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Walking Every Mile of Every Trail: Hiker Sees All of Glacier National Park in a Year

How's this for a walk in the park? On Saturday (Oct. 15) 34-year-old Montana resident Jake Bramante completed a self-conceived quest to hike every mile of every trail within Glacier National Park, a total of 734 miles (1,181 kilometers), in the same year. "It was definitely a great way to spend the summer," Bramante told The REI Blog on Monday.

As Bramante explains in the video below (which he self-recorded during the conclusion the final leg of his journey, 2-day, 25-mile loop that started near the West Glacier entrance and ended at the Lincoln Lake trailhead in the Lake McDonald area), the idea took root in the late fall of 2010 when he thought about creating some tourism-boosting videos of the park.

Bramante is a former IT network analyst turned freelance videographer. "I got tired of doing the corporate thing and wanted to strike out on my own," he says. "I sold my house, paid off my car and just made my life really small."

The tourism notion eventually morphed into an ambition to cover every trail in the same year, something apparently no one has previously attempted. "I just kind of stumbled across this," Bramante says. "I wondered if it was even possible."

Deciding it was, Bramante started in May despite the fact that late spring snows left Glacier blanketed with heavier than usual snow cover. In August his mileage count was still in the 300 range, but he eventually traveled 1,000 total miles to cover all 734 official miles of designated trails. He's hoping his efforts will bring awareness to the work of the nonprofit Glacier National Park Fund, which among other projects organizes volunteer trail maintenance parties.

Where Bramante's video ends, a spectator's video continues with Bramante recalling some of his journey's more memorable moments, such as encountering a trio of wolves on the trail. It's a little long and a homemade effort, but it nicely documents Bramante's satisfaction with his accomplishment.

Bramante covered the majority of ground on long day trips. The longest: 25.5 miles, though the toughest may have been a 24-miler in the less-traveled Nyack/Coal Creek zone that traversed multiple drainages (Coal Creek, Little Creek and Park Creek) before exiting near Elk Mountain, a route that gained 6,000 feet and involved a 9-mile stretch where Bramante estimates he had to navigate around 350 fallen trees. "It really depends on people traffic," he said of trail conditions in the park.

Covering every designated trail involved tromping in the park's little-visited corners, like the Belly River and North Fork areas, and even walking paths that lead to remote patrol cabins. "Some of these you won't find on the National Geographic map because they just don't get maintained," he said. "There's a little bit of route-finding."

He did bump into numerous bears, including 6 grizzlies—3 of them that were within a 100-yard range, he says, but without incident. His primary tactic to avoid startling bears: yelling out to announce his presence. "If you talk to anyone in the park, they'll dissuade you from wearing bells," Bramante says. "Some people think they might increase the curiosity of bears. If you take a boat tour in the park, they'll tell you the No. 1 deterrent for bears from a distance is the human voice. A ranger who patrols the Many Glacier area told me he yells out and carries bear spray."

How often did he yell his chosen alert, a "Hey-oh" shout? "It depends on how blind my corners are," Bramante says, "or how noisy or windy it is. If I'm in an open area, I won't yell out at all. But if I feel I'm in a sketchy area where things are growing tall and there's fresh sign of bears, when I come to corners or walk through a tunnel of alders I'll let out a 'hey-oh.' I yell out as often as I feel I need to. It might be once every 10 seconds or every 5 minutes. The terrain determines that."

Bramante's hometown newspaper, the Daily Inter Lake of Kalispell, offers more details of Bramante's hike in this report.

Interestingly, big news in Kalispell on Monday involved 5 bears in a tree (a mother and 4 cubs) that created a 70-car bear jam on U.S. 93, one of the city's major roads. The story makes me wish I lived in a town where oddball news about bears was the big headline of the day.

I'm acquainted with a former REI coworker who managed to hike every mile of every trail within Mount Rainier National Park, around 300 miles, though not all in the same year. I'm envious of both him and Bramante. Personally, I'd like to tromp every mile in Yosemite someday. I figure I must be at least halfway to covering every trail in North Cascades National Park, a lesser-known gem of a park here in the Northwest.

If you could, in what park would you like to hike every mile of every trail?

Posted on at 11:37 AM

Tagged: Hiking, glacier and national parks

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