Friday, May 14, 2021

A good dose of social distancing

| September 9, 2020 12:05 AM

I managed to avoid Glacier National Park over the Labor Day weekend, not that I didn’t try to stay in the backcountry.

On Friday I went to the park about noon, hoping to pick up a permit for an obscure campground. I found that if one waits a bit, the crowds lessen at the backcountry permit office. Earlier this summer I walked right in and in prior visit to that, I had just one party in front of me. But this time around the line was out to the street and it looked like even my obscure camp was going to be full and I didn’t relish sharing it with another party of four or five strangers. I’m sorry, I just don’t go back in the woods to be sociable. If I wanted to chat with strangers, I could go to a bar in Whitefish.

So I bailed and decided to hit another obscure spot I know about on the Swan Crest. It was blissfully empty save for a couple camping at the trailhead.

(In this summer of ‘rona, even the obscure trailheads are found by someone.) The backcountry was equally empty. It was just me, the boy, the pikas and chipmunks.

The only problem with our camp, which was on the summit of a peak, is that it was a good halfhour walk to water, which was a trickle that formed a puddle, just enough to fill four one-liter bottles.

It was the first camp we’ve made all season long that didn’t have either biting flies or hordes of mosquitoes. The dry weather has finally burned them out. Of course, they were replaced by copious amounts of smoke from both local and distant wildfires.

Meanwhile, back in the valley, traffic apparently was backing up for miles as folks tried to get into Glacier.

Just when you thought the crowds would lighten up, they’ve actually gotten worse. I can’t blame Californians and others for “escaping” their respective states. I mean, who wants to be in 120-degree heat and deal with wildfires, right?

But do they have to drive as bad as they did back home? I’ve never seen so many people stop in a highway to make a turn without so much as using a turning signal.

Maybe it’s just a sign of the times. You’re supposed to know what the other guy is thinking. Or maybe, you’re just not supposed to care.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.