Last updated: June 26, 2015
Welcome to the 2nd Installment of the Glacier National Park Backcountry Blog!
I recently hiked a leg of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail between Two Medicine and East Glacier and experienced something amazing. As I neared the trail offshoot to Scenic Point my service radio decided to complain; it started beeping and giving me static. As this was not amazing, I turned it off to remind it I was still the boss of it – and maybe to reset it. As I prepared to turn it back on I heard – NOTHING. There was no wind, no sound of running water, no cars, no people. The silence was deafening in its intensity. So I left my radio off for a moment longer and experienced my surroundings. I found myself in a quiet, rock filled landscape with tiny ethereal white flowers poking through. I was in outerspace –alone in a primeval world. That’s when I felt it – wilderness.
Wilderness isn’t just a feeling though, it’s congressionally defined and protected. Amongst other things, congress defines wilderness as an area that is “affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable”, an area with “outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined type of recreation” and an area large enough to make possible “its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition” (section 2 (c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964). The Department of Interior determined that most of Glacier National Park meets the definition of wilderness and recommended such land for wilderness designation.
Many backpackers getting their permits from me give wilderness reasons for going – solitude, a primitive camping experience requiring a personal level of skill, camping camaraderie far away from technology and mechanization…
Camping in this wilderness requires diligence, skill and planning. For instance, you can’t just step away from your dinner to go filter your water in bear country…you must hang your food every second you are away from it. If you’re alone, this can be a real chore. If you camp in a site that allows fires – (you can find this information in our 2015 Backcountry Guide) – gathering small downed and dead wood for a fire and making sure it is completely out when you’re probably not carrying a bucket with you will take extra effort. Securing all of your sweat soaked items so the salt-craving ungulates or cheeky rodents don’t take off with them is another layer of work – as there is no car for storage. Then there’s the trails! Although Glacier National Park’s backcountry staff tries their best to keep you apprised of any hazards along the way, trails – especially snow conditions on trails – change on a daily basis according to the ever changing weather (be sure to check our trail status reports). You have to be prepared for everything – and that’s a little of what wilderness is about….depending on yourself for your survival, the wildness around you…AND those moments of complete solitude.
Do you hear the wilderness calling? Come see us in the permit office.