The Bob Marshall Wilderness is the fifth largest wilderness area in the lower 48, consisting of over 1 million acres of forests and over 1000 miles of hiking and stock trails. Its awesome 😎
East Glacier – Helena
9 days (with an on trail resupply at Benchmark Wilderness Ranch)
total miles 360.2
Today we hike in trees again! lovely, cool trees. The social interactions in Rawlins and our angel visit have rejuvenated me. The morning passes easily.
Around midday we pass a huge backpack by a log. So huge, I don’t notice at first there is a person attached. Here we meet Tugboat, a 52 year old retired firefighter who started in Glacier on June 1st, trudging thru snow with an 80 lb pack. Tugboat is old school and didn’t know about the hiking culture which allows for hitching to town every 3-7 days for more food. Therefore he’s carried 21 days of food at a time, as well as his slingshot, pistol and pole so he can hunt, fish and grill game along the way. Amazing. A dude who really can survive the apocalypse. I am so impressed. Now that he’s realized he can go into towns he’s about 20 lbs lighter and much happier. And hella ripped.
Groucho and I pass him and take a different alternate, but I feel happy knowing he’s out here.
At dusk it starts to rain and we pitch our tarp for the first time in days. There are actual trees to pitch between!! We are almost to Colorado.
This morning we see Curtis (hiker) and Sable (dog) who we met in Lander. They hiked out a day earlier than us from Lander but our ride from the Rawlins angel helped us catch up. Curtis is admittedly lonely since his lady friend had to get off trail for work. We happily hike with these buds.
Around 11am we reach the Boarder of WY and CO!!
Then a nice leisurely walk into the hills and short mountains. Curtis gets ahead in the afternoon but we catch up at the dinner break and I let him know that, tho he is faster than us, he’s welcome to hike with us if it would be good for his spirit I know it will be good for mine.
A few hours before dusk we begin a long descent into meadow. Then a long burn area. We pass up several sites because of so many snags (dead trees). Finally Curtis chooses a meadow and though it isn’t perfect, we submit. There aren’t any dead trees for about 40 feet in any direction.
At midnight a huge cracking sound and an earthquake-like shudder in the ground wakes me. Lighting? “What was that?!” I ask. Groucho replies… “A tree fell.” A big tree. Very close. I count my lucky stars and try to fall asleep again but it is hella cold and damp in the meadow.
We wake with frost frozen on our sleeping bags.
Today we enjoy a 3500 feet climb over 10 miles. I feel weak and tired. Altitude?
It’s the beginning of bow season and all day long we pass happy hunters decked in camo or hunter orange with bows slung over their shoulders.
There is so much dead forest here because of pine beetle kill that we can’t help but sleep amongst some snags. It’s barely worth it as all night I feel awake. Staring at a sillouttte of a snag hanging over our heads. And by 4am hunters start tromping by our site. I need to get me some hunter orange gear lest I be mistaken for an elk or deer.
Im so excited to get to town! The morning passes quickly passing many hunters and day hikers and lakes. It’s almost all downhill.
I do a movie-length retelling of Little Women and suddenly (2 hours later) we are at the trailhead! 2 lovely day hikers are parked and offer us a ride to Steamboat Springs. We accept and stay at the awesome Rabbit Ears Motel, across from the PO and natural food store. Sooooooo many vegan snacks.
Aug 17, 18, 19Zeros
The exhaustion and calorie restrictions caused by the wind River Range, now require us to take 3 zeros in a row. I suppose that’s what we get for not taking a day off in a whole month. We’re around 1000 miles into our hike.
We arrive in Lander and I realize I haven’t looked in a mirror in almost 2 weeks. I don’t recognize this person. I look and feel dirty, depleted and gaunt. I shower, launder and give myself a bang trim with my mini Swiss army knife.
Then I try to gain weight. Over three days I will eat caramel corn, hummus, chips, bean dip, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, more pizza, waffle fries, again with the waffle fries, coconut chocolate milk, bread sticks, bananas, peaches, salad, more salad, more salad, and many Luna bars.
I begin to feel normal ish.
Our hotel room is ridiculously spacious. We spread out over 2 queen sized beds and air out our gear, clean and repair things, ice our knees and feet.
I also practice talking to other humans again. My first attempts are runaway train style. And I realize how lonely I’ve felt out here in our stretch since we left Helena. I turn on my phone and dash off dozens of text missives to friends back home.
The teevee offers an impressive array of 80’s hits including Beverly Hills cop and Full House.
Lander is a charming town with a great bar/restaurant, outfitters, groceries, a Post Office, thrift store, coffee shops and a yoga studio. We take yoga and feel great. And now, finally, it’s time to get back on trail.
A Beautiful Day. Finally!
Today is a joy. We relish several hearty breaks, make good miles, and traverse easy but gorgeous terrain of frosty meadows, aspen groves, epic lakes and aqua green rivers.
It’s a popular area with troves of trail runners, day hikers, canoers, and some 7-day section hikers on a similar route as ours.
The green river lives up to its name and we only wish we had extra food so we could camp early along it’s shore.
At the end of the day we turn up the Knapsack Col alternate. Recommended by all NOBO’s this 13 mile alternate replaces as many miles of the CDT. We camp a mile in, saving the climb and “big reveal” of the landscape for tomorrow.
There are so many hearty, kind, adventurous Wyomingians out here. We meet several couples who we leapfrog with throughout the day. Social time feels great. I miss people.
But most importantly the views and features along the alternate drop jaws. 100% awesome.
Bouldering becomes the new normal as we scramble up and down mountain cols, skirting glaciers and skipping over glacial melt. The new way of traversing Takes more time, strength and energy tho, and we finish a 12.5 mile section at 5:30 totally depleted having already eaten all our snacks for the day.
Normally we’d simply eat more to perk up but we are on rations now (having taken a low mile day early in this stretch and adding -23mi- when we had to bail from the high route.
I’m very stressed out about this. I’ve never run out of food hiking. I feel so far from our goal – landers, Wyoming. We still have 77+ miles to go and with less energy we go slower still. I feel like a jerk because this is one of the most breath taking places I’ve ever EVER beheld. And all I can think about is getting to town.
We could bail a few places, hiking 11 miles down a side trail to a popular trail head or campground but we’d have to come back the same way which at this point sounds like a drag.
I’m so tired. But stubbornly press forward. Mile after gorgeous difficult mile.
A Good Day. After yesterday’s rigors today feels a bit easier. We wake early, discipline our selves to time our food breaks every 2-3 hours. Miles go more quickly along so many gorgeous lakes.
At one we pre wash our bodies and clothes. Anticipating the 36 mile hitch to town in a few days.
We ran out of coffee yesterday but run into a weathered, handsome gentle soul who becomes our Coffee Angel having packed in too much instant folgers. Groucho pulls a bag out of his collection of slightly used ziplocks and we feel hyped in anticipation of our afternoon coffee break ritual.
In the evening we almost jog across a 4 mile stretch of flat, high, open meadow. Chatting merrily I spy a weird looking dead log by the side of the trail (never mind that there are no trees up here.). As we approach I again wonder why dead logs often look like dead animals. Another two steps and almost imperceptibly the log twitches. Oh crap. “Back up back up back up back up” I stammer as I realize it’s a Badger!! I love badgers but from afar. They have strong jaws and teeth and for their size can be very intimidating if you startle it. This one is pressed as flat in the brush as possible, like a cat stalking prey. I take a great tho shaky video which I will post to YouTube.
We continue till dark, finding refuge under a large tree.
At 3:30am it begins to rain on us. We work swiftly to set up the tarp together. Some things we are really good at now. Like truckers hitch knots. Our gear is just a tiny damp but dry by morning.
I’m a broken record that cannot stop pining for town. But today holds a lot of beautiful, treacherous and rigorous distraction in our Cirque de Towers alternate. A 21 mile path thru 3 steep, Rocky Mountain passes, among jagged peaks and pristine lakes.
A few photos:
Though my mind drifts toward town and my very light food bag, the challenge keeps me very much in the present. Isn’t that what we all aspire to? To be “here”? Not to be with wandering stress, distracted thoughts, worries about the future or regrets about the past. Just to be here now… It’s a gift if only I can accept it. Today I realize that often it takes fear – jumping into the unknown or placing one’s self in precarious and difficult situations – to snap someone back to the present. I’m thankful for this difficult lesson – . In today’s case presented via thunder, rain and hail at 2 mountain passes, steep traverses down narrow, worn down switchbacks, with recent evidence of rockslides, and inclines so steep that my toned calf muscles burn and burn and burn some more.
We can’t locate the trail several times today. It doesn’t worry me any more, as much as annoy me. It’s much slower to walk thru open terrain than on a solid trail. And I want. No I NEED to make miles today. I have to get to town.
At night we stop by a river. We’re heading to bed earlier on this journey. Not as much from fatigue, it’s just easier to find a flat, soft, sheltered spot in the light. On pct and AT we were spoiled. all guidebooks show where you can find slightly (or very) impacted sites and shelters along the trail. So hiking at night, it was easier to have faith we’d come upon a decent site by reviewing the data. On this hike we only have our eyes and topo maps to guide us to a safe slumber.
Today’s rations are light and we know it. Unless we run into campers we can beg for food we will be totally out by nightfall. We have 31 miles to the road where we can hitch to town. Okay. Ready. Get set. Go.
6:00: We are up and at it.
7:20: I find raspberries and pick a dozen to add to our oats!
7:30: morning break.
8:00: We rejoin the CDT.
8:15: hike up a hill.
9:00: intermittent huckleberry foraging whilst ascending our steepest climb for the day.
10:00: Break at creek for water, a Luna bar, and to wash my shirt and hat. I smell.
10:15: resume walking (downhill!!)
12:30: water break. Coffee. Last protein powder. Begin to enter the desert of the Great Basin area. Hot sun!
1:30: blessed clouds greet us. We love them. Miles go faster.
3:15 dinner break of a cup of rice, nutritional yeast and olive oil.
3:35: hike up last long hill of day.
4:00: trail retellings of mice and men (Groucho) and ghost busters (Harpo)
5:30: we recount our Hungary hike along the Blue Trail town by town. Campsite by campsite. (We miss you Huck!)
6:00: coffee break at top of the hill with last dribbles of snacks: a cherry jolly ranger (me) and 2 squares of chocolate (Groucho)
7:00: 7 miles to go! We start trail running on the downhills
7:45: pass a huge herd of prong horned antelope
8:11: reach road! Start hitching.
8:14: official sunset
8:30: stop hitching.
9:00: Camp along the road in grove of aspens. Share miso packet.
10:00: sleep. (I realize ironically that today is the first in this whole hike we haven’t spoken too or seen another living soul.)
4am: wake with grumbling belly
7:15am: start hitching
8:15am: a wonderful couple headed to North Carolina drops off another SOBO at the trail head and offers us a ride to Landers!!!!! We are saved!!!!!!!!!