Hiker covers every mile of park trails

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Jake Bramante of Kalispell, is greeted by family and friends as he exits the Lincoln Lake trail on Saturday in Glacier National Park. With this final hike Bramante became the first person known to have hiked all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park in a single year.

Three pairs of shoes and 734 miles later, Jake Bramante emerged from Lincoln Lake trailhead as the first person in recent history to have hiked every Glacier National Park trail in one season.

After a long winter and months of snow, Bramante began hiking in May.

Paul Travis is director of development for the nonprofit Glacier National Park fund, which partnered with Bramante and helped publicize his hike.

“May and June was crazy weather. He couldn’t access a lot of trails until July and even then, some of those - the high country - wasn’t open until August,” Travis said.

Travis said the next part of the project is to schedule Bramante on speaking engagements.

“He’s going to do a talk next spring for us, showing photos and talking about his experiences,” Travis said. “His whole goal was to do this in a year, and he’s the first.”

Bramante, 34 is a lifelong Montana resident. He has lived in Bigfork and Kalispell since middle school. It was only natural he set his feet on Glacier National Park.

 “One of the reasons I chose Glacier Park is because I personally love it. 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. His hope is to turn the footage into 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. Bramante became a virtual multimedia guide.

He edited and posted videos, photos, maps, Tweets and wrote blog entries on his site, www.hike734. 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 aggressive encounters with 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.

Columbia Falls resident Winnie Simmonds hiked with him last week. She asked Bramante about 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,” Frank Bramante said.

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