Three pairs of shoes and hundreds of miles later, Jake Bramante emerged from Lincoln Lake trailhead as the first person in recent history to have hiked all of Glacier National Park’s 734 miles of trails in one season.
After an extended winter, Bramante began hiking in May when many of the trails were still snow-covered.
“May and June was crazy weather,” said Paul Travis of the nonprofit Glacier National Park Fund, which partnered with Bramante and helped publicize his hike.
“He couldn’t access a lot of trails until July and even then, the high country trails weren’t open until August.”
Bramante’s next goal is to compile a program of photos and videos of the experience to present at speaking engagements.
Bramante, 34, is a lifelong Montana resident who’s lived in Bigfork and Kalispell since middle school.
“One of the reasons I chose Glacier Park is because I personally love it,” he said. “I know other people love it. The national park system, there’s definitely an allure with it. A nostalgia. People make this their destination. The tie you have to it — family vacations, where you met your spouse — that kind of thing makes it stand out.”
Bramante carefully planned out the days, trails and miles. Most of the trails were out-and-back trips to lookout points and trails to ranger stations that tipped the mileage beyond 734.
A former network analyst, Bramante wanted out of the corporate world. He challenged himself with a two-year goal to learn videography and establish a video production company. Documenting his hike through Glacier Park was a component of reaching his goal. He plans to package his media for educational or tourism purposes.
In addition to carrying more than 30 pounds of necessities, Bramante brought an extra 15 pounds of camera gear.
He edited and posted videos, photos, maps, Tweets and wrote blog entries on his site, hike734.com. The interactive site allowed people to see his schedule, track him through GPS by the minute or the hour, post comments and send him email.
Armed with bear spray, a “hey-oh” yell, knowledge of terrain and animal body language, Bramante said he did not have any encounters with aggressive wildlife.
“Sometimes you’d go out hiking and you wouldn’t see anything. Other times you see a couple of birds then other times like at Cracker Lake trail I saw black bear and a moose and a couple of goats,” Bramante said. “The only animal that came after me aggressively was a grouse.”
Along different trails, “hike734” followers would join him. His girlfriend, Kristen Grove of Kalispell, joined him for about 200 of the 734 miles. Groves said she was excited for him when he told her about the plan.
“It sounded like a lofty goal, but I knew he could do it,” Groves said.
Bramante said it’s a rare experience to be out on foot during the changing seasons.
“It’s fun how everything changes … Calypso orchids come in the spring, to the fall colors,” Bramante said. “It’s been really fun seeing the process of the seasons … the animals migrating … the kind of stuff that you don’t get to see (in one hike).”
Katie and Frank Bramante greeted their son and were relieved the hike was completed. They followed his tracks online and visited him when he returned to Kalispell every few days between trails. It was at East Glacier that communication was sporadic and Jake Bramante stayed with a friend.
While they were concerned about the chance he would encounter bears or mountain lions, they were confident in their son’s abilities.
“I think we’ve always been mountain people,” Frank Bramante said. “When he was a kid I’d get him ‘Ranger Rick’ magazines and he remembers those things. We always took the kids camping.
“The thing that impresses me the most is his ability when he sets is mind to doing something, he sticks with it until he gets it done.”
Follow Jake Bramante through Glacier Park at hike734.com.