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Days 1-4 // the great PNT adventure begins...

Day 1 // 12.7 miles

PNT mile 12.7

What a day to start this adventure!

Kiki dropped me at the US/Canadian border this morning - the Chief Mountain crossing. After a lot of pictures by the monument and a long hug, I started down the trail.

As usual, I had a lot of nerves on the drive to the start. But upon arrival, they melted into excitement and wonder. I'm really doing this again!

I'm super grateful for Kiki and the amazing 4 days we got to spend being tourists in Glacier. We drove Going-to-the-Sun Road all through the park, saw St. Mary Falls, hiked the famous Highline Trail to the chalet, cooled off in a beautiful stream pool, ate a delicious breakfast buffet at the East Glacier Lodge, and poked around Two Medicine and Many Glacier.

It was so great to be with a good friend and to get a taste of what this next 4 days of Glacier backcountry will hold.

But back to day one. I got to start the trail with some cruisey downhill which was nice, but it was paired with Oregon-level ninja mosquitos. Yikes!

Thankfully the mosquitos got progressively less bad. The trail opened up as I made my way down toward the Belly River.

Beautiful meadows of wildflowers and lovely views of Sentinel Mountain and Bear Mountain were a huge treat!

At this point I was seeing several groups of hikers coming down the trail. Considering this trail has a lot less thru-hikers than the PCT, it was nice to realize I'll have a lot of fellow hikers and campmates over the next couple nights in Glacier backcountry.

Hiking through a pretty meadow, I met my first PNT hiker on trail - Ungerwhere! He was hiking the opposite direction as me, but only because he couldn't score permits for the PNT sites westbound. But he'll hitch to Polebridge and head westbound from here - so hopefully I'll bump into him again!

This is my first time hiking in Grizzly country, and alone at that, so today I got really comfortable talking to myself out loud and singing periodically. Gotta give the bears a heads up I'm coming, and why not with a melody. A favorite is " Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey, HEY BEAR". Also carrying bear spray on my hip just in case.

Took a short side trail to Gros Ventre Falls... and still pinching myself that I'm here!

The clouds started moving in as I stopped to eat lunch at Cosley Lake. Unfortunately, the rain started drizzling just after I finished lunch. I was too lazy to put on my rain pants, a mistake I won't soon make again as I headed into a long stretch of brushy, overgrown trail. My hiking pants got soaked, like just jumped in the lake soaked. I had to chuckle to myself. This IS the Pacific Northwest Trail after all - hopefully rain on the first day is good luck?

The sun came out again and fooled me into thinking it was all over. I was still getting wet from the brush, but I hoped I might even be able to swim at my lakeside camp tonight! Wrong.

I rolled into camp around 3:30, noticing some other folks already settled in. I raced to hang my food and scented items on the bear hang pole, something the rangers had drilled into me when I picked up my permits. But that left me setting up my tent just as the clouds burst again. All my important stuff was still dry, but my tent inner got super muddy even though I set up as fast as I could.

I was a bit grumpy, but soon the clouds cleared again and i could explore my awesome campsite.


I ate dinner in the food area with a really fun group I was sharing camp with! Jen, Maya, Tina, Jay, and Deborah have been hiking Glacier almost every year since meeting on a Glacier online message board way back in the day.

Last night when I was feeling a bit nervous at dinner, Kiki reminded me that even though it's cliche, God knows exactly what I need. I'm holding on to that as I start this journey.

As I go to sleep, I'm feeling really thankful to be back out on trail - my happy place. I can't wait to see what adventures lay ahead: the people I'll meet, the self-discoveries I'll make, and the challenges I'll overcome. Bring it on.

Day 2 // 14.1 miles

PNT mile 26.8

Man. Today was beautiful but also pretty brutal.

The day started with a mile walk through wet overgrowth, and then I started ascending Stony Indian Pass. It was steep and slow going, but it might be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen!

The Mokowanis Cascade took my breath away as I hiked up the first basin. Then reaching Atsina Lake, I spotted two more huge waterfalls in this basin! All backdropped by Cathedral Peak.

The final basin had its own waterfall - I was almost done with my climb for the day.

I ate lunch at the top, but because the mosquitos were bad, I didnt take the time to air out my feet. Oops! Not a good idea. I pulled out my soaked tent fly, and it managed to dry out a bit.

The lake below the pass was also spectacular! I bumped into a father/son duo near the lake and they confirmed it was pretty brushy down further. And filled with evil mosquitos. Darn.

My fears were confirmed as i headed down and extremely overgrown section. In some places the Thimbleberry bushes were as tall as I am. I'm starting to hate Thimbleberry...

As I kept trucking along this route, I realized that my feet were still wet and starting to develop some hot spots. So I had to break to let them air out and apply some Leukotape for blister prevention.

But at last, after a rough afternoon, I reached Waterton Lake.

The lake is shared between the US and Canada, so it's a fun spot where you can actually take a boat across the border if you want. So there were probably 40 tourists milling about when I arrived. There's also a nice display highlighting how Waterton-Glacier is an International Peace Park since management and resources are shared between countries to protect this area.

I made dinner at the gazebo, since I was hungry and felt like enjoying my food in a spot with less mosquitos. Thank goodness for that!

I knew my camp for the night, Waterton River Camp, was close. There was a shorter way to get there by taking the horse ford, but i decided to hike around and use the hiker bridge to avoid taking my shoes off. Unfortunately, that way into camp was also full of overgrown brush, and on my way in, my foot caught on a root and i rolled my ankle pretty badly. NO!

I felt a bit stupid for not just taking the horse ford. But I'm really hoping a night of rest will have it back up and running.

Grateful today for waterfalls, fresh huckleberries on trail, and no sketchy bear encounters.

Listening to: Tycho, Coldplay, Tarzan Soundtrack

Day 3 // 15.2 miles

PNT mile 42.1

Today was one of those days I thought was going to suck when I woke up... but it turned out to be pretty great.

I could feel that my ankle was still very sore when i was getting ready. Taping it seemed to give more stability though it still was giving me pain. I thought about my options.

I could:

a. Hike 15 miles to my next campsite

b. Go 0.3 miles back to the Goat Haunt Ranger Station, since technically its the fastest way to get to civilization (by boat, and in Canada, but it would be okay in an emergency, right?)

c. Hike very slow to start, possibly adding an extra day and unpermitted campsites to my trip. I had enough food for this option too.

d. Start hiking the 15 miles and turn around if it got bad.

None of these options seemed ideal, but i decided to just start hiking slowly. Sure enough, as my muscles warmed up, the pain was less intense. Going uphill was slow but doable.

I thought about how God sometimes asks us to rest so that we can heal parts of us that need it. But other times, I think God can heal us in the process as we move forward. And often it's a combo of the two.

By the time I made it to Janet Lake, I was hardly feeling any pain at all! I came around a corner and saw a beautful view and I legit burst into tears.

I was so grateful that all my spiraling thoughts about my hike ending on Day 3 were false.

I also bumped into a whole family from Alberta that had taken the boat in and were day hiking with rafts and fishing poles to Lake Francis. I was already thinking about stopping for lunch there, so I hiked with them for a while. They peppered me with questions about the PCT, PNT, and logistics. They even had a 13 month old with them in a carrier.

Going to Lake Francis was the best decision ever. It was GORGEOUS, blue water surrounded by a sheer grey cliff that had a really tall waterfall.

I went for a swim, dried my tent that was still a bit soggy from day 1 rain and condensation, and ate food. My ankle pain was almost forgotten.

I also met Mercury, a guy who hiked the PCT in the same year as me! He now lives in Kalispell, MT, not far from here, and offered to trail angel me if it works out!

We talked for awhile, but i knew I still had 9 miles ahead of me and headed out. He and his buddy Ben were also coming behind me to the same campsite. Friends!

I started trucking my way up Brown pass, my ankle still holding up like a champ. And this area was just amazing. More cliffs, little lakes, and waterfalls.

And the other side was equally amazing.

The steep downhill was pretty rough on my feet. I can tell I will really need that overnight in Polebridge to rest up.

The stretch to camp felt endlessly long, but rolling up, I saw a campfire going and several campmates.

And the lake! The lake was gorgeous! Definitely one of my favorite campsites in Glacier so far.

I went straight for making dinner, since we are supposed to secure our food items first, and I was just plain hungry. Around the food prep area, I met Constantine, Billy, and No Worries, my first PNT hikers that I've gotten to camp with!

Mercury and Ben rolled in a bit later - and commended me for sending that last 9 miles. That felt really nice.

Sitting with other thru hikers, realizing I'm not alone, remembering that God knows what I need - I felt so revived emotionally even though I am physically drained.

Listening to: Billionaire Wilderness audiobook

Day 4 // 14.2

PNT Mile 56.3

Today I hiked all the way to Polebridge with my new buddy No Worries.

The first part of the trail had us winding along the edge of Bowman Lake, a beautiful flat bit of trail. The second half of the walk was a gravel forest road into town.

It was nice having a buddy, even though his pace is a tiny bit faster than mine. It was especially nice when, as we were making noise to scare the bears, one popped up onto the trail about 25 feet from me!

It was a brown-colored "black bear", and it looked about as shocked as i did! I raised my poles up in the air and we began to yell "hey bear!" and "go away!" to shoo it up the hill while we backed up slowly. Ahhhh!

It was crazy to see one so close up, and I was a bit spooked!

Thankfully the rest of our walk was pretty uneventful. We popped out into Bowman Lake Campground after 7 miles, and then started the roadwalk.

There was very minimal road walking for me on the PCT, so this was kinda new. My feet hurt a bit more from the gravel, and the heat was punishing once we lost our big shade trees. I popped up my umbrella for extra shade.

Finally, we made it to Polebridge around 1:45 and found Constantine (Nom Nom? maybe) and Billy at the picnic tables. They are what I would call super hikers, as they did the 14 miles before 11:30am. Dang!

It felt so good to sit at the picnic tables with them in the shade.

I picked up my free fruit fritter from the Mercantile for being a hiker, and paired it with an iced cold brew coffee from the fruit stand.

The guys planned to hike out five more miles, but looking for more rest, I was going to head to the hostel at 5 to pick up my box. But we all took a massive siesta in the grassy shade behind the Saloon. I really enjoy this part of hiking - getting to converse with people in the in-between moments.

As it neared 5pm, No Worries and I got burgers and then I said goodbye to the guys, ready to check in and get my errands done.

The North Fork Hostel is an incredibly peaceful off-grid oasis. No wifi, only solar electricity, but all the coziest vibes you can think of. Oliver showed me around, and then I got a much needed shower and time to do laundry and unpack my resupply box.

I strummed the guitar on the porch a bit, made hot chocolate, pet the cat, and backflushed my water filter. I'm a bit unsure about how this next stretch will go, but boy, I'm grateful to be sleeping in a real bed tonight.

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Paul Ciesielski
Paul Ciesielski
Jul 28, 2023

Hi Steph,

Paul C. (from South Bend) here. I sure am enjoying following you on your blog. The scenery looks amazing! I can't help but smile when I see pictures of your smiling face. Praying for your safety and health on this wonderful adventure.

Habakkuk 3:19, "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places."


Jul 25, 2023

What a treat to enjoy your adventures again. Looking forward to more posts. Thank you. Older church lady from Spokane.

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