Tag Archives: thruhikers

Harpo’s CDT Journal #4

July 19

Zero!!

We weren’t planning on taking a full day off so soon but I Feel ok about it because “half mile”, the famous PCT data collector, is in the hotel and HE’S Taking a double zero. 
We focus on our Big Sky routing today. First at the Fire Tower Coffee shop where we upload online maps. Gaia is an awesome $20 phone app. it comes with a global topo map with common paved roads, dirt roads and trails. The map is viewable online and you can download any sections you want for offline use. There’s another app called PDF MAPS which is free, but you have to search their database for maps you want and sometimes pay for them if they are proprietary (i.e. National geographic Etc). Like Guthook, the apps can use the gps in our phone to show us within a few meters where we are on these maps. We decide to use Gaia for help on our side trip. 
At the Base Camp Outfitter with Tim’s help  we spread maps everywhere and choose the three pictured above.

Then we eat amazing pizza at Bridge Pizza. 

Finally at the Library we print more detailed maps that other hikers (the Onion and Brian) have published of their routes thru this area. Prints are 10 cents at the library and an hour of Internet is free.

We run into Eric and Olivia, bike packers who are on the Great Divide cycle route, which is very popular but mostly follows fire and jeep roads so we only see folks at resupply stops. Eric did the documentary “Do more with less” about the PCT. the next 2 years, he and Olivia will travel 18000 miles by bicycle! They leave for India in a few weeks and are documenting their trip at ridingwild.org

We head to Real Food which lives up to its promise with fruit, vegan snacks and a killer bulk section including powdered hummus (which I will literally start adding to every meal until I run out). 
Back at the hotel, we lay out our maps comparing routes, choose a trajectory that works best for us (highlighting it in pink) and trimming off the unnecessary sections.

As we are booze free (for now!), we enjoy a nightcap of sparkling water and coconut milk Ice cream. 
July 20

15 miles
Ron, who we met on trail a few days ago, arrives in Helena and offers us a ride to the trail head before he heads home to Portland. He’s paying back all all the hitches he’s got over the years. What a swell fellow. We hope to see him in Portland!

At the trailhead we eat some fresh food we packed out then hit the trail. it’s impeccably well maintained and we easily hike 15 miles before dark. However a longish section up a forest road sports “private property” signs on every turn. We look/walk for an hour, and finally find a flat patch at the crest of a hill. Obviously not within a private property boundary but maybe next to their driveway?! Not our finest moment but dusk is upon us and we must needs sleep. 

July 21 

27 miles
Today is tough. The trail, still impeccably maintained, continues but is slightly dull. Mostly tree tunnel and a lot of half dead forest due to pine beetle. My mood mimics the melancholy of the forest. Now that we’ve chosen to do the alternate I feel anxious to get there. Get somewhere. GET ANYWHERE. 
The afternoon sun blazes thru our dusty path. We meet hikers who tell of a lake but the marshy reality thwarts our dreams of a cool swim. 
Again, it takes us a half hour to find a campsite but when we do – we find a little cozy “hole” (as Huck calls them) nestled between trees with a breathtaking Montana sunset. 


July 22

24 miles
I’m bummed. Groucho is bummed. We’re all bummed. It’s another blazing, meh day with an 18 mile waterless stretch. 
Finding camomile in a dusty patch of trail brings a sweet relief to my nerves and hiker stench. I stash a sprig in my shirt pocket to dry out.


Around 6 we track down a campground on the map – they offer well water and PICNIC TABLES. we sit. Then I really want to stay. Groucho pushes me onward. Not harder than I want to be pushed -today- but I do often feel he wants to always go just a little further… a little faster… Than I. 
We find a high forestry knoll to bed down beside a country road. We can hear the occasional boozy drivers and a random gunshot (it’s Friday night in Montana!) but they can’t see us up on the hill. 

July 23

30 miles
Today Groucho summarizes “the scenery was unremarkable, but the drama was high.”
We start with a 7 mile road walk. A bummer because pavement can bruise/wear out the feet. But miles can go faster as well. 
Then up up up 3.5 miles to our junction. THE JUNCTION. our split from the CDT and on to the Harpo and Groucho edition of the Big Sky Route. 
Okay so if I’m honest I’ll say I am amped up. I’m worried. Worried the trail junction doesn’t show up on Guthook data -so maybe we’ll miss it. Worried the mile calculations will be off and we won’t have enough food to get to Whitehall. Worried the trail will all be Blowdowns and bush whacking. Worried there won’t be water. 
With all these worries, it’s obvious I’m not worried about any of these things but rather, I’m just anxious because we’re attempting something new. And I’m assigning that anxiety to anything I can get my hands on. 
So up up up the hill we go and I ask Groucho a navigation question about if we’re coming to the trail junction, which he doesn’t seem to acknowledge. And with that, my anxiety rushes out like a kettle just come to boil “hey GROUCHO. Are you going to answer my QUESTION OR NOT” 
Super bitch move. 
Then Groucho SHOUTS back (so I can hear him presumably) the answer to my question, explaining he answered before but I didn’t hear. 
So “GREAT,” I fume to myself as he marches away. “We’re already off to a great start with this new route thing where I can’t even ask questions.”
And I stop to pee and Groucho leaves my sight. And then I come upon a junction. No Groucho. Ugh! Not this again. I think this might be THE junction because it’s at the right mileage marker but it’s not matching the map topography. Ugh. So I make my best choice and fly up the hill. Tears in my eyes, intermittently furious and also thinking maybe I just need a snack. 
You see, besides the stress of new routes and maps and tools, we are also burning 3000-4000 calories a day but I stupidly only packed 1800 Cal/day for this leg. Hiker hunger kicks in around day 20 and today – on day 21 – my baby fat reserves are almost gone. This panic might just be legitimate hunger. 
Ok so it turns out there is an error in the data set and the REAL junction is another 1.5 miles up the hill. When I arrive Groucho seems happy enough. But I have FEELINGS. I try to repress them and focus on food but then some bad communication happens and for 30 minutes we stop to discuss impressions, assumptions, blame, communication, hunger, fear, routes, empathy, protocols and defensiveness. We both feel like real adult champions, tho completely emotionally depleted. 

we finally set off the beaten CDT path and onto the Nez Perce route. 
I needn’t have worried. this trail is easy and wide and follows a creek. After 5 miles we intersect with a dusty road populated both with ATVS and REAL COWBOYS!!!
We reach delmoe lake by 5pm and wash, do laundry, eat dinner and rest for a half hour. Then we hike onward, away from the lake. 


As evening approaches more and more ATVS drive by us, blowing dust in my face and hot air up my recently cleaned skirt. 
Here, the desert-like terrain reminds me of So Cal. Cactus and prickly seed pod plants and scrubby pines and sage brush galore. 


Finally, frustrated with the dust kicked up by by weekend warriors, we walk along some adjacent abandoned railroad tracks. The boards are rotting and sage brush is thigh high in places but the romance of it thrills me. We approach a humble railroad trestle over a stream. No problem. We got this. The 12 year olds in Stand By Me handled it and so can I. Though the boards are strong and true, they groan with my first few steps. A few minutes later I begin to notice how train ties are not always evenly spaced and also not spaced for a easy human stride. I adjust. My steps grow short and precise. No problem. But then in the spaces between the wooden ties I spy glimmers of the river below. VERY FAR BELOW . My heart starts to race. My body, I’ve found, is immensely intelligent. Give it a crazy challenge and it figures out what to do, where to step, how to balance, but that tricky MIND is so dumb and gets in the way. Half way across the trestle my mind becomes convinced I will step into one of the gaps between the boards. This is inprobable but even if I DID I would trip but almost certainly not fall thru the cracks to the gully below. I know this, my feelings know this. But my MIND is so dumb. Groucho passes me on the right. I am afraid to lookup and see how many boards are left so I tell him to tell me I’m close. He says Very Close. I repeat: very close. I discover if I look 3 boards ahead I feel safer than looking at the board just below because the vertigo or whatever I’m experiencing is heightened by the light and movement of the water below. I focus three boards ahead and each step say aloud “Very Close.” Very Close. Tears shine in my eye sockets and I hold my hands aloft like a toddler. I am in a middle of a crisis. I know if i stop to look around it will get worse so I just repeat “very close. Very close. very close.” Finally. finally. I make it. 
“I am never doing that again.”
2 hours later we camp next to the tracks away from the ATVS but the glow of I90 in sight. We hiked 30 miles today!! Tomorrow’s a town day and the Tobacco Root Mountains are in sight…

Harpo’s CDT Journal #3


July 16
14 miles 
Yes! A townfood Bfast of mixed baby greens, avocado, also peaches & bananas! 
Then, Free wifi outside library by the awesome town park where they allow free camping. And today there is a flea market (and tomorrow a fiddle-fest.) Lincoln is one cool little town. 
Near the park we start hitching and within minutes two charming locals swoop us up. Tammy and Craig recently retired to their cabin here, and give us a ride 15 miles up to the pass even though it is 30 miles out of their way round trip. What sweethearts!
We hike 13 miles with much discussion about route finding and the patriarchy of internet trolls judging what real thru hiking is. What is thru hiking about when it’s choose your own adventure? Duration? Miles? Pleasure? The destination? The militant satisfaction of following a particular government-ordained route without variation (no thanks).
I’m on a deadline for this hike because of a family obligation in mid-oct. realistically, I can’t finish the whole route in 3.5 months. To do so would mean hiking 30 miles every day and no days off. So I have 4 choices: 1) traditional CDT routing thru Idaho and Wyoming and end somewhere in Colorado. 2) make my own route thru southern Montana to Yellowstone skipping the Idaho section, thereby “saving” 250 miles and a few weeks so I can maybe finish closer to the CO/NM border; 3) screw the idea of a continuous footpath and hike select sections along the trail until early October; 4) try to fly back after the engagement and finish in the approaching cold winter breezes. Groucho wants to hike with me and I with him, but he’s still committed to a continuous foot path of some kind. We spend a long time weighing options until we develop bickering emotional headaches attempting to stare into an unknown future. 


These conversations also make me realize I am homesick… but in a new way. Not for particular friends or family… I’ve been connecting with people when I need to and the Interwebs and wifi make that a lot easier, (especially now that my network extends from Finland to Guatemala to Virginia to Washington to Spain to Colorado to Austria to Hungary to Alaska to California to New Jersey and Oregon.)
Instead I realize I’m homesick for a sense of steadiness. For a mooring of place in this space-time continuum. It might be time to settle down for a minute. A theme that will pervade my thoughts these coming days and weeks. 
At dusk, we descend to flesher pass where a trail angel – Marc -cached water earlier in the week. There’s more than a gallon left so we top off with 1/2 liter each. 1/4 mile from the pass we find a trail head with a privy, a PICNIC TABLE and a flat spot to sleep. 


July 17

28 miles
A difficult morning. Still coming down from townfood-induced sugar high – and needing to dig multiple cat holes because of bad greasy food invading my gut – my emotions and systems are all outta whack. Also we are trying out hiking with treking poles again because of the steep descents, weak ankles, slippery fords and handiness of an extra leverage point when setting up our tarp. But this morning Groucho takes a dramatic fall/face plant tripping with his pole and though he appears uninjured, he fumes all morning. 
Thankfully the terrain is smooth and flowing, and though it’s long distances between water sources, the hours and miles pass quickly. 
We meet two rad section hikers Mango and Ron whom we will leapfrog with most of the day. It’s sunny, but cool at high elevation and in the trees. 


We climb a big hill and run into an older gentleman from Marysville with his pup. I am disarmed by his sparkling grey eyes and clear desire to connect with us, however briefly. He carries a pistol in his belt, water on his back and bearspray in his hand. 
We crest the climb, faced with a route choice, take the new CDT route over the mountain and see views at the observation tower, or take an old ATV road to a water source and bypass the peak. We opt for water and find it 30 minutes later with jeeps and motorbikes blazing by us on the dusty descent. The water hides in a lush gulch and bursts from the hillside cold and clear. We fill up our bottles. Why is water so heavy?!
10 minutes later we hit the CDT again and continue winding ever-southward and now… Upward. Our big climb for the day up up up to 8400 feet – black mountain. I’m tired and my calves burn, even with my new treking pole assistant “tripod.” We haven’t had a day off hiking since we began two weeks ago. Our shortest day was a 13 miler and my body lets me know as I trudge up the hill. We reach a tick infested grassy meadow where the trail disappears but we know we must continue up the ridge ahead. As we do dark clouds blow in from the East hanging on the side of the mountain in front of us. Then wind, then low thunder in the distance. 
“so Groucho, what if we get to the top of this treeless ridge and it starts lightning on us?” 
“We can descend to those trees in the East and throw up the tarp”


As we reach the steepest part of the climb the cloud speeds overhead. suddenly the thunder increases. We look at maps and realize our route would continue another mile uphill to the crest that lies before us. We can’t do that in this weather. We cut into the nearest set of living trees, off trail, and as it starts raining we throw up the tarp and crawl underneath. It’s 6:30pm. We sit and eat our hydrated dinners, pick tics off each other like apes, and chat as the thunder grows closer. Then heavy rain and hail pelt the cubanfiber above us. And we hi five. We are dry and electrocution-free. 
30 minutes later, two dry hikers emerge with a folded tarp, full bellies, and 2 hours of light left. The sky even looks blue ahead of us.  


We climb the ridge, then descend into a living, green, tree-filled saddle. So nice and sheltered here but still 1.5 hours of light! We press on, the sky – to the south ahead of us- so blue and clear. 
A half hour later we begin an ascent and look at the deadfall around us. Half the trees rotted, cracked, fallen, and mossy, probably infested with Western pine beetles. They usually invade sick and weak trees but – word on the trail – climate change and extreme high/low temps here have weakened all the trees and the mass infestation transforms the landscape … green hills turning ever to grey. It’s sad and dead and dry out here, especially on this ascent. The lack of leaves and thinning forest gives me a view to the SW where, *oh crap* dark clouds blaze toward us. 
We start looking for another sheltered place to bear down, but as thunder rumbles ever closer we see only dead and dead and dead trees. We make a run for it. A mile up steep switchbacks as lighting begins to glimmer to the near horizon. As we crest the hill the wind whips and thunder threatens. We’re at 8400 feet but there are some tall living trees around us. We feel unsettled but hopeful as we descend and begin to see larger patches of green. Finally Groucho spies a grip of trees where all the dead comrades already lie on the ground or at least against sturdier companions. We pitch our tarp and while lighting continues in the distance the storm moves away and we enjoy a dry night. 


July 18

22 ish miles to MacDonald Pass/Helena
We wake with 26 miles to go until we reach the pass which leads to Helena. Town Day. It’s a bit soon since we just left Lincoln but my cheapie rain coat failed last week and with all these storms I need a new one. Also we’re 80% commited to try the super cutoff route and hope Base Camp Outfitter in Helena will have maps we need. 
Our only water this morning is a spring in the middle of a cow pasture pouring into a cow trough. Thankfully it looks pretty clean but we definitely treat this one. 


Then we take a Ley map alternate that roams dirt forest roads. It cuts 4 miles off our day and meanders thru pretty pastures filled with black cows. We run into a real life cowboy rounding up cattle with his beautiful young pup. One bull has a lame leg and the cowboy emerges from the truck with a shotgun. We recoil in horror until he pulls the trigger. A dart hits the cow in the flank. It’s an antibiotic shot that will cure the hoof rot. 


The path is wide and clear but sunny so we don our sunbrellas. Instant cooling shade. 
We intersect the CDT at Mullen Pass. I find a penny on the trail and slip it into my pocket with a wish for good vibes the rest of the day. Then 8 miles to town, half uphill. It’s blazing hot and my face sports a sunburn despite my hat. My recently laundered shirt drenches in salty sweat and my calves/ankles/feet begin to protest. My mind wills them along “bed, hummus, shower, bed, hummus, shower”. 
As we near the crest of the climb, clouds swoop once again, another thunderstorm with lighting as we reach a bald. The white and brown cows here seem unimpressed, so I try to be too. With a little rain and hail following us, we race the last 3 miles down to the road. We arrive at a behemoth 4-lane highway with no shoulder on the hitching side and cars traveling 60 mph. Just as I despair, a car pulls out of the building at the trailhead and a window rolls down. The amazingly timed dude is headed to Helena and will give us a ride. The lucky penny is working!
Helena’s residents are rightfully proud of their mountain bike trails, their breweries, the Base Camp Outfitter, the Fire Tower coffee shop, and most of all The Bridge Pizza Joint. 
We spend an hour at the outfitter talking to Tim about our desired route and figuring out which maps best serve us. The man spills a fountain of knowledge. 

Then good groceries from Real Food a legit natural grocery and sleep at Budget Inn for $60 including tax. 

Harpo’s CDT Journal #2

Pitamakan Pass

July 7
16 miles to east glacier

Town day! But first, we walk through a long river valley than up, up, up to Pitamaken pass. Compared to the storms of yesterday it is gorgeous and bright at the top. On the long descent we accidentally take a non-mapped trail for a mile before noticing. We are confused when we realize and pissed to be 40 minutes farther away from town food. We turn around and Finally get to two medicine campground where we realize our unmapped path would have been a more direct route to the guard station, saving us an hour. Ugh. 

After two nice hitches we hit East Glacier again, swooping a resupply box at the PO, mailing back our ice axes, eating food and finally around 5pm taking a shower and beginning to unwind. Town chores are tiring. 

Bug and mud leave, headed to Wyoming for a side trip. 

Groucho and I begin a new tradition of map review. The CDT is sort of chose your own adventure and in the next section we have some choices on which paths to follow. 

I try to blog but am falling asleep sitting up. I startle awake from a dream where I hustle my weary muscles up a steep pass. I’m having thru hiking work dreams on my day off. 

train tracks at marias pass


July 8

16 miles to summit campground 

Breakfast of spinach, tortilla chips, blueberries and coffee, whilst blogging and writing postcards at the bakery. We Finally leave town around 12:30. 

Thru a labrynth of dirt roads we make our way south back into national parkland. First we pass a huge truck blocking the whole trail. The elder and youth in charge explain they are gathering alder to burn at the Blackfoot celebration this weekend. They wish us well and “that you hear the whistling of the elks.” 

We glue ourselves to the battery draining powers of the Guthook app for the next few miles. Guthook overlays our smartphone GPS location on a map of the CDT, in real time but without wifi or data required. We live in the future. 

The park terrain continues prettily, all rolling hills, creeks and wild flowers and 1 moose sighting. At 7pm we’ve travelled 16 miles and reach a train track, road, and public campground. We cross out of Glacier and into Lewis and Clark National Forest and sleep at the camp ground. The luxury of a picnic table is hard to explain. But having a place to sit feels like a luxury so when a fellow SOBO walks by an hour later we can’t help but share. We enjoy a new acquaintance with “Recon.”

yup


July 9

24 miles to blue lake

Like early birds, we rise before the sun and are hiking by about 5am. We take an alternate to hike along the S fork of two medicine creek. It’s pretty easy breezy. Later we meet an injured hiker who relays a mess of blow downs cluttering the normal route. His knee is messed up and he’s taking an on trail “zero” to rest and see if he can hike on. This freaks me out. He has enough food to afford to wait a few days, but we have only packed 7 days food for this 180 mile stretch… Not enough to accommodate an injury. 

We follow bear tracks all day. Big ones with claws. Our singing grows crazy as the hours march by. (Singing is supposed to warn animals you are coming so they don’t react violently.) We wonder: What if bears are listening and saying ” what is wrong with these humans? we need to quarantine this area for mad human disease!” Or… “Guess there’s a free jazz show tonight” 
We stealth camp high on hill above Blue Lake. 

Groucho at Beaver Pass


July 10

27 miles to dean lake

At night the cool air condenses and gathers in the valleys around creeks and lakes. As we walk in the early morning we can feel the drop of 5-10 degrees as we descend to the lake and are happy with our warmer selection of a site last night. 

After a few easy miles the trail splits. We can take the CDT 2 miles around a lake or thru a meadow and save ourselves a mile. Blowdowns litter the real CDT and we immediately lose the trail. Meanwhile the alternate looks clear and simple, so we rush thru the meadow chatting happily and suddenly the alternate trail disappears into a knarled clump of trees. We follow footsteps around rooty potholes with twisted branches and dead fallen trees scraping our arms and knotting our hair. I feel like I’m in Tolkein’s Fangorn Forest and I might never leave this place if the trees get their wish. Then relief as we press thru the last cluster of branches into the light of the… boggy meadow. Ugh. There is no path. I pull out Guthook but this alternate path isn’t recorded there. All I know is the trail runs perpendicular to us a half mile further. We must move forward and try to try walk thru the bog. Our feet get soaked, then our ankles, then calves… we are descending into a swamp. A stinky swamp. This isn’t right. We trod backwards, and again thru Fangorn, and back to the last clear trail, this time spotting a shy clearing where we missed a junction before. The path loops wide around the marsh … it is dry and smooth. And then again we lose it. Now the real CDT trail is supposed to be about 500 feet forward so we bushwhack up a steep embankment and finally, finally are on trail again. 

After breakfast we enter the bob Marshall wilderness. The area boasts an exceptionally high concentration of Grizzlies. It’s beautiful but our first several miles run thru burned forest. Pretty in its own way but hot and barren. We agree to take the Spotted Bear Alternate – slightly shorter and more scenic- and as we near I stop to pee and fall behind. 10 minutes later I reach the trail junction but Groucho isn’t there. We’ve been more diligent in this trail hiking close so we can check in on the many trail junctions and for safety in wildlife encounters. If he’s not waiting here, it might mean he didn’t notice the junction…so which route did he take?  I’m literally 1 minute behind so I shout his name to no avail. Panic and frustration set in. I go down our chosen path about 7 minutes hoping to spot him thru clearings in the burned area with his bobbing silver umbrella, but nothing. Then I turn around, go back, and check out the other junction, it ends pretty quickly in a big ford. If he had gone this way he definitely would’ve waited at the ford. Ugh, so back I go down the alternate, upset but pretty sure I’ll find him soon at another river ford on this path. A half hour later I find him coming back up the trail toward me – having waited 20 minutes he was worried- and I’m so relieved to see him. 

Next is a possible “waist high double ford”. The first has nice logs to cross on. The second we decide to take off our shoes and walk across, when we reach the bank we toss our packs, strip down and wash ourselves. It’s cold but worth it.

After lunch is our big ascent toward Dean Lake. I’m feeling strong but halfway up I tweak my Achilles and it smarts each time I step. I now start to worry about food. Our hunger increases each day, and if I injure myself we don’t have a lot of leeway to hang around and wait out here. As far as I know, we are 50 miles from a road in either direction. 

Toward the top of this climb I feel scared and tired and – most of all – sorry for myself. I explain to Groucho I have feelings and he is nice about everything. A short, 30-second cry-fest relieves the pressure in my chest, heart and throat. 

We reach the lake by 5:45 and are trying to decide whether to hike on over the pass, in the few more hours of summer light. As if to answer our question, a light rain begins. Up here at 7200 feet it is cold too, so we set up and get in the tent just as the downpour begins. 

Chinese Wall


July 11 

24 to Chinese wall

Rained all night and we walke to temps in the high 30’s and low 40’s. We freeze doing camp chores and bicker with each other. Once we start moving we are warm again and cheerful when we get to Switchback pass. 

We descend to the river valley slowed by a bunch of Blowdowns. Then it’s flat terrain for many miles but our shoes are constantly drenched from creek crossings, intermittent rain and the “car wash” of the brushy trail. 

Around 5pm we climb and by 6pm we rejoin the official CDT at spotted bear pass. 

Around 7 we reach the amazing Chinese Wall and start looking for a campsite. For an hour everything is either windy, muddy, grassy or slopey. Not great camping for a tarp. 

Finally, dusk comes, and we explore a little nobby hill that has a concave top. We find a spot that is sheltered by trees and boulders. We hope it doesn’t rain as it *might* be drainage. As we go to sleep a stag party arrives, 4 or 5 young bucks, with their antlers all fuzzy. They are a little too curious and we wonder if we stole their cozy shack. We later realize they mostly want to eat the foliage we have dressed with our nutriant-rich pee “salad dressing”. 

more chinese wall

and more


July 12

24 to benchmark junction

Today we remember how to be thru hikers. We hike 4 miles before breakfast at a beautiful and flat pass. We take out all our gear to dry it in the breeze and scattered clouds. The sun appears today! Off and on but I’ll take it! We ford streams over and over. 

We also begin to see more humans and their horse slaves. Seriously it bums us out to see a horse train of oppression where they bring luxury items like guitars out to the bush. In one instance the last horse in the train tries to drink at a creek and then is pulled along and trips over 3 logs almost toppling over. Major bummer. Plus, because of the rain the trail is completely torn up with horse hooves. This majorly blows for my newly aching-again Achilles. 

We meet some awesome NOBO “slashers” (super long ass section hikers) which whom we trade tips. 

Around 5 we find an amazing river and I soak my achilles in the sun.  

By 7 we find a super cozy camp under a tree. Our dinner spot overlooks the river 100 feet below. 

July 13

27 miles to Dearborn River

Best sleep so far! But the achilles aches worse today. At our first breakfast break I loosen my shoe and find a walking stick. This helps considerably. We take the Benchmark alternate saving a few miles and reducing elevation gain/loss since flat feels better on my foot. Also this section is forested instead of burn area. 

Easy miles all day but we want town so badly. This stretch feels a bit brutal. Once we rejoin the CDT we recount movies to pass the time in long burn areas. As we settle down to camp we hear trees cracking and falling across the valley. We are safely in a grove of live trees.

July 14

22.5 miles to Lewis and Clark pass

Town is 30 miles away. Today we climb Up to the actual divide. We walk up and down and up and down ridges. beautiful but back-breaking. We ascend and descend around 6000 feet throughout the day on Appalachian Trail style climbs -straight up hill- with very few switchbacks. The day is bright and tough but the scenery incredible. 

We approach a drier section and now will carry water enough for 10-30 miles at a time. Combined with these climbs I am a bit daunted to carry an extra 8 lbs of water on my back. 

The day ends at Lewis and Clark pass where as we sleep we hear a whistle… Could this be the elk? Or maybe a moose?

sunrise over Lewis and Clark Pass

 

July 15

8 miles to the town of Lincoln

TOWN DAY! I leave my trusty walking stick at camp because it seems happy with its brethren. We hike over four hills. We see a female moose from afar. Maybe she’s our whistler. By 9:55 we are at the pass and within 15 minutes get a ride to town! Lincoln is basically one street but possesses all the basics, pizza, grocery, post office, hotels. We stay in the Hotel Lincoln. A national landmark that was featured on the show Ghost Hunters.