Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 22, 2013
Day 5 - Pitamakin Pass
Atlantic Creek CG to Two Medicine CG
~15 miles

For the first time this trail I woke up with sore feet. The soreness went away after a mile or two, but returned towards the end of the day. 

The hike up and over Pitamakin Pass was very nice, with beautiful views on the way up and from the top. I seem to end up in the lead more often than not when we get to the snowy sections. I don't know if its because I just have more energy or for navigation purposes, but either way I don't mind, and actually enjoy taking on the challenge of leading through the snow. 

The original plan for the day was to continue on from Two Medicine Lake CG over another snowy pass and into East Glacier, but I decided it wasn't worth the extra effort considering the fact that I need to pick up a package at the PO and they won't be open until Monday anyway. Additionally, my feet could use a bit of a rest (happy feet = happy hiker).  And as a bonus the campground store has food and beer!

Since arriving at the campground I have been enjoying the sunshine, food, and beer, and the fact that I don't have to hang my food (bearproof  lockbox). Sitting in the store eating food and looking out the window onto the lake  it felt as if I was on a mini vacation within the hike. 

At 8pm there was a ranger talk about birds, conveniently located in the amphitheater right next to my campsite. The guy (Dave Hagan?) was very entertaining and got many if the kids (as well as adults) involved in the talk. I learned that some birds can fly at altitudes of 30,000' and dive in the water as deep as 1,500'! Also, the Clark's nutcracker has an incredible memory, stashing seeds/nuts in up to 3,000 different places over a 25 mile area and are able to remember roughly 2,900 of those places. Craze amaze. 

Sent from my iPhone
June 21, 2013
Day 4 - Triple Divide Pass
Reynolds Creek CG to Atlantic Creek CG
25.5 miles

After passing out at 8pm last night, I woke up around 5am as it started to get light outside. All that sleep was just what I needed! After breakfast Sparrow and I hit the trail around 6:30am on what would be our biggest mileage day yet. 

You won't believe what we saw this morning either... The sun! After a few rainy days in a row, the feeling of the suns warmth was incredible and it made the days miles seem a little less daunting. 

The start of the day was nice and easy, strolling by a number of waterfalls and along a good length of Saint Mary Lake. The only down side of this stretch was the dense, wet brush lining the sides of the trail, something akin to a car wash. 

Continuing further up trail to Red Eagle Lake we bumped into Columbus, who was having some foot problems (blisters, etc.), and the rest of his crew (The Captain, Lush, and Man Party). We chatted with them for a little while and found out that there was a group of five other hikers just ahead of us heading up to Triple Divide Pass as well! It was encouraging to hear, and we were soon on our way up the trail with hopes of following the other groups tracks in the snow up and over the pass. 

Somewhere along the way, at a creek ford I think, we must have passed the other group because there were no foot prints in front of us as we headed over the pass. No matter though as the views were stunning the entire way and the tops of the surrounding mountains were finally visible! The final couple miles up to the pass had a few steep traverses, but the snow was nice and soft making it easy to kick steps. 

After many pictures at the pass and on the hike down we made it to camp around 7pm. Not a bad day!

Overall my body seems to be adjusting pretty well to the demands of the trail thus far and I am really enjoying the climbs up the snowy passes, which remind me of those in the Sierras along the PCT. It just feels good to be in motion. To breathe hard as you ascend a snowy pass knowing the reward of a spectacular vista is yours for the taking as long as you just keep moving. Ahhh

As of yet (10pm) the other two groups of hikers haven't made it to camp (they were planning to camp at Atlantic Creek CG as well) so I hope everyone is doing alright. My guess is that they turned around due to the steep snowy traverses, but who knows. Hopefully I'll find out more tomorrow. 

Sent from my iPhone
June 20, 2013
Day 3 - Piegan Pass
Many Glacier CG to Reynolds Creek CG
15.4 miles

After a wet night sleeping in Many Glacier CG, it was a little slow getting going in the morning. After cooking up some gnocchi with pesto for breakfast for myself, Sparrow and I headed over to the diner for some coffee. While sitting in the warm, dry restaurant enjoying the steaming liquid, four other hikers walked into the restaurant with the distinct thru-hiker look. Hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. Their names were The Captain, Lush, Man Party, and Columbus. They had apparently attempted yesterday what we planned to do today, but without micro spikes and ice axes and with the threat of lightning so they turned around shy of the pass.

It made the day sound a little intimidating, especially with the forecast calling for rain and high winds all day, but those facts merely steeled my resolve to give it a full effort. The first 4 miles went smoothly enough until we came to a creek crossing that looked too fast and deep to attempt. After surveying the map I discovered the trail crossed back across the creek later, so there was no need to cross it at all. This information in addition to snow on the ground (no "trail")  led us to trudge up the left side of the creek. 

As we climbed above the creek on a snowfield where switchbacks should have been, the weather continued to intensify. The precipitation changed from rain to snow and a biting wind tore at us during open stretches unprotected by the trees. After some minor bushwacking we recovered the trail and began climbing even higher into more exposed terrain. The wind was so strong that it nearly knocked me over a couple times and I was glad to have trekking poles to maintain balance. As we wrapped around Cataract Peak the wind died down and the remaining journey to the top was fairly smooth. The way down had a few snowy traverses, but nothing that warranted busting out the ice axe. Although only about 15 miles (low for a thru hiker), it felt like a lot more due to the elements. 

Tonight Sparrow and I are camped at Reynolds Creek CG and tomorrow we will try to one up our feat of the day by going 26 miles up and over Triple Divide Pass to Atlantic Creek CG. It looks like it'll be a doozy, but as they say of the CDT, "embrace the brutality."

Sent from my iPhone
June 19, 2013
Day 2 - and so it begins...
Cosley Lake CG to Many Glacier CG
~23 miles

Woke up at 6am to the sound of rain falling on my tent. It was pleasantly warm for that time of day, yet the thought of leaving my dry shelter to go out into the rain was anything but. 

 Within the first mile of the day I saw two young bucks, this was to set a precedent for an array of wildlife to come. In addition to the deer I also saw mountain goats, a moose, a black bear, and a grizzly cub. The closest encounter was between myself and the moose. As I came around the corner the moose was standing in a ditch, in two feet of water doing whatever it is that moose do, I suppose. Upon seeing/hearing me, the moose took off in the other direction before I had time to react. Definitely got my heart beating. 

The scenery today was breathtaking as expected, even with the majority of mountains being cloaked in clouds. Redgap pass was particularly amazing. We even got in a little boot skiing on the way down! As the day was nearing its end mother nature decided to throw a twist into the day and let loose a deluge from the sky, including wind-driven rain and hail. Of course this also meant the trail became a giant mud puddle and my already we feet were almost constantly submerged in the brown water. In addition there was some significant lightning and thunder, in one instance only one second between the flash of light and bone-shaking rumble. This happened just as Sparrow and I were coming into Many Glacier and we ended up seeking refuge in the first building we saw. Fortunately for us, James opened the door and let us come in to dry off and warm up. We even ended up getting a delicious meal out of the encounter, in exchange for doing the dishes! Eventually we had to head back out to the campground where I am currently camped. 

Overall it has been an action packed couple of days and I can't begin to imagine what will happen next. I am definitely still getting my trail legs under me and hiking in the rain leaves something to be desired, but I'm hopeful the weather will make a change for the better soon. At least I have a dry tent and warm sleeping bag to crawl into at night. 

It's well past hiker midnight and I'm bushed. Night. 

Sent from my iPhone
June 18, 2013
Day 1 on the CDT
U.S./Canada border to Cosley Lake
8.7 miles

I don't even know where to begin, so I guess the beginning would be the appropriate place...

I woke up on a train just west of Whitefish, met up with another CDT thruhiker hopeful (Sparrow), ate second breakfast, picked up ice axe from the post office, bought fuel for stove, hitched a ride partway to Two Medicine ranger station with a cute young Aisan, started walking along the road, got a second hitch the rest of the way to Two Medicine with a friendly Canadian couple, picked up a backcountry permit from a lovely lady park ranger, hitched a ride (#3) in a 1928 Model A convertible to the main highway and got offered a place to stay when hiking back through East Glacier, started walking up road, got a hitch (#4) from a man in a van, got dropped off in Babb, ate dinner at a cafe, hitched a ride (#5) from a gen-u-ine Indian cowboy (feathers not dots) to the border, hiked 8.7 glorious miles (majority in the rain amidst thunder and lightning, arrived at camp (Lake Cosley) ate some food, saw the rear of a black bear in camp, hung food on pole, went to set up tent but the reserved site was already taken, so set up in the trees nearby instead. 

And now it's 11pm, two hours past hiker midnight, so it's time to retire. Life is good. A little wet, but good. Only about 2991.3 miles to go! :)

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shameless Plug for the CDTC

So I know some of you out there are thinking to yourselves, "Wow, that sounds like an epic hike! I wish there was a way for me to give Alex money or hire a sherpa to carry his bag to help him on his way."  Ok, Ok, maybe not.  But maybe you are thinking something more along the lines of, "I wish there was something I could do to ensure the Continental Divide Trail is around for generations to come."  And as it turns out, there is!

The organization that had assumed a role in protecting, maintaining, and completing the CDT went under in January 2012.  Soon after, another non-profit group sprang up like a thru-hiker at the smell of freshly baked anything.  This organization is the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) and they have taken over the role of advocate for the 3,100 miles of trail between Canada and Mexico.   The CDTC is currently raising funds to get the new non-profit up and running as well as continue work on the 800 miles of trail that do not yet exist.  

If you have any interest in hiking, backpacking, or other outdoor activities where you can escape to recharge your soul, I encourage you to donate something to help preserve this trail as a legacy to future generations of 'nerve-shaken, over-civilized people' who have yet to be born or discover that 'going to the mountains is going home' -John Muir .  If you're not in a giving mood at the moment, than come back and donate when you are!  Helping out an awesome organization like this will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, trust me, I know from experience.  And if the warm fuzzies don't do it for you than take into consideration the goodie bag of CDT items you will receive for a donation of as little as $25! (How cool is that!)  Now's your chance...

Alright, there it is and I won't mention it again.  Happy trails, wherever they may lead!

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."
                                                                                    -Edward Abbey