Backpacking via Amtrak - FL to Glacier Nat'l Park

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Nov 14, 2010
Winter Springs, FL
Below is a link to my videos on YouTube. My username there is the same as here. I recently returned from a backpacking trip. Also included here are my journal entries. Feel free to reply with questions or comments. I met many people on the adventure, from passengers to engineers, and everyone in between. Took coach the whole way.


Day number one was fun. I boarded the train and waved goodbye to my family. The first night was rough. I've determined there's no comfortable way to sleep in these coach seats. .. which explains why they're able to sell roomettes. I had to get a few drinks in my system just to be able to get some shut eye. Forty five bucks later, I slept for six hours. We're almost to Philly now, arriving at ten in the morning. Still have to meet Rob in New York for lunch! New York is scheduled for Eleven Thirty Six in the morning. I met another backpacker in the lounge car last night. He's from Peru, and carries whiskey in his aluminum water bottle. Bruce, my seatmate, wanted me to send him a postcard from Montana. He gave me his address and a stamp.


I woke up as we're rolling through North Dakota. It's funny because it was really the only state I was able to recognize so far. Lunch in New York with Rob was amazing! We went to a famous deli called Katz's. The sandwich had about a pound of fresh cut meat stacked in it, with a whole bowl of pickles on the side. The train from New York to Chicago was somewhat lackluster. With a name like the Lakeshore Limited, I expected to see more "Lake". Chicago was awesome. I met an English tourist named Andy outside of the Willis Tower. He was all about the ladies, yet offered me a ****, haha... English for a cigarette. The Willis tower was huge! I didn't go to the top though. That's a Sixteen dollar trip while I only had Eighty in my pocket. Once I boarded the Empire Builder, things began looking up! For the first Ten hours or so I had an awesome seatmate named Jamie Lynn. She was hot! It made up for the huge delay on the prior train. The rolling hills and open fields of North Dakota are beautiful! I stepped off at a service stop and noticed it was lightly snowing. Awesome, considering its been Fifteen years since I'd last seen snow actually fall. At this point, Glacier is only Ten hours away. The report from another passenger is Four inches of snow there. The cold and the bears will be the ultimate challenge. She also said that with a lack of natural food this year, they're coming into the towns. Hopefully I'm prepared for both!

**Five hours West of Glacier

Montana is just how I remember it... Open field with free range Black Angus as far as the eye can see. Every house has it's own combines and cleaners. This is the heart of America. Something nobody even thinks of in these times of urban sprawl and centralized commerce. Needless to say they switched to all Black Angus most likely because of it's naturally higher profit margin. It's the only way to compete when McDonald's takes cattle for pennies on the dollar.

**Havre, Montana

Here we stop for service before traversing Maria's Pass. The train was boarded by US Border Patrol officials seeking illegals trying to make it across the country either to or from Canada. I saw one man being escorted off. Talk about adventure! We're two stops from Cut Bank, the largest trestle on our route. It's surreal to thing about a train hundreds of feet in the air while you're on it!


The cold here has made my ballpoint pen want to sieze up. After spending the night at the station, I awoke to a spectacular Rocky Mountain vista. This landscape is by far the most beautiful in the country. I'mn waiting for the gift shop to open before beginning my hike into the park. After all, I've got postcards to send out!

**At Lake McDonald

The hike today was intense. Three miles to the office, Five miles to the trailhead, and Four and a half miles to my camp! I had totally forgotten what toll is taken on your back with Forty pounds of gear! It seemed like I had walked forever before setting eyes on the backcountry campsite at Lake McDonald. The view here is amazing... Eight to Ten Thousand foot peaks covered in snow dominate the opposite side of the lake, while on my side I find more skipping stones than can be counted... as well as some rock art on the shore left by some previous hikers. They made a smiley face, so I, in true hippie fashion, built a peace sign right next to it. I cannot begin to describe how difficult it was to get a fire lit. Everything here is damp from the high precipitation levels. Not to mention less oxygen being Thirty Three Hundred feet above sea level. It turns out the trick was, as usual, finding the right kindling. The splintered tops and centers of fallen pine were the key. Natural sap acted like lightered knot from back home. The permit office said I'm the only person in the backcountry out of the whole million acres of Glacier National Park. An even further reassuring statistic was the route I'm on had Thirty Three grizzly sightings in the past week. So far I've seen tons of scat, but as animals go, only chipmonks and woodpeckers. Also a handful of ducks. The sun has disappeared behind the clouds and temps are dropping. It's time to tend the fire a little. Until next time!


When we last left our hero, he was in the backcountry of Glacier National Park. After realizing venturing further into grizzly country would be a bad idea, I decided to pack up camp and head back towards civilization. Taking the long route North around the head of Lake McDonald, I passed the trailhead noted on my itinerary which went to Trout and Arrow lakes. It was a sigh of relief to when the gravel road I'd been walking on for a little over a mile turned into asphalt. Crossing McDonald Creek, which feeds Lake McDonald, more vehicle traffic started to appear. Going to the Sun Road was not far ahead. At which point, I turned South and hiked the East side of the lake. It was at about that point my feet began to swell with blisters. The farther I went, the more pain I endured. It would not have been an issue had more campgrounds been open, but the nearest one was back in Apgar... at the foot of the lake. I passed onlookers and tourists, as well as a film crew from a company in Chicago called Super Stock Footage. After my fourth water and snack break, my feet were now raw. The pain was excruciating! It was by the grace of God himself that a passer-by asked if I could use a ride. Her name was Anne, and if I didn't know any better, I could swear I saw a halo over her head and wings in the shape of trekker's poles. The care ride the last Two and a half miles into Apgar was a welcome escape. She dropped me off at the permit office, and drove away into the clouds. I went in to find a woman at the counter. After waking up at Eight in the morning, hiking at Eight Forty Five, it was now Four Fifteen in the afternoon. I was the only visitor she's had all day! She wasn't suprised to find out I was there to cancel part of my itinerary. Explaining to her how gross I'd felt, she fervently tried to find somewhere I could do some laundry. It was to no joy. Everything, including the gas station, was closed for the season. We decided I'd camp at the nearby picnic area and wait until the morning. At this point I'd already bumped my Amtrak reservation up to Saturday. After setting up camp and having a meal, it began to rain. Now normally rain it's a big deal... but when it's Thirty Five degrees outside, it's huge! I called Amtrak again and managed to get a train out the next morning. Departure was Eight Sixteen. Given that information, my only reasonable choice was to pack up again and tough it out another Three point Three miles to the station. At this point, the time was already Six Fifty in the evening and getting dark fast thanks to the vast shadows cast by the surrounding mountains. Drudging through the rain, it was night time halfway through the hike. The West Entrance marked my halfway point. Wildlife began to stir all around me, as I saw a huge whitetail run into the brush just ahead. Crossing the Flathead River into West Glacier, I made it to the station... which is really just a gift shop. No Amtrak personnel to speak of. Setting up camp, I patiently slept until my morning ride home. After waking up, I checked my train's status... Four hours delayed. Knowing I wasn't in any hurry at that point, I took my time packing up before the shopkeep arrived at Eight Fifteen. He was a jolly man, well educated and versed in the ways of the mountain. Knowing I'd be there for a while, he offered for me to keep warm and dry inside the shop. This gave me ample time to write out some postcards. I ventured back into the weather a hanful of times to the post office around the corner. The only other establishment open, aside from the gift shop. All the while, the sign across the street at the gas station reads "Huckleberry Pie". The train finally arrives. Six hours late, total. I depart at Two Fifteen in the afternoon. The food onboard was a welcome break from trail bars and freeze dried foods. Also, sleeping across two seats trumps a bed of cold rocks anyday! I don't mind the delay. Though it's caused me to miss my train from Chicago to DC, the kind folks at Amtrak are going to put me up in a hotel for the evening. Hooray for Chicago sights and food! See ya soon!

**After Chicago, everything else was a blank... Literally, stopped writing.

Bob Dylan

May 31, 2009
Austin Texas
:hi: What an adventure, you hikers/campers are hardy folk for sure! I'd venture that it's a bit easier in the summer when everything is open and more services are available! At least you didnt get attacked by a Grizzly, glad you enjoyed the train rides also! When you can snag a roomette on the Empire Builder for a good price (called Low Bucket0 this is a much easier trip to/from Glacier! Hope you enjoyed the train rides enough to plan future trips, thanks for posting, welcome to AU, the Best Forum out there! ;) Jim


Staff member
Gathering Team Member
Jul 5, 2009
Orlando, FL
Welcome Chip,

We are neighbors (almost). Thanks for the extremely interesting trip report. I am very impressed with your endeavor. I did a MUCH tamer trip late summer. I was in West Glacier the Saturday before Labor Day and there had already been snow flurries at the higher altitudes. I "camped" inside a room at the Lake McDonald Lodge. I was afraid to hike by myself, so I only went for a few minutes up the trail across the street from the lodge. I took a tour on a Red Bus on the Going to the Sun Road (which is a whole lot easier than the hiking you did). The eastbound Empire Builder I took when leaving WGL was about 45 minutes late and I complained about standing in the cold (42 degrees), so I went inside the gift shop (as did most of the others that were waiting). After reading your trip report, I feel like I an old lady and you appear to be a real adventurer/outdoors person. Everything in the park was open when I was there, but things were getting ready to close.

Thanks again for the great report.