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Welcome to the first post from last week’s trip to Glacier National Park! Last year, 18 of us went to Isle Royale, this year another group of 18 Scouts and adults to East Glacier for our Boy Scout Troop’s 2017 High Adventure Trip. We planned the trip 9 months out and held almost all of our planning meetings on group hikes leading up to the trip. Part of my mission is to make trip plans like these accessible to others to help get people into the outdoors. So, feel free to use any of this info if it makes planning your trip easier!
Day 1: Thursday June 29 “Hey boss, THE TRAIN!”
Caught the Amtrak Empire Builder at 10:30PM in St Paul at the newly remodeled depot. Since we were a big group, Amtrak was nice enough to let us bring a cooler and a couple of plastic bins of food to feed the Scouts. We made sure they met the luggage size requirements, but it saved us a bunch of money and made for fun group meal times in the observation car.
Woke up every hour looking for a place to stretch out and in the middle of the night, my trusty air travel pillow popped. No guarantees on getting much sleep on the way out, but bring a blanket, small pillow and earplugs if you want to give it a shot.
Day 2: Friday, June 30 EAST GLACIER AND BROWNIES HOSTEL
Woke up at 5:30 somewhere in North Dakota. Fed the Scouts breakfast and enjoyed a nice long stretch break in Minot around 8:30. We all got out and enjoyed the sun, andwalking around the train station for a little bit. There’s a historic Train engine at the station to check out, but before we knew it, they were blowing the horn and shouting ALL ABOARD! (JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIES!)
We ate three meals on the train and spent most of the day in the observation car playing card games. North Dakota is a long, flat state and we were happy to start seeing mountains just outside of Havre, MT at around 4:00 PM.
Two National Park Service volunteers boarded the train in Havre and gave a nice tour of the area in the observation car while we rolled through the Montana prairie. They pointed out pronghorns, talked about the Native American and early settler history and also brought a special Stamp for our National Park Passports.
Spent the rest of the evening relaxing until we arrived in East Glacier Park at around 6PM, making our total trip time around 20 hours. The train station is in the heart of the small town and the car rental place is conveniently located right across the street.
The hostel is about 5 blocks from the station and is totally walk-able. It’s a pretty sweet set up for backpackers and hikers. It’s still about an hour drive to the St Mary entrance of the park, and I’d recommend entering at West Glacier if you are backpacking and want to skip renting a car since the train drops you off about a mile away and you can walk right into the park.
Brownie’s Hostel is a quaint two story log building that was built in 1908 by the Great Northern Railroad as housing for workers who were constructing the historic Glacier Park Lodge. It has continued it’s long history by hosting workers, international travelers, and hikers. They went the extra mile for our group, making things convenient so we could focus our energy on the trail. The Scouts wanted to try something new and hike more trails without having to maintain a camp like we did last time, so this worked really well for us. We had heard of other troops doing this, so we thought, “why not?”. The owner of the Hostel was very accommodating, ordering bulk food orders for us from his restaurant supplier so we could save money, and allowing us to purchase items from the bakery and restaurant for those nights and mornings when we didn’t want to cook. He even brought Mr Wandering Pine a toothbrush when he heard that he’d forgotten his! I was still feeling the sway from the train when I went to bed, and at first thought the old building was moving. Later in the week, an earthquake would hit the area, and I didn’t feel a thing!
The Hostel has two dorm rooms, 8 or 9 other rooms and can accommodate over 30 people at capacity. The kitchen provides basic needs and had everything we needed to prepare our meals. Meals were eaten on the porch or in the common area. Mornings fill the halls with the smell of fresh baked goods directly below and evenings are spent eating Huckleberry ice cream on the porch. Yum!
We also met a few interesting people during our stay. A couple from Australia hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail, another newly married couple hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and a few more travelers that make an annual tradition of visiting the hostel for their summer vacation. The hostel community is definitely a cool part of staying here.
We’ll be here for 7 nights, let the adventure begin!