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.
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.
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.
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.
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.