Day 4 (July 15): I woke up feeling completely refreshed. I assume refreshed means sore and really tired since that’s my normal wake-up feeling on the trail. Everyone else seems to say they feel refreshed too and I have a hard time believing they don’t feel sore and tired. You can see what I’m getting at.
My tarp was soaked with dew, but at least the mosquitos were quiet. The ranger was sure to mention that I should be gone in the morning, since camping in the picnic area really wasn’t allowed. I get it, but at the same time I think our National Parks should be catering a little more to people on foot or bike and a little less to motorists. The parks are getting too crowded anyway. Start closing sections off to cars and offer up free bikes instead. If you want to see a park through a piece of glass, go play with your phone at home. Sorry, back to my day. It was time for pants. No one really likes to wear pants, but one one is brave enough to start the social revolution (you yoga pants people are pushing boundaries though). Once out from my tarp I’m surprised to find another person at one of the picnic tables. Someone picnicing already? No, I realized he had slept there too. He had a big propane stove which meant he drove there. As I’m taking all my stuff down I see his girlfriend get up too. Apparently she doesn’t like pants either and was in no hurry to put some on.
I didn’t see any reason to linger with the pantsless car campers, so I tossed on my pack and walked back to the lake. The sun was just starting to peak above the mountains.
It was decision time. My headlamp, my brand new Petzl Tikka – Red with 3 brightness settings and red LED option, was 8 miles at the other end of the lake. My home for the night was 8 miles in the other direction in Polebridge, MT. My choice was 8 miles or 24, and I already knew that 16 of them had enough mosquitos to make an Alfred Hitchcock sequel to Birds. I bet you can guess what happened. The way to Polebridge was all dirt road and pretty reasonably level. I was jamming out on my mp3 player and singing to the traffic that drove by occasionally. My Sansa Clip has been a faithful sidekick on all my adventures so far. It even has some scars from the Mahoosuc Notch of the AT.
There were some views across the Flathead Valley to the mountains ahead.
I exited the park, but they didn’t have a “Thanks for visiting” sign. This will have to do instead.
Right outside the park was the North Fork Flathead River, a beautiful national Wild and Scenic River.
It sprinkled a few drops of rain on me shortly after I crossed, but never amounted to anything. It’s not like a shower would have hurt me at this point. Another couple miles and I was in Polebridge. Polebridge really only has 3 businesses as best I could tell: the Northern Lights Saloon, the Polebridge Mercantile and Bakery, and North Fork Hostel. I’d be hitting up all three. There are an amazing amount of tourists through the middle of nowhere. The town is so out there, they aren’t even on the electrical grid. The whole town runs largely on solar. It was cool to see the huge panels.
The hostel didn’t open until 5:30 since it was owned by a park ranger that worked over in the entrance station. So I lounged around for about 5 hours finishing up a book on the Ice Age Trail written by a trail friend who earned the Fastest Known Time (women’s, supported) on it. I finally tired of feeling like a dirty hippie and walked to the hostel to lounge on their porch. Check-in time finally came and Oliver welcomed me in. Since his solar panel was small, he told me the charge station outlets only worked from 7 to 8. I plugged in right away only to figure out he meant 7 PM, not AM. I showered up and headed to dinner at the salon, planning on being back before 7:00. Lunch there was amazing. I ordered the exact same thing for dinner and it was a disaster. The service was terrible and my burger was raw on the edges. No, not a little pink still, raw. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but the fiasco made me late for charge time.
Back at the hostel I found a book on Glacial Lake Missoula and couldn’t put it down. Imagine half of Lake Michigan floating an ice wall a few thousand feet tall and emptying its entire contents down the Mississippi in a few days. Missoula shaped the Columbia River Valley by doing this at least a dozen times at the end of the last ice age. The “waves in the sand” are massive hills you can see from satellite images. They should teach that in school, because science is awesome. I need to finish that book.
Just before dark, 3 cyclists on the Divide asked me to go with them for a drink. Turns out one of them had raced it back in 2009 and 2010 and even took 2nd with a time of about 18 days! We chatted about cycling, backpacking and all kinds of stuff. I even told them about the unicyclists that did the Divide with a picture at the hostel.
Also at the hostel was a translated letter from a Native American Chief. His words echo even today. It made me question our place in history. How will our society be judged by the sands of time? I’ll leave this hear for you.