Helena to Benchmark Wilderness

Sept 17- After a zero day, it is difficult to be motivated to get out of bed. A bit before 9 we headed down the street to No Sweat Cafe for a delicious healthy meal. We even had real maple syrup to put on our whole wheat pancakes, but the super thin hash browns were the best. We headed back to our place at the hotel to shower one last time and pack up. We walked back to the highway that would lead back to Macdonald Pass. We stopped at Hardee’s for a few more calories and it was well worth it even though we didn’t start hitching till around 1:45. A nice man cleaned up his seats for us to pile in as he drove us back to MacDonald Pass on Highway 12. I have truly enjoyed all of the hitches on this trail. You are typically picked up at a highpoint then dip into town and the ride out of town winds up mountains. We had to do a short walk along the highway before dipping onto a trail and following a gravel road upward. I still feel strong to complete this hike. We walked along this path for quite a few miles before joining a trail again dipping into the woods. We passed an old wooden railroad that had fallen into disrepair. It was likely a sit where a mining had took place. I also enjoyed watching a long train go under the mountains through a tunnel. These are places people might only explore on foot or ATV. I love seeing our beautiful and diverse country this way. As we came out of the tree coverage, we were met with a quick rain shower as we threw on all of our rain gear the storm passed a few minutes later. The three of us took a break to lighten our food carry. We walked on until night fell before pitching our tent. We spend most nights looking at our maps, discussing the past and the possibility of our future together.

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Sept 18-

It did not rain once today making it almost a perfect day! The trail followed a ridge line for miles. Scenic views and happiness filled my heart. I soaked in the sunshine and appreciated every moment. It is getting to the final few days of this amazing adventure and the completion of my triple crown of thru hiking. It is difficult to put into words the beauty so simply enjoy the photos.img_3041

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Sept. 20-

We were on the trail by 7:20 this morning and doing our first of many climbs. We busted out the miles and came to a parking lot at Flesher Pass. There was a water cache waiting for us, a picnic table, and a privy. We each decided to cook a meal for an early lunch. We ended up spending almost an hour here and as we were packing up Crocs and Chipmunk arrived. We then debated for a while about which route to take. They found a shortcut that involved a bit of road walking then following the powerlines. It would save some climbing and sometime, but I wanted to hike the trail. Paperweight and I debated it for a bit before I said I wanted to do the trail and he stormed off up the trail. I finally caught up and we took a break together agreeing the views up here were worth the extra time. We have had to bail so many times off of the trail due to storms and the sky was clear this afternoon so I saw no reason to road walk. P.S. I hate unnecessary road walks. Our two friends never arrived so we knew what route they took. We walked the ridge then began dipping down and the sky turned dark. We put on all of our rain gear and prepared for more miles of wet climbing. We walked a road before crossing Rogers Pass where we could have bailed into town, but we knew we shouldn’t. There is a small parking lot here and a trucker was taking a break. There was so much trash, toilet paper, and other nasty things near this spot. Obviously, it was not from thru hikers. Maybe someday they will install a privy or people will not be so nasty. We began climbing up as the rain pounded us. We debated camping, but wanted to put in a few miles. Unfortunately, this left us in a bad situation as we were above tree line with few safe options to camp and hide from lightning strikes. We passed a locked yurt before continuing to look for a spot. We decided to follow the powerlines downhill into the tree. We went down much farther then I would have liked trying to find a flat spot. We ended up just calling it and setting up as it poured. I was shaking, cold, soaked, and just wanted to get inside the tent. Our one vestibule makes it tricky so we work together to get everything set up before crawling in one by one. I always have a dry outfit to wear to bed and it was nice to be out of the storm. We cuddled together and looked at what tomorrow would bring. I had service to check the weather and realized we would be struggling in storms for the next few days. Feel asleep listening to the rain fall on the tent and the buzzing of the powerlines.  img_3081

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Sept 21

Today was one of the most miserable days of hiking so far in my life! It was difficult to get out of the soaked tent and slide on wet shoes. We didn’t make it far before it started to rain again as we began to climb in elevation. The trail follows the divide meaning the edge of a mountain so the wind was whipping. Numb toes and hands for the first part of the morning. I pushed on already feeling exhausted. It is also a ladies favorite time of month to top things off. We stopped for a quick snack break at Lewis and Clark Pass, but within five minutes I was shaking so I threw on my pack and continued hiking. The higher we climbed the worse the weather became. The rain turned to freezing rain then to little ice crystals that stuck to my gear and body. I just wish there was a shelter like on the AT to hide in or a town close by. Not today! We stopped again for a quick break where I just ate a pack of crackers and continued to shake so onward. The trail turned into snow as we followed Crocs and Chipmumk’s footprints upward. At this point, I’m just dreaming of a temperature controlled room and my bed. There were lots of steep up hills followed by muddy snowy downhills all day. I caught up to Paperweight as he told me there is a shortcut up the actual divide that will save a long downhill followed by a steep up. The other two had taken that way so we decided to follow their footprints. Mistake! It was a cross country trail meaning no trail just rocks and shrubs. The snow began falling harder and the wind was ridiculous almost blowing me over. Icicles formed on my clothing and gear as I struggled to keep up with him. I was then shocked to find their footprints twice going down steep rocks to the ground below it. If you have been following my journey, you would know I hate downhill on rocks! Especially when they are snow covered. Using my hands both times to crawl downward I was shaking, but I made it. I need to remember these days because I am much stronger than I think! More divide walking with the wind whipping and all I want to do is connect back to the CDT. It was almost two hours of stress that could have been avoided! No more of this I made him promise. I managed to fall down twice today on slippery terrain just bumping the same knee twice. Brutality! We pushed on trudging in the few inches of snow that fell downward towards non snow covered earth. Paperweight admits this was his hardest day on trail as well. We did 26 miles of this type of walking with maybe 15 minutes of breaks all day before setting up our wet tent by a stream. There were puddles in the tent with a wet sleeping bag as well. I’m so glad we could share in the misery together.

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A photo of me walking on the actual Continental Divide during a storm

Sept 22

Unfortunately, it was raining as we packed up again. I may have cried in the tent out of misery and putting on wet cold clothes to begin hiking. He comforted me to the best of his ability, but I just had to suck it up and keep moving to get warm in the 30 degree temperatures. It would rain on and off all day blocking views that I know was stunning. I have been following friends I met on the trail ahead of us and saw the photos of the views that we were missing. This is the negative part of a thru hike as you have no option, but to keep moving. My fingers were numb in my wet gloves so there were few photos taken today. We hiked together most of the day besides the time we listened to podcasts. We did another marathon day with few breaks. We found a campsite not too far from our next resupply point. As we began setting up, the sun was out so we let the inner part of our tent dry out a bit with the help of a bandana. We are in grizzly bear country for sure as we have seen tracks, lots of scat, and a few claw marks on trees. We climbed into the tent as I was so happy to take off my wet stinky socks. This section is around 250 miles without a hotel, laundry, or much of an escape from the elements, but a quick resupply at Benchmark Wilderness before the push to Glacier National Park. I love being able to spent that many miles on a trail without the luxuries of town, but this section turned into a struggle due to the weather. But I’m strong and know soon the sun will shine and things will be dry again.img_3137

 

 

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Anaconda to Helena

Sept 12-

It was tough to get out of bed this morning since it was so warm and cozy. Close to 9 we raided the continental breakfast which was very small. There was only one bagel, cereal, milk, and sunny d. It was time to go back to the warmth of the bed for a bit longer since checkout is at 11am. We packed up and made our way to the laundromat/casino/bar. Yes there is such a thing! We choose to only do laundry. We then made our way to McDonalds where we found Chipmunk. We spent too long here like usual before forcing ourselves back to the road walk. We were a little under a mile out of town when we saw a man walking into town on the other side of the highway. He started waving his trekking poles and ran across the four lanes. It was Crocs! We hadn’t seen him since Steamboat Springs, Colorado so the four of us stood talking along the highway 1 for 40 minutes or so. He will catch up to us in Helena for sure. We walked this highway a bit longer before we turned on to the next Highway 48 for another two hours or so of jumping off the shoulder when cars zoom by. This should be the last road walk until we have to bail… Hopefully not. We turned on another paved road and crossed under I-90. I have crossed this road quite a few times in the last three years on foot. The road turned into gravel and led along the Super Fund site that is being “repaired” and past farm land. A nice man offered us water from his hose and we declined having enough. Another man stopped us to ask questions and maybe start a business venture since his property is on the trail. Another man stopped to tell us a friendly black bear was 4 miles up trail. The last truck stopped to tell us a girl was ahead of us hiking and they were worried that she was alone. So many bears and mountain lions they said. Oh the locals. Our evening hours had cows staring at us and crossing cattle guards using our headlamps. It was almost 10 when we found Chipmunk and set up our tent site surrounded by cow patties under the stars.

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Sept. 13-

The morning seemed promising as the sun was shining as we walked the last 4.4 miles of the Anaconda alternate back to the CDT. We took a second breakfast break here and talked to a worker driving a tractor. The sun was still shinning as we walking through the trees and over nice cattle guards. It was easy walking with gradual ups, downs, connections to roads then back to trails. Then the sun disappeared and as we emerged into an open field we could see rain in the distance. The rest of the day was chilly. We filled up at a cow trough then heading into the trees to hide from the rain that appeared to be coming our way. We both cooked and snacked taking only a 45 minute break. It was cold when we left so I put on my gloves. My podcasts distracted me as the hours and miles flew by. It’s too cold to sit down so we just walked all day. We covered lots of miles this way and besides a quick water break we walked until dinner time. It was another fast dinner as we then rushed downhill as the sun was setting. We were setting up the tent around 8:30 so it was an early night. We heard some weird animal noises in the distance not able to identify them. We were both asleep a little after 9.

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Sept 14-

We woke up to icicles on the tent. I didn’t think it was going to get that cold. Brrr! We packed up quickly and got moving uphill to warm up. We found Chipmunks’s headphones next to the trail. About half a mile later, we ran into her since she was going back to find them. The trail is well maintained and large as we walked side by side for a bit. Not much water on this section, but he walked down a hill to grab some for us. So we took our first morning break off the trail as the warm sun hit us. It was a nice treat. The terrain was a treat and it was an easy day of constant walking. I love days like this! We cruised along getting closer and closer to town. We could of made it in today, but decided to save money and walk in tomorrow. We began looking for a spot 3 miles out of town. Of course, we had little luck. That meant we got to enjoy a nice sunset from a grassy ridge as cows grazed below us. Life on the trail is beautiful. The two of us debated over a few sites before continuing on and on. We ended up 1.4 miles from the road into town. This was a bit of a surprise, but we set up and called it a day dreaming of town food. We laughed knowing Chipmunk was enjoying a warm meal and warm bed tonight.

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Sept 15- We had only 1.4 miles to the pass where we needed to hitch into Helena. So we slept in a little bit and then quickly walked those last few miles. We ended up waiting a little longer then expected as cars drove by very quickly. Luckily, a kind woman heading into work picked us up. Her husband is a big hiker and she enjoys the outdoors herself. She dropped us off at the hotel where Paperweight sent his maildrop. We then crossed a busy road and did grocery shopping while hungry. That is always a mistake as we bought lots of sweets and other unnecessary food items. We found our way to Chipmunk by walking about a mile in town as college kids rushed to their classes. This is the first resupply in a capital. On the PCT, I went into Portland to explore, but it was not necessary. The CDT might be the only trail where a resupply is necessary in the capital of a state, but I’m not 100% on that fact. We did the usual town chores and savored a warm shower and clean clothes. Crocs made it into town in the afternoon as well. The four of us enjoyed drinks and pizza for the evening before wandering down the road to a bar. We played a few rounds of pool, darts, and my first time playing shuffle board. I need some more practice! We had a great time celebrating, drinking, and laughing. We were in our own little world as many other people were here since it was a Saturday night. It was getting late and I was exhausted so I headed back to the hotel which was only a few blocks away. An hour later the three of them returned and were pretty entertaining. Crocs ended up passing out in Chipmunk’s bed as Paperweight and Chipmunk enjoyed another beer. I passed out and was curious as to how they would all feel in the morning.

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Sept 16- My three buddies had all celebrated a bit too much last night and woke up with a horrible hangover. I am 30 now and don’t drink like I did in my 20s anymore. The morning hours were spent relaxing in bed as I could finally say this is the last zero day of the trail… so I thought. Paperweight agreed to check out the farmer’s market with me in Helena. It was huge with lots of options and well made crafts. We then returned to the hotel where Chipmunk was beginning to wake up. Paperweight and I had a lunch date together downtown and enjoyed a nice conversation. The rest of the day was simply relaxing with no shoes on and feet up in bed. At 6, Chipmunk was ready to go out to eat so the three of us went to a Thai restaurant. It was so busy and very slow as they explained a cook had called us. We girls had finished our meals by the time his was served. But it was the best Thai meal of my life. I think Helena is the only capital that I have explored that I would like to live in. The rest of the day was mellow as we wondered what date we found finish the hike and what the future would hold for all of us.

 

Sula Country Store to Anaconda

Sept 8- We took our time in the morning eating at the cafe two breakfasts before making our way to the road to hitch. In thirty minutes, a nice couple had us in the back of their car cuddling their adorable blue healer dog. They dropped us back at our trailhead and we began the easy walk on the gravel road toward where it connected back to the CDT. We easily hiked 3 miles an hours and the time passed quickly. I was relieved to find a privy at the pass and I really think I’m the only one who has used it this year. Chipmunk joined us before we all set out back on the trail. Lots of burned trees today making us move slowly and a few decent views. The sun was even shining! We just cruised along without breaks trying to get in the miles. We had dinner as the sun was beginning to set and had a plan to do quite a few more miles and hike into the night. But we had too many obstacles in our way, we would find out quickly. I left first walking quickly before I hit so many downed trees. It was insane! I would climb up on the down trees to hop down to another one. Branches were poking me and driving me insane. Maybe I completed one mile in 40 minutes or longer. We grabbed water and continued on in the dark managing to get off trail and continuing to hurdle the down trees. I called my dad the next day requesting a chainsaw. This section needs some love! We finally found a campsite a bit past 9:30 that was not level at all, but had to do. There would be no more climbing over trees this evening after many new bruises to my legs. There are so many down trees and burnt sections that your camping options are limited. I was exhausted and quickly fell asleep lopsided against the tent wall.img_2895img_2896

Sept 9-

It was a morning struggle to get moving as I hit the trail at 8am. To make matters worse it took me 15 minutes to go .3 from getting off trail somehow while climbing over too many downed trees. I could have sworn I was on the trail. I finally caught up to my man who was enjoying a late breakfast at a water source. It was turning out to a beautiful day in the Anaconda Pintlers. We both split up listening to our own jams or podcasts, but could still see each other most of the day due to the burn section. As I made my way downhill, I saw a huge herd of elk in a straight line rushing over the downed trees and rocks. It was a sight I’ll never forget. To my surprise I would see three hunters out with their arrows and bows searching for the herd I had just watched flee twenty minutes later. One man was ahead and the other two were struggling uphill with small packs on. The trail wandering downhill followed by an uphill climb and into the sunshine. A huge elk came barreling down the trees as I walked by scaring me. They are such beautiful creatures. We climbed to the top of Pintler Pass together enjoying the views and small amount of snow left. Today was one of the nice days full of wildlife, views, warm weather, and happiness. We stopped after 26.5 miles by stream at the base of the next climb. It was a nicely established campsite where we stopped early. We enjoyed a warm meal in the daylight hours as Chipmunk joined us as the sun began to set. I wish everyday was like this, but then it wouldn’t be thru hiking. The one thing I had to accept early on my first thru hike is that there is no escaping the elements. Mother Nature controls all.

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Sept 10-

We got an early start and began the climb up Rainbow Pass at 9,052 feet. A few deer ran across the trail as I hiked up towards the pass. It was another beautiful pass in Montana with views looking down to a lake. There were a few slipper spots so I took my time climbing down the pass. Paperweight caught up to me and we walked past the lake together before stopping at a stream that feed the lake. We began our big breakfast meal for the day as Chipmunk joined us. We had much debate about how far to hike today in order to get closer to the town of Anaconda which is our next resupply point. We took too long of a break, but planned to get serious for the rest of the day. The two of us would not see Chipmunk again until town. We hiked together for many miles passing the hours and miles easily. It was a bit rainy so I threw on my rain gear and began the climb of Cutaway Pass at 9,032 feet. It still had some snow along the climb and the rain turned to small hail then a bit of snow. It was too cold to stop for long so I just continued hiking. We found a nice stream to eat dinner at before getting too cold I had to leave before him. I then ran into a man riding his horse with another pack horse behind him. The trail is not very large so I had to climb off the trail to talk to him. He was warning us that a snow storm was coming tonight and a batch of cold weather for the next few days. Paperweight caught up to me as we were chatting to this man before begin our third pass of the day up Storm Lake Pass at 9,149 feet. It was around 7 when we started this climb and debating what our real game plan was for the night. We could camp before the pass somewhere, but we did not find many spots and that would leave a marathon day into Anaconda meaning there would be no time to rest. We decided it was best to get up and over the pass tonight. We walked together and before we knew it our headlamps were on. It was a lovely view of the sunset and many more miles to go. We got to the top of a ridge and could not see any markers in the darkness. We followed the ridgeline before meeting the trail again in the darkness. We made it to the top point of the pass before beginning a downhill. Suddenly, we hear rocks falls right behind where we had walked. A few big sized rocks had just crashed down over the trail. It is all about timing. We looked up to see nothing wondering if it was a bear, mountain goat, or some other animal. We began the rush down the pass and towards the lake. The trail took many switchbacks down into the darkness. The time passed quickly and before we realized it was 10 pm. At the bottom of the pass, there were no campsites so we were forced to keep walking looking off the trail with our headlamps for a spot to sleep. It was likely in the high 20s by the time we found a semi flat spot next to Storm Lake. We quickly put up the tent before climbing in for the night. The wind was whipping off of the lake and it was a bit drafty in the tent. I had on most of my layers and we snuggled up to one another. It was after 11pm by the time we were resting comfortably with over 31 miles on the day and multiple passes with substantial climbing. Today is my longest mileage day ever. I look forward to seeing the lake in the morning light.

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Sept 11-

The morning rewarded me with the stunning view of the pass we climbed at night and Storm Lake. We quickly packed up with numb fingers before walking under a mile of trail before we joined a dirt road. We were walking so fast just trying to warm up on the flat terrain towards the town of Anaconda. We ran into a few elk hunters driving around looking for elk to kill. After 5 or 6 miles of the dirt road, we came to the junction of the paved highway that would lead to town. We were then walking along a flat highway for over 12 miles towards town. I detest road walks, but you have to connect your footsteps. I listened to Podcasts as vehicles would pass by and I would miss a few words. My feet ached as usual on flat roads before we took a quick break off the highway to have a quick lunch. We then busted out the miles making over 20 miles by 2ish. We hustled into town walking the road all the way in connecting all of our footsteps. This is true thru hiking. I would have loved to throw out my thumb and just this get there, but I would regret it in the future. So we walked along the road as cars zipped by into the town of Anaconda. We crossed the road and followed a sidewalk lined with rvs plugged into the houses nearby. We stopped by the grocery store hungry of course and bought lots of food before heading towards the hotels. Chipmunk was coming down the road so we told her our plans and she said we were crazy to do all those passes yesterday and her run in with a mama and baby bear. We stopped by the cheap hotel finding it full. So it was a quick stop at the post office and on to the nicest place we have stayed on the trail besides the hotel in South Fork because you cannot beat those comfy beds. It was called the Grizzly Den Motel and for a great deal we had two large queen beds, flat screen tv, mini kitchen, and a nice shower. It was in the low 30s outside as we rushed across the street and had a nice dinner together before retreating to the hotel for the rest of the night. It was a perfect night to stay inside and not be camping in those temperatures. My feet ached and the rest was necessary after a 31 mile day and a long road walk.

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Leadore to Sula Country Store

Sept 3 We would be quite a few days ahead if we learned to leave town early in the morning. Instead, we did the usual including a breakfast at the one restaurant, then hanging out at the hotel close to checkout, and finally stopping at the store one more time for a last minute snack. We then stuck out our thumbs and really lucked out. We got a hitch back to the trail from a father and son from Oregon out hunting elk. He went out of his way to take us up to the pass. So much kindness. We were back in Montana officially and would stay here the rest of the hike… I believe. I feel back to my normal self and ready to get to Canada before winter really hits. We all split up doing our own thing and heading North. We all met up at a piped water source where we took too long of a break snacking again. We ended up doing only a little over 12 miles setting up before the rain fell as Chipmunk pushed on getting in a few more miles.

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Sept 4 The morning was so cold and we walked in a foggy haze for miles. I did not take off my gloves, hat, or down jacket until 12:30. You always hope for a long uphill to warm you up, but the trail followed a two lane dirt path mostly downhill and flat. We passed a few groups of cows and parked vehicles. We came across a hunter in his truck who was heading into town due to an upcoming storm tonight. We continued on and made our way to a water source at a historical site. We found Chocolate Chipmunk here having lunch and filtering water. I was finally able to take my jacket off and let the sun shine on me. Supposedly Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea drank from this very water source of course they didn’t filter it with a Sawyer. A few families came down the walkway to read the history and check out the water source. They looked at us strangely as I was cooking a meal for lunch. Paperweight enjoyed the use of a bathroom at the parking lot as I enjoyed lunch on a bench for a change. Chipmunk left us and headed along the trail. We made our way back to the trail finding ourselves at Lemhi Pass. Lemhi Pass is at 7,273 feet and it lies on the border of Montana and Idaho exactly on the divide. On this location on August 12th 1805, Meriwether Lewis and other explorers crossed the Continental Divide. They were the first white men to see what is now called Idaho. We met a man in his 80s out exploring the country. He said he has been traveling nonstop since he retired and his wife passed away a few years back. He knew exactly what we were doing out there and reminded me it is never too late to explore our country. We crossed a road and began walking a trail once again. We could see Chipmunk ahead of us at one point as we pushed on covering many afternoon miles. The three of us had a cold snack break together on a log wondering how bad the snow storm was going to be and when it would start. I was so cold and had to leave first to warm up. I jammed out to a podcast as shots rang out in the distance. It is now rifle season yet so I assumed just target shooting. There were some good uphills so I was able to warm up before Paperweight caught up with me. We hiked the rest of the evening together and decided to set up camp at a nice flat spot. We began to eat dinner and the snowflakes began to fall. It was so cold so I climbed into the tent as he finished up his dinner outside the snow began to accumulate on the tent. He finally climbed in and tracked in some snow. We stayed nice and warm inside the tent cuddle up against one another as the snow fell I drifted to sleep.

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Sept 5 It stormed all night and continued on into the morning. We had close to 6 inches of snow and neither of us wanted to get out of the tent. We made the move packing everything up. The worst part is stuffing a soaked tent into the bag with bare hands so you don’t get your gloves soaked. I am really not going to miss this! We started out moving quickly to warm up wondering how far up the climb did Chipmunk camp. We found lots of large bear prints in the snow then saw an empty spot where a tent has been pitched maybe a mile past our campsite. We continued moving along in the snow following her footprints. As we climbed higher, the wind and snow continued and it was difficult seeing the footprints of Paperweight who was only a maybe 50 feet ahead of me. We had no bail options since we were on the divide so we had to push through. Chipmunk is great at navigating so we followed her tracks higher and higher walking on snow covered tracks. I use trail runners and my feet were beginning to fell numb. I did not expect this type of weather during the first week of September. We came to an opportunity to bail where we found Chipmunk analyzing her maps. We would continue climbing higher into the mountains with no views and deeper snow or we could continue downhill towards a road that would reconnect to the CDT. Chipmunk considered a bushwhack towards a town, but it looked way too dangerous based on the topo maps. We all choose the low route and were pleased to have the sun begin shinning. We took a nice break over 1,500 feet lower allowing us to walk on wet ground instead of snow. We all hung out our wet tents, sleeping bags, and stuff sacks letting the sun do its job. Everything dried out nicely including my numb toes as we followed the dirt path to where it connected back to the CDT. We then reentered a world of snow. It was very slow going yet beautiful. The temperature has warmed up and the sound of snow falling hard off the trees frightened me a few times, but it became a familiar sound. The views were epic as we took turns leading the way and sinking into the snow. We were not making much progress. When we reached the top of the pass, we analyzed our maps trying to figure out the best route down. I managed to fall in the snow a few times and struggled most of the afternoon hours. We hadn’t done more than 13 miles by 5pm and we were a bit worried about the upcoming sections that included above tree line walking. After analyzing our maps and realizing I couldn’t feel my toes, we all decided to follow a dirt road that would then cut across farm land and back to the trail. It took a lot of convincing for me to agree, but the thought of this section taking an extra day or possibly two was not an option. The three of us happily dropped down lower and lower in elevation finding areas not covered in snow at all. My feet warmed up a bit and we walked almost until darkness fell to catch up on the miles. Chipmunk had a plan to follow a certain route only to be met with a gate and no trespassing signs. She ended up camping with us along a dirt road slightly in the woods. I enjoyed a warm meal before it started to rain as I climbed into our dry tent. I realized we made the right choice because we would have been camping on snow and who knows how much would fall tonight at the higher elevations. I am getting more worried about our chances of making it Canada in time.

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Sept 6 Today was one of my least favorite days ever. We started out walking along the dirt road that would reconnect to the CDT. We were following google maps walking directions to find this route. We came to a huge ranch that we began cutting across knowing we were trespassing. We came to lots of fences and decided it wasn’t worth the risk as we neared homes. So we backtracked to the dirt road and continued following it to a junction where again we followed google maps to a driveway to a private ranch. Public national forest was maybe under a mile away, but you had to pass through the property. Since neither of us are risk takers we had to reevaluate and I got very upset. Our only option was to follow this dirt road to a main highway that would lead through a town following by many miles of walking along a highway. Even on this dirt road people were offering us rides. But it is important to connect all of my footsteps so we declined. My feet began aching and Paperweight was zooming. I had in my ipod on the highway and the sounds of trucks passing by drowned out the podcast. I was dragging. We found ourselves at the town of Wisdom. My body ached since we had done 30 miles by 3:30 with one break. I enjoyed a meal and the time to rest before we debated our options. We could of got a hotel room, but it was too pricy knowing we were a day away from our next drop. So we decided to hike out of town and I felt miserable. To our surprise within a mile we hit a free Veterans Memorial Park that has water, bathrooms, a room to charge and relaxed. Many bike riders camp here when riding across the country. It was a pleasant retreat. I had a mental break tonight as I cried in the tent saying how much I hate road walking and how we would never get to Canada before more snow falls. We had hiked 31 miles today and my body and mind feel it. Luckily for me, Paperweight held me, made me laugh, and tried to reassure me that we would be fine. I sleep so good that night in his arm exhausted.

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Sept 7 We did about 22 miles into town on a miserable road walk. I did get to watch cattle get round up for the season and listen to the horrible cries they made. That was a new experience. We threw out our thumbs and a husband and wife out fishing let us ride in the bed of their truck to the Sula Country Store. He was zipping down the highway and around curves making it a fun ride. They dropped us off right out front where we were greeted by a friendly employee. She told us we were in room 7 and that the restaurant was closed by our friend bought us both a burger. She then proceeded to find us an old cooler that she filled up with ice for free for the beer and drinks we bought. The store closes at 5 and we got there around 3. She was so helpful. We wandered to cabin 7 to find Chipmunk showered and relaxing. She is crazy! She did a 40 yes 40 mile day yesterday then just a few into town this morning. We did the usual chores of opening our boxes, laundry, shower, and eating as many calories as possible. The burgers were cold, but delicious. The Moose Drool beers hit the spot and so did the two ice creams, soda, and bag of chips I ate. The cabin was perfect with one queen sized bed and twin bunks. There was a heater, electricity, and outlets. No tv, fridge, or other unnecessary things. I spent most of the evening hours just lying in bed resting my aching body. I’m so fortunate to have two wonderful friends to share this experience with.

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Lima to Leadore

 

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Aug 29th 2016

It was a restful zero yesterday and possibly the last one for a long time. I wanted to be out of town by 8:30, but we were waiting on another hiker and he was ready closer to 10. We were dropped off on Interstate 15 where we were picked up. We had to jump the fence again before walking through the underpass. The next 8 miles followed a gravel road. Paperweight and I walked together passing the time talking away. I love the wide open space that this part of the country has to offer. We came to the trailhead to climb a steep uphill where we took a break and was joined by Chipmunk. We looked at the Ley maps and he called this next section a calf buster, a roller coaster, and to enjoy!! The trail follows the divide which is the border of Idaho and Montana. You follow a barbed wire fence up steep climb then back down to go up again. I felt the burn, but the zero day helped. After 3.2 miles of this, I took a break and waited for him to catch up since I had left before him. We may have had a dance party on the divide for a few seconds… Then it was back to work. He got ahead of me as usual on the up hills as I switched from my iPod to podcasts. Fifteen minutes later I realized my iPod was gone. He was so far ahead so I just dropped my pack retracting my steps. As I was nearing our break spot, Chipmunk saw me looked down and picked up the IPod. Phew! I need my music. Walking without my pack felt so wonderful and you won’t believe how heavy it felt when I put it on again. He was waiting at the top of one of the climbs knowing I must have lost something. I lost 40 minutes, but the views were spectacular and we moved on. It was unrelenting! We had another snack and water break which was necessary. The sun was shining, but the breeze was a lifesaver. We saw so many cows and a herd of over 200 sheep. I still can’t get over the fact that you can see for miles in all directions! I really love this section. The last few ups were exhausting and we were rewarded with a downhill as the sun began to disappear. We came across a group of noisy unintelligent cows right on the trail. Instead of stepping off the trail they continued walking it looking back at me and still walking it over a mile downhill. Silly cows! This is where most of the cows were at munching away and making wild sounds at us. We noticed a cute little fox to our left. First one I’ve ever seen on a trail or in the wild!! He was the cutest! The last few miles of trail were steep ups and downs as the sun was setting. We choose to stop after a little over 23 miles near a stream. Chipmunk joined us and it took us all a while to find a cow poop free campsite. Back to falling asleep with that smell. Yuck! It was a late night around 10:15 by the time we got in the tent.

Aug 30

We were up early today with hopes of a 26.9 mile day. Chipmunk was getting out of her tent when we were finished packing and we would not see her again today. It was a beautiful day for a stroll on the CDT. Since there are few other hikers out here with us, I chatted to the many cows this morning before we took a break a break in a field admiring them and listening to them chat back. We followed a trail for a little while before I checked my Guthook App realizing we were not on the CDT. So it was an uphill bushwhack to connect back to the trail followed by more climbing looking back on the field we came from. It was a clear day and we cruised along quickly getting closer to our desired mile mark surrounded by sage brush.img_2785img_2763img_2793

Aug 31

It was another beautiful morning and easy walking until we got lost again trying to find the trail. You cross a river then the trail splits into two directions. Of course, I choose the wrong direction which ended up on a sketch loose rock crossing and bush whack back to the trail. It was frustrating, but we came to an open hilly field to see a marker on the top. So we walked on even ground over sage brush towards the marker where we found a nice trail to follow up to the top. Nice views all around followed by a downhill. I took a quick break at the top feeling tired, but blaming it on the off trail travel and frustration. I headed down from the top to the water source where Paperweight was waiting for me at our lunch spot. At lunch, I was feeling so weak and exhausted. I did not want to eat anything or continue walking. It was a worrisome feeling as I forced down a few pieces of food and threw on my pack. I left first and felt so lethargic, I struggled on a flat section before seeing the next pass ahead of me. Yuck! I took of my pack and just sat down until he arrived. I took some medicine and began to cry out of physical pain and exhaustion. One of the hardships of thru hiking is you can’t just call it a day when you fell horrible. You have to make your miles or worry about running out of food. I slowly made my way up the climb alone with lots of encouraging words floating in my head. He was a good half a mile ahead as I just seemed to be crawling. After I made it to the top, I noticed Chipmunk was with him and they were chatting. She had found a shorter route yesterday and just reconnected to the official route. The wind was whipping hard on the top as I struggled to stay upright. They both got ahead of me quickly as I wanted to call it a day, but you can’t when you share a tent with someone. This section was beautiful and I wish I had felt better to admire it, but I felt like death. The trail dipped down to climb back up again and as I was at the bottom they were both almost at the top. I struggled through the tear and continued onward. At the top, they were close enough to see them turn around to see that I was still there. I wandered around on the divide for a bit before finding the route and them taking a break along a stream. I said if I stopped now then I might never move again so onward I went as the birds sang and a coyote howled in the distance. I did not make it the campsite before sitting down out of exhaustion considering taking a dirt road in search of a way to town to rest and recover. After half an hour, they both showed up and encouraged me that we were close to the intended campsite. I put on a podcast and walked the last 2.5 miles so slowly wanting to just pass out on the trail. I made it and just collapsed right off the trail. Paperweight set up the tent, blew up my air pad, got me water, and took great care of me. I don’t know what I would have done without him. I cooked and forced down as much as I could. My temperature was very high and both Chipmunk and Paperweight commented on how pale my face was. I wandered over to our tent and climbed in for the night. He massaged my back and neck and hugged me as I shook and moaned trying to get warm. I did not want him to get sick, but he wouldn’t let go of me. I don’t get sick often and this is my first time ever on a thru hike. It’s miserable and a bit scary, but he reassured me that I would be better in the morning and that we could do a shorter day tomorrow.    img_2773img_2799

Sept 1

I did not get much rest last night. I went from hot to cold quickly and kept tossing and turning. He felt my forehead and was surprised at how much I was still burning up. It has rained during the night and it started to again this morning when we were debating what to do. We decided to just do 16 miles and take our time. I pride myself in not needing someone to take care of me, but I needed him for many reasons yesterday and today. I accepted his help, affection, and comfort realizing everyone needs a person in their life like him. I started ahead of him realizing I have someone very special in my life. The trail connected to a two lane path as I slowed down for him to catch up to me. We would walk together the rest of the morning. The trail wandered up and down this path for hours and passed a few cars parked along a lake. I started to feel better thinking the medicine had kicked in and I felt the moment my fever broke. It was a relief. A quick 24 hour bug that would have had me crying on a couch all day back in the real world. Thru hiking reminds me what we are capable of and how far we can push ourselves. We found Chipmunk taking a break at a stream and joined her. She planned to do more miles, but debated a short 16 mile day with us. She decided to push on and we would see her again at the next water source then in Leadore. It was a podcast afternoon that went quickly along the dirt road as a few people on ATVs passed us. One of the water sources was quite a ways off trail and Paperweight went and filled my bottles for me thankfully allowing me more time to rest. We did a few more miles telling Chipmunk we would see her in town. We found a nice campsite where we were able to set up early and just relax. It was a rare day and much needed. Too bad as a thru hiker you can’t do just do 16 miles a day… on these trails. I may know a few that this is possible… hmm!

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Sept 2 2016

Sept 2

We camped at the base of the climb last night and I felt back to my normal self this morning. We enjoyed a nice uphill climb as the sun rose and we made a fast paced dash into the town of Leadore, Idaho. The original plan was just to resupply and get out town, but we changed our mind the night before knowing it would important for me to get some rest. At the top of the climb, we ran into our first bow hunter off of a main road. Consequently, the pass is called Elk Pass and that was the animal he was hunting. He hiked up here this morning before sunrise and had an elk in his scope. I would guess he was 18 years old in his favorite hunting spot. I have a new respect for these type of hunters and we enjoyed a quick chat before we continued onward. The hiking was beautiful and rewarding. We finally hit the a ‘road walk’ which is just a vehicle size trail that hunters or ATVers use to get closer to their hunting spots. We blocked tuned into our devices as we walked a fast 3 mile per hour pace nearing town. As we made it to the trailhead, we knew this was one of the hardest hitches and our guidebook said if you see a car make it stop at any cost. Within 5 minutes, a truck drove up and stopped without much effort on our part. He cleaned out his front passenger seat of his truck so the two of us could share one seat. He was a kind gentleman and has done lots of hiking himself. He admired our hike and did not even realize Leadore was the town he was driving through. He dropped us off at the Post Office around 11, where we found the Chipmunk hanging out. She had a more difficult time getting a ride and only got in half an hour before we did. We made our way to the Leadore Inn where we were told the four rooms were full. Luckily, the owner came over and said he had a cancellation. Chipmunk was willing to sleep on the floor as she let us share the bed. It was a good option since the temperature outside was going to be in the low 30s. We dropped our things and headed to the one restaurant, Silver Dollar Bar & Restaurant. Lots of hunters, motorcycle riders, and other people traveling over the holiday weekend were there. There was one man working meaning he would take orders, cook the meals, and serve the people at the bar. It took a while, but the food was delicious. It was then a quick stop at the Stage Shop to pick up a few supplies then back to the Leadore Inn to relax for the evening. We even ordered a take out from the restaurant for dinner and by that time they were out French fries, come on we are in Idaho I thought. 😉 I enjoyed a restful evening and playing with the owners dogs in the yard.

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