The Jake Bramante Project: Full Story

Below is the full article I wrote about Jake Bramante’s project of hiking all of the trails in Glacier:

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Videographer, climber, computer technician, Montana native and the first-documented person to hike all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park in one summer.

Last summer Jake Bramante quit his job as a computer technician and left his stable suburban life to pursue a different path, or rather many paths, in Glacier National Park.

Taking on an unprecedented challenge, Bramante planned to hike every trail in the park while sharing his experience through a video blog.

“I wanted people to be able to both physically and virtually hike with me,” said Bramante, who hiked some trails by himself and others with friends, family, or people he picked up in-route.

He presented his idea to Jane Ratzlaff, the executive director of The Glacier National Park Fund early last summer. Ratzlaff agreed to help Jake with equipment if he mapped out his route. She was also the inspiration for the blogging aspect of the trip.

“We live through other people’s hikes,” said Ratzlaff. “I mean I live through people that share stories with me, that send me pictures, that send me blogs, that… talk about the peaks that I don’t like anymore that they love to climb.”

In June he began his trip with a backpack full of food, clothes, and 15 pounds worth of camera gear.

Throughout the course of the thousand-plus-mile trip, Bramante saw and captured pictures and video of elk, moose, pika, bear, and many types of birds and flowers.

“That’s what was cool about this project,” he said. “Just about every animal I wanted to see I ended up getting to see, except for a wolverine which I missed a few times and that really made me upset.

“I always hate it when people come up for like one day… and they see the animal that nobody else sees. I hike, you know, 1200 miles and I don’t see one,” he added jokingly.

While the distance of the project was technically 734 miles, Bramante ended up with around 1200 miles of trail as the result of in-and-out paths.

Following a record-snow year added to the difficulty of the task. Between flooding, downed trees, and washed out trails, Jake faced many challenges.

“Water, water, water, I walked through a lot of water,” he said. “Even on trails that weren’t suppose to have water.”

Jake described one of the particularly difficult trails he hiked.

“Now I love that hike but the problem was that the trail status report read something like this: It said ‘there’s a big snow field… below the pass, its very steep and treacherous. When you get on the other side Ole Lake is swollen into the campground. Ole Creek is dangerous to cross and we haven’t been able to get any clear trails through because there’s like a hundred downed trees,’ and it’s like ‘o is there someone out there just punching you in the face for fun too?’” he joked.

After “army crawling,” under downed trees for several miles, Jake was able to add this trail to his mileage.

While it was a challenging task, Bramante discussed the reasons it was worth it.

“There’s a lot of small things people miss all the time,” said Bramante. “When you pay attention to birds and flowers you notice such a diversity of biology and you realize ‘oh my gosh I saw a thousand species of birds today,’ as opposed to ‘yeah there were some little birds I think.’ The cool thing about it too was by going through all these trails and that kind of stuff, I came across a lot of really cool features that I didn’t even know existed.”

He also explained why the park was close to him and how he connected to it.

“One of the things that I think is so great about national parks in general is that national parks mean so much more to people than just cool places out in the woods,” he said. “A lot of times they represent family vacations. You know my first memories of Glacier National Park are actually being at Glacier with my grandparents. I proposed to my wife there… It’s really the people element.”

His, now wife Kristen, came with him on several of his adventures during this project. At the time he had just started dating her. He described one event in particular where they had to cross a creek that was severely flooded. Their friend Brad provided a raft and came along for the ride. He assured them that the flooding would actually make it calmer, which turned out was not the case.

“So here I am taking my lovely girlfriend out there and there are moments where I am holding onto the rowing frame of this boat looking down on her and there’s a swirling death right behind her head and I thought this is awesome I meet the woman of my dreams and I’m going to kill her,” Jake said. “So anyways thanks Brad for a memorable day.”

While admitting that there were times he wanted to give up, he reached his goal and hiked every trail in the park in one season.

“Don’t avoid it because it’s hard,” said Bramante. “There’s never a perfect time. You know so many times we’re looking for the perfect time for whatever it is and usually that’s just a reason or excuse for us not to do stuff, so don’t look for that perfect time.”

With the end goal of being the first to achieve this task, Jake was able to overcome shin splints, flooding, and washed out trails. By leaving his comfortable life behind he experienced something that nobody else has.

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