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.
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.
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.
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.
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.