 “fun” at it’s best folks!