There is this unincorporated town in Montana, on the far side of Glacier National Park, called Polebridge, where you can get the best huckleberry bearclaws on earth. You have to drive on dirt roads for 20 miles to get there. But as many locals will tell you, arrive early before the pastries are gone and it’ll be worth it. I could’ve eaten my weight in bearclaws if I had the money.
And you’ll need those calories when you drive up another gravel road with so many blind corners you understand why there’s little traffic up here in this corner of the country. There’s just an empty parking lot and a picnic bench, and you make turkey sandwiches for lunch on the trail and hope that’ll be enough. You read the warning signs about mountain lions and grizzly bears again and don’t see anyone else around and wonder if this is really such a great idea.
On the trail, the brush is thicker that you’re used to and there are wild huckleberry bushes everywhere. They’re so thick you can’t see 2 yards off the trail. There must be bears mere yards away.
But you forge on, because there are 12 miles to cover today. And stopping to smell the berry bushes isn’t going to make things safer.
Halfway into the hike, there is a glacial lake. It is a beautiful thing but there a biting flies and you can hardly enjoy the moment. The brush along the trail starts to get as thick as a jungle.
There is another lake, and you stop to eat your sandwiches. The flies aren’t as bad, but you think a few followed you here. You see a couple of other humans for the first time in 4 hours. If you get eaten by bears at least someone will have known you were out here today. They are enjoying the water in the stream but don’t think they’ll hike the whole loop. The last 3 miles are steep and unforgiving and we get back to the parking lot, which is now overflowing with people who’ve come to float in inner tubes in the lake 100 yards away. They don’t have dusty shoes and sore legs that need to be washed and iced by wading into the water by the gravel boat ramp.
But they also probably didn’t make out to this remoteness in time for huckleberry bearclaws either.