I hopped on the 11am shuttle from East Glacier to Waterton, Alberta not really sure if Waterton would really be the start of our hike. We didn’t know conditions of the Highline Trail (starts at Waterton) or Chief Mountain (starts on the border), but hadn’t been able to get to a ranger station to talk to someone who knew.
The shuttle ride to Alberta cost 100 bucks, which seemed hefty, especially for two hikers who didn’t even have their backcountry permits yet. It was the best we could do, though. We tried to get our permits the day before, but apparently, the East Glacier backcountry office is actually in Two Medicine–10 miles away in the park. We couldn’t hitch there in time the day before, so decided to take our chances and see if we could get our permit in Waterton.
The weather turned brutal and we didn’t arrive in Waterton until 3 pm. Our driver was a great commentator–she also works the Red Bus Tours, so we almost got a free guided bus tour of the park. At Waterton, a Canadian-French accented ranger called the Apgar ranger station (apparently, all the backcountry permits have to be phoned into Apgar) where the ranger told me very nicely and not pushingly, that the Highline Trail was going to be brutal. Many CDT thru-hikers had started the Highline Trail only to give up on it. Some thru-hikers had been caught with “avalanches in front of them and behind them.” We had been pretty set on the Highline Trail, but decided Chief Mountain might be a better start place.
Our shuttle driver agreed to drive us back through Chief Mtn where we’d come through before. The problem was that the closest campsites to Chief Mountain were full for that night. We had to stay in Waterton that night and take the next shuttle back to the States. As soon as we learned this, the rain became brutal and the wind insane. My “impossible to turn inside-out” umbrella turned inside-out. The rain, though, stopped surprisingly quickly and the sun came out. We would be one day behind on our hike.