Total Miles: 1156.8
Question: What’s the best kind of hitch? Answer: The kind where you get one before you even start trying. After almost two full days of resting our feet, we walked along the wide paved shoulder of the one street that runs through the town of Lincoln, Montana. As we passed by the gas station and considered the ideal location from which to hitchhike, a man pulled up alongside us and asked if we needed a ride to the trail. Just like that, we were on our way.
The man kind enough to shepherd us to the trail was named Doug, a retired veteran and school teacher of more than 30 years. Saying he just had some time to kill, he regaled us with stories of the area, shed light on why so many Montanans we’ve met seem hellbent on hating Californians (hint: relocating and driving up real estate prices), and generally let us know what we had to look forward to on the trail ahead. A gentle, salt of the earth sort, we couldn’t believe our luck nor how much we enjoyed the 20 minutes of conversation.
Having glanced at the elevation profile last night, we knew we had our work cut out for us today with so many ascents and descents of all shapes and sizes. As we left Rogers Pass behind and started up the first climb of many, it dawned on me—this was the last road we’d see until we reach the southern boundary of Glacier National Park more than 160 miles away. Hello wilderness.
History is often something we think of happening out in the open, in populated areas where we collectively can bear witness to the past. But of course history is everywhere, even in the most humble of places far from the eyes of society. Such was the case when we reached Lewis and Clark Pass, the flat, grass-covered saddle where Captain Lewis crossed the Divide on his return trip.
Traversing through yet another massive area laid to waste by wildfire, it’s tempting to think that the landscape has been drained of anything interesting to see save the outlines of any particularly beautiful peaks, but it’s far from the truth. Two birds flying in perfect unison overhead, then playfully tumbling in spirals around one another as though flitting on the breeze was their only goal for the day. The tops of the lifeless trees they passed above trembled in the freshening wind, the way you imagine someone trembling out of pure fear. Where there trunks met the ground, charred remains of their former neighbors lie, jet black in color and shining in the sunlight with small square-like patterns etched into them—the outlines of the embers that had once spelled their demise. The effect was to make them look like black alligator skin.
It’s amazing what you can take in when the only goal is to sit quietly and observe the world around. It often feels like the world belongs to those with the loudest voice, the most shocking thing to say but we have it exactly upside down. The world belongs to those who witness it—the watchers, the listeners, the quiet souls to whom nothing is unworthy of the simple act of observation.