Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 30, 2013

July 30, 2013
2 miles south of Targhee Pass to 1 mile outside Yellowstone Park Boundary
30 miles

Slept in a little later than I expected and didn't get on trail until after 7am, oh well. The hiking today was pretty easy overall with no big climbs or descents to speak of. Today's hiking was made interesting by the fact that there is a 26 miles waterless stretch between Reas Creek and Summit Lake, which is in Yellowstone NP. Since I am camping outside the boundary because I do not get have a backcountry permit, I hiked a little more than half the miles between the two water sources, with the remaining 12 miles to go in the morning. Not ideal, but also not as bad as New Mexico is going to be!

I cooked up my big meal for the day at Reas Creek so I didn't have to worry about cooking later tonight. Something didn't sit right with me though as I had a hard time getting it all down and then had to deal with an upset stomach (something between bloated and feeling like I was going to throw up) during the following 5 hours of hiking. Not fun, let me tell you. Not sure what the deal was, but things seem to be back to normal now.

About 6 miles before I got to where I am camped tonight I ran into two hikers who also hiked the PCT in 2011, Balls and Sunshine. Sunshine is aiming to be the youngest triple crowner (those who thru-hike the PCT, AT, and CDT). They are well on their way and seem to be in good spirits still.

About an hour later I also ran into High Life. He was running short on water and I felt I had some extra and so ended up giving him some. Maybe I should have kept it for the remaining miles I still have to Summit Lake, but it always feels good to help out someone else.

Onward to Yellowstone!


July 29, 2013

July 29, 2013
Anthill Spring to 2 miles South of Targhee Pass
32 miles

Today most definitely started better than yesterday. After saying goodbyes and good lucks to Optimist and Stopwatch I set out South and it didn't even take 5 miles before I ran into five more NOBOs. The group consisted of Wired, Bloodbath, Rampage, Sweet As, and Dane. I hiked the PCT the same year as Wired, Bloodbath, and Dane, so it was a bit of a reunion. We chatted it up for a bit about what was coming up for each of us and parted ways. Now I'm looking forward to seeing more of the NOBOs, especially the others that hiked the PCT in '11.

I also had quite a climb to tackle today, and reached the highest point on trail thus far. It was a 6.5 mile climb from 7,000' to 10,000' and it was awesome. I loaded up on some calories and water at the bottom and then went for it! It took just over 3 hours an the views from the top were super cool.

Later on in the day there was a new section of trail that followed the divide and also had some spectacular views. Definitely an improvement over the road walk that it took the place of.

Now it's just one and a half days to Old Faithful Village as well as leaving Montana and Idaho behind! Wyoming here I come!


July 28, 2013

July 28, 2013
Saddle to Anthill Spring
21 miles

I think today was my lowest point yet on the trail. I don't know what it was exactly, but it felt like someone just sapped the energy from me. Physically lethargic as well as mentally, not a good combination. I think it may be due to not getting enough calories yesterday as well as the higher mileage in the past week without a real break. It was the first day out here that I questioned why I'm doing this. Fortunately, around noon-thirty I think the food I ate today finally kicked in and I started feeling better both physically and mentally.

Also, this morning I met a few more northbound thru-hikers. The first couple I met were Gnar and Pod, and the second couple were Portrait and Castle. It was good to run into some more people to talk to and I look forward to continuing that trend for a while.

I got to camp for the night just after 2pm and had the chance to take a nice nap. After 2+ hours of resting my eyes, I finally decided I should go get some water so I could cook dinner. I ate about half my dinner of curry couscous with almonds and then put the rest aside since it was kind of bland (I forgot to add salt).

Around 6:30 I saw two red shorts coming down the hill and ran out to greet Optimist and Stopwatch. After some stinky hiker hugs were exchanged they came and set up camp next to me and we proceeded to talk until 10:30 about all kinds of things. It was definitely great to see the two of them, particularly after the downer morning I had. One topic that came up was the fact that they still need to finish a section of trail in Colorado they had to skip due to a fire. It looks like it may work out such that I hike the section with them after they hit the Canadian border because we have about the same number of miles to do before I get to Salida and they get to Canada. That would definitely be a good time! Here's hoping it works out.

Sometimes all it takes
Is conversation with friends
To make things better

July 27, 2013

July 27, 2013
Rock Spring to Treed Saddle
32.5 miles

With only about 53 miles to get to Anthill Spring where I am meeting up with Optimist and Stopwatch Sunday evening, I decided to sleep in a little and was not worried about getting miles in. Still, it almost feels lazy to start hiking after 7am, so I ended up getting on trail at 6:45.

It was overcast almost all day which was a welcome relief from the sun of the past few days/weeks. The terrain has almost been much more mellow than the previous section from Leadore to Lima, so the miles seem to fly by fairly quickly. A little before noon I ran into two NOBOs Why Not and Rob Steady. We had a nice chat and they gave me some good info on the upcoming water sources. Not too long after seeing them, it started to rain! Nothing crazy, just a light rain without the accompaniment of lightning or thunder.

Later in the day, just as I was passing my high point for the day, I ran into another thru-hiker named Aquaman. He also had some info on water a little further up. He has met Optimist and Stopwatch as well, and we ended up talking about all sorts of things for about two hours. At 7:30pm we parted ways and I descended to a nice little saddle to set up camp for the night.

Tomorrow will be a nice easy day with only about 21 miles to go! I'm looking forward to getting to the spring early and taking a nice long siesta while waiting for Optimist and Stopwatch to show up.

July 26, 2013

July 26, 2013
I-15 to Rock Spring
16.9 miles

It felt good to sleep in this morning and watch a little TV even. I didn't get over to breakfast until 9:45, then went back to the room and packed up my stuff. As I was doing so, I realized I left my foam sit pad (doubles as the pad for my backpack between my back and the contents of my pack. Pretty sure I left it at the underpass at I-15 I assumed it was long gone, blown away in the wind, so I cut a piece of cardboard to fit the back panel to takes its place. Definitely not as comfortable. Nothing I could do about it then, so oh well. Luckily, when I was dropped off back at the underpass it was still there! Didn't even look like it had moved an inch. Such sweet comfortable luck!

Before making it back to the trail though, three other hikers also showed up at the motel: Bert, Train, and Smiles. I had the chance to talk with them for a while and it was nice to socialize with other hikers. We talked about and compared experiences on the PCT and just how different the CDT is from the PCT. During the course of the conversation I found out that Train had actually thought about quitting awhile back, but was convinced by others to keep going. His goal is to walk from Canada to Mexico taking many of the alternate routes on the Ley maps to shorten the overall distance. One of the aspects of the CDT that appeals to many people is the fact that there isn't a finalized official route and its kind of a choose your own adventure sort of thing. There is still is a route that is the most official option (that's what I'm aiming to do), but overall it's much more variable than the PCT or AT. Also, on a separate note, I think the CDT will be a trail that I will (hopefully) finish and be done with, whereas I would wholeheartedly consider rehiking the entirety of the PCT. The CDT is just a little rougher terrain and more mentally challenging than the PCT, and it seems like the "good" parts are more spread out on the CDT than they are on the PCT. I guess that's why they say "embrace the brutality."

I also met two other hikers (NOBOs) today who were getting a ride down part of the road walk from the divide to I-15 from a nice, older Forest Service gentlemen. The guy hikers name was Yukon and for the life of me I cannot remember the girls name.

After the last three 30+ mile days I am taking things a bit slower to start off this leg and so purposely got a late start (12:30pm) and planned to hike to the first good water, which ended up being Rock Spring. I made it to the spring by 6:15pm and with the dark clouds I saw heading my way, as well as some distant rumblings I thunder, I decided to get my tent set up first. Then I cooked up some pad thai for dinner and I am currently lounging in said tent waiting to see if the clouds materialize in to a storm or rain shower, or simply pass on by without incident.

Exciting news for the upcoming few days! I was able to contact a couple friends of mine, Optimist and Stopwatch, and am going to be camping with them in two nights! They are pretty darn cool and I'm really looking forward to catching up with them and trading some trail tales. And then it sounds like the rest of the NOBOs are either just ahead of or not too far behind them so I will get the chance to see some familiar faces from the PCT and some new ones as well!

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 25, 2013
Creeklet to I-15
31.8 miles

What an amazing sunrise this morning! I was on trail by 6am just as the sky was being painted with light brushstrokes of pink, than orange, before the sun revealed itself in all its scorching glory. 

Within the first hour I also ran into more hikers than I have seen in one place in quite some time! First, there was Smiles, who I hadn't seen since Benchmark Wilderness Ranch, than Bert (another SOBO hiking with Smiles), and Mountain Rat who is a NOBO hiker. We communed briefly before we set off in our own directions at our own pace, and that was the last I have seen of hikers for the day. I was hoping there would be more NOBOs along the way to I-15, but no such luck. 

The first part of the day was relatively mellow hiking while the temps were still comfortable. By 10am it was already warming up, just in time for a nice 1000' climb from the lowlands back up to the divide where I would spend the remainder of the day. I also loaded up on water at Shineberger Creek before the final 20 miles because Peanut Eater had mentioned that I should. Turned out being a good decision in order to avoid searching for a spring later. Once on the divide it was a series of steep ups and downs along the ridge for miles. The views, as usual, were pretty spectacular. 

Eventually the ups waned and the downs continued until reaching a road, which I would follow for the remaining 7.8 miles. Just as I arrived at the road a large truck was driving by and ended up stopping. The window rolled down and they guy driving leaned across and asked how far I had hiked so far. With a sly grin I responded, "well I started at the Canadian border." The reaction being surprise, and then, "would you like some cold water?" I quickly said, "yes please." I didn't catch his name, but with him in the truck were his wife and two kids. As he reached back to get the water, he also offered up, "you want a sandwich?" I again said yes, and with a smile also added,  "I won't turn down any food or drink you offer." He then proceeded to hand me a sandwich, mandarin orange fruit cup, stick of string cheese, and a Capri Sun (can't remember the last time I had a Capri Sun). It was all delicious and fueled me through the last of the miles for the day. The most unexpectedly magical of trail magic and just when I needed a little pick me up. After that they headed up the road to go fishing and I continued my walkabout. Thank you whoever you are! Here's to trail magic!

It's not expected
Rather appears from thin air
The best of mankind
July 24, 2013
Coyote Creek Jct to creeklet 31.8 from I-15
38.5 miles

Wow, what a day. I woke up without an alarm at 5:45am and started stirring a bit later. After the usual morning routine I hit the trail at 6:45. Almost immediately I ended up going the wrong direction and had to pull out the GPS to get back in track. It's not that it was a difficult section so much that I was still half asleep and my legs were loudly asking me what all the early walking was about. They must have thought they were going to get a rest after a 33 miles day, but no such luck. I managed to get off trail a couple more times during the day, but both times I knew which way I needed to go to get back on track and the minor detours didn't overtly affect the hiking of the day. 

About 18 miles in to the day I ran into a NOBO section hiker named Peanut Eater. He hiked the first 1700 miles or so a coupe years ago and then got sick and couldn't finish the hike so this year he picked up where he left off somewhere in the Wind River Range from the sounds of it. He also let me know that Smiles, Train, and Bert were ahead of me somewhere so I am looking forward to catching up with them sometime tomorrow. A couple hours later, and 6 miles down the trail, I ran into the first NOBO thru-hiker I've seen on trail, named Ross. We chatted briefly about how the hike thus far has been for each of us before moving on in opposite directions. 

Another few miles down the trail I was bonking hard. I was hoping to get a few more miles to the next water before stopping, but my body decided otherwise. I spent the next 10 minutes shoveling peanut butter filled pretzels into my mouth as fast as I could chew them up enough not to choke. Then a few big slugs of water and I was feeling like a new man. That fueled me until getting to the next viable water source where I then proceeded to cook up a big pot of chili-mac. Then it was just a few after dinner miles to find a good place to camp. 

I'm pretty sure this is the most tired I have been after a day of hiking to date on the CDT. I guess it makes sense because it was my highest mileage so far...

Time to eat some more food and then pass out. One more 32 mile day to the pass! Then I am definitely going to slow things down... Well, maybe I'll drop it to 30/day.  :)

July 23, 2013
Bannock Pass to Saddle Above Coyote Creek
33.3 miles

Getting a hitch into or out of town can be tricky, especially in a small town early in the morning. After granola for breakfast (the restaurant wasn't open yet) I stood by the road and tried to hitch a ride for a little over an hour before heading back to the motel to ask the proprietors if they would be willing to give me a ride and lo and behold they said yes. 

I got started hiking at 9:15, which isn't too bad out of a town stop, but it would have been nice to start a little earlier in the day for two reasons: road walking and sun. Both of which were in bountiful supply today. 

During the first few miles I got the idea in my head to make it a personal challenge to get to I-15 and into Lima, MT by Thursday evening. That means 104 miles in 3 days, today being the first day. As such, and with all the road walking, I didn't stop to take many breaks in an effort to get in as many miles as possible before 8:30 or 9:00pm. I took a couple very short snack breaks and water refill breaks, and one 45 minute dinner break to cook dinner. 

The after dinner hiking when I got to trail once more was actually pretty cool. Less direct sun, sensational views of the surrounding area, and a variety of cloud shapes to add character to the sky depending on which direction I looked. 

All in all it was a pretty tiring day, but tomorrow I can get an earlier start so getting in big miles shouldn't be as much of a challenge. 

I should also mention that I am hiking solo for a while to see how it goes this time around. It seems to me that hiking alone all the time is what most people initially imagine when hearing of a long distance trek, so I might as well give it a go and see what it's all about. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013
Unnamed Spring to Bannock Pass
18 miles

With no timeframe on getting to the pass for a ride today I decided to take the morning a little slower and for the first time since Glacier NP actually made hot coffee with a Starbucks Via packet to go with my cold granola. Ahh the little things in life. As such, Sparrow ended up leaving camp about 15 minutes before me. 

The hiking today was pretty straightforward. The first section meandered along an old jeep road through open meadowy areas and trees sections. The open areas were magnificent and the views to the west were especially nice. 

There was one tricky navigational area where the road took a sharp left, to the north, while the "trail" continued east. There was a cairn marking the turn, but it seemed more like it was marking the turn in the road rather than the fact the trail changes roads. It was one of those moments where my trail sense kicked in letting me know that things didn't seem right, so I took a look at the map, then verified it with the GPS, before continuing east along the divide. I tend to glance at the maps fairly frequently throughout the day to get a general sense of which way the trail is supposed to go, and to match the ups and downs on the ground with the topo lines on the map. Later as Sparrow rolled in to Bannock Pass 5 minutes behind me I found out he had also missed the junction, but went about 5 minutes the wrong direction before realizing his mistake and checking the GPS. Gotta love the CDT. 

After almost an hour and seeing only 4 cars drive by, I stuck out my thumb as a semi truck (without the trailer) rumbled up the pass, not expecting it to stop, but it did! I had actually started to boil some water for couscous, but had to interrupt my lunch plans because we got a ride! (Much earlier than i expected too.) The driver, Wes, let Sparrow and I attach out bags via bungee cord to the truck behind the cab, while Sparrow and I squeezed side by side into the passenger seat. It was a cozy ride 14 miles down the pass to the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Leadore, Idaho - population 105. Once there it was to the PO to pick up food resupply boxes, then to the restaurant for a salad and burger with fries, and finally to the Leadore Inn to get cleaned up. The rest of the day was spent washing clothes and hanging out at the inn while enjoying the beer of "town". 

Check your maps good sir
Ere you lose yourself out here
Is that not the point?

July 21, 2013
Unknown lake to spring 18 miles north of Bannock Pass
33 miles

Got a nice early start today and enjoyed a beautiful hike along the divide looking both East towards the sunrise, as well as West towards some other range of mountains. It was another perfect morning on the trail. 

One of the issues with hiking along the divide for miles at a time is that water tends to be hard to come by. This was the case for the middle 19.5 miles of the day. As such, I loaded up with 4 liters of water (an extra 8 lbs) at Goldstone Pass and proceeded to hike up from the pass and continue rambling along the divide. The first 16 miles of the day passed rather quickly but the rocky view filled divide was replaced with a more mellow forested divide. This was fine for hiking, as the ups and downs were generally a gentle grade, but did not do much for views. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy ambling through  the woods, especially during the heat of the afternoon, however, miles and miles of it after being spoiled with gorgeous vistas in the previous miles seems to me to be a cruel joke. 

Once making it to Lemhi Pass and the next water source, I crossed paths with two different couples, the first of which congratulated me on setting forth on the journey, and the second who, after hearing a little of what I was doing invited me back to their campsite for some cold Coca-Cola. They also offered up some Cheetos, tortilla chips, and pickled okra of all things. I planned on taking a long break there anyway, so I cooked up my meal and chatted with Harry and Sylvia for about an hour and a half. It's always fun to meet random strangers along the way. Just as I was setting off to hike again Harry gave me his address so I could send him a postcard or something from some exotic place, or as he suggested a beach in Mexico when I get there. Ha! It does sound nice... 

July 20, 2013
Lena Lake to small lake 4 miles North of Goldstone Pass
30 miles

The day started off the same way the previous ended: buzzing mosquitos outside my tent. After that though, it was a pretty good day. 

My legs were a bit tired from the 32 miles the day before, but after some snacks and a few miles they were back to feeling like new again. It's like John Muir says, it's hard not to be rejuvenated by the endless mountain views at the top of every climb. My legs just continue on carrying me down, then back up, and just when the fatigue starts to get to me another amazing vista comes into my sights, refreshing my legs once again. 

Listening to John Muir's "Steep Trails" occasionally over the past couple days has been quite nice. Although it would have been better suited to listen to along the PCT, I still find it enticing to hear him describe the places I have been, and picture them in my mind during the tree lined sections of trail that offer no views. Most recently I heard him talk of Mt Shasta, reminding me that I still need to climb and ski the mountain in the future, perhaps next spring. 

I hiked mostly alone today, only seeing and speaking with Sparrow a few times throughout the day. I know in the past I have mentioned how lonely it was to hike alone, but I am leaning towards hiking alone for the next section. I am finding it more enjoyable to be by myself lately and it seems to me that spending a few days alone by choice may not be such a terrible experience. There are also a few things about Sparrow that bother me and after hiking many miles together I can say he is not a good match for me as a hiking partner. Fun to hang out with in town, just not every night on trail. 

Tomorrow it looks like its back up to the dry divide for the next 25+ miles. Should be interesting!
July 19, 2013
Nez Perce Camp to Lena Lake
31.7 miles

It felt great to be back up in the mountains just shy of 8000' last night because the temperatures were much more pleasant for sleeping, but still pretty darn warm. One of the more unfortunate parts about the warm nighttime temps is that the mosquitos seem to enjoy them as well. They were up and buzzing and biting before I was. 

The hiking today was pretty tough. A lot of steep up and downs, but the bright side is there are once again lakes at which to take breaks (unfortunately the mosquitos also like hanging out at lakes). The good/bad thing about mosquitos is they speed up the breaks and get me back to hiking more quickly than might otherwise happen, which is not necessarily a bad thing most of the time. That being said, I am eagerly anticipating a night below freezing to kill the little buggers off. 

Tonight I am camped with Sparrow at Lena Lake. The name of the lake brings back great memories of a backpacking trip I took with some friends on the Olympic Peninsula a few years ago. So here's to Fatty, Claw, Kyle, and Chauncy. 

Loudly buzzing bugs
Singing me to sleep tonight
Better than horn honks  

July 18, 2013
Chief Joseph Pass to Nez Perce Camp
~10 miles

Another day of sleeping in at Colin's place, coffee, then biking downtown for breakfast, this time at Catalyst. Another incredible meal! Missoula is definitely a cool little town, easy to get around by bike, and with large population of outdoorsy, active, and fit people. Definitely my kind of place and I hope to make it back out here during the ski season for some backcountry adventures, maybe even play a little G.N.A.R., who knows. 

After that it was back to Colin's to pack up bags, take care of a few errands, and drive back to the pass to start hiking again. Perhaps the most important was a stop at Walmart to pick up some new earbuds so I can listen to audiobooks and music once again. I am greatly looking forward to "reading" some of the classics while hiking this summer. 

We got back to the pass about 4:45, said our thank yous and goodbyes and once again headed out on the dusty trail. Colin, you're a legend. Keep shredding. 

Ten miles down the trail after hiking primarily through forest, Sparrow and I arrived at our intended camp for the night, cooked up a little dinner, and are now retired to our respective tents for the evening. So far the weather or mosquitos have prevented me from feeling comfortable cowboy camping through a full night, and I look forward to the day when that becomes a reality. Until then I will continue to enjoy the serenity and protection of bug netting and sil-nylon walls.  

July 17, 2013
Zero day in Missoula, MT

It was a hot night last night that didn't cool off enough for me to get to sleep until after midnight. Regardless, the day ahead was spectacular. 

Colin had class in the morning, so Sparrow and I borrowed bikes and rode downtown. Breakfast was had at Hob Nob and it was incredible! I had the breakfast special scramble and split sourdough blueberry pancakes with Sparrow. Delish. After breakfast was demolished it was  off to the library to upload pics and blog posts. 

In the afternoon Colin, Evan, Evan's sister Molly, Sparrow, and I floated the Clark Fork River from white trash beach to just past Brennan's Wave. It was a relaxing way to spend a couple hours during the heat of the day, and was so nice in fact that I almost forgot I was in the midst of a thru-hike. 

After floating we headed back to Colin's place and had a little backyard BBQ complete with some venison Colin had shot this past year. An amazing day for sure.

Tomorrow it's back to the trail for some more amazing hiking. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 16, 2013

Schultz Saddle to Chief Joseph Pass
~18 miles

Today was an early morning with anticipation of making it to the trailhead and the Sula Country Store to enjoy some cold drinks and ice cream.  The hiking was all along the divide today, but a very mellow section of the divide.  The climbs were short and well graded, and the downs flew by as well.  Along the way I ran into a mountain biker headed out for a ride north of Gibbons Pass.  He told me that the reason this section of trail is so nice and clear of down trees is due to the local mountain biking club that had been out the weekend before clearing the trail.  So thank you to those wonderful people who made the morning's miles a much easier walk!

Sparrow and I managed to make it to Chief Joseph Pass by noon and while there ran into a group of motorcycle guys.  Four of the five were actually from Portland and they just happened to have an extra beer with them so I got to enjoy a cold drink sooner than I expected! The fifth gentleman from Missoula, probably in his late-fifties or early-sixties even hinted at giving me some marijuana should I desire.  I politely declined, but it just goes to show the generosity of strangers.  

After attempting to get a hitch for about an hour, Sparrow and I eventually got a ride with a couple of people heading home from the Rainbow gathering event, to which I have previously referred.  They were decent people, although they had a certain manner that hinted at years of previous hard drug use.  An interesting hitch indeed.  

The rest of the day was spent eating and drinking and hanging out in the town of Missoula with Colin from the PCT 2011.  Very cool little place, and apparently they have a nursing school here, so who knows, I may end up here in the near future...

The only downside of being in the valley was the much warmer weather.  So warm in fact that I had trouble getting to sleep for a couple hours.  Oh well, could be worse.

July 15, 2013

Pintler Creek to Schultz Saddle
~28 miles

A few days ago at the beginning of the Mount Haggin Wildlife Preserve there was an informational sign about the area which also included a quote by John Burroughs that I think sums up my experience on the CDT fairly accurately thus far, with the exception of frost but I'm sure those days are in my future:

"I am in love with this world, I have nestled lovingly in it, I have climbed its mountains and roamed its forests, felt the sting of its frosts, the oppression of the heats, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings." 

The hiking today was much easier, with less up and down than yesterday. The majority of the day was spent walking on the divide itself and there were some great views along the way. 

Tonight Sparrow and I set up camp before 7pm and are currently enjoying the comfort of a campfire, a rarity for me on the trail. I am usually too preoccupied with other pre-bed preparations and do not want the added responsibility of ensuring the fire is out before going to bed. And in reality the only reason I am enjoying a fire tonight is because of Sparrow, so thanks go to him.  Another good day indeed. 

As I was walking along the divide this morning I came up with this little haiku. Nothing mind blowing, but it is a fun mental activity and passes some time while hiking. 

Hiking the divide
Pacific or Atlantic
Which way will I flow?

Sometimes when going up and down along the divide this is how I feel:

On the rise again
What wonders will I see next?
Always one more hill

July 14, 2013

Page Lake to Pintler Creek
~27 miles

Today was a roller coaster of Anaconda-Pintler awesomeness. I'm not sure there was a flat section of trail more than half a mile long; I am sure it was an incredible day! And it wasn't the ups and downs, or the miles themselves, and you certainly can't see or experience it by looking at a map, but was it grand. In between those pesky bits where I actually hiked (6,400' up; 7300' down) is the source of the magic of wilderness. 

The views from various ridges and passes were filled with mountains, the creeks bubbled alongside the trail while hiking, and the lakes sparkled like diamonds, but held far more value to a trail-worn hiker. While taking an afternoon siesta at Rainbow Lake, I swam in the frigid waters, enjoyed being dried by the brightly shining sun, while simultaneously being cooled by a refreshing breeze coming off the lake. It felt as though I was the only person for miles and miles, which may or may not have been true, but perhaps the actuality of that truth isn't as important as the feeling of solitude. 

I've come up with a couple haiku as a summary of the day. I suppose the title would be something like "Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness"

Mountains, creeks, and lakes
Along the roller coaster
My hiker heaven

Jumping in the lake
Frigid waters envelop
Refreshing my soul

July 13, 2013

Meadow near Little American Creek to Page Lake
27 miles

As you may have figured out by this point, I am generally not a fan of road walks, however, this morning was an exception. The first part of the morning took me through the Mount Haggin Wildlife Refuge, and what a refuge it was. I saw and heard an egret, as well as a herd of elk. After those pleasant encounters I also came across cows and cars on the latter part of the road (not as pleasant). 

Just before hitting trail again I took a break at Lower Seymour CG and sat at an actual picnic table instead of the ground (what a luxury!). While there I saw a man drive his large Dodge Ram truck approximately 5 campsites distance from his campsite to the water pump to fill 3 gallons of water, then drive back to his campsite. I couldn't believe my eyes. What is the world coming to. I wanted to say something, but decided better of it and continued to lounge.

Fortunately all the road walking and brief encounter with "civilization" was worth it because after 16 miles of morning road walking I made it to trail again, and soon after entered the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. It felt great to have my feet on actual trail again and the miles to Upper Seymour Lake were a welcome change from the road. 

Once at the lake I immediately kicked off my shoes and socks and got into the water as quick as possible. It was like Christmas morning and I couldn't wait to unwrap the gift of an alpine lake swim. Upper Seymour is a gorgeous alpine lake, deep blue in color when the sun shines on it, and very very cold! I swam out far enough to satisfy my definition of swimming (not far, it was cold!) and then headed back to shore to dry out and warm up. Very refreshing. 

I hung out at the lake for a couple hours enjoying the sun and view and cooking up a hot meal, but eventually had to keep moving on. Alas, such is life as a thru-hiker. Before you feel bad because I had to leave the pristine lake, don't. The next part may have been even better. It was about a thousand foot climb from the lake up to a ridge, which also happened to be the continental divide, and the views all around from the top were incredible. I could practically see back down the valley where I started the day, and in the opposite direction could see more mountains, range after range into the distance. I spent a good amount of time up there just enjoying the view, and after many previous miles of primarily forest and road walking I was reminded of exactly why I am out here. I love my life!

July 12, 2013

Rocky Ridge TH to meadow near Little American Creek
~26 miles

It was a sad day today, for today the music died. That is to say I seem to have left my earbuds at the campsite this morning. Doh! Not the end of the world I realize, but music is a nice distraction during the road walks and at other times. 

The hiking today was pretty straightforward for the first 13 miles or so, and then all of a sudden POOF! it was back to the subtle version of the CDT again. The one where you look through the woods, squint a little, and then maybe you can just make out what looks to be a deer trail with trees blazed sporadically every now and again. Ahh, the CDT. For the most part the subtle trail is not the end of the world, I was never worried about getting lost even if I had but a compass and map, however, I must say that GPS technology is wonderful and it reduces the amount of time spent searching for the trail and straying from course. 

One of the other many thoughts that swam through my head today was regarding the amazing ability of the human body to adapt to stressors such as hiking 25-30 miles a day for days on end. My body feels stronger each day and the 26 miles today flew by with relative ease. Part of the ease has to do with the long hours of daylight, yet I never felt like I was red-lining it on the climbs and still seemed to cover ground quickly. I forgot how good it feels to be in this kind of shape! I think next section from Chief Joseph Pass my aim will be to hike around 30/day to see how that feels. 

It looks like there are mountains tomorrow! And possibly some lakes too! I'm planning to take fewer breaks during the day in order to get to camp at a lake early enough to go for a swim. Here's hoping things work out as planned!

July 11, 2013

Just south of Pipestone Pass to Rocky Ridge TH
~28 miles

After getting to camp late last night, cooking dinner, and journaling, I didn't get to sleep until after 11, which for a hiker is very late, and as I get older seems to be getting later in the civilized world as well, but I digress. As a result I slept in later than usual on trail and didn't start hiking until 7. 

The morning miles were delightful ups and downs through the trees and along the ridge under an overcast sky, and flew by rather quickly. At one point along the way the wind breezed through the trees bringing the wonderful smell of fresh pine to my nose. Earthy, sweet, and clean, it reminded me of other smells I have noticed along the trail thus far. One of the best and most memorable moments came when walking through a sunny section lined with multiple wild rose bushes on either side. The warmth of the day brought out the feminine floral aroma and I breathed in as deeply as possible while walking by. It was like a little bit of perfume had been wafted over the trail, overpowering any other scent I might have been emitting. That being said I have also come across some rather malodorous sections as well, including all manner of poop (mostly cow and horse) and the scent of my feet/shoes when I take my shoes and socks off at the end if the day. Ripe, yikes. 

After the nice morning trail section, Sparrow and I took a siesta and played cards for an hour or so. The mileage today was relatively easy. The hiking day ended with a road walk to a trailhead where the road walk will continue in the morning. With only 25 miles per day planned, and the long hours of daylight, getting the requisite mileage was easy today, and hopefully it will not be a challenge for the remaining days of this section. Here's hoping for some cool mountains tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10, 2013
Nero to just south of Pipestone Pass
1 mile

Ahh, how nice to sleep in a bed and have in-room air-conditioning! Luxury at its best I am sure of it. After breakfast at the BS cafe I went back to the motor inn (ironic since I don't have a car, maybe I should have asked for a no car discount?), packed up my stuff, took another shower (because it just doesn't happen as often as it should) and then headed out the door to find the library where I uploaded pictures. Then it was to the bus for an across town trip to the grocery store to buy and repackage food for 6 days. At about 4,000-5,000 calories per day that adds up to quite a lot of food. A couple additives that I like to pack out are a small bottle of olive oil and instant dry whole milk (Nido). They both pack quite a caloric punch and add flavor to whatever it is I am eating. 

Sparrow was lagging a little behind me, but made it to the grocery store and by the time he was set to go it was already 6pm. We headed out to the highway and made a sign with large block letters, "Pipestone Pass
10 miles," and on the opposite side, "Hikers to trail." After more than an hour of trying to get a ride with no success, a few jeers from teenagers, a few honks, and a handful of middle fingers our direction, Sparrow made another sign that read, "Hiking 3,000 miles. Need a ride 10 miles to trail."  About another hour later a local kid (early 20's) drove up and offered us a ride. Yes! Only took 2.5 hours, and it wasn't because there were no cars driving by us. 

On the drive up we found out that the Rainbow Family gathering is taking place on nearby National Forest land and there have been a number of Rainbow folk in/around Butte panhandling and whatnot since the beginning of June. It was unfortunate for us because it seems they have not left a good impression on the locals and I believe we had the misfortune of being lumped in with that group. 

On the short hike up from the trailhead to where I'm camped, we ran into a lovely couple that were coming back from a nice little evening hike. After chatting for 5-10 minutes they even offered us a ride back to Butte for a meal with them and a stay at their place! If only we had met them a day earlier! It restored some of my faith in those from Butte, but the majority of people left me with a mostly sour memory of the town. I wouldn't choose Butte as a resupply town were I to plan a hike of the CDT again. 

Also had a chance to talk to Colin (Kick/Timex/Stopwatch/etc) and he will be meeting us at Chief Joseph Pass! It will be fun to take a day to hangout with him in Missoula, maybe even float the river! But I get ahead of myself because there are many miles to hike before I float. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9, 2013
Halfway Park to Pipestone Pass (Butte, MT)
~26 miles

Knowing that I wanted to get through the 16 mile morning road walk before it got hot, as well as to the Hwy 2 before it was too late and hard to get a hitch, I set an alarm to wake up at 5:15 and was on trail at 6. 

It took a while to get the feet and legs warmed up after a couple big mileage days in a row, but once things were loosened up the road walk hiking went smoothly. Since it was a pretty bland view from the road I put on some tunes and cruised along to CCR and other random songs on my iPod, which helped the miles pass quickly

After a nice long break near where the trail crosses I-90, during which a nice guy in his 30's on his way to Butte stopped and gave Sparrow and me cold soda, the best part of the hiking day was finally at hand. It began as a nice gradual climb among nicely spaces pine trees and minimal ground cover that slowly morphed into fewer trees and more granite boulders as the trail stretched higher. The sun was hot when exposed directly which only made the shade of the pines that much more appreciated. A gentle breeze blew through now and again, and from the top there were beautiful vistas of Butte (I think) and a range of mountains further south, which I can only hope will be part of the upcoming section of trail (Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness?). 

Once at the road it didn't take long for Sparrow and I to get a hitch into town to a wonderful Mexican restaurant. I had a giant vegetarian burrito and margarita, as well as many helpings of the complimentary chips and salsa. 

Unfortunately by the time we were done eating it was too late to realize that we were still a few miles south of downtown Butte and the bus had already stopped running (6pm). I decided to walk to downtown to get a room, while Sparrow wanted to try to yogi a place to stay with someone at a coffee shop and check out a couch-surfing website. I just wanted a shower and laundry done as soon as possible. After checking out the options on my phone while walking, I chose a lovely historic place called the Hotel Finlen. It was comparable in price to the others, has Wifi, and had laundry available on-site. It's also pretty cool on the inside with chandeliers in the lobby and even has a lounge/bar. The top four floors are for residents, while the lower floors and the attached motor inn (where I am staying) are for guests. 

Tomorrow my agenda is to buy 6 days worth of trail food for the 154 miles from Pipestone Pass to Chief Joseph Pass where I will hopefully be meeting up with a friend from the PCT in 2011. It's really starting to fly by! Almost half way through the state of Montana (971 miles total for Montana).