Harpo’s CDT Journal #1

July 1

Our journey sort of begins! Today we arrive in East Glacier, Montana on a red eye train from Portland. The CDT goes through this tiny town on the edge of Glacier National Park. It’s easy to get campsite permits we need to hike through the park area at Two Medicine ranger station 10 miles away. 

Throughout the day we meet many new hikers who are starting or continuing their journies southbound (SOBO) on the CDT. We also get a surprise text from Bug -our friend from the PCT – who is arriving tonight with her friend Mud. 

We eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant with new friends and talk late into the night on the porch of our hostel. 

SOBOs in East Glacier

July 2

7 miles

The bed at Brownies hostel is comfortable but I sleep restlessly because I’m feeling anxious about finding a ride. After researching the expensive shuttle options Bug who offers to give us a ride to the US/Canada border. From there we hitch to Waterton Park in Canada and a begin our hike southbound crossing the border. 

Bug also shares exciting news … the campsites are full in glacier – given the holiday weekend – so she and Mud are staying with us! Our permits allow four campers per site, so this works out great and gives me comfort as we hike through grizzly territory.

Just a few days ago a ranger enforcement officer in the park was killed by a grizzly while mountain biking so these normally wandering wildlife fears are brought into grounded perspective. 

We walk across the Canadian border at the checkpoint station with no problems around noon and within a half hour get a hitch in a huge motohome to Waterton park with a charming family of five from Ohio. 

The park is overrun with weekenders celebrating either Canada Day or the Fourth of July or both. So we have a quick snack and set off on the trail. Our maps suggest only 4-5 miles to the border. It’s a nice walk along the lake. We talk and sing to prevent bear surprises. 
At 4:15 we arrive at border listed on the map and see the famous boarder monuments. We needed to arrive by 5 PM to go thru customs.

A nice couple standing at the monuments informs us the border *checkpoint* station is actually still 4.4 miles south. We are shocked. Our permitted campsite is south of the check point. 

We take an obligatory photo with fake smiles and rush down the trail to try to make it. I trip and my top-heavy bag flies over my head toppling me to my hands and knees. twice.   My water bottle jumps out of my pack. This is a clown show. We hike about 4 miles in an hour but around 5:15 realize it’s futile. The station is closed and now we are homeless for the night.  Thankfully there is a campsite nearby. It’s eerily empty but has the pit toilet, cook area, bear poles, etc. We rinse off in the Waterton river and cook food. I practice hanging a bear bag…. The job that Groucho’s was had in the past but now we have two bear bags.

Around 7 it starts spitting rain…Nothing serious but we set up the tarp amidst persistent mosquitos. It’s a little too hot for our bivvys but given bugs we have to use them. Groucho’s back is killing him and he is miserable. I like being in the forest but given the Grizzlies, the failure to reach our permitted site and Groucho’s discomfort I’m longing for home already. 

panicked at the border


July 3

18 miles 

At 11 am we show up at the boarder station a touch before they open. They are ready and waiting for a boat of 150 tourist day hikers. So they process us early. After learning we are from Washington state one US border guard talks mostly (and excitedly) of legal weed. 

We finally start hiking on the CDT around 11 AM. At 11:15 We greet our first black bear. (Glad that’s over with.) He is tiny and gives zero shits about stupid humans (sorry mom). We, on the other hand, are a little worried that his mother may still be nearby so we make a hasty exit. 

Soon we approach our first climb up to stony Indian pass. I’m outta shape and sore from sprinting yesterday so we take it easy. Groucho finds some ramps… A mountain onion. We get out our ice axes once, but honestly barely need them. 

At the top we briefly lose the trail but find it after a coffee break. On the descent I make my first video blog or “Vlog” as the young people call it. I’m so excited and proud that I promptly fall down and skin my knee. I find a patch of Yarrow which I apply to my knee and the bleeding stops. 

By 7 PM we are at camp where we meet up with bug and mud who are sharing our site,having hiked in from Chief mountain, the other Northern terminus of the CDT. We sleep under stars and swarms of skeets. 

descending from Stoney Indian Pass

July 4

15 miles to poia lake
We rise with bug and mud, and are moving by 7 AM. We start with a significant river ford, aided by a strung cable. We see several beautiful waterfalls and then begin the brutal ascent up to Redgap… Our second pass. 
Red gap lives up to its promise with Lots of red stones. It is so windy that I am almost pushed down several times by sudden gusts. 

Finally we cross the gap and then we bid a hasty retreat down into the protection of trees! The hillside is beautiful the rocks are beautiful the flowers are beautiful and we begin to see significant wildlife including a bear and a moose wondering for the same distant meadow…

A Very special surprise comes today…my period a week eary… Bringing with it moodiness cramps – bad cramps – bloating and all of the really fun stuff.

around 3 PM I find Groucho writing at the base of Poia lake. Together we walk the quarter mile left to camp. As we round a bend I cut off midsentence spotting a huge brown bear right on the trail. We throw our arms in the air and begin singing one of our Sanskrit chants from yoga camp. The bear is huge, chestnut colored, majestic, and maybe 600 pounds. It turns and listens to us singing… Takes a step toward us… We take a step away. It probably realizes that we’re not really a snack and casually meanders up the trail away from us, but toward our campsite for this evening. 

We wait near this juncture till bug and might arrive, then together go check out all the campsites no bear to be found for the rest of the night. We prepare dinner, and in honor of the Fourth of July I sing with Groucho, my evolving patriotic medly, a mixture of showtunes and nationalistic anthems. 

i spy a midsized black bear!

the wrongwaygang at Elizabeth Lake

July 5

23 miles to Reynolds Camp
After a 6 mile morning walk through beautiful flowery meadows we arrive at a road, where we hitch 2 miles to the town of many glacier. Carrie purchase a mini resupply of snacks, I get to buy tampons (yay!) and we find a surprising vegan breakfast. 

We walk along lakes and creeks for 9 miles. Stopping for water, I sit on a rock to purify it with my steripen. When I stand I realize I’ve bled out onto the rock (and thru all my clothes.) my new trail name is bear bait. Being a girl is rough sometimes. 

The approach to Piegan Pass is full of wet feet, wind, rain and a rigorous climb. Friendly squirrels and marmots greet is at the top though, and the sun begins to shine. We pass group of 8 lady day hikers in matching gear. 

We descend dreaming of our futures, passing only tiny snow fields and many day hikers. 

Reaching camp at 6pm we meet a  new thru hiker lady-Nordic rave – whose knee is hurting. She’s cool and from Holland. 

looking back to Piegan Pass

July 6

25 miles to Atlantic Creek Camp
Wake at 5 am to tackle the super long day. It rained last night so our first 10 miles we are walking through what we call the “car wash”… Sections of overgrown brush along the trail, where water runs off leaves, down our legs, into our shoes, making for a squishy morning. We are soaked. 

Then we have about 10 miles of the burn area… Where we get on and off rain as well as plenty of blue downs. 

At Red Eagle Lake we observe a storm coming over the pass so we run to the nearest camp ground and throw up a tarp for lunch hoping to wait it out so we don’t have to walk into difficult conditions. As we cOok lunch the sun breaks. 

We set off again around 1pm. The ascent is long but more gradual, and although there is rain, there is less wind and the other passes.

At the top of triple divide pass we see bighorn sheep of the female and infant variety. A Super amazing rainbow also peers at us from the horizon toward our campsite which is just a few miles down.

The camp is a large family with two professional guides. We build a fire to dry our soaked shoes and chat with the 5 preteenagers about thru hiking.

Groucho and his stylin poncho/tarp

rainbow from Triple Divide Pass

2 thoughts on “Harpo’s CDT Journal #1

  1. Shadow

    Love the blog and your heartfelt style of writing.
    Enjoy the journey as as always. Maybe we will cross paths again.

    1. Harpo Post author

      Thanks! I try to be honest about the hard days but can’t help vut throw some jokes around. Thanks for following!


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