Tuesday, December 10, 2013

78-year-old hiking friend

Joyce, a hiking friend, had a writeup in the local newspaper today.   This year she took up backpacking and camping in order to reach parts of the Park that can't be done on a day hike unless you can hike 20 plus miles in a day.

A hiker with hundreds of miles under her belt isn’t unique in this part of the world. But Joyce Moon, who has been taking intense hikes for six years, is a bit of a different story. She started tackling Glacier National Park’s many trails just six years ago, when she was 72.

Her last hike, a three-day adventure from Logan Pass to Goat Haunt and into Waterton, started cold and wet before a bit of divine intervention.

“I’m a Christian, so I prayed for good weather,” Moon said. “The clouds cleared up on the second and third days.”

She took four of her five children on that hike and was pleasantly surprised they were able to keep up without complaining.  Kendra and Greg, Kari, Kristen and Dave, and Jeff and Toni accompanied Moon on the hike, while Jerrold, the fifth child, couldn’t make it.

“I was pretty proud of my kids,” Moon said. “Everybody was really good sports. Jeff was pretty protective of me, and was saying, ‘We have to get to the next campsite, Mom.’”

Husband Edley doesn’t go on hikes with Moon, 78, and instead stays at the couple’s small cattle ranch near Foy’s Lake while his wife treks through the mountains.

While she had been hiking somewhat all her life, it took Moon until her 70s to give Glacier Park a shot. “I’ve been kicking myself for not going up there earlier,” Moon said. “When I hike, I just feel free. There’s so much to see.”

Born in 1935 in the tiny Montana town of Lambert, which now shares census results with Fox Lake, just miles from the North Dakota border, Moon moved to the Flathead Valley as a teenager.  However, it wasn’t until a fateful occurrence six years ago that Moon got up into the park. She saw a hiking group sign-up sheet and decided to give it a shot.

That first hike, a 20-miler, went from Bowman Lake into the park’s interior.  Moon was hooked.

“I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can,” she said. “You’ve got to keep moving, or you’ll end up in a wheelchair or stuck in front of the TV.”

Although Moon no longer hikes with the same group she started with, she has built up a small group of hiking acquaintances and has made it her goal to hike as many of Glacier’s trails as possible.

Sometimes, like on the hike from Logan Pass to Goat Haunt, the septuagenarian must deal with some nasty weather. “It was awful,” Moon said of that hike with her kids, which took place from Sept. 18 to 20. “It was raining and snowing, and that wind up near the top [of Logan Pass] really blows. My husband called me crazy for going out.”

The later-season hikes are a result of Moon trying to get big groups out in the park. The campsites fill up in the summer, so August and September are the best chances to reserve the sites. This means that her large group can go for three days into the park without running into the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit during the warmer months.

Despite her accomplishments, Moon remains humble.  “Compared to some people, I haven’t done anything,” Moon said. “God has kept me well and healthy.”

When not going on Tolkien-esque journeys through the mountains, she loves to cross-country ski in Herron Park near her home, take shorter hikes around Hungry Horse Reservoir and make blankets for local charities. (She has more than 100 to her credit at this point.) Moon also makes a mean huckleberry pie.

She also picked up the trumpet for the first time in more than 50 years in 2009 and joined the New Horizons Band.  “I played in high school for half a year, but I was so shy,” Moon said. “But everyone there is learning with each other and laughing together.”

Keeping active and the brain healthy is a priority for Moon, who doesn’t even have a working TV in her home. Her part-time job at Sportsman & Ski Haus is just the cherry on the top.

Already itching for next season, she has a hike planned from Chief Mountain, on the east side of the park, to Goat Haunt and up into Waterton.

If any hikers see a little lady zooming past them on the trail with several tired-looking adult children in tow, give a shout out to Moon as she conquers Glacier National Park.