START: Waterton lake – US/Canada border
FINISH: Red Eagle Lake
DISTANCE: 64 miles
DAILY AVERAGE: 32 miles
Three Bears: Whilst taking in some magnificent afternoon vistas along the Highline Trail, a mama bear followed by pair of two year old cubs came walking as casual as you like in my direction. After snapping a quick photo (taken with my camera, not my phone) I thought It was time to make my presence known, so I started talking in the calmest tones I could muster to the oncoming bruins. As soon as the mother heard my voice, she raised herself up on her hind legs as if to both survey the situation, whilst simultaneously letting the wiry, weather-beaten wayfarer standing before her know exactly who was boss. Mission well and truly accomplished, the bears thankfully exited stage left. I gazed in wonder as they raced effortlessly down the scree slope and couldn’t help but think about the futility of trying to extricate oneself from a bear encounter by means of running. What an incredible sight to behold on the very first day of the CDT!
An Unexpected Feast: When it comes to locating AYCE buffets I’m like Sherlock Holmes to a criminal, an Irishman to a pub or a politician to a baby kissing opportunity. Magnet-like. Therefore it was no surprise that on the second morning of my hike I found myself chowing down sumo-like at the Many Glacier Lodge breakfast buffet. Highly recommended. A must for any self-respecting thru hiker.
Major Route Choice # 1: I chose to begin my southbound CDT hike at Waterton Lake rather than Chief Mountain. Ten or twenty miles longer (depending on which combination of trails you take to Many Glacier) and a little harder to get to, nonetheless the decision was a no-brainer. By all accounts the Waterton route, which includes the famous Highline Trail, is the more scenic option of the two and the way I figure it if you are going to begin a 2700 mile hike, you may as well do so with the most spectacular option available. That being said the Chief Mountain route is not exactly a shabby alternative. CDT Hikers will often take this option due to the fact that the Highline Trail can be closed until late in the season due to heavy snowpack. My friend Speed Stick said that the highlight of this Chief Mountain route was the out-and-back side trip to the spectacular Iceberg Lake.